2013 Draft Prep: Sleepers for Draft Day

My sleeper list last year included Mikel Leshoure , Tony Gonzalez and ... well, I'll be a man about it and say it wasn't my best year.

Okay, fine, the list stunk. I stunk. I'm the guy who hyped up a bunch of bums before the preseason got going. I mean it's not even close.

So it's time for redemption.

What you're about to see is my early look at sleepers heading into 2013. Some of these names could change once the preseason games start and I get a feel for how these teams are thinking heading into Week 1.

Regardless, this is a list I want you to remember to check back on before your draft. Write down the names, commit them to memory, save this page on your CBSSports.com mobile app, whatever, and pick one or two guys to call your own on Draft Day.

Most of the names on this list won't cost you much -- nothing higher than a pick in Round 8 -- so the risk involved isn't going to capsize your roster if a player fizzles out.

Let's do this.

Andy Dalton , QB, Bengals: There are two ways a quarterback can be great in the NFL -- they can either use their amazing talents to lead their teams or they can combine their good talents with great teammates to put up victories. Dalton is the latter; he's not going to win any quarterback skills challenges but he's good enough to win so long as he has help. Exhibit A is his back-to-back playoff appearances with the Bengals. The team realized Dalton needs help and got him some with rookies Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert (both of whom I really like) and they're bringing back stud receiver A.J. Green , fourth-year tight end Jermaine Gresham and complementary wideouts Mohamed Sanu , Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones . Tack on an offensive line loaded with good talent and Dalton is in one of the sweetest spots a quarterback could ask for. Dalton improved in every significant passing stat from 2011 to 2012 and there should be another jump in 2013. After Eli Manning , he's the best No. 2 Fantasy quarterback you could ask for. Funny, because last year he actually finished as a Top 12 choice.
I'd take him ahead of: Ben Roethlisberger , Joe Flacco , Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer

Matt Schaub , QB, Texans: We did a draft this offseason where Schaub was not a late-round pick -- he wasn't even picked! Is it an injustice, a reflection of who he is or simply a commentary on the depth at quarterback this season? It's probably the latter since he had a good enough season in 2012 to prove he's not a terrible passer. He completed 64.3 pct. of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns and even got over 4,000 yards. When comparing his stats to previous years he managed to have his third-best season despite having only one decent receiver. Houston's addition of DeAndre Hopkins (who I also consider a sleeper) should do wonders for Schaub's stats. When Schaub was a stat monster in 2009, attempting 583 passes, he had one receiver besides Andre Johnson catch 50 passes and another catch six touchdowns. Hopkins should at least catch 50 passes and six touchdowns, so if he delivers and Johnson is himself and the other pass game weapons step up, Schaub could be a pleasant surprise. I like him as a safe Fantasy backup worth drafting late.
I'd take him ahead of: Josh Freeman , Jay Cutler , Michael Vick , Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco

Bryce Brown , RB, Eagles: Brown really is a man in the right place at the right time. Philadelphia's hire of Chip Kelly as head coach means the team will be more running back-oriented in a fast-paced offense. In a study I did during the offseason, running backs in Kelly's offenses the last three years at Oregon averaged between 35.8 and 39.1 rushes per game with a sizable cut in the passing game. Even Eagles starter LeSean McCoy said Brown should expect to get a lot of work because he knew then he wouldn't be able to handle the full workload of what's being asked. Brown could begin the year with a dozen or so touches per game -- not bad for a backup. And if McCoy happens to miss time, Brown would become the primary back in that offense and see way more work. He's an electric runner who has improved his ball security this offseason. You don't need to draft McCoy to have goo-goo eyes for Brown on Draft Day.
I'd take him ahead of: Ben Tate , BenJarvus Green-Ellis , Vick Ballard

Zac Stacy , RB, Rams: There's no denying that Daryl Richardson is the most appealing name in the Rams backfield in the early days of training camp, but questions about whether or not he can fill the role of a full-time back persist. He had nearly 200 carries in his first year of work in college but fell under 150 carries the other two seasons and last year had 98 carries -- including only 16 over his final five games. He seems like a passing downs back while Stacy has the build of a bowling ball and had just over 200 carries in each of his last two years at Vanderbilt, averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry. Stacy's pass protection has been complimented this summer and it could come to pass that he overtakes second-year man Isaiah Pead for the rushing downs role. Ultimately, it's Stacy's talent that has me enamored -- he's got good quickness to go with a big body and good enough hands. Finding him with a pick in Round 8 or 9 should pay off; if you want to play it safe and get Pead a round later, that's also an option.
I'd take him ahead of: Isaiah Pead , Jonathan Stewart and Johnathan Franklin

DeAngelo Williams , RB, Panthers: Williams isn't your typical 30-year-old running back. You can thank the Panthers and their weird running back philosophies for that -- Williams has 1,181 career carries over seven seasons, topping 200 carries just twice (and none since 2009). It suggests he has gas left in his tank, which the Panthers sound like they'll need because of fellow rusher Jonathan Stewart ankles keeping him from practicing with no definitive return date in sight. Williams had just five games last season with 12-plus carries, posting over 4.2 yards per carry in four of them. He also finished off the year with a touchdown and at last 100 total yards in three of his final four matchups, flashing some long speed in the process. As of this writing Williams is getting picked, on average, in Round 10 of standard drafts! He's better than this. When you're looking for the last-gasp at running back before it gets really nasty, Williams should be in your line of sight.
I'd take him ahead of: Mark Ingram , Fred Jackson , Vick Ballard

Ronnie Hillman , RB, Broncos: Montee Ball will be the first Broncos running back to go in drafts but it doesn't mean he'll be the best. In the early days of training camp it's been the second-year back impressing in all facets -- finding the creases in the zone-blocking scheme, catching passes out of the backfield and even improving in pass protection. Hillman gives the Broncos a gamebreaker in the backfield; last year he had three of the team's seven 20-yard runs and he barely played. Ball isn't a slouch either as he ripped off long runs in college all the time. But John Fox has never truly trusted a rookie to handle every-down work and does have a track record of using multiple backs in a rotation. Hillman put on muscle this offseason and, per Fox, finally has a "pro body" to handle the rigors of the league. Hillman's the better value pick on Draft Day, worth the Top 70 choice as a flex candidate. Keeping in mind a plan to take Ball if he slips to Round 5 and Hillman in Round 6 or 7 could pay off in a major way. After all, Peyton Manning running backs tend to be productive.
I'd take him ahead of: Any Saints, Rams or Panthers running back

Anquan Boldin , WR, 49ers: Boldin simply has to be productive for the Niners to win games this year. Given the chance to have a leadership role, Boldin has already taken to coaching up San Francisco's young receivers while leading by example on the practice field. Colin Kaepernick has connected with him already and will have to lean on Boldin as a chain-mover if he's going to have even a good year, at least until Michael Crabtree is recovered from a torn Achilles. Boldin's experience and good route running makes him a threat against single coverage and his work in the playoffs last season (22 catches, 380 yards, four touchdowns) proves he's not an over-the-hill wideout. He'll probably be more helpful in PPR leagues than standard but he's the kind of late-round pick to target as a very good fifth receiver. Keep his name in mind late in drafts.
I'd take him ahead of: Sidney Rice , Greg Little and Brandon LaFell

Michael Floyd , WR, Cardinals: Last year, Andre Roberts led the Cardinals with five receiving touchdowns while three other receivers other than Larry Fitzgerald had 45 catches or more. Two years ago, two receivers other than Fitzgerald caught 50 passes. There are plenty of passes to go around and that goes double when Bruce Arians is calling the shots on offense. A Cardinals team expected to play from behind often and with Carson Palmer under center should mean big stats for the top receivers. That's receivers -- plural -- and in this case it means Floyd along with Fitzgerald. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound second-year man has wowed coaches all offseason and has been off to a great start in training camp. Palmer went as far as to say Floyd has "it" when it comes to receiving skills and nuances that the typical second-year player doesn't have. Floyd's draft average as of this writing is a laughable 128th overall -- expect that number to rise in the coming weeks and for him to be a great fourth receiver for your Fantasy team with a pick before the end of Round 9. After all, Floyd was one of those three receivers that had 45 catches in 2012 for 'Zona.
I'd take him ahead of: Lance Moore , Emmanuel Sanders , Aaron Dobson

Rueben Randle , WR, Giants: Hakeem Nicks has played 13-plus games every year of his career but really had a hard time playing well at less than 100 percent in 2012. He's already tweaked a groin in training camp this summer and a few reports suggest Nicks is playing cautiously to avoid suffering a major injury and costing himself a big contract after this season. There have been more than a few reports highlighting the work Randle has put in through the spring and in camp thus far. Coach Tom Coughlin is pleased with his weight and effort and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thought Randle has been working "like a guy that has been here for five or six years" and promised he'd play a lot. If Nicks gets hurt (or stays hurt since he's already a little gimpy), Randle will be pushed on the field for a huge workload. He's a nice late-round stash pick for Fantasy owners.
I'd take him ahead of: Denarius Moore , Greg Little , Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tyler Eifert , TE, Bengals: You don't have to go back too far to find a rookie tight end that makes an impact in Fantasy. Rob Gronkowski immediately became a matchup problem for the Patriots' opponents and he charged his way to 10 touchdowns as a rookie, including seven scores in his last nine regular-season games. That would be on the high side for Eifert to get in 2013 -- he's not playing with Tom Brady , after all -- but he has the tools to be the next Gronk, something the Bengals are hoping for. He's huge (6-6, 251), has great hands and has been used in a number of spots on the field in college and through his short time in practices with the Bengals. Expect some growing pains in the early going but eventually he'll develop into a must-start. The training camp practice reports have been glowing and there's just so much potential for him to be useful to Fantasy owners. Either plan on spending a late pick on him (even if he's your second tight end) or aim to snatch him up off waivers in the first couple of weeks of the season.
I'd take him ahead of: Owen Daniels , Brandon Pettigrew and Marcedes Lewis

Editor's Note: We will provide another sleeper list for those of you in deeper drafts and/or dynasty leagues later this month.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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