2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 10 Players to Draft After Round 10
If you asked 10 different people to define what "fantasy football sleeper" means to them, you'd likely get 10 different answers.
Some may say that there's no such thing as a "sleeper."
For me, a sleeper is a player that is going relatively late in drafts but has plenty of upside to outperform their current draft status — or even their undrafted status.
In other words, someone like Lamar Miller or David Wilson, both of whom should see significant bumps in their workloads, are not sleepers — to me, at least. To call them a (potential) breakout player would make more sense.
Regardless of your definition, if you have one, of a sleeper, I am going to focus on 10 players that are currently being drafted after the 10th round of a 12-team league but have a chance to provide fantasy owners with plenty of upside. For the math-challenged, that means their average draft position (ADP) will be greater than 120.
In some cases, a player's ADP will vary greatly from site to site. As an example, Giants running back Andre Brown has an ADP of 101 in ESPN drafts and 83 in CBS drafts (as of Aug. 20th).
Going roughly two rounds later in ESPN leagues, Brown, who is a good RB value in general, is obviously a better value for folks in ESPN leagues than those in CBS leagues.
To minimize the impact across sites, I will use average draft position (ADP) from FantasyPros, which averages out ADP among several different sites. [Note: ADP values in this post are current as of yesterday, August 20th.]
Now that we have set the ground rules, here are 10 "sleepers" for the 2013 season (FantasyPros ADP in parenthesis):
E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 186)
If you're in a deep(er) league or one that either starts two QBs or allows one to be used in the flex spot, Manuel is someone that should be on your radar.
Two preseason games in and Manuel clearly established himself as the frontrunner to be the team's starting quarterback. He has completed nearly 80 percent of his pass attempts (26-of-33, 78.8 percent) for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
At this point, the only thing holding him back is his "minor" knee surgery that will keep him out of the remainder of the preseason. Provided he's ready for Week 1, however, I suspect it will be Manuel — not Kevin Kolb — that is under center against the Patriots.
With the athleticism to generate positive fantasy points from rushing stats as well, Manuel has top-15 upside at the position.
Even though Ray Rice is a durable back, Pierce becomes a must-start in the event that Rice misses time. Either way, he can deliver value as a flex option when both are healthy.
As a rookie, Pierce carried the ball 108 times and averaged more yards per carry (4.93) than Rice (4.45) by almost a half-yard per rush attempt. Part of that can be attributed to Pierce's ability to break tackles. He broke tackles at a rate (16.5 percent) nearly double that of Rice (8.5 percent). In fact, Pierce ranked fifth in the NFL among running backs in this category.
Going into the 2013 season, Pierce is expected to get a bigger workload.
Even though Stevan Ridley finished as one of the league's leading rushers, Woodhead was a top-30 fantasy scorer at the position as well last season. His departure from New England opens the door for Shane Vereen to perform as an RB2 in Foxboro, but I also like Woodhead's value in San Diego.
Of course, durability concerns for Ryan Mathews means that Woodhead could see a huge role in a couple of games this season. Through three seasons, Mathews has missed at least two games each season.
That said, Mike McCoy, the team's new head coach, has said that he was "raised with John Fox in this league" when it comes to running back rotations. In other words, Mathews is not a lock to be the featured back even when he's healthy.
In his first season with the Panthers in 2012, Tolbert finished the year with 183 rushing yards and seven touchdowns plus 27 receptions for 268 yards. He was one of only eight running backs to have at least seven rushing scores and 27 receptions in 2012.
Tolbert has the ability to improve on those numbers in 2013 as Jonathan Stewart continues to recover from offseason surgery on both of his ankles and may begin the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. If he does, that will keep The Daily Show out for a minimum of six regular-season games.
While he doesn't have a ton of upside, I believe he is a bit undervalued and useful for folks in deeper leagues.
In the event that Murray is unable to play a full 16-game season again, it appeared to be Dunbar in the lead to back him up. After suffering a foot injury himself in the second preseason game, Dunbar will miss the next several weeks and that means that Joseph Randle may open as Murray's backup.
That said, Dunbar has been extremely impressive when on the field and made this list of top 10 performers at Cowboys' camp by Bryan Broaddus on the team's website.
Broaddus wrote, "... Dunbar has always been quick but he appears to have taken that to a whole new level. He has been explosive and with the ball in his hands, has been a nightmare for tacklers to deal with in the open field. He has an outstanding feel for how to get the ball to the edge or make the cut inside. He is catching the ball well and with soft hands but where he has improved is as a pass blocker. ..."
Assuming that Murray will stay healthy for at least the beginning of the season, it wouldn't surprise me to see Dunbar leapfrog all other backs not named DeMarco on the depth chart for if/when Murray does miss time.
Unless you're in a deep league, Dunbar is likely to go undrafted, but he could prove to be a valuable waiver-wire addition at some point in the season.
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As a big target (6-3, 220), Jeffery could thrive in the red zone for the Bears — and fantasy owners.
Injuries limited Jeffery in his rookie campaign and forced him to miss six games at two separate points in the middle of the season, but Jeffery is in better shape going into this season. Teammate Brandon Marshall says of Jeffery (via the Chicago Tribune), "He was softer last year, much softer. Now he's strong. He's a beast."
With better health (knock on wood) in 2013, the Bears will rely on Jeffery to take some pressure off Marshall and give them a viable alternative on the outside.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw the ball an NFL-record 727 times in 2012 and there's a good chance the team leads the league in pass attempts for a third consecutive year.
One of the primary recipients of those targets will be Broyles, who has had a speedy recovery from his second torn ACL injury (in as many years).
While he's not the fastest or biggest receiver, Broyles has a knack for finding the soft spot in a zone and he set the NCAA records for most receptions (349) and receiving yards (4,586) when he was at Oklahoma. Opposing defenses will need to focus so much of their effort on slowing down Calvin Johnson, who had nearly 2,000 receiving yards in his record-setting campaign, that Broyles will be forgotten.
But he shouldn't be ... by fantasy owners.
Among all receivers in the NFL, few generated as much positive buzz this offseason as Randle did with the Giants.
The absence of Victor Cruz, who was absent before signing his big contract, and Hakeem Nicks, who is entering a contract year, allowed Randle to step up during workouts as he heads into his sophomore season.
At a minimum, Randle has the opportunity to put up Mario Manningham-type numbers as the team's No. 3 wide receiver, but injuries could pave the way for a more prominent role this year.
"Oh, he's gonna play. He's gonna play a lot," [offensive coordinator Kevin] Gilbride said, per ESPN New York's Kieran Darcy. "He'll play first, second down, he'll be an outside receiver for us -- whether he's at the X or the Z, he's gonna play. He's looking like he deserves to be out there for significant time."
Nicks has yet to play 16 games in a season and has missed nine games over the past four years. Although he is more durable than Nicks, Cruz is currently in a walking boot and on crutches although he expects to be ready for the opener.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, New England Patriots (ADP: 173)
With four of the team's top five leading receivers no longer on the roster and the fifth, Rob Gronkowski, unlikely to be recovered from his back surgery in time for the season opener, the Patriots will rely plenty on newcomers in the passing game.
One of the players generating plenty of positive buzz is Thompkins, who is an undrafted rookie free agent from Cincinnati.
With more than his fair share of off-the-field baggage in the past, Thompkins was productive in college and he has been one of the most consistent targets for Brady all offseason and into training camp.
Housler's teammate Michael Floyd would also appear on this list, but he has an ADP of less than 120.
One of the fastest tight ends in the league with sub-4.5 speed, Housler has been quiet in preseason games but he has generated positive buzz in camp. Viewed as a big receiver out of college by new coach Bruce Arians, Housler's athleticism will allow him to create mismatches against linebackers and safeties.
Since the Cardinals have a better wide receiver corps with Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald than the Raiders, Housler likely won't get the 105 targets that Myers got last season. That said, Palmer should target him often and I expect Housler to do more with those targets on a yards-per-reception basis than Myers.
In order to help you prepare for your fantasy football draft(s), I will post a list of potential fantasy football busts, a list of undervalued players, breakout players and more over the next couple of days.