To most they’re simply Sleeper Picks, but I prefer the Super Sexy Secret Sleeper Pick phrase. So when you add a few 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers to your roster feel free to add a few extra S words. Believe me, it feels good.
Speaking of 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers, who was in the know on Arian Foster in 2010, or what about Alfred Morris last year?
Everyone loves to unleash their Sleepers and feel rewarded by plucking a gem in the late rounds. Remember though, that for every Alfred Morris, there are a dozen, or more, Titus Youngs.
Furthermore, the Sleeper tag gets thrown around a lot and the projections for 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers began as soon as the 2012 season did. So we’ve already heard the word on Chris Ivory and Lamar Miller, who both currently aren’t exactly looking that appealing as fantasy options if you ask me.
So what exactly constitutes a Sleeper Pick these days?
Should Adrian Peterson in the 3rd or 4th Round last season also be considered a Sleeper pick?
Below, please find my 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers in 4 tiers. The first tier represents players projected in the first 4 rounds of the draft, the 2nd tier the next 4 rounds and so on and so forth. With the invention of this nifty internet the Sleeper term really has evolved into a Value Pick.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 1st Down
Here are some early round options who are currently being valued a little lower than their history suggests they’re capable of producing. Often times trendy picks creep up draft boards leaving reliable options available later than they should be. It is important to maximize your upside early, obviously, but you shouldn’t do so by front loading your roster with too many risky options.
RB Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
It is difficult to find 1st round production in the middle of the 2nd Round, but Jackson is currently a consensus 18th overall via Fantasy Pros Expert Rankings. In May, I speculated that he would find himself at the end of Round 1 in most drafts and as long as he is available at the turn you should use a selection on him. If he falls in your lap around 15th overall you should be giddy.
RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Even in his injury shortened 2010 season, Gore finished as the 20th best Running Back in Standard formats, which is his lowest finish since he began starting in 2006. So he is older, but he runs behind a top Offensive Line, if not the best, which also returns all 5 of their starters. Gore is slipping more and more in drafts of late, but has been as reliable an option as there is, don’t sleep on him.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Second to few in talent, Fitzgerald has been plagued by inept passers since Kurt Warner retired. Even in 2011 he finished as the 5th best Wide Receiver in Standard formats, but last season reached a new low. With Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians in town look for Larry Fitzgerald to get back to his dominant ways. He is a matchup nightmare with sticky fingers and finally has someone throwing him the ball and not just in his general vicinity.
WR Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Wait, how can a guy with back-to-back top 12 Fantasy seasons at his position be a sleeper? Good question, but he is currently being ranked further down the list than he should be. The only issue with Colston is his boom and bust week-to-week consistency, but you have to like a guy whose only fake season outside the top 20 at his position came in 2008 when he missed 5 games. He also finished 35th best that year and has the Drew Brees factor in his favor.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 2nd Down
Round 5 is when you can start to reach for more traditional Sleepers, in fact, if you’re confident enough in a Giovani Bernard and know he wont fall back to you in the 5th, you could target him in the 4th. However, you shouldn’t reach for upside continually through the middle rounds. Compliment your reaches with safe and reliable options like Steve Smith and you’ll have a balanced roster of both high ceilings and floors of potential.
RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
The timeshare with The Law Firm is keeping his draft price in check, but when BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs out of billable hours, it’ll be Bernard that surges into weekly Fantasy Starter territory. Green-Ellis is the inferior talent, the Bengals are set on taking the AFC North by storm and that doesn’t happen when your don’t play your most talented players. It might take a few weeks, but target Bernard, he is a good one.
RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
Now that he is set to get the touches, expect a solid season from Richardson. The Rams should take a few steps forward on Offense and Jeff Fisher prefers going with a bell-cow back, which both stand to help Richardson’s Fantasy stock. Richardson could easily land inside the top 20 at the position based on his opportunity and usage alone, so what’s not to like?
RB Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
The Patriots ran more plays last season than any other team in the NFL. Vereen is going to have a bigger role and is set for a huge breakout campaign. He’ll be utilized in the passing game primarily and be lined up all over the field and used in a variety of ways. There are a lot of Fantasy Points suddenly available in the Patriots lineup and Vereen stands to gobble up the lion’s share of them.
WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown was a popular sleeper who failed to deliver last season, but he finished strong in 2012 and will be the primary target in Pittsburgh. The running attack just took a blow and Brown is a solid possession receiver, who finally found a nose for the End Zone down the stretch. He holds more value in PPR formats, but should be a target in all formats and you can expect big things in 2013.
WR Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
Only 2 years removed from a 6th best Fantasy finish at Wide Receiver and Smith has been downgraded to a middle rounder. Sounds like a great value play to me. The Black Cat still threw down a top 20 season in Standard formats and as the primary target on an improving Panthers team expect a better year in 2013. The floor is so high here that adding the reliable Smith in the middle rounds could prove to be the steal of your draft if he creeps into the top 15 Wide Receivers.
WR James Jones, Green Bay Packers
His TD to Reception ratio isn’t sustainable, but that doesn’t mean he wont catch as many Touchdowns in 2013. Although, that might be the case, expect Jones to see more targets all over the field and increase his Receptions and Receiving Yards. With Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson already dealing with their own injuries, Jones has an opportunity to become a more well-rounded receiver. Plus, he is a Red Zone ATM Machine.
WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2011 was an utter disappointment, but William’s 1st and 3rd seasons were excellent. In fact, Williams was a top 20 Fantasy Wide Receiver both years in Standard formats. So instead of it being labeled a Sophomore Slump, he is being ranked and drafted around the 7th or 8th Round. Josh Freeman might not be the best signal caller in the NFL, but he has been good enough to help Mike Williams become an excellent Fantasy option.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 3rd Down
After Round 10, it is all about upside, but you should also target Running Backs who are going to see the field. Toby Gerhart is Adrain Peterson’s Handcuff, but unless you own Peterson he’ll have next to no value, whereas Pierre Thomas will boast some value weekly. Like Gerhart though, his upside grows with an injury, but at least he’ll chip in on a consistent basis. Your Quarterbacks and Tight Ends in this range are potential starters and there are a lot of Receivers who could find themselves being fringe weekly Fantasy starters. Rounds 9-12 is where you can win your league with savvy picks.
QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
This may be the ultimate high risk, high reward pick. If you’ve been playing Fantasy Football long enough, Vick may have won you a league. There were injury issues last season, but Vick has been nearly flawless thus far in the preseason and could be in store for a monster season in Chip Kelly’s new offense. You should have Vick lined up as soon as you’re confident with your depth Running Back and Wide Receiver.
QB Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
He’ll likely never get back to his 2009 and 2010 levels of production, but he is better than his stats indicated last season. The Texans added another weapon and he isn’t going to be your starter, so you can exploit some of the fantastic matchups he has, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, twice. Schaub is a lock for 4000 Yards and 25 TDs.
RB Bilal Powell, New York Jets
The Jets went out and traded for Chris Ivory and signed Mike Goodson, but one can’t stay on the field and the other might not be able to get on it. Powell on the other hand, has looked good thus far. He isn’t the most talented Running Back and his situation isn’t crystal clear, but you can bet he’ll get some playing time in 2013. His competition in the Jets’ Backfield have huge health and legal concerns.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
It wasn’t a great season for Rodgers in 2012, but he did catch 53 passes out of the backfield and scamper his way to a top 40 finish amongst Running Backs in Standard formats. Obviously, he was better in PPR Leagues and will be again in 2013. He is a primary Handcuff to Steven Jackson at this point, but he’ll see enough action spelling Jackson and in the passing game to hold some value.
RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
He isn’t flashy and he has a lot of competition for touches and targets but he has always produced in the same situation. He is equally competent rushing and in the passing game and if he crosses the chalk just a few more times in 2013, he’ll flirt with the top 30 Running Backs. He holds more value in PPR Leagues, but is just an injury away from a bigger role in arguably the best Offense in the NFL.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Unfortunately for Patterson he wont have the best passer throwing him the football, but all reports suggest they want it headed in his direction a lot. The 1st Round Rookie out of Tennessee is still a little raw, but freakishly talented and quickly gaining the trust of his Coaches and Quarterbacks. If things align it could be a respectable first season for Patterson in Fantasy.
WR Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
Opportunity often trumps talent in sports, real too, but especially fake. Golden Tate is set to see the most targets of his career and that only means he’ll be a better Fantasy Wide Receiver. In Standard formats Tate was the 32nd best as it was, which puts he well inside starter territory in 3 WR Leagues. He is a talented athlete who should flourish is his new role within an explosive offense.
WR Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
He has to sit out the first 4 weeks, but if you can stomach it, you’ve got a potential weekly starter come Week 5. Blackmon turned it on down the stretch last season and became a reliable Fantasy option. The guy appears to have some issues, but if he’ll help you win when it matters and this late in drafts, why not waste a Bench slot for four weeks. He could also turn into an amazing bargaining chip.
TE Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
What a let down 2012 was, but Finley did finally show a few signs in the 2nd half and reports of late are glowing. Furthermore, Finley actually caught more passes last year than in his breakout 2011 campaign, so it was just the lack of Touchdowns. He is in a contract year and looks focused on cashing in, which might help you cash in, target Finley after the higher ranked options come off the board.
TE Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
I’ve noticed Fred Davis creeping up rankings steadily and for good reason. He is currently being drafted late, but boasts a lot of potential in the Redskins offense and may be overlooked after last season’s Achilles’ injury. There is no competition from Logan Paulsen in the passing game and Davis has proven to be a reliable fantasy option in the past when healthy.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 4th Down
By Round 12 you’re looking for Handcuff Running Backs, Backup Quarterbacks and Lottery Ticket Wide Receivers. You might even find a start-able Tight End if your lucky. These are bench players and there is no point in wasting those roster slots on players with limited upside. If one of these picks doesn’t work out you can drop them for another potential impact player. Consider the Waiver Wire an extension of your bench that is available at the click of a mouse, just because you draft a player in the 13th Round doesn’t mean you have to keep them on your roster.
QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Ried likes to throw the football and the Chiefs’ 2013 Schedule is as friendly as it gets for Quarterbacks. In a conservative offense last season, Smith fared well and only stands to improve in KC. He has some explosive weapons in Jamaal Charles and Dwyane Bowe and stands to be a reliable fantasy backup. There is limited upside, but he’ll have some solid weeks where he’ll be worth starting.
QB Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
The Browns claim to be a team on the rise and their Quarterback has had an excellent preseason. With teams having to prepare for Trent Richardson first, which will keep them honest defensively, Weeden and the Offensive vertical passing attack could really flourish. There is an intriguing group of young pass catchers at his disposal and a reliable veteran in Davone Bess. There is potential here.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Unlikely to remain this low on draft boards, the new Steelers’ lead back has trimmed down and looked better this summer than he did last year. He was mediocre in 2012, but the Steelers like to run the football and he’ll stand to get enough carries to be a modestly valuable contributor. Don’t rely on him as your 2nd RB or anything, but he could easily be a fringe Flex player.
RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
With neither Rookie or Sophomore wanting to take the lead in the Broncos’ Backfield, Moreno may pick up where he left off last season. In fact, Moreno was solid down the stretch and Peyton Manning trusts him in pass protection, which is important. With John Fox preferring a veteran Running Back, Moreno just might be the best RB in Denver to target in Fantasy Drafts.
RB Roy Helu, Washington Redskins
Before Alfred Morris went good in 2012, Helu was a solid player down the stretch in 2011 and is healthy again. It appears he’ll get 3 Down duties and is better suited in the passing game, which obviously makes him a better PPR target, but he could be a steal if Morris hits the Sophomore Wall or gets hurt.
WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
All signs point to Thompkins starting opposite Danny Amendola. If he produces Brandon Lloyd’s numbers from last season, his value will far exceed his draft price tag and Lloyd wasn’t even that great. There is upside that Thompkins can sneak into WR 3 territory and that would be a steal this late in drafts. In fact, you could begin to reach for him around Round 10, if you’re chasing upside because you’ve got other reliable options. His ADP is on the rise.
WR Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
The other Bengals’ Red Zone ATM Machine was just getting rolling in his rookie 2012 season, when he suffered a season ending foot injury. Sanu enters 2013 opposite A.J. Green, which will give him all kinds of opportunities to exploit team’s weakest Cornerbacks. There is concern that he’ll lose Red Zone targets to Tyler Eifert, but it isn’t like he is your 7th Round pick, he has huge upside in a developing offense.
WR Brandon Lloyd, Free Agent
I’m a little surprised that he hasn’t signed yet, but if he ends up in the right situation, there is no reason he isn’t a top 50 Wide Receiver option immediately. If he doesn’t sign you can drop him, but it is tough to imagine that he’ll go unsigned the entire season. Lloyd is worth a late round flyer, although, it is a little concerning that he hasn’t found a suitor yet.
TE Zach Sudfeld, New England Patriots
Another Pat, I know, but Sudfeld has looked good and Jake Ballard poses no competition for targets. Furthermore, Rob Gronkowski is still a question mark to a certain degree. Sudfeld is a huge target and has already garnered praise from Tom Brady. This late in drafts you can lock up Sudfeld, who might even be a decent option for the remainder of the season. There is a lot to like here.
TE Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
The Broncos have some other options at Tight End, but they’re nursing injuries, while Thomas is taking the job and running with it. Thomas is a big and athletic receiving option who has looked good through the preseason. If he continues to develop chemistry with Peyton Manning, there could be some real value here, especially so late in drafts.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Going for Two!
I skipper over a number of potential 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers, so lets take a peek at a few more that could have gone in the 3rd and 4th Down Tiers in rapid fire.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: He is going to air it out and has some much improved weapons compared to last season.
E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills: The injury is a disappoint, but the Rookie looked like a potential game changer to start his career.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: It looks like he’ll get the starts for the Black Cats to start the season, but don’t overdraft him.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions: Best suited in PPR formats, Bell could surprise and excel if there were ever a Reggie Bush injury.
Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders: The Fullback does everything well and caught 52 passes out of the backfield last year.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers: Healthy again and the primary Handcuff for Frank Gore owners. He’ll get his touches too though.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers: Entering his 4th season, Sanders will see the most targets of his career. What he does with them will determine how good he is.
Ryan Broyles, Detroit Lions: Set to start opposite Megatron, there is nothing not to like. He has the potential to crash the WR 3 Party.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants: Is a Hakeem Nicks’ injury away from being a starter and it isn’t like Domenick Hixon didn’t perform as the Gaints’ 3rd option last season anyway.
Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams: The hype train is speeding along so fast, it is tough to call him a sleeper. He is racing up draft boards and rankings.
Vincent Brown, San Diego Chargers: Someone has to catch the ball for the Chargers and they’ve got a friendly schedule for QB Philip Rivers.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals: He is ready to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald and finished strong in 2012. Expect the real breakout in 2014 though.
Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago Bears: Another Sophomore, but he might not see enough targets, especially in the Red Zone to be a major impact in Fantasy. Don’t reach, but don’t avoid either.
Robert Housler, Arizona Cardinals: Give the big guy a shot late if you’re looking for a nice upside play. He is athletic and has good hands. Just know Bruce Arians doesn’t always feature his Tight Ends that frequently.
Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens: The signing of Dallas Clark hurts, but make no mistake, Dickson is the Ravens’ TE to own. He’ll contribute at a fringe Fantasy starter level.
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