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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
Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


 
 
 
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