2012 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 8 Players to Pick Later in Your Draft

Professor BushCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2012

2012 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 8 Players to Pick Later in Your Draft

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    By now you can probably recite the top fantasy players at each position. But championships are not always won with your top draft picks. Maybe a player picked in one of the later rounds will be the key to your season.

    So with this in mind, let's look at some players that might be overlooked but could help you win your league.

    Typically "sleeper" refers to a player that you would take as one of your last few draft picks and hope that you strike gold. But I am going to expand the definition this time to include a few players that I think have been undervalued in rankings and mock drafts.

Titus Young: WR

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    There are two reasons why Titus Young might be considered a risky pick:

    1) Calvin Johnson deservedly will continue to get the majority of looks from Matt Stafford.

    2) As a small receiver, Young might be more subject to a hard-hit injury than larger receivers might be.

    But I have three other factors that suggest he is worth the risk of a mid-round pick:

    1) He will likely pass Nate Burleson on the Lions depth chart.

    2) He may be in the mix for action as a kick returner this year.

    3) His 160 receptions and 2,256 yards in his last two years of college show the potential he has.

    In one FOX Sports mock draft involving 12 teams, he was selected as the 104th pick. Yahoo! has him ranked at 139.

    I'm thinking he is worth taking a risk and grabbing him as your flex starter once you have a QB, two WRs, two RB and a TE on your roster.

Brian Quick: WR

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    The St. Louis Rams drafted Brian Quick this year with the first pick of the second round. The WR out of Appalachian State stands 6' 4" and weighs 220 pounds. He had 20 TD receptions in his last two years in college.

    It is easy to see him becoming Sam Bradford's favorite target by mid-year.

    He seems to be going undrafted in a high percentage of drafts so far. Don't let this happen in your league. Snag him with a late pick.

Demaryius Thomas: WR

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    I was urging managers to pick up Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos late last October.

    Those readers who took my advice were rewarded with two games where Thomas had more than 100 yards at critical weeks during the fantasy season.

    His 204 yards in the Wild Card Game over the Steelers gives an indication of what might be in store for 2012. Thomas will have to split Peyton Manning's attention with Eric Decker, but he should be the team's top receiver if he stays healthy, which could be an issue.

    If you plan on drafting two running backs and a quarterback in the first three rounds, look to take Thomas in the fourth. He could serve you well as your WR1, even though he is ranked in various places around 14 through 16 among WRs.

Toby Gerhart: RB

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    I'm thinking that there's a good chance that Adrian Peterson will not be at full strength when the season starts. That means Toby Gerhart might get a few games in as the featured running back for the Minnesota Vikings.

    And even when Peterson is at full strength, it is certainly reasonable to expect that his workload will be monitored.

    In his two years with the Vikes, Gerhart's rushing average is 4.5 yards. In a PPR league, he can probably be counted on for a few catches a game as well.

    I've seen him ranked as low as the 40th RB and not being drafted until the 10th round or later.  I don't think either of these appropriately considers a slow comeback by Peterson.

Jacquizz Rodgers: RB

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    Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons will be starting his ninth season as a RB. He has carried the ball over 1400 times. That's a lot of wear and tear on the body.

    I'm thinking that the Falcons will need to cut back his work load at least a little this season, and this should give more opportunities for second-year player Jacquizz Rodgers. In a PPR league, it is noteworthy that Rodgers had 21 catches in his rookie season and averaged nine yards per catch.

    If the Falcons were to wrap up a playoff spot a little early this season, you might even luck out and get Rodgers starting in place of Turner during a playoff week in your league. This could be a little extra bonus for picking him up as a late draft pick.

Josh Freeman: QB

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    Josh Freeman was a first-round draft pick in 2009.  In 2010, he looked like he was worth that pick. But in 2011, he didn't, as the table below shows.

    Year QB Rating Yards TDs INTs
    2010   95.9 3451  25   6
    2011   74.6 3592  16  22

    Most drafters will focus on the 2011 numbers and let him slide down the through the rounds.

    But there are three additions to the Bucs that could make 2012 a better year for Freeman. Vincent Jackson will join the WR corps. Rookie Doug Martin should get the start at RB, which would be an upgrade over LeGarrette Blount. Finally, Dallas Clark should be the starting TE.

    I'm looking for Freeman to have a year more like his 2010 than his 2011.

Kyle Rudolph: TE

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    The Vikings' starting tight end job belongs to Kyle Rudolph, as Visanthe Shiancoe has moved on.

    With a young quarterback like Christian Ponder, you'd expect the offensive playbook to be pretty slimmed down and include a lot of passes to the tight end.

    Ponder apparently has been targeting Rudolph in practice, so there is additional evidence supporting a good season for him.

    I'm not saying that you should take him as your starting tight end. Not all managers take a second tight end in the draft, but I'm thinking Rudolph would make a good late round selection.

Coby Fleener: TE

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    Coby Fleener was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 34th overall pick this year.  In his last two years at Stanford, he caught 17 touchdown passes.

    And who was his quarterback at Stanford? Andrew Luck.

    And which NFL team does Luck now play for?  Aha, you get it!

    If you don't get one of the premier TEs, just be patient and take Fleener later. You might be pleasantly surprised.