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.
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Player Receiving 8 Votes
Jay Cutler, Chicago
Alexander: Cutler is coming off a season in which he posted the second-highest completion percentage (64.4%), and highest yards per pass attempt average (7.58) of his career. Departed offensive coordinator Adam Gase received much of the credit for Cutler's increased efficiency, but new Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains (the quarterbacks coach under Gase last season) also worked closely with Cutler and plans to maintain the principles of Gase's system in 2016. Assuming Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White remain healthy, Cutler will have one of the most talented wide receiver combos in the league at his disposal. If Cutler only performs to his current ADP (QB24), it would literally be his worst possible outcome. He's a solid late-round quarterback committee member with top-12 upside.
Bloom: Cutler wasn't much for fantasy last year, but that was with half of a Alshon Jeffery and no Kevin White. Offensive coordinator extraordinaire Adam Gase is gone to Miami to be their head coach, but new coordinator Dowell Loggains is a quarterback-centric coach and Cutler lobbied for him to be the quarterbacks coach in Chicago back in 2012. The offense won't be pass heavy, but with the potential for two #1 wide receiver talents on the outside, it could still be enough to make Cutler a good matchup play and worth a draft pick.
Hicks: The departure of Adam Gase is likely to hurt Jay Cutler, but the fitness of last years unplayed first rounder in Kevin White and with Alshon Jeffrey also back to full health, Cutler will have the weapons he needs to be fantasy relevant this year. He shouldn't be a starter for any fantasy squad, but will be a solid backup and has a much higher floor than those that will be drafted around him.
Holloway: Cutler's completion percentages the two most recent seasons have been 66.0% and 64.4%, the two highest of his career. His 7.58 YPA also tied his best season. The Bears lost Matt, Forte, their running back stalwart in free agency and will likely be more effective throwing the ball than running it. Their problems on defense could spell even more production needing in the passing game. Cutler has never thrown for 4,000 yards in Chicago, but could do it this year.
Kuczynski: Every year Jay Cutler seems to be a forgotten man in fantasy football. While he is by no means someone you should rely on to be your every week starter, this season's huge pool of viable QBs is causing him to be in the undrafted range. Despite having almost no one to throw to much of the season with Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett missing large portions of the season due to injury, Cutler was still able to reach nearly 4000 yards. He will certainly have some big games based on matchups and this year he will be getting back a healthy Jeffery, as well as finally having last year's first round pick Kevin White as a 2nd target. If you wait a long time to draft your backup QB, Cutler should prove to be a more than capable QB2.
Simpkins: Going in the 15th round of drafts, Jay Cutler is a quarterback who is getting a bum rap. Cutler moving from Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase to Dowell Loggains would appear to be a huge blow on the surface. However, the offensive system Gase installed will remain largely intact. Loggains was Cutler's quarterback coach last season and helped Cutler to have his most accurate season as a pro player. Also being overlooked is the fact that Cutler may be throwing to the best receiver tandem in the league in Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. There is top-ten upside here if things break right.
Waldman: Coach John Fox is synonymous with power football but it hasn't always been accurate. He was flexible enough not to restrict Peyton Manning and in 2004-2005, Jake Delhomme was a fantasy QB1 (No.5 and No.12 among passers). Cutler is a more talented passer than Delhomme and the passing game has more weapons than the ground game. The Bears defense lacks the skill to dictate a conservative game script as often Fox might prefer. If Kevin White and Zach Miller play to expectations, the Bears will have three strong weapons in the passing game that an support QB1 fantasy production.
Wood: Did you realize that Dowell Loggains – the Bears new OC – produced nearly identical numbers as the Titans play-caller that Gase delivered in Chicago last year? Everyone seems ready to abandon Cutler because of the OC-transition, but I don't see any evidence that Loggains is a material downgrade. Combine that with an improved offensive line, a healthy Kevin White and the ever-present mastery of Alshon Jeffery and I find it very hard to project Cutler as anything short of a mid-teens fantasy asset.
Players Receiving 6 Votes
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota
Haseley: Teddy Bridgewater has had back to back seasons of 14 touchdown passes, which is below standard for a starting quarterback in the league, especially in the current pass-dominated era. The Vikings have had only one quarterback (Brett Favre) finish in the Top 20 in passing yards since Adrian Peterson was drafted in 2007. What does that tell me? The Vikings offense is driven by the ground game, particularly Peterson. The Vikings drafted wide receiver Laquan Treadwell to be a playmaker on offense and be a constant threat for opposing secondaries. If Treadwell flops or struggles to meet expectations in his rookie season, Bridgewater should again fall middle of the road, if not lower as a fantasy option. If Treadwell excels like some people suggest, so too will Bridgewater. A chip on Treadwell is a chip on Bridgewater. I have a feeling that we'll see a step forward from the young signal caller, which could elevate his status to fantasy relevant.
Hicks: Minnesota is still Adrian Peterson's team and Teddy Bridgewater won't be expected to dominate with his arm. In only his 3rd season, Bridgewater is slowly developing and won't need to throw if the Vikings are leading or keeping it close. A 4-touchdown game against the Bears and two 300-yard passing games show that he can be fantasy relevant and it is expected the Vikings will trust Bridgewater a little more this year after investing a first round pick on high quality rookie LaQuan Treadwell.
Pasquino: Here is another quarterback that can be had outside of the Top 20 that offers some solid bye week filler and some QB1 upside in good matchups. Teddy Bridgewater has a stud tight end in Kyle Rudolph and good young prospects at wide receiver (Stefon Diggs, rookie Laquon Treadwell, Charles Johnson). Bridgewater only threw for 14 touchdowns last year, but he added three on the ground and he has some upside in the right matchups for 2-3 scores in a given week. He also offers the added bonus of being the unchallenged starter for his team, so you know he will be under center when you need him.
Simpkins: Bridgewater is not a game manager. The reality is that Bridgewater hasn't had the offensive line play and the receiving weapons to take the next step as a passer. The Vikings made major investments in improving the line over the offseason. They also added Laquon Treadwell in the Draft. Treadwell will play immediately and offers the #1 upside that Minnesota has lacked for so long. With Stefon Diggs entrenched as the quality #2 option, Bridgewater will far exceed his round 15 ADP.
Waldman: Three things tell the story of Bridgewater's development. The first is the offensive line, which hasn't been healthy for two years. Bridgewater faced pressure on 47 percent of his drops last year, most in the NFL. When the line is healthy, which it is now, it's a good unit that won't give up pressure at nearly this high of a rate. Bridgewater also lacked a veteran receiver with a complete game. Cordarrelle Patterson has struggled mightily getting off the line of scrimmage, Mike Wallace is too one-dimensional, and Charles Johnson is young and was hampered last year with an injury. And Kyle Rudolph was forced to stay at the line of scrimmage as a pass protector. Bridgewaer's best option, Stefon Diggs, was a rookie. Even so, the Vikings passer had the best QB rating in the league in the final two minutes of games. Replace Wallace with the physical Laquon Treadwell, and Bridgewater has at least two good options wide and a capable line. He'll outplay his ADP with these two options. If Charles Johnson can return to 2014 form, Bridgewater could surprise as a QB1.
Wood: Bridgewater is entering a make-it-or-break it season. While I'm skeptical he'll ever be a top 10 passer, I can see Bridgewater's value at his current ADP as a possible QB-by-committee option. My reasons for optimism are threefold. One, he's still young and improvement is a natural course of his career arc. Two, the Vikings will be playing in their new stadium – a dome – this year. Three, LaQuan Treadwell gives the team a true #1 option that they lacked in 2015.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore
Hicks: Before going down with injury Joe Flacco struggled last year with the absence of weapons. The addition of Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson should give Flacco weapons to at least be on fantasy radars. Steve Smith returns for a final season and Kamar Aiken improved when he had to. Flacco should be reliable in an emergency and the Ravens could have an offense that will improve during the year.
Hindery: Flacco is an afterthought in fantasy drafts, but has low-end QB1 upside in Marc Trestman's pass-heavy offensive scheme. When including guys returning from injury, the Ravens have added more pass catchers to the stable than any other team. Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta, Breshad Perriman, Crockett Gilmore and Justin Forsett all return from injuries that robbed them from all or part of the 2015 season. The Ravens also added Mike Wallace and Ben Watson in free agency. Kenneth Dixon and Chris Moore arrived via the draft. While there may not be a star in the bunch, the Ravens boast enviable depth at the skill positions. Much of Flacco's upside stems from the fact that the Ravens pass defense should again be vulnerable to exploitation, causing Flacco and the Ravens to have to play from behind.
Holloway: Flacco returns from an ACL tear in week 11 last season and his first missed games of his career. Assuming that he is healthy and the team gets Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman at the beginning of the season, Flacco will have his best receiving options in a while. Mike Wallace seems to be a good fit, he has a nice young tight end in Maxx Williams and Ben Watson joins the Ravens after a career year in New Orleans.
Parsons: Everything went wrong for Flacco in 2015 from a bevy of injuries to his pass-catchers as well as missing time himself. This season, Flacco looks to get Steve Smith back, Breshad Perriman is a wild card with his injury recovery, Mike Wallace adds another deep threat, and Ben Watson was a surprise addition at tight end. After a lost season, Flacco is a strong rebound candidate.
Pasquino: Taking a late backup quarterback can be a risky proposition, so it is always comforting to take one that has plenty of upside with minimal downside. That is virtually the definition of Joe Flacco, who never misses a snap if he can walk (or hobble) for the Baltimore Ravens. Last season he missed six games with a torn ACL in a lost year for Baltimore, the first time he has missed playing in eight seasons, but he is due back in time for training camp. Flacco is a near lock to start every game in Baltimore once again in 2016, and with the return of Steve Smith and solid running back and tight end options, Flacco has a reasonable downside in the passing game most every week. Even better, Flacco is one of those rare quarterbacks that can post 3-4 touchdowns in a single contest outside of the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL.
Wood: Joe Flacco isn't a world beater, but if I'm digging in the crates for a LATE round quarterback, Flacco is a viable option. Until last year's injury (torn ACL) truncated season, Flacco had been a Top 20 quarterback in every season. With a cadre of receivers and tight ends at his disposal, and a defense that's not quite what it used to be, Flacco can at least replicate his 2014 numbers (3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns) which offer phenomenal value as a late round option.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Free Agent
Bloom: Fitzpatrick and the Jets remain at a contract impasse, but deadlines spur action. Neither party has any reason to move until the eve of training camp. Both parties are meant for each other, as no one is interested in giving Fitzpatrick starter money, and the Jets season will go down the tubes without Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was a top 16 quarterback last year and excellent QBBC member, and he was a top 7 quarterback in the second half of the season. The Jets offense is built to pass again with two top veteran wide receivers and two excellent pass-catching running backs. Fitzpatrick could be even better as long as he plays this year and he fits in a QBBC approach again.
Haseley: Ryan Fitzpatrick had nearly 4,000 yards passing with 31 touchdown passes last year. He currently does not have a team, because his salary demands are higher than the Jets or other teams are willing to pay for a veteran quarterback coming off a career year. My thinking is that he will be back with the Jets in 2016 and the starter in Week 1. His current ADP of QB25, 188 overall could be a steal if he signs with the Jets in time for preseason, or better yet, training camp.
Hester: It's likely that this ADP is reflective of the fact that Fitzpatrick isn't actually employed right now. Even if he signs with the Jets and his ADP rises by a few places inside his position, he's still a good value play if he no longer qualifies as a deep sleeper. Last season, Fitzpatrick emerged into a plug-and-play every-week top-12 quarterback for a significant stretch of the season. Assuming he signs back with New York, he'll still have his top two receivers and Chan Gailey at the controls of the offense. While not ground-breaking in its impact, consider that the team also gets back athletic tight end Jace Amaro from injury.
Pasquino: If you are looking for a late quarterback with QB1 upside (and aren't we all?), then consider Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he finally inks a deal to go back to the Jets, Fitzpatrick has a very good shot at putting up similar numbers to last year, where "Fitzmagic" finished as a borderline fantasy starter for the season. Having Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as your two top targets allowed Fitzpatrick to throw 31 touchdowns in 2015, strong numbers for a quarterback that can be drafted long after the Top 15-20 names are scratched off the list in your league draft.
Wimer: Right now, I think Fitzpatrick is avoiding OTAs (which most veterans hate) and that he will sign close to the open of training camps. Fitzpatrick is a good fit for Chan Gailey's offense and should continue to be highly productive in that system - he's got starting fantasy quarterback potential at a deeply discounted price thanks to his ongoing contract squabble with the Jets.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Brock Osweiler, Houston
Holloway: He was rewarded handsomely this off-season by the Texans to be their starting quarterback. He played sparingly in his first three seasons until starting eight games a year ago when Peyton Manning was injured. He played adequately in those games completing 61.8% of his passes for 7.15 YPA and 10 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. His opportunity and the corresponding expectations for this year almost matches his four-year $72 million contract that included $37 million guaranteed. His limited past experience, being on a new team, and learning a new offense provide ample concerns.
Kuczynski: Houston went out and spent a lot of money to steal Osweiler away from the Broncos, so they are putting their franchise's future directly in his hands. In a small sample size he showed plenty of flashes- what hurt him last year in particular was poor blocking, and I'm sure the thought looming in the back of his head that Peyton would get the starting job back when healthy. Now he has a top 3 receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, a very solid running back in Lamar Miller, and a division that is totally up for grabs. He is ranked as a fringe QB2, but he can be a solid contributor on your team in bye week situations or even in the 6 matchups versus his AFC South rivals.
Wimer: First of all, there is a lot of talent surrounding Osweiler in Houston. The Broncos let Osweiler walk AFTER he gained almost seven games worth of experience as a starting quarterback. His best years are ahead of him, and though he was not routinely stellar, he threw more interceptions than TDs only once during his time on the field, while going over 300 yards passing once and over 269 yards passing three other times during that seven game span. I think that Denver will rue letting Osweiler get away.
Alex Smith, Kansas City
Bloom: Smith has never been a fantasy whiz, but once back in 2013, he did have a run as one of the better fantasy plays at quarterback in the NFL. He had four straight games with multiple touchdowns when Justin Houston got hurt, and then had a 378-yard four score game in the playoffs. The Chiefs are looking down the barrel of being with Houston for the beginning of 2016, and Smith has better weapons now than he had then. Don't be surprised if he has a strong first half with games against San Diego, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Jacksonville in their first eight contests.
Feery: If I told you that your QB2 was in line to threaten 3,500 passing yards, throw for 20 scores, have a shot at 500 rushing yards, and pound it in a few more times on the ground, you would probably sign up for that. Alex Smith brings that potential to the table, but is routinely disregarded because of his game manager reputation. Is he a game manager type of QB? Absolutely, and a pretty efficient one at that. He finished up 2015 at No.10 in terms of quarterback rating, and he'll likely be just as efficient in 2016. The biggest downside to the Chiefs offense is the lack of another key cog beyond the big three of Jeremy Maclin, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. Chris Conley could take a leap forward this season into the WR2 role and draw some defensive attention away from Maclin as he continues to develop, and a healthy Charles instantly adds another option to the passing attack. Bottom line, you could do much worse than Smith as your QB2 on draft day.
Wimer: Smith is a solid, veteran quarterback who also makes a lot of plays running the football for the Chiefs. He's not starting fantasy quarterback material, but he is a solid backup with the ability to step into the starting lineup when the matchup is good. He should be a solid player for fantasy owners (again) this year.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco
Howe: Gabbert is no one's idea of a sexy pick, but he could be a streamer's dream and QB2 extraordinaire in 2016. His San Francisco resurfacing went well last year, with Gabbert dink-and-dunking his way into a likely Week 1 starting job. Now captaining a Chip Kelly offense that runs gobs of snaps at a breakneck pace, Gabbert could easily exceed his practically free ADP. Don't forget that Gabbert is an awesome athlete for the QB position. And remember that Kelly's Eagles QBs, featuring the likes of Nick Foles and Sam Bradford, posted 20+ fantasy points in 16 of 42 games from 2013-15.
Ingel: Don't laugh. Ok. Seriously. Don't laugh. We are talking super sleepers here. Okay. Laugh a bit. But while everyone was focused on the NFL teams actually winning, Gabbert quietly played pretty well last season for the Niners, by far achieving his best completion percentage of his career (62%). He didn't play scared like he did on the Jaguars and while he played it safe, the team really didn't have good coaches or much of a supporting cast. This season, HC Chip Kelly likes to play fast and run a ton of plays, which has led to Kelly coached quarterbacks seeing an uptick in both their yards per attempt and completion percentages. Gabbert is also a plus athlete who can run, clocking a 4.61 forty at the combine. If he wins the job and either Eric Rogers or DeAndre Smelter can emerge as a compliment to Torrey Smith, he just may surprise.
Player Receiving 1 Vote
Robert Griffin III III, Cleveland
Simpkins: After the beating that Griffin took in the first two years of his career, a year-long benching was probably just what the doctor ordered. Griffin reportedly kept a positive attitude and prepared for his next chance with a different team. He'll get that chance in Cleveland under the tutelage of Head Coach Hue Jackson. Jackson is known for adapting his offenses to fit the talents of his personnel. One of Griffin's standout traits is throwing a great deep ball. It's no coincidence that the Browns took deep threat Corey Coleman in this year's Draft. Griffin could really surprise and is a super cheap option. His overall ADP is 201, which puts him in the 17th round of drafts.
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