Most fantasy football owners spend hours agonizing over their first two picks. Me? I’m a late round guy. The final rounds of a fantasy draft are where legends are made. Grab this year’s Alfred Morris and you will have the authority to trash talk for years to come. Unearth a hidden gem like James Jones was in 2012 and you’ll laugh all the way to the championship.
Finding those deeper sleepers is the most rewarding part of fantasy football.
Here are ten options to consider. All have three things in common:
- Talent – They have shown, either in the pros or in college, that they are for real.
- Opportunity – They will have a chance to get on the field either by climbing the depth chart or through injury.
- Low ADP – For whatever reason fantasy owners aren’t seeing their true potential.
Ranked in order of ADP (average draft position). Minimum ADP is 144, which is the 12th round of a 12-team league.
Early Late-Round Picks
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants
Randle is a late-round WR with legitimate Top 15 upside at his position. Hakeem Nicks might be the most injury-prone starting WR in the NFL. His counterpart Victor Cruz is no iron man himself, which sets the table for Randle to get an opportunity early in the season. We caught a couple brief glimpses of Randle’s potential last season when he made some big plays against Cleveland and Philadelphia. With a year under his belt, look for him to break out in a big way.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
The QB pool is as deep as it has ever been so I’m not going to spend much time on the position. However, Carson Palmer is going undrafted in many leagues. Don’t be surprised if he ends the year as a Top 12 fantasy passer. Remember, this is a guy who threw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in the cesspool that is Oakland. Head coach Bruce Arians is going to put the ball in the air 40 times per game. Based on the volume of passes and a reinvigorated Larry Fitzgerald, Palmer will get it done for your team as a regular starter or as part of a quarterback committee. Look for him to out-produce or match the likes of Andrew Luck, Eli Manning and Michael Vick.
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Fred Davis, TE, Redskins
Davis had surgery to repair his Achilles last season but has been a full go during the preseason. It’s unfortunate the injury marred what was shaping up to be a great year for Davis. Between Weeks 3-6, he posted 19 catches for 260 yards and had just started to find a rhythm with QB Robert Griffin III. The only shortcoming in Davis’ improving game last season was a lack of touchdowns. That will change in 2013. Look for the Redskins to limit RGIII’s goal line rushes this season. Davis provides a big target and can expect be a major factor in the redzone offense. He is a sleeper TE pick who could easily net you Top 10 numbers.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots
Spending a late-round pick on a piece of the Patriots passing attack is a smart plan in 2013. The fact is nobody really knows how things will play out. New England’s top five pass catchers from last year are gone or hurt. Someone is going to explode for unexpected numbers. It could be Julian Edelman, Jake Ballard, or rookie TE Zach Sudfeld. Honestly, I like all three and wouldn’t fault you for grabbing any of them. However, they are all known injury risks. Undrafted rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins has made a steady climb up the depth chart and is running with the first team opposite Danny Amendola. Early returns look good and barring a collapse, Tompkins will be on the field for the majority of snaps. With his upside, Thompkins is a viable mid-to-late round pickup.
Joique Bell, RB, Lions
Bell, not Mikel LeShoure, is entrenched as the No. 2 RB on Detroit’s depth chart. That means he’s one Reggie Bush knee tweak, hammy pull, or calf strain away from a starting job on one of the better offenses in the NFL. Even if Bush manages to stay healthy, the Lions figure to limit his snaps to keep him in one piece. Bell will see plenty of playing time and is seriously undervalued with an ADP of 185. I can see him getting ten touches per game and some goal-line work, which will make him a borderline starter or flex option. He’s a fine value anytime after the 12th round and one of the most under-drafted players on the board.
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets
The Jets brought in Chris Ivory to replace plodder Shonn Greene. Popular opinion is that Ivory is destined for a heavy workload because New York simply “doesn’t have anyone else.” Ivory is flashy but he’s never been able to stay healthy. In fact, he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury during preseason. Snag third-year RB Bilal Powell late and look for surprising contributions from the get-go. Powell has been drawing rave reviews in training camp. At the very least, he will make some noise as a receiver out of the backfield. If Ivory goes down early, Powell could become a top 20 RB in New York’s run-heavy offense.
Andre Roberts, WR, Cardinals
Roberts finished last season with 64 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns. This despite playing alongside Arena League level quarterbacks. With a capable QB in Carson Palmer and a new offense geared toward the pass, Roberts should be able to build on his breakout season. Arizona’s running game is going to be awful so don’t be surprised if the Cardinals rank among the top five teams in pass attempts per game. As the team’s slot WR, Roberts figures to be a chain mover. Is it unreasonable to expect a 15% improvement in his numbers? That’s about all it will take to vault Roberts into low-end WR3 territory.
Very Late-Round Picks
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
The top of Arizona’s RB depth chart is a muddled mess of misery. Rashard Mendenhall has lost a step and has knee tendonitis. Ryan Williams can’t stay healthy. Sooner or later (probably sooner), the Cardinals will need to give one of their rookie RBs a shot. Stepfan Taylor currently holds the edge (and a higher fantasy ADP) but if you’re speculating, give the electric Andre Ellington a look. In addition to lining him up in the backfield, head coach Bruce Arians has had the Clemson rookie in the slot and split out wide. As a multidimensional threat who is apparently cast from the same mold as Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster, Ellington could add some juice to PPR rosters by Week 5.
Nick Toon, WR, Saints
If it’s a sleeper WR you’re seeking, one of the first places to look is the best passing offense in the NFL. That’s New Orleans, where Drew Brees has thrown for 5,000+ yards in each of the last two seasons. The Saints opted to release long-time vertical threat Devery Henderson. The move opens the door for second-year WR Nick Toon to step up. Drew Brees recently compared Toon to Vincent Jackson. That’s some high praise. Toon had a red-shirt year last year due to a foot injury but is healthy now. He already connected with Brees on a 56-yard TD in the preseason. Toon has limited appeal in PPR leagues but look for him to show up in the box score with frequent splash plays.
Ace Sanders, WR, Jaguars
Some have called Sanders a “poor man’s Tavon Austin.” Like Austin, Sanders has explosive speed and makes special things happen when he has the ball in his hands. With head-case Justin Blackmon out for the first four games of the season due to a suspension, Sanders is going to get a chance to make an impact immediately. He’s been working with the first team at times this preseason. Even when Blackmon returns, Sanders will get action out of the slot. Take a flier on him with your final pick and you could be rewarded with unexpected early season points. Jacksonville opens with Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle and Indianapolis. There are some favorable matchups in there so don’t be stunned if Sanders is a hot waiver wire name in most leagues.