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 150 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 Receiving 5 Votes
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Brimacombe: If you predicted Derek Carr to play a full 16 game season as a rookie and put up 3,270 passing hards with 21 touchdowns last season, than good for you. Carr proved people wrong with his play as a rookie, and gave the Raiders offense some hope for the future. Heading into year 2, the Raiders did Carr a favor by adding veteran WR Michael Crabtree and drafting the best WR in the draft class with Amari Cooper. The arrow is pointing up for the Raiders passing game and Carr looks to be at the right spot at the right time and could push for 4,000 passing yards and a couple a dozen touchdown passes.
Holloway: Carr had a somewhat productive rookie season passing for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. The Raiders top receiver was James Jones, who has left the team. However, the Raiders drafted Amari Cooper, a rookie of the year candidate at #4 overall and added Michael Crabtree, who has generated a lot of training camp buzz. They also return Mychal Rivera, a dependable tight end and drafted Clive Walford in the third round. Carr has a full year of experience and adds several additional receiving weapons, pointing his arrow up. Carr ranked as QB20 a year ago.
Pasquino: When it comes to fantasy value at quarterback, a simple recipe is to find a team that needs to throw, has a solid WR1, a good tight end and a back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. No, I do not mean Drew Brees, I am talking about Derek Carr for the Raiders. Amani Cooper is a rookie that should stretch the field for Carr, and Latavius Murray can make people miss out of the backfield. Oakland has two viable tight ends in Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford, and it is no secret that the Raiders will be throwing more often than not in the second half of most games this season. Carr also has no challengers behind him, so 16 starts are highly likely for him this year.
Simpkins: Carr played with poise as a rookie in an abysmal situation. There have been some major improvements to the offense this offseason that should help Carr continue to build on his success. The team added quality depth behind Latavius Murray in Roy Helu and Trent Richardson. Their receiver corps improved drastically with the additions of Amari Cooper and the underrated second option, Michael Crabtree. Rookie Clive Walford has also been a surprise and seems on track to start over Mychal RIvera. The arrow for this offense is pointing up, making Carr a viable streaming option.
Wimer: Carr was better than most expected during 2014, and the team has added talent around him via the draft (Amari Cooper) and free agency (Michael Crabtree). If Cooper pans out as the #1 wideout in Oakland, Carr could vastly outperform his lowly draft position.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Robert Griffin III, Washington
Hicks: When you get towards the end of your draft, the floor of a player isn’t as important. The ceiling is. We are not gambling on players who are going to struggle to make the roster, we are looking at starters who have flaws, who may have flashed serious potential or have struggled with injuries. Robert Griffin has all these issues and more, but we all remember his rookie season where he was a force to be reckoned with. If he has matured and can make better decisions, then he makes the perfect backup fantasy QB, even better as a 3rd option.
Pasquino: This is a make or break year for Robert Griffin III, and he knows it. Griffin has the pieces around him to re-establish himself as a solid quarterback in the NFL once again, with two strong starting wide recievers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. It is not often that you can select a former Top 10 quarterback as a later round QB2, but Griffin offers just that kind of potential. He has a very high ceiling so taking him as your QB2 affords your roster a lot of possible upside.
Wimer: Griffin spent much of 2014 injured, and never really got on track in Jay Gruden's offense. Things are reportedly going much better for Griffin regarding both his health and his comfort in the offense - 'I just think we're all feeling better about what we're doing,' Griffin said recently. 'We know a lot more than last year. And for me as a player, you always have to be confident.' Griffin may get back to fantasy respectability this year - he has nowhere to go but up.
Wood: I’m surprised Robert Griffin enters the season as Washington’s starter; but he and head coach Jay Gruden have reached détente. Even if you think Griffin won’t finish the season as the starter, it’s hard to understand why his ADP has fallen this far. When he’s on the field, Griffin’s mobility and downfield accuracy make him a possible Top 5 quarterback in any given week. He’ll have weeks that fall well short of that mark, but in the right matchups he would be a preferred start against many quarterbacks drafted ahead of him.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Haseley: If there's one thing we know about Marcus Mariota, it's his impressive accuracy as a passer. He also has the ability to throw well on the run and make plays with his feet when needed. He sounds a lot like Russell Wilson doesn't he? We need to see how the offense caters to his abilities, but the benefits to his receivers could be a stark contrast to what we've seen in the past.
Pasquino: Once the first 20 or so quarterbacks are gone in a fantasy draft, you are looking for two things – a solid starter and upside potential. Marcus Mariota offers both, as he will be the clear starter for the Titans come Week 1 this fall. Mariota offers offensive potential as both a passer and a rusher, and with his potential for big plays on the ground or through the air he makes for a solid QB2 option later in drafts.
Wood: If both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston play 16 games, Mariota will be the better fantasy player. I realize Mariota has a bigger transition from the Oregon offense to a pro-style offense, but I believe his work ethic, mechanics and maturity point to a faster learning curve. Mariota has been nearly perfect thus far in the preseason; he's making smart decisions and has has very little difficulty transitioning to a huddle or taking snaps under center. While there will be growing pains, Mariota's ability to run the ball will act as a floor on his fantasy value. If Mariota starts the entire season, it's almost impossible for me to project him as anything less than a Top 20 quarterback; and that assumes he only throws for 3,400 yards.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Nick Foles, St. Louis Rams
Hicks: Nick Foles will always have that wonderful 2013 season as proof of his potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL. It is easy to give all the credit to Chip Kelly, but that is lazy thinking. Foles deserves acknowledgement. In a new environment under a more defensive oriented coach we’ll get to truly see what Nick Foles is made of. He has many young skilled players at his disposal who haven’t shown their potential yet. St.Louis haven’t exactly been blessed with quarterback options to get it out of them. Maybe Foles is the man to do it and at his price it is worth the risk to find out.
Waldman: I've never been a Foles fan, but he is an upgrade to the quarterbacks that subbed for Sam Bradford last year. The reports from Rams camp indicate a smooth transition to the offense and good rapport with the receivers. The strength of the ground game and the defense also help. I'll take Foles late I have confidence about the strength of my team.
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
Simpkins: Manziel got his chance to start last year and absolutely fell on his face. Reports were that his teammates were put off by his arrogance and had no confidence in him heading into their matchup with the Bengals. Manziel was also struggling with the alcoholism that had been a poorly kept secret during his college days. Finally, this offseason, Johnny gained insight into the fact he needed help. He voluntarily entered rehab and staid over six weeks, well past the compulsory twenty-eight days. This likely indicates that his desire to change is sincere. Watching Manziel play at A&M, his talent at the position is apparent. That talent still remains below the surface. If Manziel can stay humble and focused, he has the opportunity to win back the trust of his teammates and lead the Browns offense. While the offensive weapons around him aren’t the best, he does have one of the better offensive lines playing in front of him.
Waldman: Don't draft him, but monitor what's happening. He's getting better, he has matured, and there's no guarantee that Josh McCown keeps the job all year. Manziel is a better fit for a run offense in theory because he has the legs to gain yards.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Hicks: The Jacksonville Jaguars are patiently building an explosive offense around their high draft pick from 2014 in Blake Bortles. 3 wide receivers in Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns were taken a year ago, Julius Thomas was signed at Tight End, a 2nd rounder was spent on running back T.J Yeldon this year and 3rd round picks in the last 2 years on offensive lineman all add up to an offense that should take shape this year, with further rewards next year and beyond. Blake Bortles should see significant improvement following a turbulent rookie season, but I have a feeling we will start to see a turnaround sooner rather than later and would expect him to be fantasy useful over the last half of the year.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
Wimer: As I noted in June, Fitzpatrick has a struggling young quarterback to beat out during training camp, but it shouldn't take long for him to take over from Geno Smith in New York. Now that Smith has elected for surgery to correct his broken jaw (out approximately 10 weeks), Fitzpatrick is the starter in New York. Given that Fitzpatrick had good success playing for Chan Gailey in the past, and the fact that he has talented wide receivers to throw to in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, I think he could be a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners who roster him as their #2 QB this year. Fitzpatrick is capable of explosive performaces when the passing matchup is good.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Wood: Alex Smith is an unexiting fantasy prospect; I'm not going to argue that point. In nine NFL seasons, Smith has never finished higher than QB15. On the other hand, I think you could do worse than draft Smith as a late round backup if you've drafted an elite starter. Smith had a painfully bad receiving corps last year, but gets Jeremy Maclin as a top target this season. Couple Maclin with the continued maturation of tight end Travis Kelce, and I see almost no way Smith doesn't improve. I'm not saying Smith is going to break out, but I am saying he'll be better than 23rd at the position (and there are at least 22 quarterbacks with higher ADPs).
Geno Smith, New York Jets
Simpkins: Even though he’s been written off by many, especially after the news that he had sustained a broken jaw in camp, Smith could really surprise this year. He was recently voted the worst quarterback in the league by an ESPN poll, but it’s more likely that some of his game has been depressed by the offense-stifling Rex Ryan. With a new coach and offensive coordinator, owners should see a vast improvement. We’ve already seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick to know that Smith is going to be the better option. Remember also that Chan Gailey has taken quarterbacks of far less talent and crafted systems for them in which they could thrive. Smith also has the recently added Brandon Marshall and a finally healthy Eric Decker to throw to. Yes, he’ll miss the first few games, but he’ll be there patiently waiting for streamers who need his services.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hester: If you subscribe to the idea that rookie quarterbacks aren’t very likely to have a high-impact season, consider that Winston isn’t your typical rookie quarterback. He ran a pro-style system in college and is considered by many scouts to be “pro-ready” from day one. Also consider that few – if any – rookie signal-callers have had the arsenal of weapons that Winston will have. Mike Evans is primed to make many visits to the Pro Bowl throughout his career; Vincent Jackson is a very tall veteran adept at grabbing 50-50 balls; and Austin Seferian-Jenkins also provides a massive target from the tight end position. Game scripts will also be pass-friendly more often than not. Winston has the potential to rank up multiple top-12 QB weeks throughout the season.