Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Late-Round Gems That Will Steal the Show
Winning your fantasy football league requires making smart choices with your early picks, but landing late-round sleepers who produce is just as important to your success.
Injuries will inevitably force you to make adjustments during the course of the season.
Stocking up on players who may not have a history of producing or who are stuck behind starters can save you the trouble of trying to find replacements on the waiver wire.
Also, there will be times during the season where it'll be beneficial for you to bench a player or two who has been a consistent points producer, simply due to unfavorable matchups.
Here are a few hidden gems you should target in the late rounds—players who have a chance to become breakout stars at some point this season in the NFL and for your fantasy football team.
Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams
If not for the fact that the Rams play six games in the brutal NFC West, Richardson would be worth considering as a fringe RB2. He enters the season as the leading player to win the team's starting running back spot, as noted by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
One game into the preseason, Daryl Richardson has a strong hold on the starting job at running back. He hasn’t clinched the spot, but he’s getting close.
After the team's second preseason game, it seems clear by Isaiah Pead's underwhelming performance (11 carries for 19 yards) against the Green Bay Packers that Richardson will be the team's starter in Week 1 and throughout the season.
An explosive back with breakaway speed, Richardson isn't the same kind of punishing runner Steven Jackson was for the Rams. But he's a perfect fit for what the team is trying to accomplish now with Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Jared Cook spreading the field in the passing game.
Last season, as Jackson's backup, Richardson averaged 4.8 yards per carry, caught 24 passes and racked up 638 yards on 122 touches. He'll be targeted often in the passing game and should average at least 15-18 carries per game.
Pick Richardson up in the ninth round or later and stash him. He will likely struggle to produce consistently from week to week—especially when the Rams play the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
That said, he'll be a player you'll want to have available when the Rams take on teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 5), Tennessee Titans (Week 9) and Indianapolis Colts (Week 10)—among others.
Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Judging by early draft statistics, Roberts might be available on the waiver wire after your draft. According to ESPN.com, he's being selected late in the 15th round and is the 59th wide receiver being taken on average.
Based on Arizona's production last season in the passing game, it makes sense that Roberts is being looked over by most fantasy football owners.
But the Cardinals are going to look much different on offense this year.
Bruce Arians is the man who engineered Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts offense last year, and it's clear from the first two preseason games that Arizona's offense will be capable of moving the ball and putting up points in 2013.
Carson Palmer, though still prone to turning the ball over in the red zone, is a perfect trigger man for Arians' vertical passing attack. Roberts will be competing with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd for catches, but he's proved in the past to be a reliable receiver.
He's been making big plays in training camp, getting open deep, as illustrated by David Kadlubowski, who is a photographer for the Arizona Republic:
So far, in limited action this preseason, Roberts has hauled in three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. He'll be a major player in Arizona's passing attack and worth a late-round flier, at least.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Cutler and the Bears featured one of the least impressive passing attacks in the NFL last season, ranking No. 29 in the league while averaging just 187 yards per game with 21 touchdowns.
With numbers like that, Cutler was one of the least effective fantasy quarterbacks last season, but he's about to have a resurgence under new head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman.
Through two preseason games, Cutler has shown himself to be inconsistent, passing for one touchdown and two interceptions. But he's been mostly accurate with his passes, completing 10-of-13 passes for 94 yards, and the team has featured a running game that will help keep defenses off balance.
Brandon Marshall is a beast on the perimeter, and he'll be one of the top fantasy receivers this season. Playing opposite him is second-year man Alshon Jeffery, who has locked down the No. 2 spot, as noted by Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
With tight end Martellus Bennett roaming the middle of the field and running back Matt Forte making plays in the passing game out of the backfield, Cutler, who has had a dearth of talent to work with in the past, now has playmakers across the board.
Which sleeper will have the best season for fantasy football owners?
According to ESPN.com's averages, Cutler's being drafted near the end of the 12th round in standard leagues. He's going to be worth far more than that by the time the 2013 season has ended.
Pick him up in Round 10 or later if you land one of the top quarterbacks in the first five rounds and stash him on your bench. Or you could opt to stock up on receivers and running backs early and take a risk by drafting Cutler in Round 7 or 8.
Either way, you'll come out ahead in the end.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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