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2013 Draft Prep: Deep league sleepers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Not everyone drafts in a typical 10-team league with 14 or 15 roster spots. Some people are in deeper leagues. Sometimes those leagues have 14 or more owners and/or 17 or more rounds. When rosters get that deep, Fantasy owners need to learn some otherwise unfamiliar names.

One of the greatest challenges a Fantasy analyst has is finding a player that can be had with a late pick that turns into gold. One of those players was Alfred Morris last year, a running back we began hyping up over social media, live videos and online in mid-August. Little did we know he'd go on to be one of the best backs in Fantasy. We're on a mission to find this year's version.

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After talking with some NFL analysts, watching three weeks of preseason games, tumbling over some rocks and swimming through some haystacks, I found nine players who weren't household names even five months ago that owners should consider with late picks. Note: the last name is the one I'm taking in Round 12 or 13 of every draft I am in.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots: This was someone who could have contended to be the "ultimate sleeper" but he played too well in the preseason and now everyone knows about him. But I'm including him on the list because it's cool to highlight players who were undrafted free agents and are on the cusp of starting. Thompkins' story is interesting: He had many, many run-ins with the law and has been arrested a number of times but went to college, kept his mind focused on football and has seemingly turned his life around. The cousin of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Thompkins is on track to start for New England after playing with the first-team offense in each of their three preseason games. He lined up everywhere and ran pretty much every route in the route tree. While secondary receivers don't always put up massive stats for the Patriots, Thompkins could be a receptions hog and even impact the main players in the New England offense from week to week. He's actually a solid Fantasy reserve with the potential to be a Flex starter.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Bills: Goodwin is 5-foot-8 and 183 pounds -- not exactly Calvin Johnson. If you're that small and playing in the NFL then you'd better have fast legs, and Goodwin's got 'em. Seeing plenty of playing time with the first-team offense this summer, Goodwin has track speed to go with improved route-running and nice hands. With their up-tempo, run-heavy approach, Goodwin is a good weapon to have because the second a defense is focused on slowing down C.J. Spiller, E.J. Manuel can sling it over the top to Goodwin for the long score. Manuel has connected on a bunch of long passes in practice and Goodwin is someone who could contribute a lot of yardage without a lot of catches (his teammate Robert Woods will be more valuable in Fantasy to start the season). Buffalo should find themselves passing a decent amount this season, which also helps Goodwin.

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders: The Raiders have no choice but to start Pryor, a tall passer with a fluid, effortless throwing motion and wheels to move around and out of the pocket. Just don't ask about the accuracy. He might not be an elite playmaker but compared to Matt Flynn he's a superstar. Make no mistake -- the Raiders are awful. The offensive line is bad, the receivers aren't great and Darren McFadden is always one injury away from being a disaster. Pryor's best preseason moments came against second-team defenses and he will for sure lay some eggs this year. But he'll also play from behind and run for his life pretty much every single week, likely putting up modest stats in the process. That's enough for me to look for him late in leagues that can start multiple quarterbacks.

Marlon Brown, WR, Ravens: If there's one thing the Ravens need in the wake of Dennis Pitta's injury and Anquan Boldin's departure, it's a big bodied wideout who can help move the chains. Brown has that look. At 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds, Brown's stature gives him a chance against press coverage and his speed is good enough to make an impact deep. Baltimore's receiving corps after Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones was weak when camp opened but the addition of slot guy Brandon Stokley and Brown's ascension up the depth chart has stabilized Joe Flacco's weapons. Brown might need to play good enough to leapfrog Jones in order to be a real nice Fantasy addition, but for now he's worth a flier in deeper PPR leagues.

Marlon Moore, WR, 49ers: It looks like Moore will replace Michael Crabtree in the Niners' starting lineup. He's never been special, but he's never worked with a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick before. I took a look at Crabtree's stats before Kaepernick and with Kaepernick and the difference is obvious. In 10 games with Kaepernick, Crabtree averaged two receptions, 36 yards and 0.5 more touchdowns per game more than in the 50 games prior. Everyone is so worried about how Kaepernick will do without Crabtree that maybe, just maybe, they need to spend a minute remembering what Crabtree was like without Kaepernick. Could it be that Kaepernick is such a good passer that he improves the receivers he works with? Might be. Moore is worth speculating on in deep PPR leagues that require three starting wideouts.

Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks: Most people will recognize Michael's name -- he was the hard-charging back at Texas A&M who totaled 2,791 rush yards and 34 scores over four seasons. He had the potential to be a great Fantasy weapon until the Seahawks took him with their second-round pick. Peculiar, why would the Seahawks take Michael when they already have Marshawn Lynch as well as second-year player Robert Turbin? Turns out the front office loved Michael. He's made them look good in a pair of preseason games, rushing for 186 yards on 27 carries (a sick 6.9 avg.) with a 25-yard reception. There's an injury history with Michael and there's also the reality that he might only see five carries per game -- he is behind Lynch after all. But if you're into drafting talent, Michael's a cinch to eventually be a Fantasy contributor.

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Alfonso Smith, RB, Cardinals: I found myself going back and forth with the Cardinals' rookie running backs for this space when I sat down to watch Arizona's preseason games and realized Smith was running second-string! Not bad for a guy who has been cut three times by the Cardinals, only to re-sign every time. He's got some quickness and pass protection skills and that's enough to keep him as the second back for the Cards to start the year. Ryan Williams' knee is perpetually hurt, Rashard Mendenhall is no spring chicken and who knows just how much rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will play. If Mendenhall breaks, Smith looks like the leader in the clubhouse to take his reps. That makes him a late-round candidate in a year that's very thin at running back.

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints: One of the first names I had on my deep sleeper list was Joe Morgan. When the Saints drafted Stills I thought it was odd because Morgan had great top-end speed and even decent size -- why did they need Stills? They obviously liked his game and wanted him for depth but a major knee injury for Morgan thrusted Stills into the No. 3 receiver race. On multiple occasions this preseason I've seen Stills show off his tremendous deep speed as well as make some heady plays. One in particular came when Stills saw playing time in place of Marques Colston. A play broke down and Drew Brees bought some time, moved out of the pocket and hit Stills at the pylon for a touchdown. Stills might be a rookie but he hasn't played like one this preseason, and the Saints always find offensive players who are diamonds in the rough among late-round picks and undrafted players (Colston, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory). There's major potential here, even if he's fourth fiddle behind Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham (and maybe even Nick Toon).

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had a lot of glowing things to say about his rookie tight end, but one thing you just can't grasp from the story is how enthusiastic Gruden was over Eifert. It was obvious. In the story he compared his offense to New Orleans' offense. I asked him if that meant Jimmy Graham was who he saw in Eifert. Gruden didn't temper his answer saying "I do very much so." But what impressed me more was that Gruden said they've thrown the kitchen sink at Eifert and he still doesn't make mistakes. A wrist injury kept him from playing in the Bengals' third preseason game but Gruden probably doesn't mind keeping his secret weapon away off their opponents game film. But the biggest selling point is that Eifert is a much-needed mismatch threat in a West Coast offense led by a quarterback with deep-ball question marks. That means he'll check down or find seam routes to his athletic tight end, or hit him with a high pass in the end zone when he's against a smaller defender. Eifert's a phenomenal late-round pick you can begin your Fantasy season with as your starter at tight end.

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
Terrance Williams admits he took some plays off mentally
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams acknowledged that he took some plays off mentally as a rookie last year.

"I feel like sometimes when I go three deep balls straight, then I have a tendency to take a play off [mentally]," Williams told ESPN.com. "And that play that I take off, the ball is coming my way. When I get tired now, I’m just trying to hold myself accountable, just thinking about what the 10 guys would say standing right next to me."

Receivers coach Derek Dooley said Williams' challenge is to be consistent now that he's an unquestioned starter.

"When you look back at his first year, when he was playing about 35 snaps a game, he was really making some great plays," Dooley said. "Then there were a bunch of games when he was kind of thrust in and had to play the whole game when Miles [Austin] was hurt and it was hard on him, being able to sustain that mentally and physically and emotionally. So he was a little bit more inconsistent.

"The trick now is to develop that level of consistency where he can perform at his best for 70 plays. That’s not easy."


No structural damage for Lardarius Webb
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:59 am ET) Tests conducted on Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb's lower back revealed no structural damage, sources tell the Baltimore Sun. The injury, which occurred Friday, is apparently muscular, the paper said.

As of now, the team expects Webb to recover with rest and rehab. They won't rush him back because they need him healthy for the season opener.


Paul Richardson getting deep repeatedly
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:53 am ET) Seahawks rookie receiver Paul Richardson runs a 4.33 forty and has a 38-inch vertical leap. He's used those talents to reel in several deep touchdowns at practice.

Tuesday, Richardson beat corner Tharold Simon "by a wide margin" on one such scoring play, reports The News Tribune.

"He continues to show that he’s really, really fast and he can get up on you and he’s real comfortable catching everything that you throw at him," coach Pete Carroll said. "We’re real excited about Paul and hopefully we’ll just keep learning him and figuring him out and figure out how to best utilize his talents. He's got talents; he’s really quick in and out of his breaks. I love his catching range so we’ll try to figure it out but we’re real excited right now."

The paper said Richardson is not only a burner, but "has unleashed a couple open-field jukes that show he can be elusive, as well."


Matt Ryan, Julio Jones regain chemistry quickly
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Falcons receiver Julio Jones was back in pads Tuesday for the first time since his 2013 foot surgery, and he was clicking with quarterback Matt Ryan, according to the team's website.

"I felt like watching Julio and Matt work together, it’s like they hadn’t missed a beat," coach Mike Smith said. "Julio looks like he’s comfortable out there, getting back into the action. We are having him on a prescription of work one day, off one day, and we’ll make a determination as we get further into training camp, whether that’s going to change or not, but it’s worked well for us up to this point in time and when he and Matt have had an opportunity to get some snaps together, they’ve been productive and efficient."

Ryan said it's great to have Jones back.

"He’s an unbelievable player, such an incredible talent," Ryan said. "I can’t believe he’s in year four, now. He’s so much more mature, has such a better understanding of our offense at this point that he’s teaching a lot of guys that are here. He’s a big help for me in terms of getting some of our new guys on board and up to speed, but watching him out there, he looks great. He looks really healthy and I’ve been really impressed with how he’s come back from the injury."


Andrew Luck 'way ahead of anywhere he's ever been'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano sounds pleased with what he's seen in camp from quarterback Andrew Luck, who's thrown for 46 touchdowns and run for nine more in his first two seasons. "He's way ahead of anywhere he's ever been," Pagano said.

Clay Harbor to miss a month
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Jaguars No. 2 tight end Clay Harbor will miss a month with the calf injury he suffered Monday, reports the Florida Times-Union. The paper said undrafted rookie Marcel Jensen has been impressive in camp and could seize this opportunity to make the team.

Sanders Commings hurt trying to tackle Jamaal Charles
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles put an open-field move on defensive back Sanders Commings, and Commings went down with an injury, reports ESPN.com. Commings had to be carted off the field.

Broncos sign a pair of defensive linemen
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) The Broncos signed defensive linemen Will Pericak and Cody Larsen. Pericak was released by the Jaguars in April.

Jerry Jones: Tony Romo is '100 percent' healthy
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Although the Cowboys held Tony Romo out of Tuesday's practice, owner Jerry Jones said the team is just being smart with the quarterback's comeback from back surgery.

"He is 100 percent. He's 100 percent," Jones told reporters, per NFL.com. "He's just being real smart and sensitive about having come off the back surgery. He's certainly not losing any ground from the standpoint of opening up against San Francisco (in Week 1)."


Geno Atkins taken off PUP list
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) The Bengals activated star defensive tackle Geno Atkins from the PUP list, as he's ready to practice. He's nine months removed from tearing his ACL.

 
 
 
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