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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 with 9 Votes
Ryan Tannehill, Mia
Sigmund Bloom: Tannehill has a new deep target to stretch defenses, two new threats from the slot, and he’s a year older and wiser than he was a rookie. He’s also a terrific athlete and the Dolphins mixed in some fantasy-friendly read option run plays late last year. Tannehill has low QB1 upside at a low QB2 price.
James Brimacombe: The Dolphins were a team in rough shape last year and for Tannehill to start all 16 games and gain experience along the way was a huge step. Fast forward to year two, now Tannehill has a couple of additional weapons in Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller to help him push things even further in year two. The play book should open up a lot more for Tannehill this year and a 4000+ passing yards and 20+ TDs is a real possibility. He is a strong upside option to roster as your QB2.
David Dodds: He is not a sexy pick, but faces absolutely zero competition in Miami as the unquestioned starter. The Dolphins added much needed receiving help with the signings of Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller. He ranked 24th among QBs despite scoring just 12 TDs in his rookie season. He might have 12 TDs by the midway point this season.
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.
Andy Hicks: Tannehill is likely to be the forgotten man from a sterling group of 2nd year quarterbacks. He was not NFL ready when thrust into the starters’ role last year by the Dolphins, but it is clear Miami are trying to help him reach his potential by adding Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller. The timing is off between Wallace and Tannehill now, but that is common when new partnerships have to be formed. When it clicks, Tannehill is likely to make the leap into borderline starter status, especially with the run game losing Reggie Bush and needing to rely on unproven guys.
Steve Holloway: Tannehill had a strong rookie season, but was far outpaced by the success of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. Tannehill had very little quarterback experience coming into the NFL. With the Dolphins adding Mike Wallace and especially Dustin Keller, who Tannehill has already combined with often, significant improvement in his second NFL season seems likely. I particularly like the potential of him being able to open up the playbook by throwing the ball deep to Wallace and using Keller down the seam. Look for passing attempts to increase over his rookie season and also complete a higher percentage while increasing his YPA.
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.
Aaron Rudnicki: At this point in the draft, most owners are looking for a player with upside who can exceed their expected production and make their way into your starting lineup on occasion. Tannehill fits that as well as any QB outside the top-20 or so. After a solid rookie season, the team went out and added some weapons for him in WR Mike Wallace and TE Dustin Keller. The offensive line is a concern, but Tannehill is an athletic player who should be able to make plays outside the pocket to keep drives alive.
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.
Player with 7 Votes
Alex Smith, KC
Mike Brown: Why there isn't more love for Smith is beyond me. The guy had a wretched start to his career, but he has actually been very effective over the last season and a half. He lost his job to Colin Kaepernick, but at the time he lost it he had a 13-5 touchdown to interception ratio, was completing over 70% of his passes, and average over 8 yards per attempt! Now he is in an equally pass-happy system with weapons galore (Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles) and a head coach who loves to throw it down the field at every possibility. Smith could be knocking on the door of QB1 status if everything breaks right for him.
David Dodds: He draws an early schedule that is among the best I have ever seen (@Jac, vs Dal, @Phi, vs NYG, @Ten, vs Oak). Even if you expect him to finish the season as the 20th best QB, he should be way better than that in these opening weeks. He also finishes against cupcakes Oakland and Indianapolis for your fantasy playoffs in weeks 15 and 16. You can get him as an after-thought, but he should produce way above his ADP.
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.
Jeff Haseley: Andy Reid knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks. Keep in mind, we've only seen Smith perform in the 49ers run-dominated, two-WR set offense. When given the chance to use his arm, he has done well. Make no mistake, Andy Reid will utilize his arm and turn him into a very efficient quarterback. I would not be surprised to see Smith reach Top 12 status, if not higher.
Ryan Hester: New Head Coach Andy Reid’s offense has done more with lesser quarterbacks during his coaching career. Reid opened camp working on the passing game almost exclusively, and Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson has said that Alex Smith is the best quarterback in the NFL. While that’s obviously among the worst cases of coach-speak hyperbole I’ve ever seen, it does show a confidence in Smith. When coaches make bold proclamations like this, they’re going to do whatever they can to make those predictions come to fruition. Smith will have every opportunity to flourish in a high-tempo, high-volume, pass-first offense. Add in the fact that Smith is among the most athletic signal callers in the NFL, and there’s some definite fantasy potential.
Matt Waldman: The Chiefs got a good offensive tactician in Andy Reid and I think it will translate to fantasy points. Smith has quality weapons in the short and medium range passing game in Kansas City: Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe, and Travis Kelce. All four are capable of making big plays after the catch and can flood the zones sufficiently for someone to always be open. I think Smith has top-15 upside and considering he’s not even in the top 25 of quarterbacks on most draft boards, that’s a bargain.
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, KoyDetmer and Mike Kafka played well and won games under Reid. Smith is going to CRUSH his current ranking if he stays healthy this year.
Player with 6 Votes
EJ Manuel, Buf
Sigmund Bloom: Running quarterbacks always rely on their legs more in the rookie year, which is a great recipe for fantasy production. Tim Tebow and Vince Young were both low-end QB1’s in their rookie year, Manuel should do the same in an uptempo offense with a terrific running back who will draw the focus of the defense on read option runs. He should have an easy time beating out Kevin Kolb, or at least taking over somewhat early in the season. Reserve a late-round pick for him.
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.
Jeff Haseley: The Bills offense has the potential to be fairly potent in 2013. We've seen rushing quarterbacks have a great deal of fantasy success in recent years and Manuel is no different. I like his chances of finishing inside the Top 20, if not Top 15 this year, especially in leagues that reward only 4 points per passing touchdown.
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.
Kyle Wachtel: Even though the rookie has a steep learning curve, he has strong measureables which could potentially translate in early success in the NFL. As a dual threat quarterback with playmakers surrounding him, Manuel could develop into an enterprising QB2 and is currently a late-round flier at best.
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.
Player with 4 Votes
Matt Schaub, Hou
Sigmund Bloom: It is easy to forget that Schaub was a strong QB1 in 2009, a solid QB1 in 2010, and a borderline QB1 in 2011. Last year, the Texans pass offense was less robust, but this year they added rookie wunderkind DeAndre Hopkins in the first round, and the buzz from team insiders like Lance Zierlein is that they should throw more this year. He’s an easy call as a late-round QB2 with a high floor and a high ceiling.
Andy Hicks: Schaub keeps falling further and further down draft boards. He has finished as a fantasy starter twice in his career and with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins the passing game might be more than an afterthought for the run heavy Texans. Schaub may not have the big upside of some of those ranked around him, but he will have a higher floor and be a more reliable backup or emergency fantasy quarterback.
Mark Wimer: Schaub has led the NFL in passing once as a Texan (2009, with 4,770 yards passing), and DeAndre Hopkins is by all accounts looking like a viable NFL #2 wide receiver during training camp so far. A return to 4,500+ yards passing could be in the cards for Schaub - he has the most potential upside of any fantasy QB outside the top 150 in my estimation.
Jason Wood: Matt Schaub doesn’t get the respect he deserves. His career completion percentage (64.3%) and yards per attempt (7.8) are stellar marks and point to elite skills. He’s coming off his third 4,000-yard season in four years and has averaged 25 TD passes against 13 interceptions in those seasons. The only thing holding him back from fringe QB1 numbers is the balanced nature of the Texans offense. In an era where top quarterbacks throw the ball 600-650+ times, Schaub is going to get 525-550 attempts if the Texans have their way. But the soft tissue injuries to Arian Foster combined with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins set Schaub up to perhaps hit the 575-600 attempt mark, and that would put him solidly in the hunt for a Top 10 finish if he maintains his career per attempt averages.
Player with 2 Votes
Brandon Weeden, Cle
Mike Brown: The Norv Turner offensive system has made star quarterbacks out of many a player, and Weeden is the prototypical strong-armed gunslinger that should thrive in the system. A lot of times, players enter the league as rookies and after some early struggles, they get written off. But the savvy fantasy owners are the ones who find them post-hype. Weeden has an outstanding offensive line, quality young receivers, and a dynamite running back all around him. He's got another year of experience and a coaching staff that has a track record of outstanding offensive success. Lot to like here, for almost zero cost.
Mark Wimer: Brandon Weeden has an offensive guru now coaching him (Norv Turner), and the Josh Gordon/Greg Little tandem is intriguing. Jordan Cameron is said to be coming on as a legitimate NFL tight end under Turner's tutelage as well. This could be the year that the Browns finally start building a viable contender - if Weeden takes flight under Turner's mentorship, he will be worth a look for fantasy purposes when the matchup is good.
Players with 1 Vote
Joe Flacco, Bal
Will Grant: It’s crazy to see how far Joe Flacco has fallen from a fantasy prospective. Between losing AnquanBoldin to the 49ers and Dennis Pitta to injury, Flacco is almost a anafter thought in most fantasy drafts. Let it’s a good bet that the Ravens will throw for another 3800 yards this season, and if Flacco can continue his 2 TDS to 1 INT ratio that he has over the last two seasons, he’ll crush his current average draft position. I like Flacco as part of a Quarterback by committee approach this season.
Nick Foles, Phi
James Brimacombe: Foles is young and inexperienced but he has the mechanics and the quick release to succeed in Chip Kelly’s offense. I am one of the believers that Michael Vick was kept around to drive the quarterback competition early in camp so Kelly can see what he has in his younger quarterbacks.
Jake Locker, Ten
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.
Geno Smith, NYJ
Andy Hicks: 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, Oak
Steve Holloway: Tyler Wilson was severely downgraded by his poor performance in his senior season at Arkansas, but there are abundant reasons for Arkansas’ team slump and for Wilson as well. He has a very strong arm and is more mobile than most expect considering the many sacks he took. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks, as last year he kept taking hit after hit and kept coming back for more. It appears that Flynn will begin the season as the starter for Oakland, but the Raiders could lose a lot early on and decide to go with the rookie. Wilson’s high football intelligence could allow him to be more effective once he gets on the field. He definitely has the strong character that could come in to give his team a spark in mid-season.