print

Super Sleepers

We posted our 2013 Sleepers on Monday.  Those guys are middle- or late-round gems worth rostering in all fantasy football leagues. 

These Super Sleepers have tougher paths to fantasy value.  But each carries intriguing upside.  They’re worth stashing on your bench in leagues of 12+ teams – or Draft Masters setups


E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills

Manuel could be a much better fantasy QB than real-life QB in 2013.

A couple of years ago, we pegged Cam Newton as a sleeper.  We told you that his rushing ability would make him a sneaky fantasy producer.  Of course, we didn’t expect him to throw for 4,051 yards and 21 TDs.  That turned him from a valuable sleeper to a straight-up stud.

But even if we take away a whopping 1,000 passing yards and 6 TDs, Newton still would have finished 2011 ranked 5th among QBs in fantasy points.  That’s the type of impact QB rushing numbers can have.

Back to Manuel.  Like Newton, he’s capable of making an immediate impact on the ground.  He ran for 461 yards and 8 TDs over his 2 starting seasons at Florida State.  Manuel ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the Combine.  That was 2nd among this year’s QB crop – and just .06 seconds slower than Newton.

And Manuel is a big boy.  He checks in at 6’5 and 237 pounds.  He’s capable of being a threat around the goal line. 

Manuel won’t approach Newton’s 706-yard, 14-TD rookie-year rushing output.  But 400+ yards and a handful of scores seem doable.

Now, Manuel is raw as a passer.  His accuracy and decision-making need work.  Of course, we heard the same things about Newton back in 2011.  Maybe Manuel surprises us all with his passing production.

He doesn’t need to, though.  His rushing numbers alone could make him a viable fantasy spot starter.  We especially like him in Draft Masters leagues, where Manuel could start a handful of games for you.

Kevin Kolb?  We don’t see him as a real threat.  He was being out-played by Manuel in training camp and then went down with a knee injury.  Expect Manuel to pull away as he gets more comfortable.  The rookie has a good chance to be Buffalo’s Week 1 starter.  If not, he should be under center by October.


Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks

Sometimes you just gotta bet on raw, unadulterated talent.  That’s the case with Michael.

This guy is the total package.  Michael is built like a Mack truck at 5’10 and 220 pounds.  He lit up the Combine, finishing among the top 4 RBs in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.  He ran the 40 in 4.54 seconds – a solid time for a stout, muscle-bound back.

Michael’s gaudy combination of size and athleticism translates to the field.  A Seahawks scout said that he simply “jumps off the tape.  He's a really explosive back ... runs through arm tackles, real good balance on contact ... he's got a lot of talent.”

Michael dropped to the end of the 2nd round of April’s draft because of attitude concerns and durability questions.  He landed in Texas A&M HC Kevin Sumlin’s doghouse last year, finishing with just 88 carries.  Michael’s 2010 sophomore season ended with a broken leg.  He tore his ACL in 2011.

Michael was electric when he was on the field for A&M, though.  He finished his college career with 5.3 yards per carry.  Michael had runs of 40, 44, 48, 67 and 97 yards. 

Seattle certainly didn’t need to spend a 2nd-round pick on Michael.  They’re set at RB with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.  But GM John Schneider simply couldn’t pass on an elite talent.

“He’s our kind of runner,” Schneider said. “He’s a tough, intense, up-field, one-cut guy. A very good football player.”

The biggest issue for Michael this year will be playing time.  Lynch is obviously locked in as the Seahawks’ lead back.  And Turbin – coming off a solid rookie season – will remain in the mix for backup duties.

But Turbin has been sidelined since camp opened with a foot injury.  Michael has taken advantage of the opportunity.

“He’s done nothing but good stuff,” HC Pete Carroll said of Michael’s performance.  “Very quick, lightning quick.  A really good worker.  He finishes, he makes an impression to you all the time about he’s willing to bust his tail and get down the field and finish runs and finish blocks and all that stuff.  He’s really fast, too, and he’s picking things up so he’s doing good.”

Michael has the type of talent that could force the Seahawks to get him on the field.  We could see him earning 8-10 touches per game behind Lynch.  And if Beast Mode goes down, Michael could really bust out.  He’s well worth stashing at the end of your bench.


Mike Goodson, RB, Jets

It's tough to get excited about Goodson at any point in your fantasy draft right now, seeing as how he hasn't even reported to camp.  We can't know what the Jets plan for him at this point, because they're not saying anything.  At the same time, they could have easily gotten rid of him already if they wanted to.

No one on the DS staff has a law degree, so let's just focus on the field.  When Goodson's there, he brings explosive ability.  He averaged 6.3 yards per carry for the Raiders last season, 3.0 yards more than Darren McFadden (albeit over just 35 attempts).  He took a mere 16 receptions for 195 yards, including a 64-yard TD catch-and-run.

Back in 2010, his lone season of more than 51 touches, Goodson posted a pair of 100-yard rushing games for the Panthers and an 8-catch, 81-yard outing.

With the Jets, Goodson would profile as an ideal complement to Chris Ivory.  The former Saint runs angry between the tackles but doesn't provide much receiving value.  Goodson would threaten the edges and help a pass offense that desperately needs options.  Ivory's injury history -- and hamstring issue already this camp -- would only add to Goodson's upside.

Of course, he needs to actually rejoin the team to realize any value.  In the meantime, he's worth a shot at the end of your draft.  Goodson doesn't even register in ADP terms right now.


Rod Streater, WR, Raiders

Streater plays on one of the NFL’s worst passing offenses.  The 25-year-old enters his 2nd season as an undrafted free agent from football-irrelevant Temple.  Nobody’s talking about him. 

He’s a true deep sleeper. 

Streater spent just 2 seasons at Temple and recorded an ordinary 49 grabs.  They did, however, go for 882 yards and 7 TDs.  A yards-per-catch mark of 18.0 demands attention – even if it’s against lower-level competition.

His success translated to the NFL.  He finished 2012 with a 39-584-3 line – certainly encouraging for a raw, unheralded rookie.  His 39 catches marked the most by a Raiders rookie since TE Zach Miller in 2007.  Streater also built some late-season momentum.

Over the last 5 weeks, he racked up 18 grabs for 351 yards and 1 TD.  That stretch produced his 4 largest yardage outputs: 62, 77, 96 and 100 yards.  So far in training camp, he’s proving that those performances weren’t fluky.

Team beat writer Jerry McDonald called Streater the team’s “most consistent” receiver in training camp, adding that he might emerge as the “go-to” pass catcher.  McDonald also indicated that Streater’s showcasing some impressive hops.  At 6’3, 200+ pounds, he’s a mismatch for DBs. 

Fellow WRs Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford don’t command a high volume of targets.  Moore’s failed to build off 2 encouraging seasons, struggling with drops in practice.  Ford -- an undersized, injury-prone slot man -- is best served in a limited role.

Streater figures to start and could easily top 100 targets.  After all, the Raiders will likely throw a ton in 2013.  (Yes, Raiders fans, for all the wrong reasons.)

QB Matt Flynn isn’t an ideal guy to catch passes from.  After a shaky start to camp, though, he’s displaying improved accuracy.  He might not provide Oakland with above average play.  But he will play from behind most weeks.  Streater should have plenty of late-game opportunities.

According to MyFantasyLeague.com, Streater is being selected 63rd among WRs in recent drafts.  That places his ADP squarely in Round 14.  You simply can’t find another WR in that range who’s set to play a full complement of snaps – and potentially emerge as his team’s lead receiver.  Consider Streater an upside bench stash with a shot at WR3 production in PPR leagues.


Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

Philly's suddenly in trouble at WR.  Jeremy Maclin's done for the year.  Ditto for Arrelious Benn.  Riley Cooper is back … for now.  If he doesn’t stand out on the field, the Eagles could still decide to get rid of him.  The Eagles need a WR or 2 to step up.  Or HC Chip Kelly could follow through on his talk of playing 3 TEs.

"Big people beat up little people" has been a Kelly mantra.  DeSean Jackson and Damaris Johnson definitely qualify as little people in NFL terms, each standing shorter than 5'11 and less than 180 pounds.  At 6'5, 249, Ertz is clearly a big person.

He has also reportedly excelled as a receiver since training camp began.  Practice observers have noted his success on deep outs and in separating from coverage, and Ertz has worked in with the 1st team despite missing offseason workouts because of league graduation rules for rookies.  The biggest question with Ertz has been his blocking, but the Birds can hide that potential weak spot by working him in the slot and out wide.

Kelly's offense likely won't produce a ton of receptions for anyone, but we could see Ertz finishing 3rd on the team behind Jackson and McCoy in catches -- perhaps even cracking the top 2.  And no player on the team looks more attractive as a red-zone target.

Ertz makes for an interesting very late TE2 or even a TE3 in deeper leagues.  He'll bring particularly good value to a Draft Masters setup, which can work around his likely scoring inconsistency.


Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

Kelce’s done nothing but impress since the Chiefs made him their 3rd-round pick in April’s draft.

It started in May.  He displayed reliable hands and developed a knack for the tough catch – something that’s carried over to training camp. 

The strong minicamp showings led HC Andy Reid to compare Kelce to Jeremy Shockey.  (Yes, Kelce did enter the NFL with character concerns.  But that was purely an on-field comparison.) 

Similar to a young Shockey, Kelce stands an athletic 6’5, 260 pounds. He’s also a versatile receiver who can run effective routes in the slot and split out wide.  That will come in handy for the Chiefs.

The team signed veteran TE Anthony Fasano in March.  But nobody will label Miami’s former starter a stud athlete.  More of an effort player, he’s ticketed for in-line blocking duties in Kansas City.

Tony Moeaki remains on the roster, though he’s not a serious threat to Kelce’s playing time.  Yes, both players are considered “move” TEs, a reflection of their WR-like skills.  Moeaki simply hasn’t shown an ability to stay healthy.  Most recently, he underwent an offseason knee scope that knocked him out of all OTAs.

First-year OC Doug Pederson is expected to use 2 TEs in a scheme that emphasizes quick passes.  From here, that’s where the strength of the passing game lies.  (At least when Jamaal Charles isn’t involved.)

Behind Dwayne Bowe, the WR corps is a mess.  Jon Baldwin has busted through 2 pro seasons.  Donnie Avery carries durability concerns.  And Dexter McCluster, an excellent practice player, hasn’t settled into a role.

Kelce carries the potential to fill Kansas City’s playmaking void.  His targets might lag early.  But the 16.0 yards per catch he posted last year at Cincinnati points to his ability to excel with limited opportunities.  He’s a viable upside TE2 target with an ADP in the 16th round.