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2014 Draft Prep: Sleepers, 3.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $100,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now

Breakouts 3.0 | Busts 3.0 | Draft Averages | Draft Prep Index

Our first sleepers column was done in March. Our second version was completed just before training camp. Now, it's time to see what's changed.

For our Sleepers, 3.0, we decided to take my favorite players from the 24 we listed in the first two columns to give you sort of an All-Star list heading into the third week of preseason action. Well, let's hope they're All Stars -- at least for my sake. I guess for your sake as well since you'll hopefully target these guys with mid- to late-round picks.

Let's see who has improved through training camp and the start of the preseason and who still needs room to grow once the season starts. But for the 12 guys listed here, I'm all in.

Also, you'll notice at the bottom of the column some deep sleepers, which includes players being drafted in Round 10 or later based on Average Draft Position on CBSSports.com. Many of those guys have emerged during the preseason and are worth late-round picks in the majority of leagues.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

Roethlisberger was in the first version of the column because I anticipated him getting drafted as a backup, and he has the chance to be a Top 12 quarterback this year. His ADP is No. 112 overall, and he's being drafted after Cam Newton, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson. I go back and forth between Roethlisberger and Newton, but I definitely would draft him ahead of Rivers and Wilson. Roethlisberger was No. 10 in Fantasy points last year and would have been No. 9 in 2012 if he played 16 games, so he's clearly capable of a quality season. And he closed last year on a tear with at least 20 Fantasy points in five of his final seven games. He's among the best value picks this year, and he's a great quarterback to settle for if you miss on an upper-echelon target earlier in the draft.

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals

Three offenses I like a lot this year are the Cowboys, Falcons and Cardinals. Part of the reason is their defensive woes. While that might seem obvious for Dallas and Atlanta, Arizona's defense was supposed to be a strength, but losing Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett will be tough to overcome. That should lead to a lot of throwing, which coach Bruce Arians will love. Palmer was No. 11 in pass attempts last season with 572, but he could be Top 5 in attempts this season. And he has the weapons to shine with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington and rookie John Brown, who is having a strong preseason. I love the idea of drafting Palmer as a No. 2 quarterback at his ADP of No. 126 overall. He could emerge as this year's Philip Rivers as a veteran quarterback with a late draft pick, who ends up as a Top 10 option.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints

The Saints are going to use all three running backs in their stable with Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, and Ingram is having a solid preseason. But the skill that separates Thomas from his teammates is his receiving ability, and last time I checked the Saints are still a pass-first team. Thomas led all running backs in receptions last season with 77, and he was also the No. 23 running back in standard leagues. With Darren Sproles gone, the Saints will lean on Thomas even more this year. Now, he's 29 years old, and his rushing attempts will be limited, especially if Ingram and Robinson hold up with their end. But Thomas still has the most upside of this group, and he's a great value pick in standard leagues at No. 84 overall. He will get drafted sooner in PPR formats, but this could be a big year for Thomas if he can stay healthy.

Terrance West, RB, Browns

Fantasy owners are nervous about West since Ben Tate is having a strong preseason. His ADP has dropped to No. 103 overall, and his sleeper appeal has lost its luster. That's OK, and if you target West you want his value to continue to decline. The later you can get him, the better off you'll be. Tate has struggled with injuries during his career, and he might not survive Cleveland's run-heavy approach. The Browns are counting on West to play a pivotal role, and don't be surprised if the production in this backfield is split by the end of the season. He's a great stash candidate who could be a starter by the middle of the year. West has the chance to challenge Bishop Sankey as the best rookie running back this season.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman, like Tate, lost any momentum he had prior to training camp since he's been running fourth on the depth chart in preseason action. Even with Steven Jackson (hamstring) out, the Falcons have used Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith ahead of him. But if you watch Freeman play then you can see he's a difference maker, and that's something lacking in Atlanta's backfield, even when Jackson is healthy. Freeman's ADP is No. 111 overall, and I love drafting him in Round 10 with the idea of stashing him until A) he's needed or B) Jackson gets hurt, which could lead to a combination of both scenarios. It won't be long until Freeman is ahead of Rodgers and Smith, and the Falcons have to find a way to get Freeman on the field to maximize their offensive potential.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens

We know Pierce is the starter for the first two weeks of the season with Ray Rice suspended. The key for Pierce is what happens when Rice comes back. If Pierce does well to open the year against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which will be no easy feat, the Ravens will have a hard time taking him off the field. Rice isn't going to lose his job, but this could be a 50-50 split with the workload. Pierce has looked good in the preseason with a touchdown against the 49ers in the opener and seven carries for 55 yards in the second outing against Dallas. I'd rather pass on Rice with his ADP at No. 55 overall and wait for Pierce at No. 116. While Rice is still the better Fantasy option as of now, the value for Pierce makes him the better buy.

Justin Hunter, WR, Titans

I was in a recent analyst's draft where Hunter went at No. 97 overall, and the comment in the draft room was "America's sleeper." Everyone is now all over Hunter after his big game against the Saints in the preseason with four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. We had Hunter in the first sleepers column in March because the potential was evident that he could be a viable contributor, and he just needed the chance to play. And coach Ken Whisenhunt is ready to give it to him. He's still No. 3 on the depth chart behind Kendall Wright and Nate Washington, but Hunter is well ahead of Washington for Fantasy owners. We hope Hunter didn't already have his best game of the season with his preseason performance, but he has Top 30 upside if the Titans use him as expected. He's a great receiver to target with a mid-round pick.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

We have yet to see Cooks on the field with Drew Brees since Brees has battled an oblique injury through the first two preseason games. That has led to Cooks having some up and down performances. In the first game against the Rams, Cooks had five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. In the second game against the Titans, Cooks had just one catch for 16 yards. This is a good sample size of what happens with rookie receivers, especially ones in crowded offenses. Cooks will be inconsistent, but his upside is immense with Brees and Sean Payton. I'd rather have Cooks at his ADP of No. 95 overall than Sammy Watkins at No. 90. Watkins loses value with EJ Manuel, but Cooks should shine in this system. The Saints will lean on him to replace the departed Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, and he's going to have a sensational rookie campaign.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

We listed Benjamin as a sleeper prior to the preseason just based on need. Who else was Cam Newton going to throw to after Greg Olsen? The Panthers drafted Benjamin for a reason, and we're getting a glimpse of it in the preseason. He caught a touchdown in the first preseason game against Buffalo with Newton resting his surgically-repaired ankle. Then in the second preseason game against Kansas City we saw Newton just miss on a huge play to Benjamin on an overthrow down the left sideline. As those two continue to develop a rapport, they should connect on a few of those during the year. And Benjamin has the chance to lead all rookie receivers in touchdowns, which is what makes him appealing. His ADP is No. 120 overall and rising, and he could easily finish as a Top 30 receiver this season.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers

We have yet to see Boykin do anything in the preseason with just three catches for 21 yards on four targets. And Boykin is trying to hold off rookie Davante Adams for the No. 3 role behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The Packers are keeping Boykin in his spot, but he needs to improve his play, which is something we're expecting. The Packers need a capable No. 3 receiver with James Jones and Jermichael Finley gone, and he played well last season when Cobb and Jones battled injuries, with at least eight Fantasy points in seven of 11 games, including double digits in points four times. Boykin had at least six targets in eight of those games, and he did the majority of his production with Aaron Rodgers (clavicle) hurt. We'll see how he does this year, but I'll gamble on him at No. 143 overall whenever possible in any format.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

We liked Rudolph back in March after the Vikings signed Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, and his history with tight ends speaks for itself after working with the likes of Jay Novacek, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron. Rudolph showed everyone what he's capable of with his performance against the Cardinals in the second preseason game with four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, and his ADP is on the rise from No. 95 overall. Now, if you're the type of Fantasy owner who wants to pass on Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas, then Rudolph is a tight end to wait for. This should be the best year of his career thanks to Turner, and we just hope the hype following the Cardinals game doesn't push up his ADP to an unrealistic range.

Heath Miller, TE, Steelers

Miller has the chance to be one of most surprising Fantasy options this year, especially with his ADP at No. 129 overall. Miller is finally healthy after his torn ACL at the end of the 2012 season, and we're expecting him to play close his pre-injury form. That year, Miller had a career season with 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns, and he was the No. 4 Fantasy tight end behind Graham, Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez. He actually wasn't bad last year since he was less than 100 percent with 58 catches for 593 yards, but he scored just one touchdown. This season, the Steelers need him with Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery gone, and those receivers combined for 113 catches, 1,346 yards and 16 touchdowns. While the Steelers will spread that production around, Miller will be needed in the red zone, where he scored seven touchdowns in 2012. I like targeting Miller late whenever possible as the No. 12 tight end on my rank list.

Late-round fliers

Here are 12 players being drafted at No. 120 overall or later, and they have the chance to significantly outperform their ADP this season.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: He could be special if Frank Gore gets hurt.
Andre Williams, RB, Giants: Rashad Jennings is a shaky starter at best.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: He'll surprise as the backup to Giovani Bernard.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: A strong preseason has Ingram's stock rising.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos: If Montee Ball fails, Hillman could shine.
Jonathan Grimes, RB, Texans: Arian Foster's handcuff and a lottery ticket.
Lance Dunbar, RB, Cowboys: He'll be a surprising piece of a big offense.
Kenny Britt, WR, Rams: He's being hyped as the top receiver in St. Louis.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles: He'll be needed in a revamped WR corps.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars: He could easily be Jacksonville's No. 1 WR.
Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers: Like Miller, he's a TE to target late.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts: He could lead the Colts in receiving touchdowns.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs: He might be Kansas City's best receiving option.

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Player News
Seahawks to go with Will Tukuafu at fullback
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) The Seahawks will insert fullback Will Tukuafu into the starting lineup, according to the Associated Press. 

Will Tukuafu signed with the club Wednesday, and will replace Derrick Coleman. Coleman began the year as the team's primary option, but was placed on the IR Saturday. Robert Turbin had served as the team's temporary option at the position with Coleman out, but will assume his normal role as backup running back with Tukuafu in tow. 


Saints K Shayne Graham not asked to do much Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Saints kicker Shayne Graham was not asked to do much in his team's 28-10 victory over the Panthers in Week 9. Graham, who converted three field goals his last time out, was not summoned for a field goal the entire night. He added four extra points.

The Saints will host the 49ers in Week 10.


Saints WR Robert Meachem makes late-game grab in Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem, who has been an afterthought in the aerial attack, came down with his first grab since the third week of the season in his team's 28-10 victory over the Panthers.

Meachem broke free down the middle of the field for a comfortable 25-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. He was targeted twice in the win. He has five catches for 85 yards on the season.


Saints RB Travaris Cadet does little in Week 9 victory
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Saints running back Travaris Cadet failed to make much of an impact in his team's 28-10 Week 9 victory over the Panthers Thursday night.

The team heavily relied on Mark Ingram, who took 30 handoffs on the night. As a result, Cadet was only limited to five touches. He took two handoffs for only 1 yard and caught three of the five passes thrown his way for 29 yards.

The Saints will host San Francisco in Week 10.


Saints WRs Colston, Cooks each limited to three grabs Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Saints wide receivers Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks each had quiet performances in a Week 9 victory over the Panthers on Thursday.

Colston came down with a 22-yard pass from Drew Bress on the second offensive series of the night and only had two catches the rest of the way. He caught all three of his targets for 36 yards. Cooks had a similar night, as he came down with two receptions -- one for 18 and another for 5 yards -- on back-to-back plays on the opening drive, but was limited to only one grab the rest of the way. He caught all three targets for 38 yards in a 28-10 victory.


Saints WR Kenny Stills racks up 72 yards Thursday night
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills enjoyed another productive performance, cracking the 70-yard mark in a Thursday night victory over the Panthers in Week 9.

Stills had a costly drop on the opening drive which resulted in an interception by D'wan Edwards. He bounced back with catches of 16, 9 and 17 yards in the second quarter. He was targeted eight times and finished with five catches for 72 yards in a 28-10 victory. He has 373 receiving yards through eight games, most by any other rookie receiver this year.

The Saints will host the 49ers in Week 10.


Saints TE Jimmy Graham scores, looks like old self in Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham appeared to be back to his old self, scoring his fifth touchdown of the season Thursday night against the Panthers in Week 9.

After a pass interference penalty that brought the team to the 1-yard line, Graham came down with a reception in the end zone for a 1-yard score with three seconds remaining in the first half. He caught five passes for 50 yards and a score at halftime. He only caught two passes the rest of the way and finished with seven grabs for a team-high 83 yards and score on seven targets in a 28-10 victory.

Graham has scored in back-to-back games. He'll look to extend his scoring streak to three at home in Week 10 against the 49ers.


Saints' Mark Ingram cracks century mark, scores twice Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Saints running back Mark Ingram found the end zone for the second consecutive game, scoring twice and leading his team to a 28-10 victory over the Panthers in Week 9 Thursday night. 

Ingram barreled into the end zone from 3 yards out late in the first half. He also aggravated a right shoulder injury in the first half and played through the pain in the second half wearing a sleeve. walked into the end zone from 3 yards out on a draw play with 5:34 remaining in the game to secure the win.

He took 30 handoffs for 100 yards and two scores, notching back-to-back career highs in carries over a five-day span. He caught one of two targets for 10 yards. He has 272 yards and three rushing touchdowns over that span.

He'll look to stay red-hot Week 10 at home against San Francisco.


Panthers K Graham Gano hits his only field goal Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Panthers kicker Graham Gano hit his only field goal attempt Thursday against the Saints. 

The Panthers offense had a tough time getting anything going, limiting Gano's chances. His only attempt came with 12:57 left in the contest. Gano managed to hit from 31 yards out. He also managed one extra point attempt.

Gano will look for more Week 10 against the Eagles. 


Saints' Drew Brees overcomes early mistakes to secure first road win
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) Saints quarterback Drew Brees worked past a couple of early turnovers and scored two touchdowns to lead his team to their first road win of the season Week 9 at Carolina.

Brees had two turnovers over the first 10 minutes of the game. He was picked off by Dwan Edwards on a tipped pass from Kenny Stills on the opening drive of the night. On the ensuing drive, he lost a fumble after Erik Lorig got pushed back into him while trying to pass protect. 

Brees bounced back with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham with three seconds remaining in the first half. He gambled on a 4th and goal in the third quarter, leaping over the goal line for a 1-yard score -- his first rushing touchdown of the season.

Brees compiled 297 yards through the air while completing 24 of 34 passes. He added one touchdown and one interception, registering a 94.9 passer rating. He was sacked four times and rushed for 2 yards and a score on four carries in a 28-10 victory.

The Saints will host the 49ers in Week 10.


 
 
 
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