The most wonderful time of the year is upon us once more as the 2023 NFL preseason is under way.
While coaching staffs and front offices are busy creating their rosters, you are probably doing the same by preparing for your fantasy football draft. Landing big-time talents in the early rounds is a must if you want to compete in your league, but what about rounds 10, 11, 12 and so on?
If you're in a deeper league with 12 or 14 teams, the talent can be sparse by the time these later rounds roll around. The key to building a deep roster is finding the young diamonds in the rough who could emerge as contributors on their respective teams as the season progresses.
Here are five rookies that you should target in the later rounds of your draft that your friends may not know about.
WR Jonathan Mingo (Carolina Panthers)
A second-round selection back in April, Jonathan Mingo has a high chance to crack the Panthers starting lineup for Week 1. He's competing with Terrance Marshall for the third starting wide receiver spot alongside veterans D.J. Chark and Adam Thielen.
The rookie is listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash time at the combine, giving him a solid combination of size and speed. It will be interesting to see how much Carolina throws the ball with first overall pick Bryce Young taking over at quarterback, but Mingo will have the opportunity to be the fellow rookie's go-to wideout by the middle of the season. Especially with Thielen in a gradual decline heading into his age 33 season and Chark struggling to stay on the field the last two years.
RB Chase Brown (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Bengals used a fifth-round pick on Illinois star running back Chase Brown to help fill the void left by back-up running back Semaje Perine, who moved on to Denver. Joe Mixon obviously receives the bulk of the touches in the Cincinnati backfield, but the talented running back did miss three games last year due to injury.
In the three-game absence of Mixon, Perine put up 30 points, 19 points and 21 points in full PPR leagues. That kind of production could now be headed Brown's way if Mixon were to miss time either due to injury or off-the-field incidents, which Mixon has a had a few of during his career. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Brown is the perfect handcuff for Mixon in deeper leagues.
WR Rashee Rice (Kansas City Chiefs)
The Super Bowl champion Chiefs selected SMU standout wide receiver Rashee Rice in the second round back in April to replace JuJu Smith-Shuster and Mecole Hardman, who both left in free agency. The Chiefs have a mixed bag at receiver with Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a healthy Justyn Ross all vying for playing time.
Toney and Ross each have injury history, while Valdes-Scantling has never been a consistent threat, opening a hole for Rice to receive playing time as the season moves on. When your quarterback is Patrick Mahomes, there will always be opportunities to make plays and Rice finds himself in one of the best situations for a young wide out in the NFL.
TE Michael Mayer (Las Vegas Raiders)
Unless you find yourself lucky enough to land Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson or George Kittle, chances are you'll be going with a platoon at tight end. A name to target in the later rounds to help complete your platoon is Las Vegas rookie Michael Mayer from Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-4, 265 pounder was a force on the field in college and profiles to do the same as a pro. With Darren Waller traded to the Giants, Mayer has the chance to step right in and be TE1 for Jimmy Garoppolo. While the Raiders do have an above-average group of wideouts led by Davante Adams, Mayer will be a factor in the offense considering his head coach Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator in New England during the days of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
RB Zach Evans (Los Angeles Rams)
Remember Week 1 last year when Darrell Henderson got the start at running back for the Rams and Cam Akers was nowhere to be found? Akers eventually took back the starting job, but with Henderson no longer in L.A., a new back-up, capable of receiving touches, will emerge. One of the front runners to take the RB2 job is rookie Zach Evans.
A former 5-star recruit, Evans did not have a stellar college career, bouncing around from TCU to Ole Miss, but the traits are still there for him to be a contributor in the NFL. Akers has 21 games due to various injuries in his three-year career, so adding his back-up and stashing him on your bench in a deeper league is not a bad idea.
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