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 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 6 Votes
Jay Cutler, Miami
Clayton Gray: I was really high on Ryan Tannehill and consider Jay Cutler to be at least a lateral move for the Dolphins, so it stands to reason Cutler would have great value as well. If you miss out on a backup quarterback in the Eli Manning or Andy Dalton or Carson Wentz range, grabbing Jay Cutler a couple rounds later is an excellent fall-back option. While he'll likely toss too many interceptions, Cutler is a guy who likes to be aggressive with his throws so you'll some long scores from him. With several nice pass-catching options, Cutler will have no shortage of receivers at his disposal. It might take him a bit to fully get into playing shape, but this is a great spot for Jay Cutler.
Andy Hicks: With the knee injury suffered by Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler is being called out of retirement to reunite with Adam Gase and rescue the Dolphins season. Realistically Cutler isn’t going to win you your league, but with the weapons he has at his disposal, he could easily be a nice backup to have and a capable starter if you need him in an emergency. Cutlers best play came under Gase in Chicago and at age 34 he is far from finished as a player.
Ari Ingel: With Ryan Tannehill done for the year, the Dolphins signed Cutler to fill the void. In his one season with Dolphins head coach Adam Gase in Chicago, Cutler had a solid 64.4% completion rate, threw for 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and finished as fantasy's 20th best quarterback on the year averaging nearly 16 FP/G. Although Alshon Jeffery missed 7 games that season and the team had very little else behind him. I’ve never been a big fan of Tannehill’s and while I don’t think Cutler will make for a reliable weekly fantasy starter for your team, he will at least be an upgrade for the Miami skill players. Kenny Stills could see more deep balls, Cutler will challenge tight throws to DeVante Parker, and he won't ignore the tight end, Julius Thomas. Perhaps Jarvis Landry would be the biggest loser since he won't be the security blanket he was to Tannehill once bullets start flying. That said, Cutler made Eddie Royal a 91-catch player, so it's not like Cutler will ignore Landry either. He may drive the Dolphins fan base mad with 4th quarter rifles into tight coverage to lose the game, but for Fantasy, I think him and head coach Gase will provide better fantasy value for the Miami skill players.
Jeff Pasquino: I was big on Ryan Tannehill before his injury, so of course I am going to look at Jay Cutler as a sleeper. Cutler has a history with head coach Adam Gase from their days in Denver, so he should drop right in and work quickly to be a relevant starter. Miami added former Bronco tight end Julius Thomas and also re-signed wide receiver Kenny Stills, who will either start outside or push DeVante Parker to improve and put up better numbers. Assuming Tannehill will not be relevant at all this year, or at least for the fantasy season, Cutler is a solid QB2 with possible QB1 upside in good matchups this season.
Daniel Simpkins: With Ryan Tannehill sidelined by injury and Jay Cutler signed, many owners are quite worried about their Dolphins assets. The last time we saw Cutler, he was in a lackluster offense, battling a hand ligament injury, and ultimately was shut down for the season after tearing his labrum. Recency bias is making some players feel as if the Dolphins offense will collapse under the weight of Cutler. Remember, however, that Cutler had his best year under Head Coach Adam Gase, who was his Offensive Coordinator at that time. Reunited with Gase, he’ll be asked to play more of a caretaker role in the offense. Cutler seems to thrive when he is not asked to create on his own. His weapons are also of interest. It sounds as if DeVante Parker has finally realized he must rely on more than his “God-given talent” and is working harder to take care of his body, become a better route-runner, and live up to his billing as a first-round pick. Kenny Stills also was retained on a long-term deal and Jarvis Landry is back for at least one more season. The Dolphins also added Julius Thomas in free agency. Health is always a question mark with Thomas, but adding another viable red zone threat for Cutler is just another boon for this already potent passing game. The continued improvement of the offensive line and the running game established by Jay Ajayi should help to keep pressure off Cutler and keep the offense balanced and humming in year two of Gase’s tenure. It’s not hard to imagine that Cutler could surprise and put up career bests in touchdowns this year.
Jason Wood: Jay Cutler wasn’t going to un-retired save for one circumstance; a chance to reunite with Adam Gase. Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury made the situation a reality, and Cutler is back in the league with an incentive-laden deal that could pay him up to $13 million. Cutler enjoyed his best season playing under Gase, and he’ll step into a Dolphins offense with complete control of the playbook. The Dolphins are armed with compelling skill players at running back (Jay Ajayi), tight end (Julius Thomas) and wide receiver (Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills). As long as the offensive line gels, Cutler can produce high-end QB2 value with a puncher’s chance at Top-12 value by year end.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville
Andy Hicks: Blake Bortles has produced two starting-quarterback-level fantasy seasons in his first three years. Unfortunately, he has not looked the part in doing so. The Jaguars have built an excellent roster around him and need him to improve to that next level. He faces a vital fourth year in establishing himself as a long-term starter and could easily be moved on if he fails to improve. The drafting of Leonard Fournette should help Bortles relax instead of forcing the ball. Could see his talent realized this year or finish the year on the bench. Draft him as a backup, and you should have your risk mitigated.
Stephen Holloway: Bortles is simply not a quality NFL quarterback. He has yet to complete 60% of his passes in any of his three seasons. However, there are some fantasy positives associated with Bortles that he suggest he will again exceed production. He has finished the previous two seasons as QB4 and QB9. He has attempted over 600 passes in each of his last two seasons. He enters his third season. He has solid young weapons (Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns) in the passing game. Expectations are that the Jaguars defense should improve, but that has been expected the past two seasons and we are still waiting. High volume alone should allow Bortles to exceed expectations, particularly as a best ball league value.
Sam Bradford, Minnesota
Andy Hicks: Sam Bradford was thrown into the Minnesota lineup, after spending the whole off season and preseason preparing to play for the Eagles. He did remarkably well passing for 20 touchdowns and only throwing 5 interceptions. With a full off season and a promising receiving group, Bradford could easily become a borderline starter or at least a good backup option. With Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray added to the running game and hopeful improvement from the offensive line, Bradford should be more comfortable and be capable of surprising fantasy owners.
Stephen Holloway: Bradford set career highs of 3,877 passing yards, 71.6% completion rate, 7.0s YPA, and best TD/interception ratio (20/5) in his first season with Minnesota. Let’s not forget that he only arrived in Minnesota days before the season opener a year ago after Teddy Bridgewater’s injury. The team’s wide receivers are young, but Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen played well last year and Laquon Treadwell should improve in his second season. Bradford also has a great connection with his starting tight end, Kyle Rudolph. Bradford should again be a steady producer and provide a great high floor at quarterback with a very late selection.
Deshone Kizer, Cleveland
Ryan Hester: Did you know that fantasy football has seen two rookie quarterbacks in the top-24 in all but one season since 2011? 2013 was the only season since 2011 where that didn't occur. In that season, the second-ranked quarterback was QB26 (and the third was QB28). Kizer will pass to a high-end first-round pick from 2016 (Corey Coleman) and another first-rounder from 2009 in veteran Kenny Britt. He has an underrated and efficient running back in Isaiah Crowell to balance the offense and a plus receiving back in Duke Johnson Jr to help with short passes. We still haven’t even discussed Kizer’s rushing ability. He had just under 1,000 yards (997 to be exact) in 25 college games. Even if you don’t believe in Cleveland’s playmakers (or the beleaguered franchise as a whole), it would be naive to completely dismiss Kizer. We’ve seen young, mobile quarterbacks succeed in fantasy football due to rushing ability.
Matt Waldman: Brock Osweiler has proven two years in a row that he may earn praise during practice but when the lights come on and the stadium is filled with fans, he lacks the wherewithal to handle pressure. On the other hand, Kizer stepped into his first preseason game and showed many of the positives that he displayed at Notre Dame, including skill to sidestep pressure, climb the pocket, and throw accurate bombs while taking hits. Kizer looked off coverage, showed patience, and also made the most of his strong arm. He’ll make mistakes if anointed the Browns’ starter, but his big-play upside is better than any of the passers on Cleveland’s roster and he could be a valuable garbage-time yardage producer.
DeShaun Watson, Houston
Ryan Hester: He may not be the Week 1 starter, but that won’t stop him from taking over lead duties in Houston and putting up at least a couple of streamer-worthy weeks. We all saw his touchdown run in Week 1 of the preseason, and the athleticism he showed there more than makes up for passing deficiencies in our fantasy world. Think about this for a moment: rare as they may be, a 20-yard touchdown run is worth the same to a quarterback as 100 passing yards and a touchdown pass. While the former doesn’t grow on trees, there aren’t many players who are even capable of doing it. None of this run-heavy analysis takes into account weapons like DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V (when he returns), and Lamar Miller to support chain-moving via the running game.
Jason Wood: The Texans have struggled at the quarterback position and last year’s Brock Osweiler experiment completely derailed the offense. Osweiler was traded, and DeShaun Watson was drafted to bring life back into an offense that ranked 28th in points and 29th in yards. The former Clemson Tiger doesn’t profile as an impact player in Week One, but expectations for rookie quarterbacks have been upended in recent years; witness last year’s MVP-caliber play from Dak Prescott. The most compelling reason to bet on Watson this season is a look back to Houston’s 2015 passing stats: 3,833 yards / 29 touchdowns / 12 interceptions. Respectable numbers when you realize four quarterback – Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden – combined for the tally. With offensive gems DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller in place, Watson has the chance to be fantasy relevant as a passer and runner. All he needs to do is win the job in training camp.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Joe Flacco, Baltimore
Stephen Holloway: Flacco finished as QB19 last year in a season where he had his career high in passing attempts and passing yards in his ninth NFL season. His receiving corps is not highly regarded, but third-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been creating a buzz in early workouts and Mike Wallace remains as a deep threat. Danny Woodhead, added in free agency is an excellent receiving back and should see plenty of targets. The team also added Jeremy Maclin, a very reliable route runner to the roster. Their rushing attack should again be below league average and because Flacco will miss most, if not all of preseason practices, his ADP has fallen farther than it should. He will again throw early and often and could again have a career season and also add more touchdowns. He is a very late value selection and will be especially valuable in best ball leagues.
Jared Goff, LA Rams
Chris Feery: Once the top two tiers of quarterbacks are off the board, it can be akin to tossing darts to find a suitable QB2 for your fantasy squad. Here’s a longshot play that may come tantalizingly close to being a bullseye. The Los Angeles Rams were a mess offensively for their first year back on the West Coast, and that led to a housecleaning. Out went head coach Jeff Fisher and company. In comes the intriguing Sean McVay with hopes of righting the ship. McVay is just 31-years-old, but he brings an impressive resume to the table. That includes his most recent stint as offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, and we’ve all seen the leap that Kirk Cousins made during that time. No promises that McVay can work the same magic with Goff, but it’s not of the question for him to take a big leap forward in 2017.
Brett Hundley, Green Bay
Matt Waldman: I’m not calling for Hundley to overtake Aaron Rodgers, but it’s important to know who has the top reserve spot on the depth chart of a strong offense. Prior to the 2014 season, Hundley was considered an early-round prospect at UCLA. A difficult season behind a poor offensive line and a head coach who wouldn’t let Hundley make simple adjustments to avoid obvious pre-snap disadvantages earned Hundley a somewhat unfair moniker of a developmental player. It was unfair because Green Bay soon learned that Hundley looked a lot more like a top prospect during his first preseason, quickly learning and executing the offense. Green Bay looked for trade partners for Hundley during the 2017 Draft, which is a sign they think he has starter talent and others do, too. If Rodgers gets hurt, Hundley has the surrounding talent, the mobility, the arm, and the smarts to deliver starter production.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City
Matt Waldman: For Mahomes’ sake, I hope that Alex Smith stays healthy all year so the Chiefs don’t thrust the rookie into the fray too early. However, Mahomes’ creativity and off-the-charts arm make him a threat regardless of the mistakes he’ll incur with typical reckless play for a rookie with these gifts. The Chiefs have the weapons to win in the vertical game, and while there was some good analysis from Chiefs websites that show Smith had increased his aggression as a downfield thrower, he still tentative for a beat or two longer than he should be on targets more than 20 years downfield. The best quarterbacks identify the visual cues and let it go without hesitation. Mahomes has this ability, but will lack some of Smith’s experience and skill at reading complex coverage looks. This will lead to more big plays, but also more mistakes. Still, if Mahomes gets on the field he has big-week upside.
Alex Smith, Kansas City
Jeff Pasquino: To be honest, finding a quarterback outside of the Top 20 with some value right now is tough. The one guy I don’t mind having as a QB2 is Alex Smith, because you know he is that safe choice that you just know will be there if you want to wait to grab a second quarterback. He is rather unlikely to put up a big score in any given week, but you know that Andy Reid is going to trust him to play every game (as long as he is healthy) and put up respectable numbers.