2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers
The term "sleeper" is becoming a misnomer. With the NFL Network, social media and a fantasy football-crazed population, very few players fly under the radar any more.
Some of the guys on this list are still largely undetected. But a better label for most of them would be "later-round undervalued players." Regardless, these are guys you should be targeting in your fantasy football drafts.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams
If any QB had reason to complain about his team's offseason moves … well, it wasn't Bradford.
St. Louis did everything within its fiscal power to surround the franchise guy with talent. By our estimation, they accomplished that goal. And then some.
TE Jared Cook and WR Tavon Austin add new dynamics to the passing attack. Cook threatens defenses vertically and poses a mismatch for any defender. Austin's short-area burst allows him to create separation in a flash.
The addition of Cook was probably enough to please Bradford. St. Louis already boasted 2 potential long-term starting WRs in Chris Givens and Brian Quick. We witnessed Givens' big-play ability last season. The 6'3, 220 pound Quick - still packed with promise after a quiet rookie year - isn't someone to abandon.
Nevertheless, Bradford will cope with throwing to his dynamic new teammates. And another new face should help their connection run smoothly: LT Jake Long.
The former Dolphin battled injuries for much of 2012. Consequently, Pro Football Focus graded him 46th among qualifying OTs. Now healthy, though, Long should return to his usual form. He's still just 28 years old.
As for Bradford, we've always believed in his talent. The former 1st-rounder possesses a sneaky-strong arm and plus accuracy. Poor decision-making has hurt him at times. Now playing with a loaded supporting cast, he should get better protection and find more open receivers.
Look for a more comfortable Bradford, too. For the first time in his career, he'll welcome back his OC from the previous season. Brian Schottenheimer will feature more shotgun looks in his 2nd year, an obvious move given their personnel.
Bradford finished 11th in the league in pass attempts last season with 551. That number could be set to rise, especially as the team moves on from RB Steven Jackson.
Currently, Bradford is coming off the board 23rd at QB. At that price, with his upside, he can't be ignored. Snag the 25-year-old as a member of your QB committee and watch him outperform expectations.
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs
OK, so he's not the best QB in the league -- no matter what Chiefs OC Doug Pederson might tell you. But the coach's hyperbole for his new passer indicates the team's belief in Smith. That follows the theme that has played out since late February. HC Andy Reid traded the 34th overall pick in 2013 and a conditional 3rd-rounder in 2014 -- which could become a 2nd-rounder -- to get Smith. He has also indicated that he won't stray from the pass-heavy scheme that helped turn Donovan McNabb into a fantasy star.
Over 9 seasons as Philly's starter, McNabb ranked among the top 10 in fantasy points per game 7 times. That included 4 seasons among the top 3 and 3 at #1. McNabb never ranked lower than 16th, and he played most of those years without Terrell Owens -- or any other WR of Dwayne Bowe's caliber.
Many still see a "bust" banner over Smith's head, but the guy has played well recently. A 59.3% career completion rate -- nearly identical to McNabb's (59.0%) -- masks a jump to 61.3% in 2011 and then 70.2% last year. Smith also threw 3 TDs for every INT over the past 2 seasons. He didn't play his way out of the Niners' job. He just got replaced by a super talent.
We don't expect fantasy-starter production from Smith, but he could certainly land inside the position's top 15. Bowe gives him a big, talented #1 target. Jon Baldwin brings impressive size and ability as well, if he can finally act on it. TE Travis Kelce provides an intriguing seam-stretching target. And there's always Jamaal Charles.
Smith will find plenty to work with in his new home and could fare well for your fantasy squad in a low-cost platoon. At the least, he's a mid-level QB2 with upside. Don't discount the mobility that helped Smith rank 9th among QBs in rushing yards in 2011.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
The fact that Palmer sits just 20th in our QB rankings speaks to the depth at the position. Palmer certainly has the upside to finish much higher, though. And he's a guy we'd recommend targeting as your QB2.
The 33-year-old still has plenty left. Palmer turned in an impressive 2012, considering the circumstances. Oakland's O-line finished 10th-worst in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades. The WR corps didn't have a single guy finish higher than 56th in PFF's overall WR rankings. Palmer's pass-catchers dropped 39 balls - 7th-most in the league.
Still, Palmer racked up 4,018 passing yards and 22 TDs. He completed 61.1% of his throws for 7.1 yards per attempt. All of those marks ranked among the top 15. Palmer finished 18th in fantasy points at the position.
Now he heads to a much better situation in Arizona. The Cardinals boast 2 WRs in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd that are more talented than anyone in Oakland. You could even argue that #3 WR Andre Roberts would be the top receiver for the Raiders. The Cards also have a burgeoning weapon in TE Rob Housler. He's more gifted than TE Brandon Myers, whom Palmer hooked up with 79 times last year.
It's HC Bruce Arians' offense that has us most excited about Palmer's 2013 fantasy outlook. Arians is known for an aggressive, vertical passing attack. His offenses have finished in the top half of the league in yards per pass attempt in 8 of 9 seasons. That includes 4 top-5 finishes over the past 6 years. Arians' squads have also finished in the top half of the league in pass plays of 40+ yards for 6 straight seasons.
Arians' most recent work came with the Colts last year. He had rookie QB Andrew Luck attempt the 5th most passes in the league. Luck also finished among the top 10 in completions (339) and passing yards (4,374). He ranked 8th among QBs in fantasy points.
Arians also helped QB Ben Roethlisberger post 4 top-15 fantasy finishes in 5 seasons.
Arians' offense is clearly QB friendly. And Palmer fits well in it. Arians called him "as pretty a deep-ball thrower as I've ever seen." Throw in an uber-talented group of pass-catchers, and you get top-15 fantasy upside. Palmer can currently be had in the 13th or 14th round of 12-team drafts. He's the 22nd QB off the board.
Jake Locker, QB, Titans
One type of sleeper is a talented but underachieving player that everyone has given up on. That's Locker.
Injury and inconsistency have marred his 1st 2 seasons. Coming off the bench in 2011, Locker flashed in limited action. He piled up 542 passing yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs in 5 appearances. He added another 56 yards and a score on the ground. Locker completed just 51.5% of his throws, though, and the coaching staff didn't have enough confidence to play him over veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Locker did enter 2012 as Tennessee's starter. But he missed 5 games and parts of others with a pair of left shoulder injuries. When Locker was on the field, he produced mixed results. He upped his completion rate to 56.4% but saw his yards per attempt drop to 6.9. Locker also managed just 10 TDs vs. 11 INTs. He rushed for 291 yards and a score but still finished just 30th in fantasy points per game among QBs.
In this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game, fantasy owners have essentially tossed Locker into the trash. Our ADP data from FantasyFootballCalculator.com has him outside the first 16 rounds of drafts. MyFantasyLeague.com has his 12-team ADP in the 22nd round as the 27th QB off the board.
You can pretty much wait until 1 of your last few picks to take a flier on Locker. He's well worth a gamble.
Locker's legs remain a major weapon. He averaged 26.5 rushing yards per game last year. That's a 16-game pace of 423, which would have ranked 4th among QBs in 2012. Locker's 7.1 yards per carry over the past 2 seasons leads all QBs with at least 30 attempts. Remember that this guy blazed a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at 6'3 and 231 pounds.
Of course, Locker will need to improve as a passer to become a reliable fantasy option. That's certainly feasible, though. The guy is only 25 and entering his 3rd pro season. We've seen the light come on for plenty of QBs around that time.
The Titans have surrounded Locker with an electric group of playmakers. Kenny Britt - if he can stay healthy like he is now - is a legit #1 WR. Kendall Wright turned in an encouraging debut season. And rookie Justin Hunter is a top-notch talent. RB Chris Johnson is capable of taking any screen or swing pass to the house.
New OC Dowell Loggains is reportedly simplifying the offense for Locker. They've also experimented with the read-option and pistol formation. The Titans seem to be looking for Locker to use his legs even more this year.
If Locker puts it all together, he has top 10 fantasy upside. That type of ceiling is worth snatching up at the end of your draft. If Locker ends up busting, simply dump him and move on.
Andre Brown, RB, Giants
The Giants listed Brown and David Wilson as co-starters on their initial "unofficial" depth chart last week, which comes as no surprise. We've expected all offseason that the duo would share backfield work. We certainly like Wilson as the top fantasy candidate there, but the Giants will provide plenty of opportunities for both players.
New York ranked among the league's top 13 teams in rushing attempts 4 of the past 6 years. The only 2 times they didn't over that span came in 2011 and 2012 -- with Brandon Jacobs wearing down and leaving and Ahmad Bradshaw battling recurring foot injuries. HC Tom Coughlin and crew couldn't have been happy with those rushing performances, and showed as much by dumping Bradshaw. He'd surely like to get back to what worked so well with Jacobs and Tiki Barber, Derrick Ward and then Bradshaw.
The Giants gave 125+ carries to 2 backs in a season 5 of the past 6 years. In the 5 seasons before 2012, the team's #2 back averaged 153.8 rushing attempts a year. That total would have ranked 30th among NFL RBs last season. In Jacobs' old role, Brown figures to get primary goal-line work. Plus he catches the ball better and provides more quickness than the ex-Giant.
Jacobs regularly performed in the RB2 range for fantasy owners. Even in 2010, when Bradshaw nabbed a career-high 276 carries, Jacobs ranked top 30 among fantasy backs across formats. Brown's quite capable of outperforming his RB34 average draft position. That upside will only increase if Wilson gets hurt or fails to deliver on his promising ability.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the annual lament over the undervaluing of Thomas ...
Come on, seriously? The 48th RB off the board on average so far? Did someone catch this guy mouthing off at a Kenny Chesney concert or something? Thomas finished 4 of the past 5 seasons ranked 33rd or better at his position in standard scoring. The only time he didn't was in 2010, when he played just 6 games. He ranked even better in PPR formats each season. And Thomas has yet to reach 150 carries in a year.
We heard the mild offseason buzz on Mark Ingram. He's the healthiest he's been since he entered the league. HC Sean Payton has "high expectations." Well, did he have mediocre expectations after trading back into Round 1 to draft Ingram? Because that's the level of production the 3rd-year vet has delivered.
Thomas is simply a better player. Pro Football Focus graded him the 4th-best RB in the league last year -- 9th as a runner and tied for 3rd in receiving. Ingram finished a solid 16th in rushing while offering nothing as a receiver. Thomas ranked 14th (DYAR) and 6th (DVOA) among RBs in Football Outsiders' 2 primary measures of player performance. Ingram checked in 18th and 19th, respectively.
That's not a big gap in either category. But Ingram's 11-spot lead in ADP among RBs right now sure is. We can't fully predict how the Saints will deploy both backs, but we'll gladly draft the more talented and proven runner 1st -- and well ahead of where everyone else is.
Zac Stacy, RB, Rams
The NFL's most wide-open backfield resides in St. Louis. Stacy, a rookie 5th-round pick, has a chance to change that.
This kid set Vanderbilt records for rushing yards (3,143) and rushing TDs (30). Vandy jokes aside, it's an impressive accomplishment. He certainly carries the physical skill set to match.
Despite standing just 5'9, Stacy packs nearly 220 pounds onto his frame. That's a Maurice Jones-Drew-like stature. A 40 time in the 4.5s and a 6.70-second 3-cone drill - 2nd best at February's Combine - depict a guy with good speed and agility.
Stacy's ability to run between the tackles separates him from the competition. Both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson are leaner RBs best utilized in space. Richardson is someone HC Jeff Fisher said he "has to" highlight more in the passing game. Pead's ability to translate pure talent into solid RB play is still in question after he struggled in limited time last year.
Besides a power advantage, Stacy is also the superior pass protector. That's a huge edge to hold, as the Rams are expected to feature of a ton of shotgun formations. St. Louis' talented young pass-catchers will only help open up running lines.
So who will be the guy? Recent chatter out of Rams camp points to a committee. Stacy can prove fantasy relevant without a feature role, though. A potential goal line force, 12+ touches per game would keep him in the flex/RB3 discussion. He's a strong late value with a current ADP in the 12th round as the 50th RB off the board.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
Here's the usual fantasy cycle for early-round WRs:
1. Overvalued in rookie campaign
2. Disappoints in rookie campaign
3. Undervalued in 2nd season
Floyd is through the first 2 steps. The 13th overall pick of the 2012 draft was a mid-round pick in fantasy drafts last summer. Plenty of people expected him to step right in as Larry Fitzgerald's complement. But Floyd spent most of the season as a reserve. He caught just 8 balls in his first 7 games. He topped 50 yards just twice all year. Floyd finished 69th among WRs in fantasy points.
Now Floyd is underrated. He's the 44th WR off the board with a 12-team ADP of 10.05. That's despite his top-notch talent, his clear-cut starter status and offseason upgrades at QB and HC.
Floyd spent last year trying to catch passes from Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer. The Cardinals finished 28th in passing yards, 31st in TDs and dead last in INTs and yards per attempt. Pro Football Focus graded Arizona's pass offense worst in the league by a wide margin. Floyd might have seen better QB play at Notre Dame.
Carson Palmer represents a major upgrade. The 33-year-old can still get it done. He tossed for 4,000 yards on a bad Raiders team last year. PFF ranked him 14th in their QB pass rankings.
Floyd will also be operating in a vertical offense that suits his game. New HC Bruce Arians likes to push the ball downfield. His offenses have finished in the top half of the league in yards per pass attempt in 8 of 9 seasons. That includes 4 top-5 finishes over the past 6 years. Arians' squads have also finished in the top half of the league in pass plays of 40+ yards for 6 straight seasons.
Floyd has the skill set to thrive as a deep threat. He goes 6'3 and 220 pounds with 4.43 speed. His 36.5-inch vertical makes him an ideal jump-ball target.
Floyd certainly flashed during his rookie campaign. He went for 80 yards on 5 grabs in Week 9. And then he exploded for an 8-166-1 line in the season finale. Floyd topped Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts in receiving average (12.5) and posted a better catch rate than Fitz (52.3%).
The 2nd-year WR has been a standout all offseason. Arians called him a "bright young star" shortly after being hired. "He's physical, he's big, he's active," Arians added. "I loved him coming out [of Notre Dame]."
The Cardinals' official site noted in June that Floyd has made a "big leap" in his 2nd NFL season.
Arians agrees. "I am really happy with him," he said. "I see him making leaps and bounds getting better. He's very serious about what he does. He doesn't like to make mistakes. He's totally bought in and if he just continues to improve his fundamentals he's another guy who can have a breakout year."
Floyd has the talent. And now he has the supporting cast. He has an excellent shot to produce as a WR3 this season. And you can get him at a WR4 price.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
Even Brandon Marshall doesn't want to see Brandon Marshall approach his target load from last season. After basically a lost rookie season, Jeffery appears ready to grab his share.
Marshall told the Chicago Tribune that his young teammate was too "soft" in 2012. But Jeffery "really invested" in getting better this offseason, according to WRs coach Mike Groh. That included 6 weeks of working out with Marshall in Florida and more time on his own at the Fit Speed Athletic Performance training facility. Now Marshall says the 2nd-year wideout is a "beast."
The only question with Jeffery has always been his work ethic. The rededication on that front sets him up to break out under new HC Marc Trestman, whose Montreal Alouettes ranked among the CFL's top 2 in pass offense each of his 5 seasons there.
Jeffery's 6'3, 216-pound frame makes him an attractive red-zone target, and his 16.6-yard career receiving average in college speaks to his ability to get downfield. That ability matches up nicely with QB Jay Cutler, who boasts 1 of the NFL's strongest arms and the mentality to take shots in the passing game.
We have Jeffery projected outside of starter range -- 43rd in standard scoring -- but still 7 spots ahead of his WR50 ADP. He's fully capable of outperforming our projection, though, and turning into a fantasy WR3 this year.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers
LaFell is essentially an afterthought in 2013 fantasy drafts. Consider us confused.
Sure, the 3rd-round pick from 2010 pick hasn't cracked 50 receptions, 700 yards or 5 TDs through 3 NFL seasons. But that doesn't mean he lacks upside heading into September.
Just look at his 44-677-4 line from 2012. While underwhelming, each total marked an improvement from 2011. And it should have been better.
He missed Week 9 contest because of a concussion. He also sat out Week 14 with turf toe, an injury that carried over to the following Sunday. LaFell played just 23 snaps that game and didn't garner a single target. Essentially, he was inactive.
With those details in hand, LaFell's 3rd year - at least on a per-game basis - becomes more encouraging. There's reason to believe the 26-year-old can grow his numbers significantly in 2013.
LaFell entered the NFL with questions about his hands. Yet over the last 2 seasons, he's dropped only 5 total balls. A 3rd year with QB Cam Newton should only continue to grow their chemistry.
A scan of Carolina's other receivers turns up little. Domenik Hixon was an offseason depth add. Same for Ted Ginn, who's no more than a situational deep threat.
Veteran Steve Smith remains a viable #1 WR in real football terms. At 34 years old, though, he could start to decline at any time. TE Greg Olsen is the only other established receiver on the roster.
HC Ron Rivera is taking notice of LaFell's desire for that to change this season.
"Brandon continues to get better and better," HC Ron Rivera said in training camp. "He has solidified himself as our #2 wide receiver."
The timing is perfect for LaFell. His rookie contract is set to expire after the season, and a breakthrough year will surely land him a hefty raise. The LSU product is just hitting his prime years.
He's currently going in the 14th round of most drafts. At that price, we're happy to roster such a talented guy with a golden opportunity. Target him as an upside WR4 on draft day.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions
The Lions are so desperate for a dependable #2 WR that they've started raving about Chaz Schilens this summer. But Broyles is the upside play in Detroit.
He'd likely be going much higher than his current 12.02 ADP already if not for his December right ACL tear. The injury followed the left ACL tear that ended his senior season at Oklahoma prematurely in 2011. That experience certainly couldn't have hurt in his latest rehab stint, and it might have helped.
Broyles gained clearance to return for the start of training camp and reportedly got through the 1st week without missing a snap. As a rookie, Broyles didn't see more than 10 snaps in a game until Week 7, but then he caught a solid 21 passes for 307 yards over 6 games before his Week 13 injury.
Assuming he's ready for the start of this season, Broyles projects as an ideal slot WR in the league's pass-heaviest offense from last season. The Lions set an NFL record for pass attempts in 2012 and certainly aren't about to lean too far back the other way. Broyles left Oklahoma as the all-time FBS leader in career receptions.
He might have to shove aside veteran Nate Burleson to reach his full scoring potential, but a healthy Broyles should turn into a key offensive piece in Detroit. His PPR ceiling is hard to gauge for 2013 ... only because it's so high. He's an attractive WR4 in PPR drafts this year and an excellent WR5.
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants
You know who hasn't impressed during Giants camp? WR Hakeem Nicks. That's because he's barely taken the field while resting a groin injury. Nicks has downplayed the ailment and said he's merely doing the "smart thing" to get back to full health. Meanwhile, HC Tom Coughlin has grown increasingly frustrated with a guy who no-showed through much of the offseason program.
You know who's just fine with that whole situation? Randle. With Nicks missing, the New York Daily News has dubbed Randle the #1 star of camp so far. He has taken nearly all of the 1st-team snaps and delivered "sometimes spectacular performance."
The Giants like to run the ball more than they did the past 2 seasons and likely will if RBs David Wilson and Andre Brown remain healthy and productive. That would limit the opportunities for the 3rd WR, which Randle will be whenever Nicks and Victor Cruz are healthy. Still, when they ranked 17th in the league in pass attempts in 2010, Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith all caught 48+ balls.
Manningham exploded for a 60-944-9 line that ranked top 19 among WRs across fantasy formats that season, thanks largely to Smith missing 7 games. Randle might not bring quite that high a ceiling, but Nicks' extensive injury history and Eli Manning's dependability help provide similar upside.
We mentioned Randle as a not-so-obvious handcuff, but you should consider him a standalone value as well at his 13.09 ADP. At the least, he'll serve as a potential bye-week fill-in capable of a TD in any game.
Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers
Let's start with the downside: health. Brown missed all of last season with a broken ankle. A quad injury limited him through training camp the year before. And he's dealing with a bum hamstring now. That has significantly hampered his development and opportunity.
But when he's been on the field, Brown has done nothing but impress each of his 2 coaching staffs. Brown's impressive vertical allows him to play bigger than his 5'11, 184-pound frame. He has also displayed good hands and a penchant for creating separation late in his routes.
Before this summer's injury, observers had deemed Brown the offense's top "playmaker." That should position him well for a starting job in HC Mike McCoy's 1st season. The former Broncos OC has consistently praised Brown's ability even while easing him back in after last year's injury.
Brown has climbed draft boards so far this year and now sits 42nd among fantasy WRs in ADP, going at the top of Round 10. We're plenty comfy with him in that range -- especially if he can get over the hammy trouble. A healthy Brown would carry WR2 fantasy upside in an offense that needs rebuilding.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets
Volume. It's a common word in fantasy circles. It's also one likely to propel Kerley to sneaky statistics this season.
We won't oversell this 3rd-year WR's talent. Standing 5'9, he relies on sharp cuts and keen change-of-direction skills - not deep speed. We certainly won't tout the Jets passing game either. But don't underestimate the power of volume.
Kerley finished 44th among WRs last season in PPR formats thanks to 88 targets. He snagged 56 balls for 827 yards, adding 2 TDs. Combine an acceptable 4 drops with QB Mark Sanchez's struggles, and a catch rate of 63.6% suddenly looks elite.
His 2012 production does come with a caveat. WR Santonio Holmes lasted just 4 games before suffering a brutal foot injury. That obviously thrust Kerley into a larger role. But after his performance last season, we'd be shocked if they lightened his load.
After all, who else can they trust? Holmes remains out indefinitely because of his slow recovery from foot surgeries. Recent signee Braylon Edwards received scant interest in free agency after just 33 catches over the last 2 seasons.
Second-year man Stephen Hill, while loaded with physical talent, is still raw. His durability remains a concern, too. Same for RB Chris Ivory, a back absent pass-catching chops. TE Dustin Keller left for Miami. That's a lot of production to replace.
Fantasy naysayers will point to the Jets' QB situation as an upside-killer. But Kerley's strength in the short-passing game will mitigate the impact of his signal-caller. Besides, recent reports out of Jets camp indicate rookie Geno Smith is on the fast track to starting Week 1. (We'll see if he's any better than Sanchez.)
According to My Fantasy League, Kerley is currently the 77th WR off the board in 12-team PPR drafts. Names like Justin Hunter and Jacoby Jones are going ahead of him, along with teammates Holmes and Hill. That's simply inexcusable. Take advantage of others' perception of this passing game and grab Kerley at a discount.
Rob Housler, TE, Cardinals
We're all in on the Cardinals' pass offense this year. QB Carson Palmer and WR Michael Floyd are featured above. You know how we feel about WR Larry Fitzgerald. Housler is the final member of the Fantastic 4.
After a quiet 2011 rookie campaign, Housler displayed serious signs of growth last year. He hauled in 45 balls for 417 yards. Those numbers don't jump off the page (neither do his 0 TDs), but keep in mind the situation. The Cardinals trotted out 1 of the worst passing games in the league last year, ranking 28th in yards, 31st in TDs and last in INTs and yards per attempt. Housler finished 4th on the team in receiving yards and tied for 3rd in catches.
More promising was the way he finished the season. After being held to 3 catches or fewer in each of his first 6 games, Housler posted 4+ in 6 of his final 9. That included 7- and 8-catch outings. From Week 12 to Week 15 (he got hurt in Week 16 and missed the finale), Housler was 6th among TEs in catches.
He's capable of much more in 2013.
Housler got a big upgrade at QB in Carson Palmer. More importantly, he got a HC who loves getting his TEs involved in the passing game.
Calling the shots in Indianapolis last year, Bruce Arians fed TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener 109 targets. They combined for 71 catches, 802 yards and 5 TDs. That's top-10 production.
TE Heath Miller produced a pair of top-10 fantasy finishes in Arians' 5 seasons in Pittsburgh.
Housler might be more physically gifted than Miller, Allen and Fleener. The 6'5, 250-pounder ripped a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. That speed translated in college, where Housler averaged 16+ yards per catch in each of his final 2 seasons at Florida Atlantic.
The Cardinals are sky-high on their 3rd-year TE.
"Rob Housler is an emerging star in my opinion, creating mismatches in the slot and outside," GM Steve Keim said earlier this offseason.
Arians revealed that he considered drafting Housler and turning him into a WR when he was with the Steelers. "I think the sky is the limit as far as where he can get talent-wise," Arians said during June minicamp.
Housler has been creating a "buzz" in training camp, according to insider Mike Sando. "Big plays. Fast," Sando added.
Our ADP data has Housler going undrafted in the first 16 rounds. My Fantasy League has him at 18.06 as the 23rd TE off the board. He's essentially being ignored in fantasy drafts. We like him to finish as a top 15 TE - with the potential to crack the top 12.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars
Glance over Lewis' career numbers, and you'll see a guy largely undeserving of fantasy attention.
His first 4 seasons produced a combined 7 scores. He exploded in 2010, snaring 10 TDs en route to a top 5 fantasy finish. We quickly learned that wasn't sustainable. Lewis' totals over the last 2 seasons read 91-1,000-4.
He tanked in 2011 while distracted by a stressful custody battle over his daughter.
"People from the outside don't necessarily know," he said. "They think we're machines and think we can't be altered by real-life situations. It's one thing for adversity to hit, but I've never had a daughter before. It's a situation that hit me way more than I thought it would."
The numbers reflect a player whose head wasn't in the game. Lewis tallied a meager 51.3% catch rate while dropping 6 passes. Of course, poor QB play didn't help.
Lewis misplayed another 6 balls last season, but his catch rate rose to a terrific 69.3%. He slipped to 77 targets, though, after 85 and 88 the previous 2 seasons.
Why? Jacksonville's banged-up O-line required the 6'6, 260-pounder to block. With the unit now healthy - and fortified by #2 overall pick OT Luke Joeckel - Lewis should be free to run more routes.
New OC Jedd Fisch is certainly on board with that idea.
"We need him to be more than just a blocker," Fisch said. "We're trying to use this [training] camp to see what he does best. There's a lot of positives. He's 6'6 and 260 pounds. When you have a guy like that, you have to find ways to get him the ball."
That shouldn't be a problem in 2013, especially with WR Justin Blackmon suspended for 4 games.
Lewis' ADP currently hovers in the late 15th round, putting him in the thick of TE2 range. Despite his recent production and current supporting cast, don't dismiss his ability to regain top 12 status.