A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the top 160 players and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.
Player with 8 Votes
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Andrew Garda: I'm not sold on Tannehill as a QB1 or anything, but he's got the weapons to put up some good points. He showed us enough last year to think he can take advantage of guys like Mike Wallace enough to warrant a good QB2 or bye week spot.
Adam Harstad: I absolutely cannot fathom the fact that Ryan Tannehill isn't going among the top 150 players so far this year. The truth is that Tannehill played very well for a rookie, even if he suffered in comparison to his precocious peers. Remember that Tannehill only played QB for a year and a half in college, so not only should he still have plenty of room to grow, but his athleticism and the addition of Mike Wallace give him monstrous upside in 2013.
Jeff Haseley: In five of the last six games of 2012, Ryan Tannehill turned on the jets rushing for 173 of his season total 197 rushing yards. If 2013 will be anything like his finish to 2012, he could be in for a 500+ yard rushing season. Since 2010, five quarterbacks have reached 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing, averaging 360 fantasy points. Last year, 360 FP ranked 8th for quarterbacks.
Stephen Holloway: Ryan Tannehill had a strong rookie season, but was far outpaced by the success of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. Tannehill has very little experience as a starting quarterback and with the Dolphins adding Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller, significant improvement is within reach in Tannehill's second NFL season. He also will likely be able to open up the playbook and throw deep balls to Wallace. With improved players around him, he will throw more often than his rookie season and should complete a slightly higher percentage than 58%. With Wallace and Keller as options, he definitely will increase his YPA to over 7.0.
Jeff Pasquino: Miami has been looking for a stud quarterback ever since Dan Marino retired, and they hope that Ryan Tannehill is that answer. The Dolphins have surrounded Tannehill with much better options entering 2013, starting with a true feature wide receiver in Mike Wallace. Miami also added Brandon Gibson (Rams) who will push to be the third wide receiver behind Wallace and Brian Hartline. Another upgrade came at tight end, where former Jet Dustin Keller signed over the offseason. The loss of Jake Long and also Reggie Bush will hurt, but Tannehill could shine as he develops further in his second season.
Jeff Tefertiller: Ryan Tannehill now has Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller as pass targets after suffering through his rookie campaign with the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Tannehill has a legitimate chance to crack the top ten at the position and be a fantasy starter.
Mark Wimer: Ryan Tannehill has seen an influx of talent down in Miami - the additions of Mike Wallace at #1 wide receiver and Dustin Keller at tight end upgrades the Dolphin's passing attack quite a bit. Assuming that these three create some good chemistry during training camp, the Dolphins' passing attack could surprise us this year.
Jason Wood: I'm not 100% bought in on Ryan Tannehill yet, but as I glance at the quarterbacks being drafted outside the Top 150, I would rather take a chance on greatness in Tannehill than a veteran retread with predetermined (and limited) upside. Tannehill knows this offense inside and out (he ran the same system in college) and now has a legitimate top receiver in Mike Wallace. Given Tannehill's athleticism and ability to pile up rushing stats, I could see a breakout year if the dominoes fall. I'm not predicting that kind of season, but I would comfortably roll the dice at his current ADP.
Player with 6 Votes
Carson Palmer, Cardinals
Jeff Haseley: In 2012 Carson Palmer reached 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2007 with the Bengals. If he can put up those passing numbers with Oakland, he should be able to do just as good, if not better in Arizona with a much more polished receiving corps. Last year he finished 16th among quarterbacks. As long as he stays healthy, he should be able to exceed his ADP of QB23.
Andy Hicks: Carson Palmer once again ends up on a team not expected to do much. The ineptitude of the Dennis Allen year in Oakland resulted in a fantasy ranking of 15th, which in retrospect will seem better as we continue to examine it. Palmer this year gets the luxury of a true WR1, perhaps for the first time in his entire career in Larry Fitzgerald and will be playing for the current NFL coach of the year in Bruce Arians. Now Arizona has a lot of problems, but Palmer can be of fantasy value this year as a late QB2 or even QB3. You won't regret it.
Stephen Holloway: After joining the Raiders in mid-season 2011 and only starting the last nine games, Palmer averaged 293 yards per game, which would equate to 4,688 yards over the season. Last year, he threw for 4,018 yards and missed the last game and ¾ of the game before. Now he is starting in Arizona and his receiving options are much improved and the running game is suspect. If their offensive line improves and Palmer connects on the short throws, look for the Cardinal passing offense to rise from the ashes of last year.
Jeff Pasquino: Arizona traded with Oakland for Carson Palmer in April for late round draft picks, but the Cardinals felt that the veteran quarterback was the best viable option for their quarterback position both for this season and for 2014. His three-year deal has outs in 2014 and 2015, but odds are that the Cardinals will try and groom a younger quarterback next year behind the veteran. Palmer is an upgrade for Arizona and immediately improves the overall passing game out in the desert, especially for Larry Fitzgerald.
Matt Waldman: Palmer was two Darrius Heyward-Bey drops away from being the No.12 fantasy quarterback last year and you know that between Heyward-Bey, Rod Streater, and Denarius Moore there were a lot more than three drops in 2012. The veteran quarterback won't have that problem in Arizona in an offense that might have issues with pass protection against better teams, but not like what Palmer faced behind Oakland's front. The Cardinals quarterback is my late-round passer of choice this year.
Mark Wimer: Carson Palmer is definitely worth taking a flyer on as your #3 fantasy quarterback. IF the new line jells in Arizona and Palmer is upright more often than he's on his back, the Palmer-to-Larry-Fitzgerald connection could result in a huge season. Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards with the Raiders last year, and they didn't have anybody close to Fitzgerald's talent level.
Players with 3 Votes
Jake Locker, Titans
Sigmund Bloom: Locker never really got out of the garage last year after suffering a shoulder injury early in the season. He's still worth a stash-and-see late pick because there have been rumblings about using Locker as a read option running quarterback. He certainly has the athleticism and toughness to excel in that role, and create borderline QB1 fantasy value in the process. Locker might not be accurate, but he is a bold downfield passer, and he also received a huge upgrade at both guard spots on the offensive line during the offseason.
Ryan Hester: Locker started last season as a potential deep sleeper for many in the fantasy community, but a disappointing year has many reluctant to slap that label on him again in 2013. All of the things that made Locker a fashionable sleeper in 2012, though, are still present this season. He's still a mobile QB with a big arm and therefore capable of making plays in a variety of ways, and he still has a multitude of weapons. This season, in fact, Kenny Britt is healthier and hasn't been providing distractions by getting in trouble with the law (yet). 2012 first-round pick Kendall Wright will have another offseason to learn and should enter 2013 as a starter. The team also drafted Justin Hunter in the second round this season, providing another weapon with great size (6'4”) and skill. Locker may still struggle at times, but he could provide some weekly value when the matchups are right.
Jeff Pasquino: This is a make or break year for Jake Locker. The Titans have given him young wide receiver targets to work with (Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and rookie Justin Hunter) and added TE Delanie Walker to replace the departed Jared Cook (Rams). Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene should handle the run game effectively, so it will be up for Locker to step up and run the offense. Locker will also be running more and rolling out, giving him fantasy upside as a QB2.
EJ Manuel Bills
Adam Harstad: Not all rookies can be Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, or Cam Newton, but Manuel is still a 1st round pick who should be starting from game one. With all of the speed Buffalo will be putting on the field at the skill positions, Manuel has some pretty decent upside if his teammates start making him look better than he really is.
Chad Parsons: Manuel has a prospect profile similar to Cam Newton. He was drafted into a Buffalo offense with the bones of a spread attack that could maximize Manuel's fantasy production as he develops as a dropback passer. In typical short-roster leagues, Manuel may very well go undrafted often. He needs to be on speed dial early in the season or drafted as the final position player in a draft because if he comes out of the gate hot, he will be far more costly to acquire. Rushing production is one of the quickest ways to push a quarterback into the top echelon of fantasy options and Manuel has that ability.
Jason Wood: Manuel has his critics, but I'm not one of them. To my mind, Manuel has the best set of tools in this draft class, and has deep ball touch, a super quick release, and the size and speed to handle a collapsing pocket. All of his risks are coachable, and Doug Marrone is a perfect steward for a young quarterback.
Alex Smith, Chiefs
Sigmund Bloom: One of the most intriguing hires of the offseason happened when the Chiefs added "father of the pistol formation" Chris Ault. Ault commented that he remembered Smith at Utah and saw him as a good fit for the same formation that he used to make Colin Kaepernick a star at Nevada. Smith is an underrated athlete and he is also joining forces with Andy Reid, who tends to make quarterbacks look and produce better than they really are (at least at first). With a more potent passing game and the potential for more rushing stats, boring old Alex Smith could become more exciting as a backup fantasy quarterback this year.
Adam Harstad: He may not be the most exciting name out there, but Andy Reid is one of the most pass-happy coaches in history, and Smith will definitely be given ample opportunity to air it out. With players like Bowe and Charles to make him look better than he is, Smith makes a reliable QB3 who could easily surprise this year.
Jason Wood: Fantasy pundits are REALLY missing the mark here. Andy Reid is among the most pass happy coaches in the league, and he targeted Alex Smith. Let me say that again, he targeted Alex Smith. Reid had plenty of options. He could've drafted a rookie, he could've targeted the likes of Carson Palmer or Matt Flynn, or he could've traded for younger starters like Nick Foles or Ryan Mallet. Instead he acquired Smith and is going to make him the team's cornerstone. Let's remember that Donovan McNabb was a 5-time Pro Bowler with Reid, but a forgettable starter in Washington and Minnesota. Michael Vick enjoyed an MVP caliber season under Reid. Jeff Garcia, A.J. Feeley, Koy Detmer and Mike Kafka played well and won games under Reid. Smith is going to CRUSH his current ranking if he stays healthy this year.
Geno Smith, Jets
Sigmund Bloom: Smith couldn't have landed in a worse spot for media attention or organizational support, but it seems pretty likely that he'll start out of the gate and get a chance to learn on the job. While that will make for ugly outcomes if you're a Jets fan, Smith could still put up great fantasy numbers along the way, especially if he is opening up the offense because he is playing from behind. Smith is also a terrific athlete and inspired runner when he wants to me. The Jets could easily follow the read option trend and make Smith and give us an instant rookie fantasy quarterback starter for the third consecutive season.
Andy Hicks: Geno Smith is being drafted as an afterthought or not at all. Mark Sanchez is not going to be playing very long, if at all for the Jets and by process of elimination Geno Smith has to play. He has the ability to be a very good fantasy quarterback, maybe not to the level of Cam Newton in his rookie year, but still serviceable nonetheless. Yes the Jets look like they are heading for a disastrous season, but if there is any hope it's in the rookie QB. For no cost at all, you could be getting anything. That surely is better than taking Blaine Gabbert or Brandon Weeden.
Tyler Wilson, Raiders
Andrew Garda: Is this another “Matt Flynn gets his job stolen by a dude with the last name Wilson” situation? It might be. Wilson has flaws, but he's a very solid prospect and underrated by a lot of fantasy folks. His arm could get him the nod over Flynn (anTerrelle Pryor) with a strong Training Camp.
Stephen Holloway: Tyler Wilson was severely downgraded by his poor performance in his senior season at Arkansas, but there were abundant reasons for the entire Arkansas team slump and particularly for Wilson. He has a very strong arm and is more mobile than you would expect considering the many sacks he took in college. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have watched play in college. He kept taking hit after hit, yet kept coming back for more. His competition at Oakland is Matt Flynn, the 2008 seventh round pick that was beaten out in camp last year by a rookie named Wilson and current second teamer, Terrelle Pryor. Wilson's high football intelligence could allow him to overtake both before the season, but especially if Oakland loses early (and I expect them to) he could be the quarterback that comes in to give them a spark in midseason.
Players with 1 Vote
Chad Henne, Jaguars
Jeff Tefertiller: Chad Henne could be a fantasy starter in 2013 just like he was in 2012 after replacing Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars have Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts at the receiver position and Jones-Drew carrying the ball. A decent passer can move the ball in this offense.
Brandon Weeden, Browns
Mark Wimer: Brandon Weeden has an offensive guru now coaching him (Norv Turner), and the Josh Gordon/Greg Little tandem is intriguing. This could be the year that the Browns finally start building a viable contender - if Weeden takes flight under Turner's tutelage, he will be worth a look for fantasy purposes when the matchup is good.