- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2012

There’s a pool of roughly 50 players from which every owner will select in the first four rounds of every draft. Therefore, with the exception of the occasional rube who wastes an early pick on the likes of Robert Griffin III, everyone will have a strong team by the time Round 5 rolls around, making the next few rounds crucial.

Entering Round 5, you’re still filling your starting lineup, and drafting successfully in the middle rounds separates championship contenders from rubes who waste early picks.

So without further ado (or is that Addai?), here are eight players almost certain to be available in rounds 5 or later that you should target:

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs WR: The latest news regarding his holdout over being franchised is that he’s punishing the team by waiting until the end of the preseason to report. As long as he’s on the field by the start of the season, there’s little risk and plenty of potential reward in selecting him as a second receiver or flex. He caught 15 TDs in 2011, and despite a long season in Kansas City last year that included the loss of the starting QB to injury and the firing of the head coach, Bowe managed 1,159 yards and 5 TDs. His current ranking on ESPN.com: 57

Steve Johnson, Bills WR: The mercurial receiver exceeded 1,000 yards the last two seasons — catching 17 TDs in that time — despite dealing with nagging injuries and inconsistent QB play. Having signed a long-term deal, Johnson is a candidate to have a breakout year. Current ranking: 60

Vernon Davis, 49ers TE: Another player whose upside is limited by his QB, although Davis has proven he has the big-play ability to overcome that. He tied what was then an NFL record for tight ends with 13 TDs in 2009. He only caught 6 TDs in the regular season last year, but if you include the playoff win over the Saints, in which he had a TE-record 180 yards receiving and caught 2 TDs, he scored in each of his final five games. Current ranking: 61

Shonn Greene, Jets RB: After two disappointing seasons, the addition of Tim Tebow doesn’t help his draft stock. But in the middle rounds, Greene is one of the few RBs available who is not in a time-share backfield. Tebow may steal goal-line carries, but the presence of a running QB should help open holes for the primary back and increase his overall effectiveness. Current ranking: 62

Eric Decker, Broncos WR: He runs better routes than Demaryius Thomas, which means he’ll likely gain Peyton Manning’s trust a lot sooner. If Manning is anywhere near his old self, Decker — and the fantasy owners who take a chance on him — will benefit greatly. Current ranking: 68

Mark Ingram, Saints RB: I know he’s competing for carries with 37 other RBs, but with Sean Payton suspended for the season, I expect the Saints to become a little more conservative offensively. To do that, they’ll need a RB capable of controlling the clock. Darren Sproles is not that guy. Pierre Thomas is not that guy. Ingram is. Current ranking: 78

Donald Brown, Colts RB: Ill-suited to Peyton Manning’s offense, he languished on the bench for much of his first two seasons in Indianapolis. He finally got a chance last year and performed admirably for the worst team in the NFL, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and running for 5 TDs. And he’ll likely be the last RB available who is his team’s primary ballcarrier. Current ranking: 95

Jay Cutler, Bears QB: It took a few years, but the Bears have finally surrounded their franchise QB with plenty of talent. He’s got RBs Matt Forte and Michael Bush to take the pressure off, and a trade for Brandon Marshall — his favorite target from their days together in Denver — finally gives him a legitimate No. 1 WR. If new offensive coordinator Mike Tice can get the offensive line to continue to jell, then Cutler, who has drastically cut down on his interceptions the last two seasons, is set up for a career year. Current ranking: 99