You’ve been hunting for them in the back end of your draft, searching for late round advantage over your peers and leaving no stone uncovered when looking for a no cost player with an opportunity to grow into a contributor for your fake team. As they say, the late rounds are the great rounds and you need search no further… here is a look at your fantasy football 2014 deep sleepers and late round fliers.
Generally speaking what you’re looking for here is someone whose team context has changed (either switching teams, coaches, perhaps Quarterbacks) considerably and the rest of the fantasy community hasn’t taken notice or more likely a player who is one injury or increase in opportunity away from big time contributions. Either that, or they are facing injury, suspension or some other situation that renders them uninteresting early in the season but provides opportunity for a solid discount.
[This post appears as part of our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]
All players have a FantasyPros aggregate ADP of 144 (start of the 13th round in 12 teamers) or later. Players you’ve already read plenty about (i.e. Justin Hunter, Christine Michael) who fall in this range have been left off the list. They’re good, too.
2014 Deep Sleepers and Late Round Fliers
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (ADP 144.2)
Freeman comes at the highest price of anyone on the list, and frankly the price tag may be higher than his actual 2014 production. With that said, he’s well positioned on the depth chart behind a 31-year-old running back who averaged 3.5 yards per carry last year. I actually believe in a SJax bounce back, but it is possible that his years of utility are behind him. If so, or if he winds up missing significant time (he is already dealing with a hamstring issue) the team knows that Jazquizz Rodgers isn’t an every down back. He’s good in the receiving game as well, and could draw some work there.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP 149.6)
I won’t spend a lot of time on Smith, as a forthcoming post will share more detail but the moral of that story is that he actually delivered more start-worthy weeks than all but four QBs last season. His seven weeks with better than the average FPPG of the top-15 Quarterbacks (a long way of saying more than 18.67 points) were more than all but four others. Those QBs (Manning, Brees, Foles, Stafford) are going eight rounds ahead of him. The offense leaves a lot to be desired, but with the team’s willingness to use Charles in the pass game and Smith’s ability to move the chains (and add fantasy points) with his feet he scores more consistently than you realize. A vital pick for anyone looking to rotate Quarterbacks or someone who simply misses the early run (and the middle run, and the 8-12 run, I suppose).
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP 152)
Here is what happened with Marvin Jones… he spent the summer generating solid sleeper buzz, with coach Hue Jackson anointing him as the team’s every week #2 WR. He split those duties with Mohamed Sanu last season and still put up a WR3 level campaign. Then, he broke his foot. And I’d like to argue that it was the best thing that could have happened to potential Jones investors. The above chart via FantasyFootballCalculator.com shows the impact of Jones’ foot injury on his draft stock, with it costing him nearly two rounds. You’re now finding a receiver who enters his third year coming off a 712 yard, 10 score campaign. Yes, a bunch of those came against the Jets but that simple analysis ignores an otherwise solid season. If Jones was a solid sleeper a month ago, and you’re drafting him as a bench WR anyhow, you can live without him for the first month as he recovers and enjoy the price break on the next 12 games.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 162.7)
Naysayers will point to a down week from Matthews in Thursday night’s preseason outing against Pittsburgh, coming off his nine target, nine reception 100 yard outing the week prior. I’d point out that he played the ‘dress rehearsal’ contest with the ones when Philadelphia went three wide and that the team will spend a lot of time in three WR sets this season. An injury to Riley Cooper or Jeremy Maclin only helps his status, but Matthews should see a solid number of targets either way. At 6’3″, 212 pounds with 4.46 speed and solid leaping ability he should have a few boom weeks in him in Chip Kelly’s offense, though you can expect an inconsistent season.
Jarrett Boykin, WR, Green Bay Packers (ADP 163)
James Jones departed Green Bay this offseason leaving Boykin as the de facto number three. The word is that his camp hasn’t been all that impressive, but he is still expected to hold the job over Davante Adams. After a 49-612-3 season with limited snaps and without Aaron Rodgers most of the way, you can expect his numbers to grow as a result of the offense he finds himself in if nothing else.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP 166.5)
Wheaton’s rookie season was incredibly quiet. He saw just 12 targets while on the field for 171 snaps, but stands to see an increase in playing time this season. In fact, he’ll vault all the way to WR2 with Lance Moore presumably manning the slot. His QB sees big things in his future, and he’ll inherit a role that handed a 67-740-6 line to Emmanuel Sanders last season and has produced a fantasy relevant receiver more often than not. Sure, we’re asking for a big leap in production but the volume should be there to support it.
Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams (ADP 167)
With Isaiah Pead down for the count, only Benny Cunningham stands between Mason and big time reps this season, behind Zac Stacy. Cunningham doesn’t seem like much of a road block, and Stacy himself didn’t really excel in a ‘real world’ sense last season despite what his solid fantasy numbers would suggest. Pro Football Focus’ 32nd overall running back thrived on high workloads, and little else last year. His 3.9 YPC hardly inspires, and if he doesn’t run more efficiently there is a conceivable situation where his backup nets 10 carries per game with the opportunity to overtake him. Mason’s pass protection has been an issue early in his career, as it often is for rookie backs, but if he picks up that element of his game the rest of it looks sharp.
Recall that Stacy was elevated to the lead back job as a rookie in 2013 and take a flier on Mason, hoping for the same.
Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis Rams (ADP 169.7)
While on the subject of St. Louis, this former Fischer protege appears to be drawing a second chance with the same coach and a new club. It isn’t often you get a starting WR at a 15th round ADP, but Britt can basically be had for free in standard leagues. Last year was awful, but he has twice eclipsed 700 yards and has never had a full season under 589. Surely you have room for his 42-779-9 potential on your bench?
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP 170.7)
Davis is purely an opportunity pick. He was graded harshly (-4.1) as a rusher per PFF last season and his 3.5 YPC rookie campaign backs up that assertion. Nevertheless, he is cemented as Jamaal Charles‘ backup on a team that should rely heavily on the RB position again this season. Charles has played full seasons in five of his six career campaigns but is a high workload back and is just a tweak away from missing time. Should he, Davis will assume a big time role and is a worthy end of draft candidate.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers (ADP 175) I get it, Stewart has never stayed healthy and he’s burnt you before. But, its no longer 2012 and he isn’t costing you an 8th round pick. He, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams will continue to cap each others value and Cam Newton looms in the red zone but with a 31-year-old teammate currently listed as the starter, Stewart could find himself atop the depth chart by virtue of injury or ineffectiveness very quickly. Sure, he could get hurt himself as well but Stewart is putting together a nice month of August (two touchdowns on four carries in the team’s second preseason outing) and has never been short on talent. There is no risk at this ADP.
See where you can get Stewart and co. Mock in minutes with FantasyPros
Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots (ADP 181.5) Like Jones, unfortunate foot injury information is keeping Dobson off your leaguemates’ radar. The recovery from offseason surgery has been longer than you’d like, but, finally made his way onto the field last week and has enough time to earn the starting X job over Kenbrell Thompkins. His draft stock and 2013 campaign suggest he is well suited to the job, and even if he doesn’t take it from Week 1 you can afford to draft Dobson and wait for him to elevate into the role at this price. I summed up his outlook during our early-August sleeper bracket:
A second round pick in 2013, it took him a while to acclimate to the pro game and to a complex offense coordinated by Josh McDaniels in New England but by the end of October he was looking like a player who was starting to put it together. During a three game stretch after the light bulb moment and before injury threw him off track Dobson made 13 receptions for 228 yards (76 per game) while scoring three touchdowns.
With a year under his belt, and the injury now behind him Dobson may need some time to get up to 2014 speed but should now be considered to be well versed in the offense and ready to contribute sooner than later.
Jonathan Grimes, RB, Houston Texans (ADP 206) Arian Foster is scheduled for a bounce back season and that should be the case as long as he is on the field. After a shortened 2013 campaign and some injury issues early in training camp though, that health is no guarantee. With a 19-81 line so far this preseason and a current listing as #2 on the team’s depth chart. The Texans are expected to make good use of the position under new HC Bill O’Brien and without a strong pivot lined up under center. With that as the case, anyone in the backup role is worth a look. Grimes could become highly valuable for a stretch, or a season, should anything happen to Foster.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (ADP 177.4) I haven’t drafted Baldwin in a single league, mock, or dream sequence but he moves to X receiver after a 778 yard, five touchdown campaign last year. The team is never going to pass a lot, and the high ceiling performer in Seattle is Percy Harvin but Baldwin could give owners a number of startable, if low-upside weeks throughout the season by virtue of his position alone. He’s worth a roster spot in deeper leagues, though I’d likely recommend an upside flier over Baldwin in most formats.
The deeper the better: Dri Archer, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are just a few of the names going even later that could be worth a look.