2013 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Undervalued Stars Worth Taking Early

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

Jul 26, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) makes a catch during training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The world of fantasy football is an unforgiving place, especially for NFL veterans who experience a down year, suffer an injury or are simply too old. 

The hot commodity of any fake football draft is finding the next big sleeper. What some fantasy players fail to realize is that a big sleeper is not always a youngster with upside, but a veteran on the mend about to have a major rebound season. 

It's hard to blame fantasy players for throwing stars to the curb in favor of young studs—after all, they're just mimicking a brutal league that uses veterans up before throwing them on the free-agency heap. 

2013 features some veterans who have unjustly seen their ADP fall to unacceptable levels. Buck the trend of only looking at younger guys and take a chance on the following undervalued sleepers—they could carry you to a title. 


Note: All ADP info courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com


Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals 

ADP: 3.04

Larry Fitzgerald is the perfect example of how quickly fantasy players forget about the stars who took them to the top in the past. Fitzgerald's third-round ADP is a joke. 

Yes, Fitzgerald had a down year last season with only 71 receptions for 798 yards and four touchdowns, but it's hard to blame him when his quarterback trio of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer could not hit the broad side of a barn. 

How quickly we forget Fitzgerald had over 1,400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in 2011. He's recorded at least 1,000-yard seasons in six of his nine years in the league, including five in a row before last season. 

Fitzgerald is now 29 and has the best quarterback play in Arizona since Kurt Warner thanks to Carson Palmer, who threw for over 4,000 yards last season on a laughably-bad Raiders team. 

There is zero excuse for wide receivers like Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Wes Welker and a host of others to come off the board before Fitzgerald. He'll be back in rare form in 2013. Make sure you are in attendance. 


Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans 

ADP: 2.01

It's hard to argue that a player being taken at the start of the second round in most leagues deserves to come off the board higher, but we'll do just that anyway. 

Funnily enough, many claim CJ2K had a down year last season, primarily because of his slow start. Yet Johnson still rushed for over 1,200 yards and six touchdowns. 

Expect even more from Johnson in 2013. 

For one, Johnson has looked as explosive as ever in camp, according to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean:

Anyone who’s been to camp probably wasn’t shocked when Johnson ripped off a 58-yard touchdown run against the Redskins on Thursday. He has looked fresher and more explosive than he was last season. He’s catching the ball better than he did last season. Either Johnson is benefiting from having more running backs in camp to share the workload, or he’s motivated by their presence. Whatever the case, it’s a good sign for the Titans.

Johnson looks great, but it's the additions around him that could put him back in 2,000-yard territory. The addition of mauling left guard Andy Levitre, who ranked as the No. 10 overall guard in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), is already doing wonders for Johnson. 

The Titans did not stop there, beefing up the offensive line to help Johnson. The team also added run-blocking phenomenon Chance Warmack in the draft to play right guard and pave the way for CJ2K. 

Johnson's ability has always been there. The team around him has not. Now there are two elite run-blockers in front of him on each down. If Johnson receives upward of 300 carries, the nickname CJ2K could become relevant again. 


Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots 

ADP: 4.08

Fantasy owners are right to not trust Danny Amendola for health reasons. He is the guy who has missed 20 games over the past two seasons thanks to freak injuries. 

Injuries aside, you could do much worse than Amendola in the fourth round, and realistically he is a better value even earlier. 

As you are probably aware, the New England Patriots are in a bit of trouble offensively entering the 2013 season with Aaron Hernandez out of the picture and Rob Gronkowski dealing with a variety of his own injury issues. 

All of this means more targets for Amendola. He caught 63 passes for 666 yards and three scores in 11 games last season. That almost topped a career high he had in yards back in 2010 when he caught 85 balls for 689 yards—in 16 games. 

Why bring that up? Amendola played in a more vertical offense last year with Sam Bradford and almost topped his career numbers when compared with the lesser numbers he put up through more receptions in 2010 with a rookie Bradford under center. 

Point being, Amendola is about to see a major explosion in production now that Tom Brady is his quarterback and he's one of the major focal points of the offense. Head coach Bill Belichick has already called Amendola "very dependable."

You'd better believe he'll be just that as a fantasy player in 2013 as well. 


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