Identifying sleepers who will help your fantasy football team when injuries hit and the going gets tough is a critical part of building a championship team.
Though they're not as flashy as the NFL's premier players at their positions, some veterans will provide excellent value in the latter rounds of your fantasy draft.
These players are proven professionals who will inevitably come to your rescue at some point in the season when your starters get injured or fail to produce.
Here are a few of the top veterans you must consider drafting in Round 10 or later as insurance for your fantasy football team.
Fred Jackson, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
Lost in the hype surrounding C.J. Spiller is Fred Jackson, who missed more than half the 2012 season with knee injuries. Spiller deserves the hype, and if he stays healthy he'll likely be one of the top fantasy running backs in the league.
However, should Spiller get injured, Jackson will be called into duty to carry the load. Even if Spiller stays healthy all season, Chris Mortensen of ESPN believes Jackson will have opportunities to run wild too:
CJ Spiller may be a star but a healthy Fred Jackson will get his yards for #Bills, too.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 16, 2013
And given Spiller's history of dealing with nagging injuries—namely his hamstring and shoulder—it's not crazy to think he'll end up missing a game or more this season.
Jackson's production took a bit of a nosedive last season. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2012 after putting together three terrific seasons, averaging 4.5, 4.2 and then 5.5 yards per carry with 3,951 yards and 15 total touchdowns from 2009-11.
So far during the preseason, Jackson hasn't looked sharp, but he's been playing with the second and third units on offense. Given another opportunity to play with the starters on a consistent basis, Jackson will return to form.
Golden Tate, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks
While fans celebrated the Percy Harvin-to-Seahawks trade, Golden Tate quietly went about his business under the radar. He's best known for "catching" the game-winning touchdown pass in last year's "Fail Mary" game against the Green Bay Packers.
Fantasy football experts know how productive Tate was last year, however, as illustrated by Chet of TheFakeFootball.com:
Golden Tate was third in yards per target and 2nd in fantasy points per target for WRs last season— Chet (@Chet_G) August 21, 2013
With training camp in the books and the regular season approaching, the former Golden Domer is someone you should be targeting as a late-round addition to your fantasy football team.
Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com noted Tate "continued to look like he’s primed for a breakout season" after the team's second preseason game—a sentiment that has been nearly unanimous throughout the local media in Seattle.
Which sleeper is most likely to have a huge season?
A player who has improved in each of his first three seasons as a pro, Tate caught 45 passes for 688 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
With Harvin rehabbing his hip injury for at least the first six games of the season, Tate will continue to be one of Russell Wilson's go-to receivers this year, and he's poised to put his 2012 numbers to shame.
Brent Celek, Tight End, Philadelphia Eagles
One player who doesn't get nearly enough credit from the national media is Brent Celek, who could have a huge season in Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, Celek has been a consistent producer for the Eagles, averaging 59.25 receptions for 744.25 yards and 4.5 touchdowns per season.
Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus recently noted that he's moving Celek up his board, and NFL.com's Chris Wesseling responded by pointing out Vick and Celek have developed some good chemistry:
Easily Vick's top target tonight RT @MikeClayNFL: Brent Celek has been creeping up my TE board. He's definitely a TE2. Every-down guy.— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) August 25, 2013
The Eagles are going to run the ball plenty under Kelly this year, but that actually works in Celek's favor. Back in July, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that Celek is "considered a blocking tight end."
Therefore, he'll end up finding himself wide open on many play-action passes, which figure to be heavily utilized for the Eagles this year.
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