Deep Sleepers
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 7th, 2010

Everyone wants to be the one to find the deepest of deep sleepers. There is no need rostering a sleeper if the player does not have the upside to start for your fantasy team under any circumstances. The key for fantasy owners has to be on the upside of the players identified as deep sleepers. If you are rostering a player, he has to have the talent, and possible situation, to perform as a fantasy starter if given the chance. We will look at players with an ADP (Average Draft Position) lower than player 150 overall.

Last year, the Oakland Raiders had a whopping 2,557 passing yards and ten touchdowns, with 18 picks. The hefty JaMarcus Russell really skewed the numbers. In his 12 games, the oversized passer completed less than half his passes for 1,287 yards, three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Look for Jason Campbell to jumpstart the Oakland offense. His worst games in Washington compare well to Russell's best. The ineffectiveness of the Raider attack was due to Russell, not the supporting cast. Bruce Gradkowski proved that point. He complete 54.7% of his passes for 1007 yards, with six scores and three picks. As bad as Campbell was in Washington, he completed 64.5% of his attempts, and passed for 3,618 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year. The weapons in Oakland are at least as good as the ones he left in the Nation's Capital. Jason Campbell has an ADP of QB28, player 198 overall. This is a player who has finished as QB15 each of the past two years. He has a very real chance to crack the Top 12 fantasy quarterbacks this season.

An even deeper sleeper at the quarterback position is Panther passer Matt Moore. Moore took over for veteran Jake Delhomme in week 13 last year. Starting in week 14, Moore was a very viable fantasy quarterback. He averaged more than 200 passing yards and two touchdowns per contest. This stretch included three consecutive victories over the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and New Orleans Saints to end the season. Moore's strong play led Carolina to part ways with Delhomme. Coach Fox is very loyal to his veterans. Just look how long he stuck with Delhomme, who ended the year with an impressive TD:INT ratio of 8 scores to 18 picks. It is amazing the coach left the veteran in that long. The selection of Jimmy Clausen served to lower the ADP for Moore. Given Fox's preference to trust experience over youth, Moore has a strong hold on the position. He is overlooked in most drafts with an ADP of QB30, player 212 overall. It is difficult to imagine there being 29 better fantasy options at the position.

Arian Foster closed out his rookie season in a fine manner. Over the last pair of games, he ran the ball 39 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Foster also added three receptions for 26 yards. Not a bad two-game stretch against the Dolphins and Patriots. Yes, the Texans drafted Ben Tate and expect him to play a role as a rookie. Yes, Steve Slaton is expected to be back healthy by the start of training camp. But, the fact is that it is Foster who will enter training camp as the starter. It is his job to lose. He has proven the ability to be productive in the Texan running attack. After just one decent season in college, Tate will need to pick up the little things of the pro game in order to see extended action. As far as Slaton, let's remember that he is coming off a serious neck injury. The speedy back had his neck fused together. It is difficult to understand why Foster is being drafted after his two teammates. He has an ADP of RB55, player 168 overall. So, for the last pick in the 14th round, an owner can get a ball carrier who has flashed talent, is the starter heading into camp, and is competing with a one-year wonder in college and another coming off a serious neck injury.

Tashard Choice first emerged the last four games of his rookie season. He played great against some very good teams. That stretch of games proved Choice could be a viable fantasy option if given an opportunity. That has been his problem ... seeing the field. He plays behind two very good ball carriers in Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Barber was slowed by injuries last year. Could his tough running style finally be catching up to the powerful Barber? Jones has yet to prove he can shoulder much of a workload of his own. He has the look of an exciting change of pace back. With the touches Dallas is talking about giving their explosive runner, it is doubtful he can remain durable. If one or both of the Dallas "starters" gets nicked up again, Choice will be startable in fantasy leagues. He runs hard like Barber but is also a play-making option out of the backfield like Jones. Choice offers owners big upside at a cheap price. His ADP is RB56, player169 selected overall. He is likely to get meaningful carries in at least a handful of games this year. If the injury bug bites Dallas, Choice could be a fantasy RB1 down the stretch.

Javon Ringer is a relative unknown to many fantasy owners. He sat behind Chris Johnson and LenDale White last season as a rookie. But, Ringer is not without talent, or the ability to carry a heavy load. At Michigan State, he had two years with over 1,700 total yards including a monster senior season when he carried the ball a whopping 390 times. With the Chris Johnson holdout, Ringer is getting most of the reps in camp. This should help his development. Even if (or when) the Titans star returns to the club, he will probably not garner the same workload as last year. Johnson carried the ball 358 times and added 50 receptions. One way or another, expect the former Spartan to see action. He currently is being drafted as the RB58 off the board, and player 171 overall. Tennessee has a good run attack and Ringer could be more than serviceable if he were to see extended carries.

With the recent arrest of Bengals running back Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott suddenly becomes a worthy of a spot on the bottom of fantasy rosters. Scott showed flashes as a rookie after coming from Abilene Christian. If the Benson legal issue lingers, the team could look to add another back, but Scott will be used prominently. He has play-making ability and his speed adds another dimension to the Cincinnati offense. The coaching staff has already stated their desire to get the youngster more involved in the offense this season. He is currently drafted as the 202 player in fantasy drafts, the 65th running back selected. As a fantasy RB6 in redrafts, Scott has plenty of upside in the high-octane Bengal offense.

Malcom Floyd has seen his draft stock soar over the past few weeks. Vincent Jackson will be suspended for the first three games of the season and is threatening to hold out. The situation could drag on for a long time. The Chargers are thin at receiver after releasing Chris Chambers in the middle of last season. Floyd is a threat down the field, just like Jackson, and could easily be an every-week fantasy starter for the games Jackson misses. Quarterback Philip Rivers is not afraid to air it out and throw the ball up for his big receivers to go get it. This is Floyd's game. With an ADP of WR60, player 155 overall, Floyd is much more than Jackson insurance. With the threat of a lengthy absence, it is doubtful Jackson would be ready to play immediately after reporting. This means that Floyd would be a fantasy starter for most, if not all, of the fantasy season if Jackson holds out. The chance of a Jackson trade should also bolster Floyd's desirability. There are few better options this late in fantasy drafts. He, and Jabar Gaffney (ADP of WR68) are fantasy starters at a discounted price.

Rookie Mike Williams has been the talk of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer camp. He is expected to be the team's top receiver for the upcoming season. His talent has never been questioned, just his attitude and off the field troubles. While it would be foolish to predict a huge season for Tampa Bay passer Josh Freeman, he should still throw for at least 2,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. If so, it would be difficult for Williams to not total 750 receiving yards and five scores. This would be enough to make the rookie a fantasy WR3 most every week. What more can you ask from a player selected as WR74 with the 213rd pick in fantasy drafts? The Buccaneers do not have many weapons in the passing game, just tight end Kellen Winslow and the pair of rookie receivers, Williams and Arrelious Benn. Williams looks to be the top-producing wideout for 2010.

Lance Moore is coming off an injury-plagued season. He "broke out" in 2008 before breaking down last year. The New Orleans Saint offense has a cache of good receiving options, but Moore can still carve out a role. After coming back to the field last year, the Saints ran specific plays for their quick, sure-handed pass catcher. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem struggle with consistency. Marques Colston has chronic knee issues. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where Moore is vaulted to fantasy starter status once again. At WR89 off the board, player 253 overall, he is worth the risk.

Few fantasy owners are familiar with Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson. The ex-Kentucky Wildcat has outplayed the higher draft pick, James Hardy, since the outset. With the departure of Terrell Owens, the Bills are looking for a wide receiver to emerge to start across from Lee Evans. Johnson has received the most reps at the position in early camps. He is competing with Hardy and rookie Marcus Easley to start. Johnson has the inside track to be the opening day starter. The quarterback mess in Buffalo could limit any upside, but coach Chan Gailey has performed his magic before, transforming the lackluster Dolphin and Chief offenses into productive passing attacks. He can do the same with the Bills. Not many times can a fantasy owner get a NFL starter this late in drafts. Johnson has an ADP of WR103 in the 25th round. If Johnson can keep his grasp on the starting gig, he can be a fantasy spot starter most weeks.

With the strong play of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver the past two years, Jordy Nelson has been a forgotten man in fantasy drafts. But, Nelson has had a strong offseason, drawing praise from his coach and the Packer beat writers. So, why the optimism for the Green Bay fourth receiver? Driver is 35 years old, coming off knee surgeries to both knees. Fellow youngster, James Jones, has battled injuries for most of his young career. Jones is big-play receiver who struggles to stay healthy. The Packer pass offense, led by Aaron Rodgers, can support three fantasy wide receivers most weeks so Nelson is already on the cusp of substantial playing time. It is hard to believe that Nelson has an ADP of WR107 in the 26th round. This means he goes undrafted in many leagues. A fantasy owner could do much worse than Nelson as the last player on his roster. With the Driver surgeries and Jones' injury history, why not roll the dice on Nelson?

How does a tight end who has finished as TE7 and TE11 his first two seasons in the NFL slide all of the way down to TE15 (player 165 overall) in year three? Well, that is the case with John Carlson. There is reason for optimism with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck now healthy and the drafting of tackle Russell Okung. Carlson was asked to stay in and block much of last season, hindering his fantasy upside. The new coaching staff expects to get the young tight end more involved in the offense. They have to. The Seahawks do not have many other options in the passing game. Expect Carlson to finish in the Top 10, possibly Top 5 this year.

The athletic ability of Ben Watson has never been in doubt. While in New England, the ex-Georgia Bulldog had two things working against him. The Patriots asked him to stay in and block more than fantasy owners would like. Also, Watson seemed to be nicked up often, thus limiting his upside. He is now playing with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have few able pass catchers, just a pair of second-year wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie. Neither is an outstanding target for the less than stellar Cleveland. Quarterbacks. Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are battling to start for the club. Each will look to the only veteran pass receiver, Watson, for the clutch reception. The athletic tight end is a fantasy afterthought with an ADP of TE24 in the 22nd round of fantasy drafts. It would not be a surprise to see Watson catch 50 balls if he can remain healthy. Yes, the Cleveland offense is an abyss ... but someone has to catch the passes.

Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.