There's a very good reason folks get plenty more excited about landing their big "sleeper" in their fantasy football draft each year than even landing the top overall pick.
Because while most years you'll get relatively good, top-25 production out of your first-round players, it's often those undervalued names who swing the paradigm of a fantasy league. The problem is identifying those players, and then not overvaluing the guys you feel are undervalued.
For instance, here is a look at the 25 biggest "sleepers" for this year's class.
|Rank||Player||Pos.||Team||Bye Week||Proj. RD|
|Tier: Take a Round Early|
|1||Danny Amendola||WR||New England Patriots||10||4-6|
|2||Reggie Bush||RB||Detroit Lions||9||4-6|
|3||Le'Veon Bell||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers||5||5-7|
|4||DeSean Jackson||WR||Philadelphia Eagles||12||6-8|
|5||Dwayne Bowe||WR||Kansas City Chiefs||10||5-7|
|Tier: Guaranteed Draftees|
|6||Johnathan Franklin||RB||Green Bay Packers||4||9-11|
|7||Giovani Bernard||RB||Cincinnati Bengals||12||9-11|
|8||Ryan Williams||RB||Arizona Cardinals||9||10-12|
|9||Emmanuel Sanders||WR||Pittsburgh Steelers||5||10-12|
|10||Michael Vick||QB||Philadelphia Eagles||12||11-13|
|11||Josh Gordon||WR||Cleveland Browns||10||11-13|
|12||Jacquizz Rodgers||RB||Atlanta Falcons||6||13-15|
|13||Martellus Bennett||TE||Chicago Bears||8||13-15|
|14||Alshon Jeffrey||WR||Chicago Bears||8||14-15|
|15||Danny Woodhead||RB||San Diego Chargers||8||14-15|
|Tier: Keep an Eye Out|
|16||Carson Palmer||QB||Arizona Cardinals||9||14-UND|
|17||Justin Blackmon||WR||Jacksonville Jaguars||9||15-UND|
|18||Zachary Stacy||RB||St. Louis Rams||11||15-UND|
|19||Aaron Dobson||WR||New England Patriots||10||15-UND|
|20||Tampa Bay||DEF||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5||15-UND|
|21||A.J. Jenkins||WR||San Francisco 49ers||9||15-UND|
|22||Tyler Eifert||TE||Cincinnati Bengals||12||15-UND|
|23||Mike Gillislee||RB||Miami Dolphins||6||15-UND|
|24||Darrius Heyward-Bey||WR||Indianapolis Colts||8||15-UND|
|25||Christine Michael||RB||Seattle Seahawks||12||15-UND|
As you can tell, that's a wide array of talent. There are levels and tiers within the overarching "sleeper" paradigm, ones that if you find consistent value with each of your picks, can land you a cushy spot in the fantasy playoffs.
Last season saw a bevy of top talent get drafted late or, in the cases of players like Colin Kaepernick, become key late pickups for the playoffs. Rookies like Robert Griffin III and Doug Martin carried entire teams, while youngsters like Randall Cobb came in and ripped jobs away from the clutches of incumbent stars.
Just know there are levels to this stuff. Sometimes landing a player in the ninth round who should be taken in the sixth is just as valuable as grabbing someone in the fourth or fifth who should be a second-rounder. Draft day is all about value over average—and finding that is the key to a championship.
With that in mind, here are a few noteworthy "sleepers" from our tiers.
Take a Round Early: Danny Amendola (WR, New England Patriots)
Wes Welker is a Denver Bronco. Rob Gronkowski is on the PUP list. Aaron Hernandez was released after being charged with murder, via ESPN.com. Tom Brady has to throw the ball to somebody, right? These Patriots aren't going to start winning games 13-10.
Danny Amendola is far and away the likeliest breakout star in the receiving corps. He was on pace for an excellent season a year ago in St. Louis, putting up 63 catches for 663 yards while playing in 11 games. Signed as Welker's replacement this offseason, he'll fill that familiar role on most downs, lining up in the slot and providing a safety blanket for Brady.
With Hernandez gone and Gronkowski's return up in the air, Amendola should get more opportunities than anyone expects—especially early in the season. If you're in a points-per-reception (PPR) league, Amendola has top-10 potential.
Guaranteed Draftees: Johnathan Franklin (RB, Green Bay Packers)
I'm sure you've heard by now there's quite a bit of controversy surrounding the Green Bay Packers' running back situation. No one is sure if Eddie Lacy is overweight or just doesn't take flattering pictures.
Either way, this is all good news for fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin. The former UCLA grad was one of the steals of the draft in April for many, drafted late in the fourth round despite having top-tier talent. A speedster with plenty of versatility in the backfield, Franklin might wind up overtaking Lacy for top billing in the backfield.
Evan Silva of Rotoworld noted an NFL Network report that said Franklin is "the guy" at this juncture in camp. While there is plenty of time left between now and the beginning of the season, this is awfully promising news for a guy with an ADP of 101.4.
That said, monitor the situation. Rob Demovsky of ESPN reported Franklin has struggled in pass protection, which could keep him out of an every-down role.
Keep an Eye Out: Carson Palmer (QB, Arizona Cardinals)
Though he was stuck in a terrible situation with Oakland last season, Carson Palmer quietly emerged as one of fantasy football's most consistently productive quarterbacks. The former top overall pick wound up with 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns against 14 interceptions despite missing almost two full games to end the season.
In the 14 full games Palmer played, he ended the contest with at least 14 fantasy points in all but two. It wasn't always the prettiest event to watch—much of Palmer's numbers came in garbage time, and no one ever wants to see him throw a 10-yard out again—but he was near-guaranteed to be productive.
Nothing should change in 2013, especially since he'll be in a far better situation with the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer will have the best weapon of his career in Larry Fitzgerald, and second-year wideout Michael Floyd should vastly improve.
In deep leagues or ones that start two quarterbacks, Palmer is a must-own. His surrounding weapons are the best they've been in years, and Fitzgerald will undoubtedly be thrilled to be done with the Ryan Lindleys of the world.
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