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Fantasy Football: 2015 Lottery Tickets

Sep 1, 2015

Daniel Herron is one of several fantasy football lottery tickets

Dan Herron is one of several fantasy football lottery tickets

As a teenager, I worked at a five-and-dime in which one customer would come in and plop down up to $50 a day on lottery tickets. Crazy? Probably, but also fascinating. Who hasn’t at least imagined a life-changing fortune falling into your lap with negligible cost? (Maybe not so negligible for that guy.)

Fantasy football has its own low-risk potential windfalls, and that allure has me buying tickets like he did.

I’ve never understood why fantasy owners load up on mediocre, low-ceiling depth. We’re in this to win, right? Every player I draft is evaluated on how he can help me win a championship. It’s all about upside.

You can have Michael Floyd and Reggie Bush. I’d rather have potential game-changers filling out my roster. Sure, they might not pan out, but when your reason for playing is to claim that belt, what do you have to lose? A medal for second place? If you’re going to fail, do it with some panache.

So if you’re with me, let’s talk about who to target. Some lottery tickets are worth a shot more than others. There are plenty of backups to star running backs worth handcuffing, like James Starks, Knile Davis and Ronnie Hillman, but when I shop for late-round sleepers, I heavily factor in the probability that they’ll get a chance to bust out. So I look for backups behind aging and high-risk starters, or other players whose upside and cost are on opposite extremes.

Unfortunately, the fantasy world is on to the best situations, so Ryan Mathews and his seventh-round average draft position don’t count. A lottery ticket has to be cheap. The idea is to add to your core.

Here are my top 10, all currently being drafted in the 11th round or later (or not at all):

RUNNING BACKS

  • Jerick McKinnon, MIN
    Adrian Peterson may have fresh legs after a year off, but he’s 30 years old. And if he were to miss any time, the Vikings’ whole offense is ready to take the next step under Teddy Bridgewater. With newcomer Mike Wallace joining Charles Johnson to lift the lid, McKinnon would have a great situation to step into if All Day doesn’t go all day. McKinnon is still unproven as a lead back, and Matt Asiata would get significant touches too, but the third-round draft pick performed very well as a rookie when given a chance. McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards a carry – sixth in the NFL among backs with 100 or more carries – and the more work he got, the better he was. In the four games where he got 15 or more carries, his average was 5.5. And while Asiata is considered the “receiving” back, McKinnon can catch the ball as well, with four games of three or more catches. McKinnon has yet to score his first NFL touchdown, but those will come if given the work.
  • Dan Herron, IND
    Indianapolis has arguably the best offense in the NFL, and at the center of the backfield is 32-year-old Frank Gore. How can you not want his backup? Right now, that’s “Boom” Herron, who compiled 298 total yards and two touchdowns in three playoff games last year. He’s a three-down back who had 20 catches in those games, after catching 19 passes over the final six games of the regular season. Just keep an eye on sixth-round draft pick Josh Robinson.
  • Karlos Williams, BUF
    LeSean McCoy has more than 1,700 career touches and has missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury. The Bills’ backfield behind him became a lot clearer when Fred Jackson was released, making Williams the clear cuff. The fifth-round draft pick vaulted ahead of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon with an impressive camp and would be a solid fantasy starter if McCoy missed regular-season time.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • DeVante Parker, MIA
    The price tag is low for the 14th overall pick in the NFL draft because he had foot surgery in June, and any impact will likely have to wait until well into the season. But that impact could be big, as he is the tallest and most talented of the Dolphins’ wide receivers. He would step in nicely across from Jarvis Landry in a loaded Miami offense.
  • Breshad Perriman, BAL
    Here’s another first-round pick whose stock has dropped over health concerns, but when Perriman finally gets on the field after recovering from a sprained knee, no rookie has a better volume opportunity. He’s penciled in as a starter in Marc Trestman’s offense, and the wideout across from him is 36-year-old Steve Smith.
  • Brandon Coleman, NO
    The second-year receiver has drawn some buzz in a Saints offense that shed significant weapons in the offseason. He’s done little in the preseason, but a 6-foot-6 target playing behind 32-year-old Marques Colston deserves a flier.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Antonio Gates, SD
    You know, the future Hall of Famer who tied for the league lead at the position with 12 touchdowns last year. Yeah, he’s 35 years old and is suspended for the first four games, but that just makes him a bargain bin find if he’s anywhere close to his 2014 form when he returns.
  • Scott Chandler, NE
    Rob Gronkowski has missed 15 games over the past three seasons, and Chandler would get the greatest opportunity of his underrated career – 17 touchdowns in four seasons in Buffalo, a quarterback wasteland – if Gronk went down again.
  • Virgil Green, DEN
    To replace Julius Thomas and his 12 touchdowns, the Broncos brought in Owen Daniels, whose 32 years are almost matched by the number of games he’s missed over his career. Anyone think he’ll play a full season? If he doesn’t, shouldn’t you be interested in Peyton Manning’s tight end?

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Keith Kraska is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Keith, check out his archive.

Correspondent, Draft Prep, Featured, NFL, Sleepers