Fantasy Football 2013: Deep Sleeper Rookies Poised to Explode

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2013

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) warms-up before the game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Finding a proper sleeper in fantasy football is an inexact science, so those owners who can semi-accurately predict deep sleepers have a major leg up on the competition. 

Deep sleeping rookies? That's something reserved for the best of the best. It is one thing to predict a guy will break out after a few years of solid production with the starter blocking the way gone. 

It is a whole different beast entirely to predict which rookies outside of the top-150 could have a major impact next year. 

As difficult as it is to sift through the rookies and their scenarios—and not high-publicity guys like Giovani Bernard—it can be a rewarding experience. 

What may look like a simple flyer taken on a rookie in the late rounds can turn into a league-winning selection—just ask owners who took a risk on Alfred Morris in 2012.

Here are three deep sleepers with impressive upside to target. 


Note: All fantasy rankings courtesy of


Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Player Ranking: 70th RB, 202nd Overall 

Knile Davis has completely fallen off the radar in the football world, but even more so in the realm of fake football. 

The thing is, Davis is already the No. 2 back on the depth chart in Kansas City after being selected in the third round according to ESPN:

Knile Davis, the Chiefs' third-round draft pick, stepped into Charles' place with the first-team offense for the remainder of Monday's practice. Davis had already moved past veteran Shaun Draughn and second-year running back Cyrus Gray to No. 2 on the depth chart.

The report goes on to state that Davis has shown "game-breaking speed and uncanny elusiveness" thus far, which he has already shown in the preseason. In Week 2 he rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 31 yards. Week 1 saw him return a kick 79 yards on his only opportunity. 

Davis is a backup to a star, of course. Remember that Jamaal Charles played in only two games in 2011 and has already had an injury scare this preseason

The rookie will receive plenty of opportunities to contribute while the coaching staff monitors Charles' workload. Add together opportunities on the ground, through the air thanks to head coach Andy Reid and on kick returns and Davis may be the sleeper rookie to own in all leagues. 


Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers 

Player Ranking: 74th WR, 206th Overall 

Pittsburgh's third-round rookie receiver Markus Wheaton is a better fit for the Steelers' offense than former star Mike Wallace

That's not speculation; it comes straight from the mouths of the Steelers' coaching staff, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In addition, the Steelers believe they have a receiver -- rookie Markus Wheaton, a third-round choice -- who could be a better fit in their offense than Wallace, who was often referred to as a "one-trick pony" by coach Mike Tomlin.

Wheaton is running behind Jerricho Cotchery on the Pittsburgh depth chart right now, but, from the sounds of it, that will change. Wheaton caught three passes for 52 yards in Week 2 preseason action. One reception went for 45 yards after Wheaton made a mockery of the corner tasked with keeping up. 

As Rotoworld points out, Wheaton looks like the fastest receiver on the field when he's actually on it. If that is the case, the Steelers have a new deep threat to stretch the field on every down. Rotoworld experts Josh Norris and Lance Zierlein took to Twitter to offer praise for Wheaton as well:

Rookies do not usually get put in such positive situations. Wheaton will be the starting slot receiver with the 31-year-old Cotchery only catching 17 passes a year ago and losing speed. 


Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints 

Player Ranking: 87th WR, 243 Overall 

There is no deep-sleeping rookie in a better situation than Oklahoma product and New Orleans fifth-round receiver Kenny Stills. 

Stills is the starter in the slot for New Orleans now that it has been vacated by Joe Morgan, who tore his ACL and will miss the season. After the injury, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote that Stills was easily the No. 3 receiver:

Until further notice. Right now, the rookie from Oklahoma would get the first call in nickel packages. Veteran Steve Breaston likely will press him for the spot once he's acclimated to the offense, but Stills has a significant lead at this point.

Duncan is not the only one to offer praise. Drew Brees had some nice things to say as well via Adam Schefter:

That was before the preseason started. Since then, Stills has played in two games, been targeted seven times and brought in five receptions for 86 yards. 

Those numbers do not jump off the page, but they will only improve once the regular season starts and Brees is the only quarterback throwing the ball. Last year's slot receiver in New Orleans was a split between Morgan and Devery Henderson, both of whom combined for 32 receptions, 695 yards and four touchdowns. 

Do not expect there to be a split this year. Stills has a chance to make some solid contributions, especially when compared to how low the fake football world has him ranked. 


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