Every fantasy football draft has some dart throws at the end. While many of those throws tend to miss, a few will hit and change the course of an owners season.
To be considered a Late Round Gem, they must first be selected late. For the purposes of this article, this is any player drafted in the 10th round or later. Assuming standard league size (12 team, 16 rounds), this is any player selected after pick #108.
Here is a list of player who would be considered “Late Round Gems,” but were drafted (on average) before the 108th pick:
FantasyPros overall ADP (average draft position) and PPR ranks will be used in this article.
#5 – Kenny Golladay – Detroit Lions
Golladay opened the season as the WR3 on the Lions behind Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. While a clear a third option, owners took a shot on him and were handsomely rewarded. Golladay, in drafts, went at an ADP of 143 overall and as WR53.
Golladay started the season off with a bang, scoring 88 fantasy points in his first five games. He matched up well against opposing teams second cornerbacks, often exposing their weaknesses whether it be size or speed.
Then after Week 8, Tate was traded to the Eagles freeing up even more targets for Golladay, making him the second option. Then, a few weeks after that Jones went down with a knee injury leaving him as the clear-cut WR1.
The Lions’ offense has certainly struggled at times, but Golladay has been a lone bright spot in that offense for fantasy owners. At the very least, he has been a volume based WR2 play. He currently checks in at WR19.
*Honorable Mention: Tyler Lockett ADP 148 and WR55 – currently WR20
#4 – George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have had their fair share of quarterback woes this season. The one pass catching piece that stayed consistent through three starting quarterbacks has been Kittle. He was drafted at an overall ADP of 129 and TE13.
This year, even a serviceable tight end is a hot commodity, anyone who drafted Kittle late is jumping for joy. The second year player has only posted three games below 10 points and is only second to Travis Kelce in yards with 1,154.
In Week 13, one of the most important weeks of the year, he posted an absurd 7-210-1 day, only five yards off the NFL tight end receiving yards record. He may have single handedly put some teams into the playoffs.
Kittle is currently TE3 behind only Kelce and Zach Ertz. Those who took a late round shot on Kittle are feeling like fantasy geniuses.
*Honorable Mention: Eric Ebron ADP 167 and TE16 – currently TE4
#3 Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns
Chubb has had a very interesting story in his short NFL career. The Browns selected him #35 overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Completely understandable for a player of his pedigree.
What made this a puzzling move is that the Browns had just re-signed Duke Johnson Jr. and signed Carlos Hyde as well. Clearly, Chubb was walking into a crowded running backroom.
As the season progressed, it appeared the Browns intended to sit the rookie as they were giving Hyde the majority of the carries. Chubb didn’t see more than first snaps in the first few games.
In Week 4, fantasy owners got familiar with Chubb really quickly. Although he only logged three snaps, he went for 105 yards and a touchdown, displaying great vision, quick acceleration, and breakaway speed. Even with this breakout, Chubb only saw six carries across the next two games.
Right before Week 7, the Browns traded Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This left Chubb next in line to take over an every down role. Lottery ticket cashed.
As Chubb took the lead role, he proved to be more than capable:
- Never dipping below double-digit fantasy points
- Leading all rookie RBs in yards after contact (4.55)
- Leading the NFL in rushing yards since Week 7 (686)
- Top 5 in yards per carry at 5.2
Owners that drafted and held on to Chubb were rewarded greatly as he has been a locked and loaded RB1.
#2 – Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
What a man. Drafted at an overall ADP of 110 and QB16, Mahomes has been lighting the world on fire and comfortably sits at QB1 on the season.
Mahomes entered the season with plenty of hype and contention. Some experts had him well within their top 10, some had him outside the top 20. One thing is for certain, no could foresee what he has done this season.
The second year signal caller currently has 4,543 passing yards. If he can throw for 229 yards in each of the next two games, Mahomes will reach the 5,000 mark, joining the likes of Drew Brees, Dan Marino, and Tom Brady.
He has 45 passing touchdowns. If he throws for five over the next two games, he will join Brady and Peyton Manning as the third quarterback in the history of the game to throw for 50 touchdowns.
To throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns would put Mahomes in the sole company of Manning’s 2013 season. That’s right, Mahomes first full season is historic.
This obviously translates to oodles of fantasy points (24.7 points per game) and makes Mahomes one of the biggest draft steals of 2018.
#1 – James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers
To truly understand how Conner became the late round steal of the year, you need to know the 2018 Le’Veon Bell story.
Conner had some huge cleats to fill but did so without skipping a beat. He was drafted at an overall ADP of 153 as the RB55.
The former Pitt standout has delivered every bit of the first round value spent on Bell. Owners concerned with the Bell hold-out news that handcuffed Conner received arguably the same production out of him as they would have with Bell.
Conner has missed two games and is still RB6. Had he not missed time, Conner is top 5 without question. Getting top 5 production from a first round running back is all an owner can really hope for and they got it, but in the in 13th round (on average).
The second year pro’s productivity with the fact that he was born and raised in Erie, PA, played collegiality at University of Pittsburgh, and is a cancer survivor, you have one of the best feel-good stories of the 2018 season.