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Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Under-the-Radar Options You Need to Target

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Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Under-the-Radar Options You Need to Target
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The closing weeks of August signal the proverbial black smoke, as NFL fans everywhere know exactly what's on the horizon. While some may be focused on the NFL regular season, the time is now for fantasy football owners to unite and create their respective teams.

The question is, where should you be looking once the stars are gone?

That's a question that has defined fantasy football seasons since the phenomenon was created. While everyone knows where to find Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson, the saviors of your season can be found in the later rounds.

Players such as Danario Alexander, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris provided that punch in 2012.

It's never easy to find the diamonds in the rough, but that doesn't mean you can't do it. Certain veterans are in store for breakout campaigns after the departure of teammates at their position, while other inexperienced players simply aren't receiving their due.

Here are the players you need to target to build a title contender.

 

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
ADP135.3

Position: Quarterback

Age: 25

2012 Season Statistics

4,065 YDS, 54.8 CMP%, 27 TD, 17 INT; 39 ATT, 139 YDS, 10 FUM

 

According to ESPN, Josh Freeman finished 13th amongst quarterbacks in terms of fantasy football rating during the 2012 regular season. You may still be skeptical, but let me ease your mind with a critical fact that few are acknowledging.

Is Josh Freeman worth the risk?

Submit Vote vote to see results
Nine of Freeman's 17 interceptions happened during the final three weeks of the regular season, meaning he had 25 touchdowns to eight picks entering Week 15.

Love him or hate him, that makes Freeman a player who should at least be on your radar. What clinches him as a potential selection is the fact that his average draft position has him available in the 13th round of 10-team fantasy football drafts.

His average draft position is presently 135.3, per ESPN.

If you can land him after the 10th round when your stars are all but set, there's minimal risk. He topped 15 points in eight of his nine games from Week 6 to Week 14 and will be trusted to throw the ball in 2012 to alleviate pressure from Doug Martin.

Don't sleep on how much Kevin Ogletree will help as a slot receiver to work the short-to-intermediate game after he caught 32 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns with the Dallas Cowboys. Freeman has every tool to be big in 2013-14.

 

Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
ADP94.2

Position: Running Back

Age: 23

2012 Season Statistics

98 ATT, 475 YDS; 24 REC, 163 YDS

 

Every time I write Daryl Richardson's name, it seems as if I'm beating a dead horse and telling the world what it already knows. Just before that thought can process, however, ESPN reports that Richardson's average draft position has "improved" to 94.2.

If he is still available during the ninth round, don't even hesitate to take him.

He will be the starting running back for the St. Louis Rams, replacing Steven Jackson. During the 2012 season, Richardson displayed the upside of a starter, running for 475 yards on 98 carries and catching 24 receptions for 163 yards as the backup to an every-down back.

Even with scarce opportunity, the seventh round draft choice managed to impress.

Sam Bradford will throw the ball early and often, especially with the addition of rookie receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Fortunately, Richardson flashed the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and St. Louis will need to run to keep opposing defenses off Bradford's back.

Look for Richardson to have more than 1,000 yards of total offense during the 2012 season.

 

Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
ADP112.2

Position: Wide Receiver

Age: 26

2012 Season Statistics

44 REC, 626 YDS, 1 TD

 

Emmanuel Sanders finished the 2012 NFL regular season with 44 receptions for 626 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers may not be too impressive, but he was Ben Roethlisberger's fourth target behind Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and Mike Wallace.

As for why 2013 will be different, Miller is continuing to recover from a torn ACL, and Wallace is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.

If that's not enough, rookie running back Le'Veon Bell could miss six weeks with a Lisfranc injury, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. Bell was expected to start, which places a major question mark on Pittsburgh's running game and puts an even heavier burden on Roethlisberger to throw the ball.

No player will benefit quite as much as Sanders.

He is quicker than he is fast and uses his ability to find openings in an opposing defense to make plays. With the ball in his hands, he is shifty and displays the ability to thrive in Todd Haley's short-to-intermediate offense.

In both point-per-reception and standard leagues, he is a player worth targeting before you reach his average draft position of 112.2.

 

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
ADP105.6

Position: Quarterback

Age: 33

2012 Season Statistics

10 GP; 2,362 YDS, 58.1 CMP%, 12 TD, 10 INT; 62 ATT, 332 YDS, 1 TD

 

Michael Vick's health is a legitimate concern, as he played just 10 games in 2012 and plays behind an offensive line you couldn't pay the average player to trust. With that being said, he  has something on his side that makes him a fantasy gem.

Is Michael Vick worth the risk?

Submit Vote vote to see results
He is prepared to play in Chip Kelly's read-option offense.

Injuries aside, the biggest problem for Vick in 2012 was the fact that he's a dynamic playmaker who was attempting to thrive in a system that was catered to pocket passers. This isn't to say he can't throw, but it's acknowledges an important fact: He is at his best when he's free to create.

With Kelly at the helm, Vick will have a system that's tailored to his greatest strengths.

Drafting him does come with risk due to his health, but his ability to throw the deep ball and run the football make him valuable. With an average draft position of 105.6, per ESPN, that means 10-team leagues can find him in the 10th round.

If that's the case, this is a gamble worth taking.

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