By the time the final couple rounds of a fantasy football draft roll around, most owners are thinking about how much pizza, wings and beer they're going to consume afterward. While that is undoubtedly an important thing to consider, you can get a significant leg up on your opponents if you remain focused and steal some productive players late.
In fantasy football, a sleeper is considered any player who is taken in the mid-to-late rounds and produces beyond expectations. There is a big difference between a regular sleeper and a deep sleeper, though.
A deep sleeper is a player who is barely even on the fantasy radar, but ends up becoming an important piece to your team over the course of the season, and here are three such players who you should consider drafting when the pickings get slim late in your fantasy draft.
Justin Forsett, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fantasy owners dig feverishly through a never-ending pile of moribund running backs late in their drafts, in hopes of finding one that can actually contribute to their team. That is often an exercise in futility since there are so few backs in the league that actually put up useful numbers. But injuries can change everything.
With that in mind, Jacksonville Jaguars backup running back Justin Forsett is certainly a player worth targeting in the latter stages of your draft.
Which deep sleeper will have the best 2013 season?
Forsett is just 27 and is entering his fifth year in the league, so he could be poised for a breakout campaign if given ample playing time. The Jags obviously won't hand him the starting job by any means, but Maurice Jones-Drew missed 10 games due to a foot injury last season, and he is far from durable at this point.
Plus, with Jacksonville's quarterback situation being in dire straits, the Jaguars are going to lean on MJD heavily this season. Because of that, it wouldn't be overly surprising to see him get injured again.
If Forsett gets an opportunity, he has the skill set necessary to be a fantasy starter. As a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, he racked up 969 total yards and scored five touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes, which means he can be a major asset in point-per-reception leagues. Forsett was also a force as a change-of-pace back late last year for the Houston Texans, as he averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Speculating on an MJD injury isn't a bad bet, and Forsett is the perfect insurance policy.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Julian Edelman has been the consummate utility player for the New England Patriots over the past several years, as he has been a receiver, a return man and even a defensive back at times.
However, with Wes Welker now in Denver, Brandon Lloyd on the free-agent market, and Rob Gronkowski still on the shelf, head coach Bill Belichick absolutely needs one of his receivers to step up in a big way this season.
The Patriots did bring Danny Amendola in via free agency this offseason, and he should serve in Welker's old role, but quarterback Tom Brady will need more weapons than that to emerge.
It seems like fantasy owners are banking on a rookie like Aaron Dobson or Kenbrell Thompkins to have a big year, but they are far from established. Edelman already has a rapport with Brady, and he has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, so he should have the upper hand.
Despite that, though, there is some concern about Edelman's standing on the team, according to Mike Clay of Rotoworld:
Julian Edelman played zero snaps with the starters in the opener. He, for now, is Danny Amendola's backup. #Patriots— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) August 13, 2013
While Edelman wasn't utilized in the team's first preseason game, there is a definite level of trust between him and Belichick since he has been on the team for four years. Truth be told, Brady hasn't done much with his outside receivers since Randy Moss left town, as Lloyd, Chad Johnson and others have fizzled to a certain degree. With that in mind, Edelman should be a consistent target while working primarily from the slot.
Somebody has to rack up catches and yardage in the Pats' offense, and Edelman could be that guy.
Rob Housler, TE, Arizona Cardinals
The tight end position is a total crapshoot this year, as Jimmy Graham is head and shoulders above the rest. After him, Gronkowski has injury concerns, and the mid-tier guys like Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis are far from locks to produce consistently.
With that said, conventional wisdom dictates that somebody is going to step up and become a big-time contributor. There are a number of guys who can potentially do it, but Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler is near the top of that list.
Housler is one of the most athletic tight ends in the league, and he made big strides in his second season last year. Housler caught 45 passes for 417 yards in 2012, despite a messy quarterback situation, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with a real quarterback. He'll have that opportunity this year with Carson Palmer at the helm.
In addition, Housler has been turning heads at training camp, according to Mike Sando of ESPN.com:
Hard to miss TE Rob Housler at Cardinals camp. Buzz about him in locker room too.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) July 29, 2013
Palmer isn't the same quarterback he once was and now relies largely on check-downs, but that should be beneficial to Housler. Tight end Brandon Myers came from out of nowhere to catch 79 passes for 806 yards with the Oakland Raiders last year, and that was largely Palmer's doing.
Rather than wasting an early pick on a guy like Jermichael Finley, Jared Cook or some other tight end who may never break out, owners may be better off waiting until the final rounds and selecting a guy like Housler.
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