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2013 Draft Prep: Sleepers for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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My sleeper list last year included Mikel Leshoure, Tony Gonzalez and ... well, I'll be a man about it and say it wasn't my best year.

Okay, fine, the list stunk. I stunk. I'm the guy who hyped up a bunch of bums before the preseason got going. I mean it's not even close.

So it's time for redemption.

What you're about to see is my early look at sleepers heading into 2013. Some of these names could change once the preseason games start and I get a feel for how these teams are thinking heading into Week 1.

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Regardless, this is a list I want you to remember to check back on before your draft. Write down the names, commit them to memory, save this page on your CBSSports.com mobile app, whatever, and pick one or two guys to call your own on Draft Day.

Most of the names on this list won't cost you much -- nothing higher than a pick in Round 8 -- so the risk involved isn't going to capsize your roster if a player fizzles out.

Let's do this.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: There are two ways a quarterback can be great in the NFL -- they can either use their amazing talents to lead their teams or they can combine their good talents with great teammates to put up victories. Dalton is the latter; he's not going to win any quarterback skills challenges but he's good enough to win so long as he has help. Exhibit A is his back-to-back playoff appearances with the Bengals. The team realized Dalton needs help and got him some with rookies Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert (both of whom I really like) and they're bringing back stud receiver A.J. Green, fourth-year tight end Jermaine Gresham and complementary wideouts Mohamed Sanu, Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones. Tack on an offensive line loaded with good talent and Dalton is in one of the sweetest spots a quarterback could ask for. Dalton improved in every significant passing stat from 2011 to 2012 and there should be another jump in 2013. After Eli Manning, he's the best No. 2 Fantasy quarterback you could ask for. Funny, because last year he actually finished as a Top 12 choice.
I'd take him ahead of: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: We did a draft this offseason where Schaub was not a late-round pick -- he wasn't even picked! Is it an injustice, a reflection of who he is or simply a commentary on the depth at quarterback this season? It's probably the latter since he had a good enough season in 2012 to prove he's not a terrible passer. He completed 64.3 pct. of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns and even got over 4,000 yards. When comparing his stats to previous years he managed to have his third-best season despite having only one decent receiver. Houston's addition of DeAndre Hopkins (who I also consider a sleeper) should do wonders for Schaub's stats. When Schaub was a stat monster in 2009, attempting 583 passes, he had one receiver besides Andre Johnson catch 50 passes and another catch six touchdowns. Hopkins should at least catch 50 passes and six touchdowns, so if he delivers and Johnson is himself and the other pass game weapons step up, Schaub could be a pleasant surprise. I like him as a safe Fantasy backup worth drafting late.
I'd take him ahead of: Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco

Bryce Brown, RB, Eagles: Brown really is a man in the right place at the right time. Philadelphia's hire of Chip Kelly as head coach means the team will be more running back-oriented in a fast-paced offense. In a study I did during the offseason, running backs in Kelly's offenses the last three years at Oregon averaged between 35.8 and 39.1 rushes per game with a sizable cut in the passing game. Even Eagles starter LeSean McCoy said Brown should expect to get a lot of work because he knew then he wouldn't be able to handle the full workload of what's being asked. Brown could begin the year with a dozen or so touches per game -- not bad for a backup. And if McCoy happens to miss time, Brown would become the primary back in that offense and see way more work. He's an electric runner who has improved his ball security this offseason. You don't need to draft McCoy to have goo-goo eyes for Brown on Draft Day.
I'd take him ahead of: Ben Tate, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Vick Ballard

Zac Stacy, RB, Rams: There's no denying that Daryl Richardson is the most appealing name in the Rams backfield in the early days of training camp, but questions about whether or not he can fill the role of a full-time back persist. He had nearly 200 carries in his first year of work in college but fell under 150 carries the other two seasons and last year had 98 carries -- including only 16 over his final five games. He seems like a passing downs back while Stacy has the build of a bowling ball and had just over 200 carries in each of his last two years at Vanderbilt, averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry. Stacy's pass protection has been complimented this summer and it could come to pass that he overtakes second-year man Isaiah Pead for the rushing downs role. Ultimately, it's Stacy's talent that has me enamored -- he's got good quickness to go with a big body and good enough hands. Finding him with a pick in Round 8 or 9 should pay off; if you want to play it safe and get Pead a round later, that's also an option.
I'd take him ahead of: Isaiah Pead, Jonathan Stewart and Johnathan Franklin

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Williams isn't your typical 30-year-old running back. You can thank the Panthers and their weird running back philosophies for that -- Williams has 1,181 career carries over seven seasons, topping 200 carries just twice (and none since 2009). It suggests he has gas left in his tank, which the Panthers sound like they'll need because of fellow rusher Jonathan Stewart's ankles keeping him from practicing with no definitive return date in sight. Williams had just five games last season with 12-plus carries, posting over 4.2 yards per carry in four of them. He also finished off the year with a touchdown and at last 100 total yards in three of his final four matchups, flashing some long speed in the process. As of this writing Williams is getting picked, on average, in Round 10 of standard drafts! He's better than this. When you're looking for the last-gasp at running back before it gets really nasty, Williams should be in your line of sight.
I'd take him ahead of: Mark Ingram, Fred Jackson, Vick Ballard

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos: Montee Ball will be the first Broncos running back to go in drafts but it doesn't mean he'll be the best. In the early days of training camp it's been the second-year back impressing in all facets -- finding the creases in the zone-blocking scheme, catching passes out of the backfield and even improving in pass protection. Hillman gives the Broncos a gamebreaker in the backfield; last year he had three of the team's seven 20-yard runs and he barely played. Ball isn't a slouch either as he ripped off long runs in college all the time. But John Fox has never truly trusted a rookie to handle every-down work and does have a track record of using multiple backs in a rotation. Hillman put on muscle this offseason and, per Fox, finally has a "pro body" to handle the rigors of the league. Hillman's the better value pick on Draft Day, worth the Top 70 choice as a flex candidate. Keeping in mind a plan to take Ball if he slips to Round 5 and Hillman in Round 6 or 7 could pay off in a major way. After all, Peyton Manning's running backs tend to be productive.
I'd take him ahead of: Any Saints, Rams or Panthers running back

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Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers: Boldin simply has to be productive for the Niners to win games this year. Given the chance to have a leadership role, Boldin has already taken to coaching up San Francisco's young receivers while leading by example on the practice field. Colin Kaepernick has connected with him already and will have to lean on Boldin as a chain-mover if he's going to have even a good year, at least until Michael Crabtree is recovered from a torn Achilles. Boldin's experience and good route running makes him a threat against single coverage and his work in the playoffs last season (22 catches, 380 yards, four touchdowns) proves he's not an over-the-hill wideout. He'll probably be more helpful in PPR leagues than standard but he's the kind of late-round pick to target as a very good fifth receiver. Keep his name in mind late in drafts.
I'd take him ahead of: Sidney Rice, Greg Little and Brandon LaFell

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: Last year, Andre Roberts led the Cardinals with five receiving touchdowns while three other receivers other than Larry Fitzgerald had 45 catches or more. Two years ago, two receivers other than Fitzgerald caught 50 passes. There are plenty of passes to go around and that goes double when Bruce Arians is calling the shots on offense. A Cardinals team expected to play from behind often and with Carson Palmer under center should mean big stats for the top receivers. That's receivers -- plural -- and in this case it means Floyd along with Fitzgerald. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound second-year man has wowed coaches all offseason and has been off to a great start in training camp. Palmer went as far as to say Floyd has "it" when it comes to receiving skills and nuances that the typical second-year player doesn't have. Floyd's draft average as of this writing is a laughable 128th overall -- expect that number to rise in the coming weeks and for him to be a great fourth receiver for your Fantasy team with a pick before the end of Round 9. After all, Floyd was one of those three receivers that had 45 catches in 2012 for 'Zona.
I'd take him ahead of: Lance Moore, Emmanuel Sanders, Aaron Dobson

Rueben Randle, WR, Giants: Hakeem Nicks has played 13-plus games every year of his career but really had a hard time playing well at less than 100 percent in 2012. He's already tweaked a groin in training camp this summer and a few reports suggest Nicks is playing cautiously to avoid suffering a major injury and costing himself a big contract after this season. There have been more than a few reports highlighting the work Randle has put in through the spring and in camp thus far. Coach Tom Coughlin is pleased with his weight and effort and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thought Randle has been working "like a guy that has been here for five or six years" and promised he'd play a lot. If Nicks gets hurt (or stays hurt since he's already a little gimpy), Randle will be pushed on the field for a huge workload. He's a nice late-round stash pick for Fantasy owners.
I'd take him ahead of: Denarius Moore, Greg Little, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: You don't have to go back too far to find a rookie tight end that makes an impact in Fantasy. Rob Gronkowski immediately became a matchup problem for the Patriots' opponents and he charged his way to 10 touchdowns as a rookie, including seven scores in his last nine regular-season games. That would be on the high side for Eifert to get in 2013 -- he's not playing with Tom Brady, after all -- but he has the tools to be the next Gronk, something the Bengals are hoping for. He's huge (6-6, 251), has great hands and has been used in a number of spots on the field in college and through his short time in practices with the Bengals. Expect some growing pains in the early going but eventually he'll develop into a must-start. The training camp practice reports have been glowing and there's just so much potential for him to be useful to Fantasy owners. Either plan on spending a late pick on him (even if he's your second tight end) or aim to snatch him up off waivers in the first couple of weeks of the season.
I'd take him ahead of: Owen Daniels, Brandon Pettigrew and Marcedes Lewis

Editor's Note: We will provide another sleeper list for those of you in deeper drafts and/or dynasty leagues later this month.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

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Player News
Josh Freeman signs with Giants
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:33 pm ET) The Giants have signed quarterback Josh Freeman, reports FOX Sports.

Freeman spent last season with the Buccaneers and Vikings. His only appearance for Minnesota was against the Giants, and he completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception.

Freeman will try and make the final roster for the Giants as a backup to Eli Manning, who is coming off ankle surgery this offseason. The Giants also have Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster.


Rob Gronkowski will 'take his time' coming back
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 pm ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will "take his time and then take more time" coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season, a source told Bleacher Report

Gronkowski's heart was questioned last year when he took his time coming back from forearm and back procedures. This year he might not care how long he takes as he wants to practice patience in his rehab. 

The knee injury happened in December of last year. Usually it takes nine months to come back from an ACL injury without incident. That would mean he'd be ready to hit the field by late August. 


Haloti Ngata turned down extension with Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:10 am ET) Looking to free up cap space earlier this offseason, the Ravens offered a "lucrative, long-term" deal with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata so that he wouldn't cost $16 million in cap space. Ngata, 30 years old with two years left on his current deal, wasn't willing to take the extension, NFL Network reports. 

Report: Ravens planning to add two running backs
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:47 am ET) The Ravens are aware of what's been going on with Ray Rice this offseason but were planning to add a pair of running backs this offseason anyway. NFL Network reports that they now believe that one of those two might have to start depending on what happens with Rice. 

The veteran running back had a horrible 2013 season (under 1,000 total yards) and then was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge when he struck his then-fiancee and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. 


Kyle Rudolph hopes for contract extension
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph hopes to stay in Minnesota on a long-term contract, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Rudolph is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He said Tuesday that the team, which still has approximately $10 million in salary cap space after a busy offseason, has not approached him about a contract extension.

"I've really enjoyed my time here, from the top down, in our organization," Rudolph said. "I think we have the best owners in football. They're willing to do anything for us to win. Everybody in the front office, the new staff, I really like the direction this team is going in. I'm excited to be a part of that future."

Rudolph is hoping to bounce back after he was limited to eight games in 2013 because of a fracture in his left foot. He caught 30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his foot in a Week 9 loss to the Cowboys. 

He has been studying tape of the Browns from last season so he can get a feel for how he will be utilized in new coordinator Norv Turner's offense. Tight ends such as Jay Novacek, Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron produced impressive numbers in three different decades with Turner calling the plays.

"I hope to fall in line with that," Rudolph said. "I'm excited to get into this offense."


Peyton Manning excited for Emmanuel Sanders
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:21 am ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning recently spent time working out at Duke University with some of his receivers, including newest addition Emmanuel Sanders. Manning said "it was good to get some good work with him." 

Sanders is expected to replace the departed Eric Decker, and Manning said they have a lot of work to do.

"I'm excited about playing with him," Manning said.


Peyton: Montee Ball can handle new role
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:14 am ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said running back Montee Ball has a great opportunity now that Knowshon Moreno is gone as a free agent to Miami.

"I thought Montee had a great year," Manning said. "I thought he learned a lot in his first year. In my past, I've seen a lot of development in guys from their first year to their second year. There is no question with the loss of Knowshon — who was just nothing short of awesome for us this past year and was a great teammate — that Montee is going to have more responsibilities, and I think he will answer that challenge. I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload and I look forward to having a full offseason with him. He didn't have a full one last year because of being a rookie, so I look forward to getting even closer with him as far as being on the same page."


Carson Palmer OK if Cardinals draft quarterback
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:11 am ET) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer would be OK if the team drafted a quarterback in the NFL Draft, reports the team's official website.

Palmer, 34, said if the team drafts a quarterback it would make sense.

"If you are in a position to draft the best player on your board, and that's the best position to be in as an organization, and (a quarterback) is the best player on the board, you are not only making your team better by creating competition but you are helping out the future," Palmer said. "I know I'm not going to play forever. It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don't see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that's the reality. That's the business. It doesn't matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don't care. That’s the game."

Palmer is coming off a solid season in 2013. He threw for a career-high 4,274 yards with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.


Gerald McCoy says he won't hold out
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:10 am ET) Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy promised he wouldn't hold out of training camp this summer even though he's going into the final year of his contract. 

"When they say report to camp, Gerald McCoy will be there regardless of what happens," McCoy said per the Tampa Bay Times. McCoy also told the paper he can't wait to play in the Bucs' new version of the Cover-2 defense

"It's definitely going to be different," McCoy said. "We're playing the old-school, traditional Tampa 2 defense, and all we've been watching is old Chicago tape when (new Bucs coach Lovie Smith) was there. When (the Bucs) were in their prime, from 1996 to 2002, we've been watching all that tape because that's when the Tampa 2 was really thriving and took over the league. I'm excited about it."


Malcom Floyd's status still uncertain
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:03 am ET) Even though Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd plans to attend the team's voluntary workouts April 22, it doesn't mean his football career is back on track, reports the Union-Tribune San Diego.

Floyd continues to recover from a neck injury suffered in September. His participation in the offseason workouts will be more limited than most of his teammates, according to the report.

The report also added that no decision has been made whether Floyd will be able to continue playing. For weeks, Floyd has been running and lifting. While the injury did not require surgery, it demanded a long recovery. Risk of re-injury will be assessed before any decision about Floyd's return to the field is made.


 
 
 
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