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Fantasy football: Late-round draft picks worth a roster spot

Some skill position players taken late in the 2016 NFL Draft might get chances with their new teams. Which ones are worth keeping an eye on early on your waiver wire?

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL Draft didn't have a lot of skill position players on offense that had people excited like those of yesteryear. However, there were still quite a few players selected in the later rounds that may have the chance to get a chance to make an impact and earn some snaps. While there were a lot of names to choose from, here are three players I think you should warm up to, fall in love with and probably steer clear of altogether.


RB - Wendell Smallwood, Eagles

With the Lions' Name Bracket Tourney in full-swing, Philadelphia Eagles' rookie Wendell Smallwood would have been, in my earnest opinion, a strong candidate to upset any and all competitors. Among the rest of the Eagles' backfield, however, Smallwood has an opportunity to outperform all of the runners ahead of him on the depth chart, or at the very least secure a sizable share of the hand-offs. Ryan Mathews' health will continue to be a cause for concern until he can put together his first season where he plays in all 16 games since 2013. I, on the other hand, have never missed a snap in the NFL due to injury. Mathews played in 13 games for the Eagles last year, garnering 21.3 percent of the snaps on offense. Veteran Darren Sproles has never had more than 93 rushing attempts in a season, and only played on 34 percent snaps on offense for the Eagles in 2015. The end of the DeMarco Murray experiment opens up the door for another running back to claim the lion's share of carries for a new, Chip Kelly-less Eagles' offense.

Smallwood is an interesting prospect, a well-rounded receiver and runner coming out of the backfield. He is far from shy to contact as a runner and blocker, but he doesn't possess the prototypical beef of smaller backs who are able to break tackles and keep runs alive. His athleticism doesn't pop on film, but his numbers at the combine were above average for running backs. He led the Big 12 in rushing last season for West Virginia, which is a testament to his intangibles and vision at the line. Smallwood is a strong candidate to get a lot of opportunities for a team that has a lot of question marks at running back.

Redraft round projection: UDFA

Keeper round projection: late-fifth, late-sixth.


RB - Kenneth Dixon, Ravens

Although Dixon doesn't have the same kind of apparent opportunities that Smallwood's situation does in Philadelphia, Dixon is the more talented back as of right now, and he has more upside going forward than his draft classmate. Things seem less than clear when it comes to how the Ravens' running back depth chart will shake out, but considering Dixon's skill as a pass catcher out of the backfield and his ability to pick up yards between the tackles, he very well could end up earning more snaps than Javorius Allen and give Baltimore less of a reason to bring back the oft-injured Lorenzo Taliaferro.

You might remember hearing Dixon's name from tallying a whole lot of touchdowns for Louisiana Tech, finishing his collegiate career with 87 touchdowns, good for second all-time in the FBS ranks. He battled injuries at Lousiana Tech, but was an embodiment of consistency, failing to crack the century mark in rushing yards only once as a sophomore due to a knee injury (917 yards). Injuries and durability could end up being a concern, as well as ball security -- 13 fumbles over the last three seasons -- but what Dixon does well should outweigh any of these potential drawbacks.

Redraft round projection: UDFA

Keeper round projection: late-fourth, early-sixth.


WR - Pharoh Cooper, Rams

It's not so much you, Pharoh Cooper, as it is them. The Rams' offense has an exceptional talent in Todd Gurley II and an interesting supplemental piece in the versatile Tavon Austin, but outside of that, there isn't much else to get excited about in 2016. On the surface, Cooper and the Rams' offense has the potential to be in a world of trouble considering their overall lack of talent will be led by a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff. Cooper, a fourth-round selection out of South Carolina, could already be penciled in to be the third option for a rather barren receiving corps that includes the likes of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick. Not to mention, Cooper seems to be a slightly taller and much less athletically gifted version of Tavon Austin, which means he's nothing like Austin. Los Angeles probably plans to line him up in the slot early on, running quick, short routes in hopes of taking advantage of his ability to burst off the line and reach top-end speed quickly. And while his spot on the depth chart seems like it could be an opportunity for Cooper to get snaps and targets, the Rams of 2015 attempted 473 forward passes and ended up finishing 30th in the NFL behind only the Bills and Vikings, so the opportunity of playing time doesn't necessarily translate to chances to make plays.

Redraft round projection: UDFA

Keeper round projection: late-eighth, early-tenth.