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Fantasy Football: 11 Playmaking Sleepers to Target Sometime After Round 13

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterAugust 31, 2012

Fantasy Football: 11 Playmaking Sleepers to Target Sometime After Round 13

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    The following slideshow touts 11 players in the fantasy realm who could be excellent super-sleepers in standard-scoring or points-per-reception drafts.

    Why 11? Need you ask?

    For this countdown, the term "super-sleeper" only refers to the quarterbacks, tailbacks, receivers and tight ends who currently sit 156th or lower (Round 13 or later) in Mock Draft Central's continually evolving Average Draft Position rankings.

    So, before you wonder why certain under-25 assets—like rookie QBs Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III or Bucs RB Doug Martin—weren't discussed here in greater detail, simply refer to the above ADP link to gauge their high pre-draft standing.

    Enjoy the show!

Quarterback: Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

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    2011 Stats: 1,713 Yards Passing, 10 TD

    Skinny: I took plenty of heat from Chiefs fans last summer for declaring that Matt Cassel wouldn't duplicate his 27 passing TDs from the 2010 season.

    Well, in the interest of regressing to the mean, I'm here to proclaim that Cassel will easily eclipse last season's per-game averages of 190.3 yards passing and 1.1 touchdowns.

    When fully healthy, tailback Jamaal Charles (1,935 total yards in 2010) is a top 10 fantasy asset. Bar none.

    On the receiving front, Dwayne Bowe is much closer to the guy who scored 15 touchdowns in 2010 than the one who found the end zone only five times last year.

    Throw in the free-agent addition of Peyton Hillis, second-year development of receiver Jonathan Baldwin, injury return of tight end Tony Moeaki and expected veteran contributions of Steve Breaston/Dexter McCluster and it's hard to find a gaping hole in the Kansas City attack.

    But Cassel is the real catalyst to the Chiefs' overall fantasy success. For starters, he'll need to end last year's rough trend of zero or one touchdown on consecutive Sundays.

Quarterback: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 1,853 Yards Passing, 13 TD

    Skinny: It's hard to recap Christian Ponder's rookie season without referencing the ugly finish (96 combined passing yards for Weeks 16 and 17).

    But all in all, Ponder exhibited some flashes of real-world and fantasy goodness in his first go-round against NFL defenses.

    Five consecutive games of at least one touchdown pass (Weeks 11-15), one outing of 395 total yards and three touchdowns (vs. Denver), and not one four-interception clunker on the resume.

    Is that enough for Ponder to warrant an investment before Round 12? Eh, probably not. But I have faith in Minnesota's Big Four (Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Toby Gerhart, Jerome Simpson) helping him take big strides in 2012.

    For example, Ponder has a golden opportunity to post stellar stats in the first five games (Jaguars, Colts, 49ers, Lions, Titans), including a tough Week 3 home matchup with San Francisco (playing from behind).

Running Back: Alex Green, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 17 Total Yards, 0 TD

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    Forget about Green's wretched 17 total yards from last season. This kid has the hands and acceleration of a potential dynamo in the backfield, especially in pass situations. His Thursday touchdown against the Chiefs is small proof of that.

    The Packers have a shaky running corps, fantasy-wise, led by Cedric Benson (turns 30 in December) and James Starks (turf toe injury).

    And given the franchise's attachment to homegrown picks, Packers coaches will likely give Green every chance to succeed this season.

Running Back: Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns

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    2011 Stats: 388 Total Yards (266 Rushing), 0 TD

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    Montario Hardesty missed out on a golden opportunity to become Cleveland's tailback of the present and future last year, missing games to injury at a time when Peyton Hillis was routinely in the doghouse of Browns management.

    On the bright side of that underwhelming rookie campaign, Hardesty racked up three games of 70 total yards, including 122 against the Seahawks (Week 7). Three weeks prior, Hardesty collected a season-high nine targets in a loss to Oakland, catching five balls for 49 yards.

    As a long-standing rule, I never cheer for player injuries (what goes around, comes around), but I would feel good about Hardesty (97 yards, 1 TD during the preseason) as a short- or long-term replacement for No. 1 tailback Trent Richardson if the first-round pick is plagued by knee soreness this season. (Richardson has had two surgeries in the last nine months.)

Running Back: Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks

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    2011 Stats: 1,687 Total Yards (1,517 Rushing), 23 TD (Utah State)

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    Robert Turbin's 93-yard effort against the Chiefs in preseason Week 3 might have been more impressive than fellow rookie Russell Wilson that same evening. Turbin's speed, quickness, powerful legs and short-term burst elicit favorable comparisons to Ray Rice (2,000 total yards, 15 TD last year).

    With a rookie at quarterback (Wilson) and the Seahawks in dire need of more receiving depth (sorry, Braylon Edwards), I fully expect Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington and Turbin to garner plenty of touches in the first six weeks.

    That time window might be enough for Turbin to emerge as the NFL's No. 3 rookie back, behind Trent Richardson and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin.

Wide Receiver: Donald Jones, Buffalo Bills

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    2011 Stats: 23 Catches, 231 Yards, 1 TD, 46 Targets

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    Donald Jones is a versatile and cat-quick wideout who can flourish on the outside or when deftly handling the slot-receiver role between the 20s.

    Over time, I have come to appreciate Jones' burgeoning relationship with Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (7.1 targets in his last eight healthy games) and the way Jones complements No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson. But heading into Year 3, Jones won't be a reliable source of fantasy goodness until he can consistently stay on the field. It's part of the job that comes with being a No. 2 asset.

    Jones' Round 14/15 value is too low for the No. 2 receiver on a club that threw 569 times last season and only rushed Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller 277 times.

Wide Receiver: Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers

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    2011 Stats: 36 Catches, 613 Yards, 3 TD, 56 Targets

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    Skinny: Here's something you won't hear about any other Panthers playmaker heading into this season: Brandon LaFell may prefer Jimmy Clausen as Carolina's quarterback over Cam Newton.

    Ludicrous notions aside, LaFell actually had eight outings of six-plus targets in 2010, when Newton was still dominating college kids at Auburn. Last year, LaFell reached that targets threshold only twice in 16 games.

    All this begs the questions: Is there any substance to LaFell generating fewer targets and fewer catches last season? Or should we put more stock into his upward progress in receiving yards and touchdowns?

    With LaFell's impressive size and speed, I'm willing to roll the dice on the latter occurrence.

Wide Receiver: Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

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    2010 Stats: 71 Catches, 1,096 Yards, 11 TD (Appalachian State)

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    You may recall the many size/speed/attitude comparisons of rookie Brian Quick to Terrell Owens in last April's draft. In fact, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Quick may be markedly bigger than T.O. was in 1996, coming out of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

    Including the Rams coaches, it may be anyone's guess to how the receiving corps shakes out by season's end.

    Given the talent/production uncertainty of Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis and Danario Alexander, Quick has a genuine opportunity to, uh, quickly develop as QB Sam Bradford's primary receiving target.

Wide Receiver: Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 50 Catches, 725 Yards, 4 TD, 105 Targets (with Cincy)

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    With the Bengals last year, Jerome Simpson posted seven outings of seven-plus targets, including a pair of double-digit efforts within three games.

    Simpson crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 90 yards and/or one touchdown six times last season. For good measure, he had three separate games of 100-plus receiving yards.

    The Vikings could have a season-long competition for the No. 2 receiver slot, and Simpson is my pick to finish ahead of Devin Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins, Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright.

    Fantasy owners, it's not like you were planning to start Simpson in the opening weeks anyway. His three-game suspension will be water under the bridge by Week 4.

Tight End: Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

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    2011 Stats: 28 Catches, 58 Targets, 352 Yards

    Reasons For My Late-Round Hubris

    For the fantasy owners who draft Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham—the NFL's premier tight ends—they'll likely opt for "upside" with their backup tight end, preferably in Rounds 15 or 16. Enter Lance Kendricks, whose impressive physical attributes (6'3", 247 pounds, good speed and solid hands) are bolstered by the fact the Rams (spoiler alert) don't have a clear-cut No. 1, 2 or 3 receiver.

    As a rookie in 2011, Kendricks had a good preseason for the Rams but  finished the regular season with a meager 28 catches for 352 yards, including a seasonal best of four catches for 71 yards in Week 5 (vs. Green Bay).

    In the latter rounds, fantasy owners won't be reluctant to take a late-round flier on a talent with a second-year ceiling of 47 catches, 530 yards and five touchdowns.

Tight End: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 26 Catches, 39 Targets, 249 Yards, 3 TD

    Reasons To Support My Late-Round Hubris

    1. Kyle Rudolph's stats from his rookie season are better to scrutinize from Weeks 8-17, once he logged more playing time and garnered consistent reps. In that span, he had per-game averages of 3.25 targets and 0.38 TDs.

    2. With John Carlson incurring a knee sprain during training camp, Rudolph will likely see the vast majority of the Vikings' tight-end reps early in the season. Hopefully that'll translate to a fast start (the same refrain holds true for QB Christian Ponder).

    3. Speaking of which, with games against Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Detroit to open the 2012 campaign, the Ponder-led Vikings are reasonable bets to average 28 pass attempts in September.

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