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I started to write this column with the point that Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS, would make a nice late-round draft pick or early waiver wire pick-up, largely based in the probability that Washington would turn to him as a starter at some point this season after giving up on Robert Griffin III.
Well, it happened sooner than I thought - before the fourth pre-season game. Cousins has been named the starter, and has some potential to prove himself a fantasy bargain. He's not a fantasy starter yet, and probably not even a QB-2 in many leagues, but his stock could rise quickly.
That leaves me thinking, who are some other backups who are worth a bottom bench spot even if it's not yet clear how much they will play?
Here are three of the obvious ones:
Johnny Manziel, QB, CLE: Josh McCown is the starter, and with CLE's middling talent throughout the rest of the offense, he's not even very fantasy worthy, but Manziel showed some flashy playmaking ability and improved decision-making in two pre-season games. He'll probably miss the rest of the preseason with what is supposed to be a mild elbow injury, but would be ready to move into a starting role early in the regular season if CLE decided to give him a chance. I like him more as a waiver wire pick once the season starts, though his name recognition probably is getting him late-round draft attention.
Darren McFadden, RB, DAL: I know what you're thinking - fool's gold. However, Joseph Randle, who was given a chance to win the starting job outright, has done very little to impress in the preseason, and McFadden, for all his injury-prone faults, very likely will get an even share of the backfield workload. McFadden, in his best games, looked a lot like DeMarco Murray did last year as the Cowboys' workhorse RB. I like him as a very late draft pick, or higher up if you do decide to take Randle early and need the handcuff.
Ty Montgomery, WR, GB: Don't feel bad if you have never heard of him. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and even Jeff Janis in front of him on the WR depth chart, the rookie was not slated for much attention this year. However, Nelson's now likely out for the year, and Cobb, who has some injury history. may be questionable to start Week 1. There's a good chance this third-round pick will be the No. 2 WR for GB for that first game, and the No. 3 WR going forward. With Aaron Rodgers at QB, No. 3 is not a bad place to be.
* SB Nation likes Joique Bell, RB, DET, a starter who has been overshadowed by his backup, much-hyped rookie Ameer Abdullah. Bell was a nice pass-catching RB the last two seasons, and will get many more carries this year, even if Abdullah earns himself a handful of big plays.
Fantasy Baseball Note
* Only a week or two left of the regular season in many leagues, but the Sept. 1 roster expansions give you one last chance to mine the waiver wire for a tiny bit of fantasy gold. Best of the bunch might be Chicago's very own Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Cubs. Baez has been tearing up the minors of late, and striking out much less often than we remember. It remains to be seen if that will translate to the major-league level, but with Starlin Castro playing pretty inconsistent at 2B, Baez likely to get several starts in the next two weeks.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.