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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
Report: Texans interested in DT Antonio Smith
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Texans are interested in signing defensive tackle Antonio Smith, according to ESPN.

Smith, who played for the Texans for five seasons, was released by the Raiders on Tuesday. The 33-year-old has started at least 15 games in each of the last six seasons. Over his 10-year career, he has racked up 302 total tackles, 44.5 sacks, eight passes defensed and 11 forced fumbles.


Report: Chargers sign G Michael Huey, waive Baca, Alecxih
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) The Chargers have signed guard Michael Huey of the Arena Football League, according to the UT San Diego. The team also waived offensive lineman Jeff Baca and defensive lineman Chas Alecxih.

Huey is a three-time All-AFL member, playing for the Arizona Rattlers. He spent three weeks with the Chargers during the 2011 preseason. The Rattlers won the league championship in each year that Huey was there.

Baca, 25, was brought in as insurance as an interior offensive lineman last season after the Chargers went through five starting centers.

Alecxih, twice a member of the team's practice squad, did not see any regular season action in 2014. 

 


Report: RB Jacquizz Rodgers signs with Bears
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:03 pm ET) After visiting wth the Bears on Tuesday, running back Jacquizz Rodgers has signed a one-year contract with the team, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

Rodgers, formerly with the Falcons for four seasons, has totaled 1,116 yards rushing, 1,104 yards receiving and 10 total totuchdowns in his career. 


Texans WR Cecil Shorts excited about role in offense
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) Wide receiver Cecil Shorts is looking forward to a new start with the Texans, reports the team's official website.

“I’m just excited to get there and try and catch a lot of balls and help this team win,” Shorts III said in an interview with Texans Radio on Tuesday. “To pair up with (WR) D-Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) who had a great season last year and some other guys that played well as well. I’m just happy to get there and get things going.” 

After spending his first four seasons with the Jaguars, Shorts is excited about the Texans' offense and the direction the team is headed in going into 2015.

“It feels good,” Shorts III said of joining the Texans. “This organization is definitely a franchise that’s very consistent with winning the last some-odd years. I think it was a great year last year being Bill O’Brien’s first year coming in going 9-7 and right in the playoff hunt and they’re just a franchise going in the right direction.”

The 27-year-old has racked up 176 receptions for 2,343 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career.


Broncos WR Cody Latimer ready to step up in year two
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer is ready to take on a bigger role in year two with the team, reports the team's offical website.

"I feel like I’m ready, especially coming in a new offense, everybody gets a clean slate so we’re all starting from Day 1, and it’ll be exciting," he said. "I get to work with Peyton coming up soon, so he’ll be able to get me more into the offense and getting my learning curve, taking it to the next level."

Latimer is preparing to work with Peyton and Eli Manning at their yearly workout session next week.

"It’s my first time there, so it should be fun. I know we’re going to be working, studying, probably watching film and running routes," Latimer said. "It’s a good connection. It’s an early head start, in other words, to something that should be great. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, getting our timing connection and probably learning off of him and maybe learning something of the offense and things like that."

Latimer is cognizant of the fact that the team expects big things from him this upcoming season.

"I know it’s a big opportunity and I’ve got to make that leap for myself and our organization. They expect big things out of me; they drafted me in the second round, they expect me to produce so I feel like I’ve got to own up to that and make it happen.”


Cowboys LB coach: Sean Lee 'super excited' to play weakside LB
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:34 pm ET) If the Cowboys bring back linebacker Rolando McClain, then it is assumed linebacker Sean Lee will be moved to the weakside, per The Dallas Morning News. Lee missed the 2014 season due to a torn ACL.

“If it says ‘linebacker’ behind the position, I think he’s going to be okay,” Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said of Lee. “I think that, like I said, we’ll tie all these guys together and see how they fit. And we’ll find the best position for them…. Sean’s uniqueness in his ability, like a few other guys that we’ve had, he’s able to play all positions. He can really play all positions. That’s what makes him a valuable asset to our defense. He will certainly be good once we get him there and get him going. He’s really super excited and so am I.”


Colts sign WR Vincent Brown
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:33 pm ET) The Colts have signed wide receiver Vincent Brown, the team announced Tuesday.

Brown appeared in seven games with the Raiders last season, catching 12 passes for 118 yards. His best season came in 2013, when he made 12 starts and played all 16 games with the Chargers and racked up 472 yards and one touchdown on 41 receptions.


Panthers sign LB Jason Trusnik to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) The Panthers have signed linebacker Jason Trusnik to a one-year deal, the team announced.

"Jason is an experienced player who adds more competition to the linebacker position and has also been a special teams ace," coach Ron Rivera said. "I expect him to come in and be a leader. Even though he is new to us, he's got veteran savvy to him."

Trusnik made six starts while playing all 16 games with the Dolphins in 2014, racking up 48 tackles and intercepting one pass.

"First, I want to earn respect from my new teammates and coaches," Trusnik said. "It's a new team and I have to earn that. I want to continue to be the leader that I've been in the past and make plays, whether that be on special teams or on defense."


Cardinals sign QB Chandler Harnish to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:26 pm ET) The Cardinals have signed quarterback Chandler Harnish to a one-year deal, AZCardinals.com reports. He has yet to play in a game during his three-year career.

Report: Raiders release DL Antonio Smith
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:12 pm ET) The Raiders have released defensive lineman Antonio Smith, ESPN reports.

Smith started all 16 games for the Raiders in 2014 but recorded just 20 tackles and three sacks. He was slated to count $4 million against the cap, and the team will carry no dead cap space after terminating his contract.


 
 
 
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