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Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers: #100-70

Feb 4, 2015
Rob Housler is one of several intriguing FA TEs that could have fantasy impacts in 2015

Rob Housler is one of several intriguing FA TEs that could have fantasy impacts in 2015

There’s an old adage about the game of fake football which was true in the past, and will continue to be true about the future:

“You can’t win your leagues in the first rounds of drafts, but you can sure lose them.”

Floor early, upside late, sounds easy enough, right? Well even if you manage to get equivalent value out of your top picks, you’ve got a ways to go to building a weekly winner. After those first picks are in, you need to get upside late. However, most players that get the consensus “sleeper” tag end up getting their picture on every fantasy football magazine from your corner store to Ulaanbaatar, and get hype train’d into a pick where even the most bullish projections can’t forecast profit. You don’t want these kind of players. I’m looking at you, Cordarrelle Patterson/Montee Ball. Don’t focus your valuable draft prep time and energy on the sleepers everyone is talking about, you want to take a look even deeper to the kind of players that grace this list.

The only criteria for a player to make this deep sleeper list was he had to be on 2% or fewer Yahoo fantasy rosters at the end of the year. While many of these names will make you go “whaaat?!” Just remember a veritable who’s who of fantasy football (Tony Romo, Julian Edelman, Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Justin Forsett, Matt Asiata, Joique Bell, C.J. Anderson, Shane Vereen, Denard Robinson, Victor Cruz, Dan Herron, Rashad Jennings, Fred Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Latavius Murray, Pierre Thomas Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Larry Donnell and Colin Kaepernick) have at one point in their careers largely been off the fantasy radar, and in the case of Forsett, Asiata, Herron, Murray, Kelce, Donnell and Anderson, were nearly on nearly 0% of rosters at the end of 2013.

So without further ado, here is the beginning of a four-part series! While these odds for these prospects may be slim, I’m telling you, there’s a chance.

100) Jimmy Garoppolo QB NE: The Onion, for being a site known for satire, can sometimes provide the best NFL analysis in the business. Much like Manning in 2014, Tom Brady will be going into 2015 as a 38-year-old, which is rare territory for anyone in the NFL. Despite Brady still being a top QB, Father Time remains undefeated, and the possibility of Brady’s production falling off a cliff, a-la Peyton Manning weeks 11 through 17, is very real. Garoppolo, who didn’t look over-matched in brief trials in 2014, could be forced into a bigger role in 2015, and could possibly be the Patriots starter as soon as 2016.

99) Cincinnati backup QBs (Jason Campbell, AJ McCarron): This isn’t so much an endorsement of Campbell and McCarron, it’s an indictment of Andy Dalton, as it seems that once January roles around we have the exact same discussion about Dalton, and eventually it is going to be time for a change in Cincy. Campbell has had varying degrees of success as a starter, and the opinion on McCarron varies from future franchise QB to career backup. While neither of them may be markedly better than the mediocre Dalton, one of them may get a shot to prove that in 2015.

98) Denarius Moore WR FA: Moore’s unexpected downfall has fantasy owners doing their best Kanye impersonation and singing out WE COULD’VE BEEN SOMEBODY?!?! Moore put up WR2 level numbers in 2012, and was on track to in 2013 before being hampered by injury, and then completely fell off the map in 2014. In Moore’s defense, he’s suffered through Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin, and Matt Flynn, which could’ve played a major role in his drop-off. A free agent this offseason, perhaps a less hostile work environment (Seattle possibly?) could get Denarius out of the doldrums?

97) LaMichael James RB MIA: Though James is largely considered a bust due to the fact he was a second-round pick, he’s managed to average 4.4 yards a try on his 44 career carries. Disgruntled in San Fransisco and currently just trying to find a fit in Miami, James has a surprisingly easy road to playing time, with only the injury-prone Lamar Miller and the relatively unproven Damien Williams standing in his way. We don’t know enough about James to label his career over at this point, as his impressive college tape and speed/agility in the top 20% of the league show that there’s talent here.

96) Quincy Enunwa WR NYJ: He’s 6’2, 225 and ran a 4.43 40. He also caught 12 TD passes at Nebraska in 2013. Enunwa looks the part of a fantasy-relevant WR. If the former sixth-round pick can get on the good side of Todd Bowles, he could see situational duty in 2015 and more snaps in the future. With the possibility of the highly-volatile Percy Harvin removing himself from the depth chart at any time, Enunwa could become a fantasy factor down the road.

95) Tim Hightower RB NO: Whoa, a blast from the recent past has returned! Hightower signed a futures contract with the Saints and will compete with what could be a completely reshuffled New Orleans backfield come training camp. While the soon to be 29-year-old Hightower won’t win your league, he should compete for snaps in the passing game.

94) Logan Thomas QB AZ: Mercifully tethered to the bench after a 1-for-8 showing as an emergency fill-in during Week 4, Thomas then got a Clockwork Orange style forced viewing of how not to play quarterback watching Ryan Lindley/Drew Stanton first hand. While he’s sashimi-grade raw as a QB, Thomas is one of, if not the most athletic QBs in the NFL right now. As we’ve seen with Tim Tebow, Terrelle Pryor, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson, the ability to scramble is absolute fantasy gold, and Thomas should be able to at least do that at a high level right away. Bruce Arians is high on the former Hokie, and he should be given plenty of time to develop, and a long leash when ready. However, only a Carson Palmer, a 35-year-old QB returning from major knee surgery protected by a poorly-graded offensive line, stands between Thomas and the field, so his time may come sooner than later.

93) Corey Fuller WR DET: He’s a 2013 sixth-rounder out of Virginia Tech who’s intriguing from a height/speed perspective, and was on the cusp of winning a larger role in Detroit in 2014. Fuller probably wouldn’t embarrass himself with more targets, and as of now he’s a name to file away for the future.

92) George Atkinson III RB OAK: Son of former Raider legend George Atkinson, Atkinson the third moved from the practice squad to the team’s primary kick return position as a rookie. A speed-score darling with only the relatively unproven Latavius Murray in front of him, he has a chance to show what he’s got as a runner in 2015.

91) Kenjon Barner RB PHI: While it would be a bit of a stretch for the third-year back out of Oregon to see a significant role in 2015, it’s less of one than you think. Taking a quick glance at the Eagles RB depth chart, it seems as if they split the position into two separate groupings, early-down backs (LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk), and passing-down backs (Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner). Sproles is going to be 32 years of age going into 2015, and an impressive training camp from the former Duck fifth-round pick could lead to Sproles being gradually phased out and Barner coming into some PPR usefulness.

90) Keshawn Martin WR HOU: With Andre Johnson likely to leave Houston, Martin is an interesting candidate to get more playing time, despite three straight years of sparse production. While he is limited by his size, Martin is athletic enough to matter, and could have a career year in 2015.

89) Jeff Maehl WR PHI: Maehl has interesting size, agility, and has been working within the Chip Kelly offense for going on seven years, he could see an expanded role in 2015.

88) Marquise Goodwin WR BUF: He fell off the earth in 2014, recording only one 42-yard catch in 10 games. While I don’t exactly see run-heavy minds Rex Ryan and Greg Roman finding the best way to use Goodwin’s freaky athleticism, he remains a unique passing-game chess piece awaiting a creative offensive mind.

87) Paul Richardson WR SEA: Richardson would be much higher on this list if he hadn’t suffered his second torn ACL during the Divisional playoffs. The waif-thin rookie out of Colorado didn’t make a huge impact during his debut season, but was seeing increased snaps down the stretch for the Seahawks. Richardson will most likely miss the preseason and start the year on the PUP list. Look for him to re-emerge later in 2015, but grab him with an eye on 2016 and beyond.

86) Tyrod Taylor QB FA: A mobile QB mystery box, the former Virginia Tech Hokie has thrown only 35 total regular-season passes and has performed unevenly in the preseason. While we don’t have much information on Taylor, he was noted for his arm-strength and scrambling ability coming out of college, and if he lands in a situation that would give him a chance to start, could contribute an interesting fantasy line due to his scrambling ability. Expect Taylor to remain a backup, but he’s one of the most interesting backup QBs in the league for fantasy purposes.

85) Josh Hill TE NO: Josh Hill took the “who is this guy?!” mantle from Joseph Fauria and ran in 2014, positing a nearly fantasy relevant 14-176-5 line. The team is high on Hill due to his above average athleticism, ability to contribute on special teams, and his very impressive small sample as a receiver. If Jimmy Graham were to miss time in 2015, Hill could find a few fantasy relevant games in his future, and could be a factor if the Saints choose to run more 2TE sets.

84) Lache Seastrunk RB TEN: Despite looking extremely solid with the ball in his hands, concerns over his ability to contribute as a receiver and pass-blocker led Washington to cut Seastrunk, their sixth-round pick. This led to a an odyssey of sorts in 2014, as the former Baylor Bear spent time on the practice squads of Carolina and Tennessee. If Seastrunk can learn to contribute to the passing game, look out, as he is extremely explosive with the ball in his hands. He’ll have an opportunity to stick with Tennessee in 2015.

83) Darrin Reaves RB CAR: He underwhelmed in brief starting shot, but Panthers like him enough to keep him around on the practice squad. With the historically brittle Jonathan Stewart, the aged DeAngelo Williams and the replaceable Fozzy Whittaker in front of him, Reaves may get another opportunity in 2015.

82) Duron Carter WR IND: The son of Hall of Famer Chris Carter couldn’t get on the field for a variety of reasons at multiple colleges, and has had a renaissance of sorts in the CFL. His signing bonus demands are reportedly somewhere around what an NFL sixth- or seventh-round pick would expect, so it seems the sharps in the league view him as a bit of a project still. For someone deemed raw, I am concerned about his lack of timed athleticism. Carter signed with the Colts, and will most likely serve as the third or fourth WR on their explosive offense.

81) Matt Barkley QB PHI: What do we know about the former USC golden-boy, like really do we know anything about him? Considered a potential top pick, Barkley’s draft stock tumbled all the way into the fourth round in 2013, and since then he’s briefly resurfaced in the preseason, never to be seen outside of a brief unimpressive 49 pass trial in 2013. With first-stringer Nick Foles performing at a below-average level for the brief period of the season which he was healthy, an impressive preseason could launch Barkley into a QB controversy of sorts. Much like Barkley, the fact that we have uneven information about Foles casts doubt about who he really is. As Mark Sanchez proved, even a middling QB at the helm of Philadelphia’s offense can be fantasy relevant. If Barkley can perform, the Eagles will have to think twice about re-signing Foles, as his contract is up in 2015.

80) Kendall Hunter RB SF: While no one knows how much athleticism the formerly spry Hunter will retain after a second major ACL injury, he has shown the ability to post RB2-type numbers if handed a feature role. With Frank Gore likely to depart, Hunter should return to being a high-upside handcuff, and could supplant Carlos Hyde if he underwhelms.

79) Chris Matthews WR SEA: While the #82 prospect and CFL import Duron Carter is going to be touted higher because of the famous last name, Matthews had similar CFL production to Carter, and boasts superior size, athleticism, and college production. Best known for recovering the onside kick that gave Seattle life in the 2014 NFC Championship Game, look for the developing 6-5 225 pound WR to compete with a pedestrian cast of characters for targets in 2015. He’s going to be two years removed from a serious turf-toe injury, and should regain some explosiveness. Matthews provided a glimpse of his potential during the Super Bowl.

78) Stephen Hill WR CAR: He has otherworldly athleticism, and will travel. While the fact that he wasn’t able to crack the feeble WR rotation in either New York or Carolina doesn’t bode well for his chances, but he will only be 24 years old in 2015, and his 6’4 215 frame combined with 4.36 speed and top-shelf hops will continue to buy him chances to stick. If Carolina decides against looking for outside help at WR, Hill doesn’t have many roadblocks to overcome to seize the No. 2 WR position next to Kelvin Benjamin in 2015.

77) David Ausberry TE FA: A former top HS recruit and USC Trojan, Ausberry probably wants to get on the first bus out of Oakland, as he’s been passed up on the depth chart, hasn’t had a QB good enough to truly evaluate his play since entering the league, and to top it off, has missed more games than he’s played. When he’s been on the field, he’s shown flashes of being a three-down player, but you have to wonder just what is left. He is going to be a free agent, and looks to catch on elsewhere.

76) Lance Kendricks TE FA: A balanced TE who seems to be lost in the shuffle in Saint Louis, the Wisconsin Badger had his worst statistical year in 2014, and could be a bargain-basement consolation prize for teams who miss out on Julius Thomas. A team such as the Patriots who have successfully run 2TE sets in the past would be wise to give the versatile and agile Kendricks a try in 2015.

75) Storm Johnson RB JAX: After an tilt-a-whirl of a rookie season in which the seventh-round pick went from being fourth on the depth chart, to the best back on the roster, back to being fourth again in 17 weeks, your guess is as good as mine regarding Johnson’s future with Jacksonville. What we do know is with the relatively unproven/possibly untalented Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart in front of him, Johnson is going to get another shot. The question now is will we see the Zac Stacy in quicksand 3 YPC routine of his rookie season, or the surprisingly shifty back he was at UCF in 2013?

74) Rex Burkhead RB CIN: The 2013 sixth-rounder saw his first NFL playing time this year, posting 27 yards on nine carries and 49 yards on seven receptions. While that isn’t going to move the needle either way, the fact that he received WR snaps in Week 17 and during the Bengals Wild-Card loss to the Colts makes him one to follow in PPR formats in 2014. Burkhead demonstrate versatility in 2014 showing that he can line up as a fullback and slot receiver in addition to his traditional tailback spot. This could earn him a larger role going forward, and should put him on your PPR radar. The former Cornhusker makes up for his long-speed deficiency by having top-notch burst and agility, and wouldn’t make a fool of himself if handed 10-20 touches a game.

73) Antonio Andrews RB TEN: A power-back who is unimpressive athletically, but put up straight juicy stats at Western Kentucky, Andrews looks to become a less athletic Bobby Rainey. Andrews showed ability to catch passes and return kicks in college, and caught two passes for 11 yards in his one active game. With the three horseman of the welpocalypse, Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster and Leon Washington, figuring to be either cut or phased out, Andrews could see a longer look in 2015. Bigger backs like Andrews (5’10, 225) who can catch passes tend to stick around in the NFL, and Andrews looks to continue the trend. If Bishop Sankey continues to underwhelm, all bets are off for Andrews.

72) Brandon Coleman WR NO: Size truly is something that you cannot coach, and Coleman has some of the best WR size in the NFL today. Standing 6-6, 225, with 34 inch arms, the former Scarlet Knight makes up for below-average speed and agility with his ability to block out the sun/smaller DB’s. Coleman played through a knee injury his senior year which helped torpedo him out of the draft entirely. The fact that Coleman will be 23 years old at the start of the 2015 season (younger than WR draft prospect Vince Mayle), and the Saints promoted him to the active roster for Week 17 show that the team expects him to compete for Marques Colston’s job in the Saints high powered offense.

71) Taylor Gabriel WR CLE: A 5-7, 167 pound undrafted receiver from tiny Abilene Christian isn’t supposed to make the league, much less get playing time, and post a stealthy 36-621-1 line on 72 targets. While Gabriel’s size is going to limit him from being a reliable contributor, there is going to be ample opportunity for him to learn from one of the savviest in the business in Andrew Hawkins. With the departure of Josh Gordon, Gabriel has a great chance of matching or exceeding his rookie line.

70) Rob Housler TE FA: Normally targeting a 27-year-old coming off a career low in catches and yards is a puzzling decision at best and lunacy at worst. But the time to try and acquire Housler is now. A free agent with a slim-to-none chance of returning to the fantasy TE desert that is the Arizona offense, the former Florida Atlantic Owl will hopefully take his talents to a lusher situation. While he has only scored once in his four seasons, which is extremely fluky for a 6-5, 250 pound TE with top 10% athleticism, he was on pace for a very nice 48-560-2 line in 2013. Housler could become Emmanuel Sanders to Julius Thomas’s Eric Decker in Denver, but he’s on a long list of intriguing free agent tight ends that could elevate their fantasy production in the mile high city.

Just Missed

Corey Washington WR NYG

Ryan Broyles WR DET

Gerrell Robinson TE MIA

Damian Copeland WR JAX

Joe Banyard RB MIN

Michael Egnew TE PIT

Blake Annen TE CHI

Fendi Onobun TE FA

A.J. Jenkins WR KC

Je’ron Hamm TE WAS

Brenton Bersin WR CAR

Tommy Streeter WR JAX

Greg Little WR CIN

Aaron Murray QB KC

Terrelle Pryor QB KC

Anthony McCoy TE SEA

Michael Campanaro WR BAL

Tom Savage QB HOU

Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers: #69-40

Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers: #39-11

Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers: #10-1

TeschBrian Tesch is a former AmeriCorps VISTA and current happy-go-lucky Economics student by day, FantasyPros NFC West Division Leader by later in the day.

You can check out his archive, and if you so choose, follow him on Twitter @TheRealTesch.

Featured, NFL, Sleepers