Mistake to ignore healthy Hasselbeck

It’s deadline time. Less than one week to go for most fantasy football drafts and you’ve got to figure out your wild cards. Who’s on your list of 200 prospective players who you think are going to make the big difference and win your league?

Chances are if you’re drafting this late, your league is a serious one with all participants and the commissioner wanting to wait until after all preseason games and depth charts are decided.

So what’s the strategy? Are you going to follow the hundreds of publications’ top 200 lists without wavering too much in fear you might make the wrong move?

There’s lots of information in those magazines, but here’s the big problem: most are published in May or June, leaving out what happened in training camp and preseason.

If you draft players too early, you have to deal with the experts in your draft chuckling and making sarcastic cracks such as, "How could he take him there?" or "Is he still playing?"

The best advice is to draft conservatively early with players you’re keying on, but have a few gems up your sleeve and a game plan of when to take them. If you’re correct, you win your league, or at least get in the money.

Here’s my list of players who could be major upside selections and help your cause after the fourth round:

* Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: He had a career year in 2007 with 3,900 yards passing, 28 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Those statistics would surely compete with the top six quarterbacks picked in the draft, and they did last season, but then the injuries came.

Hasselbeck started only seven games in 2008 because of back and knee injuries, and wasn’t 100 percent when he played. Fantasy owners frown on him because he’s considered damaged goods.

But this season could be a comeback story. Hasselbeck looks more like the healthy, confident quarterback of 2007 than the broken-down version from last year. He has tremendous zip on his passes and has been stellar in training camp and preseason games.

Drafts run thus far have Hasselbeck going with the 100th overall pick as the 16th quarterback. After the top nine QBs are taken, he might be a good choice, allowing you to get at least one more solid running back or wide receiver while waiting. With the talent around him in Seattle, he could be one of the biggest surprises of the year.

* Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: In most drafts he’s being selected in the ninth round as the 35th running back overall. Rice had a strong enough camp to move LeRon McClain back to fullback and move ahead of Willis McGahee. Rice is worth a pick after the first 17 to 20 backs have been drafted.

* Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots: Taylor is familiarly known as "Fragile Fred." His past stats coupled with future promise always made Taylor an attractive but risky pick.

Despite being in New England, Taylor isn’t attracting many takers; he has been the 51st back taken and 140th player overall. But Taylor has coach Bill Belichick’s confidence and will start, and it’s likely he’ll perform well in the system.

* Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers: He’s entering his fifth year, and in each of the previous four his statistics have improved. Last season, he had 59 catches for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns, but more important he gained the trust of quarterback Philip Rivers. Jackson’s progress should continue, and he warrants a higher pick than being the 16th wide receiver.

* Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: The rookie from Florida has been rising on the draft charts because of his preseason performance. He’s being taken as the 38th-best wideout and around the 11th round, but he should go earlier.

* DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: Look for Jackson to improve drastically from his 1,042 yards and two receiving touchdowns last season. He could be in consideration for the Pro Bowl because of his contributions to the Eagles’ success as the No. 1 wideout.

* John Carlson, TE, Seahawks: He was Seattle’s leading receiver last year and will flourish in his second season with a healthy Hasselbeck. Carlson should be rated the fifth or sixth tight end on the board.

Micah Roberts is a Las Vegas-based writer who will contribute weekly fantasy football outlooks for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at mmroberts7@gmail.com.

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