Five players to watch on draft day

Let’s face it. Basketball and hockey are essentially over and the ultra-marathon known as Major League Baseball is still three months away from mattering.

The calendar may say June, but it’s never too early to start checking out the names that could make or break your fantasy team come fall. Today’s assignment: to target the players who may come at a bargain on draft day. Why? Because all of us would love to jump in the hot tub time machine and go back to last August to land Miles Austin.

Before we get started, I recommend all of you check out the mock draft website FantasyFootballCalculator.com this summer. You’ll get a solid idea of when to pull the trigger on your top-rated prospects.

Side Note: We're currently knuckles-deep putting together the 2010 National Football Post Fantasy Draft Guide, which will be available for purchase in the next few weeks and will launch at the beginning of July.

While it’s still early, here are five players I’ve got my eye on as of the current moment:

1. Kevin Kolb Quarterback Philadelphia Eagles

Current draft position: 8th QB overall (7th round in leagues with 10 teams).

Call me an Eagles homer if you want, but Kolb has boom written all over him. No, it has nothing to do with the two games he started last season (although his back-to-back 300+ yard passing games were impressive). Kolb is taking over an offense that is loaded with weapons and loves to throw the football.

The Eagles have ranked in the top-ten in pass to run ratio in each of the last five years (they were 5th in the league in 2009 at 60.6%). In addition, they’ve ranked in the top-ten in pass attempts every year since 2005, throwing over 600 passes twice during that span (2008, 2005). Remember, this guy isn't a rookie. He's been studying under Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb for the past three years.

And let’s not forget top-ten fantasy receiver DeSean Jackson, top-ten fantasy tight end Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and LeSean McCoy, all of which will be at Kolb’s disposal. This is a quarterback that will experience growing pains and will throw some interceptions, but the value is definitely there.

2. Hakeem Nicks Wide Receiver New York Giants

Current draft position: 24th WR overall (7th round in leagues with 10 teams).

I’m not sure if you noticed this or not, but the New York Giants became a passing team in 2009 as quarterback Eli Manning put up career highs in yards, touchdowns and completion percentage.

One of the beneficiaries of Manning’s success was none other than 2009 first-round draft pick Hakeem Nicks. In only six starts, Nicks hauled in 47 receptions for 790 yards and six scores, finishing the year as the fantasy world’s second-highest scoring rookie wideout.

With No. 1 target Steve Smith drawing most of the secondary's attention and a full year of experience under his belt, look for Nicks to take the next step in 2010. Remember, he posted a top-30 fantasy finish last season despite ranking 67th in the NFL in targets.

3. Justin Forsett Running Back Seattle Seahawks

Current draft position: 39th RB overall (11th round in leagues with 10 teams).

Can someone please explain to me how this guy is not at the top of the depth chart in Seattle? All he did in 2009 was post 969 total yards and five touchdowns in just two starts.

Forsett is the type of running back that can hurt you in a number of ways. For example, he was limited to just nine rushing yards on eight carries in Week 11 at Minnesota (a very tough place to play in 2009), but still found a way to make an impact, catching eight passes for 80 yards in a 35-9 beat down loss.

Julius Jones has never done a damn thing and draft day acquisition Leon Washington is coming off a serious leg injury. In addition, the Seahawks beefed up their offensive line by drafting Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung and also have the luxury of playing the NFL’s 30th ranked schedule in terms of difficulty (opponent’s went 116-140 in 2009).

Let’s also try not to forget the 5.4 yards per carry he averaged last season.

4. Davone Bess Wide Receiver Miami Dolphins

Current draft position: 50th WR overall (13th round in leagues with 10 teams).

One of the keys to analyzing young wideouts is to monitor the progress they make from year 1 to year 2. In Bess’ case, the progress was very noticeable.

The former Hawaii standout caught 76 passes (22 more than in 2008), for 758 yards (204 more) and two scores (1 more) last season. Those numbers may not jump off the page at you, but consider the upgrades that have occurred around him this offseason.

Quarterback Chad Henne now has 13 starts under his belt and a full offseason to prepare as the team’s starting quarterback. In addition, the Dolphins made a splash in April when they traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Marshall’s presence finally gives the Dolphins a legitimate No. 1 wideout who will force opposing defenses to roll coverage in his direction. Remember, playing opposite Marshall with a strong-armed quarterback (Jay Cutler) as a rookie, Eddie Royal caught 91 passes and scored five touchdowns.

Bess won’t carry your fantasy team, but he could serve as a solid WR3 with upside.

5. Jahvid Best Running Back Detroit Lions

Current draft position: 24th RB overall (6th round in leagues with 10 teams).

“Some people watch adult videos on their computer. I go to YouTube and watch Jahvid Best highlight clips. That’s what gets me going.”

-Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz

If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a draft pick, I don’t know what is. You know the Lions love this kid because they were willing to trade back into the first round to secure his services.

Best was one of college football’s most electrifying players in 2008 as he rushed for 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns with an out-of-this-world 8.1 yards per carry average. His 2009 campaign was cut short due to concussion issues, but all you have to do is watch a few minutes of tape to see that this kid can do it all.

Fantasy Football Calculator has Best as the 24th RB off the board, which is actually a pretty solid spot for a rookie back on a bad team who is going to split carries.

Remember, Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee the year the Titans went out and drafted Chris Johnson in the first round, so he has some experience watching rookie running backs tear up the NFL.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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