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Draft Start-Up – League Winners

Steven Pintado lists four players who could be league winners that you can target later in your start-up drafts.

Entering a start-up draft, there is always a turning point when the draft goes from sure-fire starters to the backups and depth players. Players who can take a good team and make the team great. The players who will fill in for injuries or bye weeks, leading your team to crucial mid-season wins. Here are a few players who can win your league for you, players you can get later and be difference makers.

Darnell Mooney, WR Chicago Bears

Receiving & Rushing Table
GameGame ReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceRece RushRushRushRushRushRushRush TotaTotaTota
Year Age G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD 1D Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Y/Tgt Rush Yds 1D Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Touch Y/Tch YScm RRTD Fmb AV
202023169986163110.3433533.839.462.2%6.44201165.01.30.36510.0651416
CareCare169986163110.3433533.839.462.2%6.44201165.01.30.36510.0651416

Mooney has explosiveness and excitement written all over his game. He showed some flashes with inconsistent quarterback play but still managed 12 of 16 games with at least five targets. Mooney should be a target in startups because the passing game for the Bears will improve moving forward right now. Eventually, when Justin Fields takes over, he’ll bring elite passing-level talents to the offense. We’ve already heard in OTA that Mooney is thrilled with the arrival of Fields. Fields had one of the best deep ball games in college last year. Mooney has the deep-threat ability to his game and could see more efficiency this year with better QB talent.

He is likely to be the number two in the offense and potential future number one with Allen Robinson’s future up in the air. Mooney’s skills make him a player that could take significant steps and help you win your start-up and league.

Sam Darnold, QB Carolina Panthers

Courtesy of AP Photo/Nell Redmond

In Superflex startups, Darnold is a significant risk to take that could provide league-winning upside. Unfortunately, on paperwork, Darnold doesn’t even look like he deserves to be on an NFL roster. Injuries and the Adam Gase nightmare, I believed, played a big part in his early development.

Passing Table
Year Age Tm G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% 1D Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate QBR Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk% 4QC GWD AV
201821NYJ13134-9-023941457.72865174.1153.6130766.96.112.0220.477.645.9302045.995.246.8117
201922NYJ13137-6-027344161.93024194.3132.9147926.96.411.1232.684.345.6332125.935.507.0236
202023NYJ12122-10-021736459.6220892.5113.0109696.15.210.2184.072.740.1352344.954.168.83
CareCare383813-25-0729121959.88097453.7393.2386926.65.911.1213.178.6986505.655.017.43416

He goes to a Panthers team with plenty of talent with CMC, DJ Moore, former teammate Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall. Teddy Bridgewater was QB 17 last year without the likes of CMC, and Darnold has the upside to be a better thrower. Darnold is likely to take more risk with the ball and push it downfield or even have that ability to dump it off to CMC for 16 full games. There was a reason Darnold was a former third overall pick but hadn’t had the core nor coaching staff to help develop his game. You could argue he has a top-10 supporting cast around him that could raise his game to be a league winner as a QB2 for your team.

Alexander Mattison, RB Minnesota Vikings 

Mattison is a backup but has an RB1 ceiling that could get called upon at any moment. The Vikings do have Pro Bowl Dalvin Cook, but we all know Cook’s injury history could creep up if he continues to be used as a workhorse level back.

Courtesy of Fox Sports

Mattison came into the league being a wrecking ball in college with 3,300 all-purpose yards and 34 touchdowns in three seasons at Boise State. He had excellent red-zone usage last year with 14 carries inside the 10.  He is a backup with a chance to score, and will likely see 9 to 12 touches in every game.  The Vikings made improvements on defense that should help keep the offense focus on the run more instead of forcing the pass in a catch-up situation. As late as he goes in start-ups, Mattison should be worth the risk in taking him and especially from the Cooks owner if you can. 

Tyler Higbee, TE Los Angeles Rams 

In a TE-Premium league, Higbee is a fantastic target in startups that could be a league-winner. Higbee didn’t live up to his late-season stretch of games from the 2019 season but gets another opportunity to rebound. The addition of Matthew Stafford is going to open up the passing lanes, allowing Higbee to catch the ball in space and gain yards after the catch. Higbee has been fourth and eleventh the last two seasons in yards after the catch, he is dangerous after the catch.

Receiving & Rushing Table
GameGame ReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceRece TotaTotaTota
Year Age Tm G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD 1D Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Y/Tgt Touch Y/Tch YScm RRTD Fmb AV
201623LAR1672911857.713310.75.337.9%2.9117.785101
201724LAR1616452529511.8112381.618.455.6%6.62511.8295103
201825LAR1616342429212.2220361.518.370.6%8.62412.2292213
201926LAR1515896973410.6336334.648.977.5%8.26910.6734306
202027LAR1515604452111.8526442.934.773.3%8.74511.6522504
CareCare7869257173192711.11297442.224.767.3%7.517411.1192812117

The departure of Gerald Everett will also benefit Higbee. The last time Everett was off the field, Higbee exploded for four straight games of 100 yards. Everett leaves 60 targets at the position that could be potentially up for grabs. While Higbee isn’t going to be a 100-target TE, the range of 80 targets could be in play. Finally, the touchdowns could increase with Stafford since the Rams only had 20 passing touchdowns. The Rams have said they want to be more explosive in the air, leading to more opportunity for Higbee to score.

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