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Gridiron 11

Gridiron 11: Best Undrafted Players

Part of the allure of fantasy football ownership is the joy of uncovering the next big player; an unknown who you believe will turn into a big producer while all of your competition sleeps on them. Through the years there have been a multitude of fantasy superstars who went overlooked coming out of college, including Terrell Davis, Priest Holmes, Willie Parker, Rod Smith, and more recently, Tony Romo and Ryan Grant. In recent weeks others, such as Chris Ivory, Anthony Armstrong, Danario Alexander and LeGarrette Blount have made solid contributions to the fantasy cause. Soon they may be listed here, among 2010s most valuable fantasy players who were bypassed in the NFL draft.

For more insights, follow SI's fantasy expert David Sabino on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

1<a href=Arian Foster, RB, Texans" title="Arian Foster, RB, Texans"/>
Second to Adrian Peterson with 135.8 yards from scrimmage per game and tied for third in touchdowns with seven, Foster developed into one of the NFL's best backs after leaving Tennessee by spending time on the Texans' practice squad. He's easily the breakout fantasy player of the year and will be in the discussion for fantasy MVP all season.
2<a href=Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers" title="Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers"/>
A former Kent State basketball player, Gates became an all-world tight end while learning how to play the game as a Charger. This season, his eight touchdowns are tied with Hakeem Nicks for the league lead and his 540 receiving yards ranks sixth in the NFL. Last week while hobbled by a toe injury, he acted as a "decoy" by catching four balls for 50 yards and a touchdown. When he calls it a career, he'll likely rank with Tony Gonzalez and John Mackey in the discussion of greatest tight ends ever.
3<a href=Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys" title="Miles Austin, Cowboys"/>
A star receiver at little Monmouth University before becoming one of the NFL's leading pass-catchers, Austin spent his first three years in Dallas on special teams, mainly as a return man. Whether his numbers will be negatively affected by Tony Romo's broken collarbone is still an unknown, backup Jon Kitna (also undrafted) is a capable QB who threw for 187 yards and two scores in relief of Romo in a failed comeback attempt last week against the Giants.
4<a href=Wes Welker, WR, Patriots" title="Wes Welker, WR, Patriots"/>
Despite having a standout career as a receiver and NCAA record-breaking punt returner at Texas Tech, Welker failed to receive an invitation to the 2003 NFL Scouting Combine and went undrafted before catching on as a special-teams player with the Chargers. Cut one week into the '04 season, Welker signed with Miami, where he became a special teams standout and possession receiver for three seasons. He was traded to New England before the '07 season and has gone on to become the standard by which possession receivers are judged today. Back from reconstructive knee surgery, he's also back among the league leaders in receptions, and through six games has already matched his touchdown total from '08, when he caught 111 passes in 16 games. He's a must-start every week.
5<a href=Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers" title="Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers"/>
The 6-5, 225-lb. former Wyoming Cowboy had been on the edge of fantasy relevance the past four seasons. Lucky for him, Vincent Jackson's holdout was just the boost in targets he needed to make that leap to fantasy star. Floyd had a career day in Week 5 against the Raiders, hauling in eight balls for 213 yards and a touchdown while displaying the ability to get behind the defense almost at will. Even after missing most of Week 6 and all of last week's games he remains the 16th highest-scoring fantasy receiver in PPR leagues. The hamstring is a fly in the ointment of a great season, however, as a timetable for his return to the field is still unknown.
6<a href=Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints" title="Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints"/>
This season is shaping up to be one to forget for PT Cruiser. Held to just 147 yards in three games, the former Illinois runner has been sidelined since Week 4 with an ankle sprain. But when healthy, he's a major part of what has been one of the league's best offenses. The loss of Thomas and Reggie Bush has seen the Saints' scoring average fall from the league's best at 31.9 points per game last year to just 21.0 (18th) this year. He'll be sidelined again in Week 8 and isn't much of an option against Carolina next week. After that comes the Saints' bye, meaning he won't be a starting fantasy option until Week 11 against Seattle. He's a good buy-low candidate.
7<a href=Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins" title="Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins"/>
Undrafted out of Hawaii and in his third year in South Florida, Bess ranks 25th in the league in receptions with 32 catches, 348 yards and three scores. Those numbers are as good or better across the board than much more heralded receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald (29/331/2), Percy Harvin (25/289/3) and Mike Sims-Walker (21/239/3).
8<a href=Lance Moore, WR, Saints" title="Lance Moore, WR, Saints"/>
After leaving Toledo, where he teamed with Bruce Gradkowski for two 1,000-yard seasons, Moore kicked around from the Cleveland camp to the Saints practice squad to NFL Europe before finally landing playing time in the Superdome. The leading receiver for Drew Brees in 2008, he was injured for most of '09 and came back slowly this year before becoming an offensive force as the de facto replacement for Reggie Bush, whose return clouds Moore's prospects for further success this season.
9<a href=BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots" title="BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots"/>
Twice a 1,000-yard rusher at Ole Miss after transferring from Indiana, the "Law Firm" slipped through the 2008 draft untouched, although 23 other running backs were taken. As part of the Patriots' backfield committee he's been hot and cold, but he's scored a touchdown in four straight weeks and is right on the heels of Ronnie Brown and DeAngelo Williams in fantasy points for the season despite his limited action.
10<a href=Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers" title="Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers"/>
Only three running backs have at least 300 yards rushing and six touchdowns this season. They are everyone's preseason No. 1 Chris Johnson, the aforementioned breakout player of the year, Arian Foster, and Tolbert. A complete surprise, the third-year man from Coastal Carolina has, in just seven games, nearly doubled his career yardage total (185) from his previous 29 NFL games. Although his carries have been severely restricted since the return of rookie Ryan Mathews, Tolbert is still worth having on your team for his goal-line carries. He's plunged his 5-9, 243-lb. frame into the end zone in four straight games and five of his last six.
11<a href=Danny Amendola, WR, Rams" title="Danny Amendola, WR, Rams"/>
Following in the footsteps of Red Raiders legend Wes Welker, Amendola is also an undrafted possession receiver from Texas Tech who bounced around a few teams before finally making his mark in fantasy leagues. The former Hard Knocks star from his time in Cowboys camp also spent time with the Eagles before arriving in St. Louis last season. A PPR steal, he currently sits 11th in the league with 39 catches and is averaging 9 yards per catch. Sam Bradford's maturation at quarterback can only help Amendola raise his game and vice versa.

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