2016 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: The deep sleepers list you must check out

Everyone knows one of the secrets to winning at Fantasy Football is finding the guy no one's thinking about and watching him turn into a hero.

Usually it takes a lucky grab off waivers to make it happen but sometimes it's a late-round pick that makes a lineup dazzle.

Who served that role better last season that Gary Barnidge? The Cleveland Cinderella wasn't drafted by anyone and went on to finish as more than just a reliable starter -- he was a Top 5 tight end regardless of format and was only one point worse than Jordan Reed and 27 points behind Rob Gronkowski, who people spent a first-round choice on.

After doing well with this last year, the mission here is to find those late-round sleepers and give you a leg-up on your league. Everyone you're about to check out will be available to get picked in Round 10 or later in your standard-scoring leagues.

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Ryan Tannehill MIA • QB • 17
2015 stats
CMP%6190
YDS4
TD24
INT12

Anyone who has trusted Tannehill on their roster up to this point will laugh at this. Why would a guy who's been so infuriating to watch suddenly become a Fantasy darling? It's because of who he's surrounded by. New head coach Adam Gase has worked with some great quarterbacks and seems much more willing to let Tannehill freelance than the previous regime in Miami. Tannehill also has a budding receiving corps starring DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. Also, the Dolphins offensive line is in fairly good shape compared to where it was last year. As for the Dolphins run game ... it's there, but it's unlikely to lead the way for the offense. Everything will fall on Tannehill's shoulders, and with a scheme he should be more comfortable in, Tannehill can hopefully turn some of those 18- and 19-point Fantasy games into 20-plus Fantasy games.

I'm drafting/adding Tannehill if: I'm in a league with 14-plus teams and need a No. 2 quarterback with some upside.

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Theo Riddick DET • RB • 25
2015 stats
ATT43
YDS133
TD0
REC80
REC YDS697
REC TD3

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell mentioned recently that Ameer Abdullah would be "just as involved as he was a year ago" in the offense. That suggests he could begin the season as the lead back but nowhere close to becoming an every-down warrior. He probably can't hold up under such a role -- he played through a serious shoulder injury last season and missed spring workouts healing from surgery. Riddick isn't immune to injuries either but his track record is a little cleaner. He also proven over the past couple of years he can churn out numbers as a pass catcher. If Abdullah's role is going to be the same then so will Riddick's, which should mean another year with tons of receptions. He also could creep into some carries, particularly if Abdullah is ineffective, giving him a crack at potentially 15 touches per game. But even if he doesn't, the Lions don't figure to be particularly good, which means more passing and more time on the field for Riddick. PPR leaguers already know how good of a value he is, but given where he's going in standard drafts, he's the Lions running back to target.

I'm drafting/adding Riddick if: I want good depth and a potential starter at running back, or if I am woefully thin at running back.

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DeAndre Washington OAK • RB • 33
2015 stats
CAR233
YDS1
TD14
REC41
REC YDS385
REC TD2

Everyone's in love with Latavius Murray and what he might do this season in Oakland. But you can't ignore how Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie fawned over Washington after the draft, calling him "a complete back." No one believes what McKenzie is saying but the only opinions that really matter belong to the Raiders coaches. They weren't overly enthused with Murray following the season and if they think they can win with Washington, they'll put him in. He's already seemingly locked into certain passing down and special teams duties, but any sliver of a chance to unseat Murray would give a rusher who averaged 6.2 yards per carry over his last two seasons some serious potential to be a Fantasy gamebreaker. That's why he's worth drafting late whether you take Murray or not.

I'm drafting/adding Washington if: I take Murray with a Top 30 pick and/or if I want to have a low-risk, high-reward running back biding his time on my bench.

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Keith Marshall WAS • RB •
2015 stats
ATT68
YDS350
TD3
REC4
REC YDS28
REC TD1

Once upon a time, Marshall was part of a running back tandem with Todd Gurley. Yes, that Todd Gurley. In college, the two worked as a combo against opposing defenses and chewed them up. Unfortunately, Marshall tore his ACL in 2013 and didn't quite look the same on the college gridiron since (even when he averaged 5.1 yards per carry last year). But at the NFL combine Marshall sped through the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds, catching the eyes of the Redskins. They in turn took a chance on him with a late-round pick and have him fairly high up on the depth chart behind Matt Jones. As much as Washington would love to tell you Jones is their main back moving forward, fumbling issues could push Jones out of the lineup and give Marshall a shot at some playing time.

I'm drafting/adding Marshall if: I have an open roster spot and want to take a deep flier on a player who has shown some great ability in the past. He's a perfect guy to target in deeper drafts (17-plus rounds).

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Laquon Treadwell MIN • WR • 11
2015 stats
REC82
YDS1
TD11

The track record of Vikings receivers playing in the same offense as Adrian Peterson is deplorable. Sidney Rice had over 1,000 yards in 2009 (Brett Favre was the quarterback), two other receivers had over 900 yards and everyone else has stunk. Not a single receiver has eclipsed eight touchdowns while playing with AP. Fortunately, Treadwell landed in Minneapolis with some impressive credentials. Last year the 20-year-old caught 82 passes in 13 games for 1,153 yards and 11 scores, leading Ole Miss and finishing as one of the top receivers in the NFL Draft. The Vikings should find a starting spot for him right away, giving him a crack at a minimum of 60 receptions, which, sadly, hasn't been hit by a Vikings receiver over each of the last two years. Strong, tall and sure-handed, Fantasy owners could do a lot worse with a late pick than a No. 1 receiver with plenty of potential to outproduce his draft average.

I'm drafting/adding Treadwell if: I want a fourth or fifth receiver to stash on my bench and eventually develop into a potential starter.

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Chris Hogan NE • WR • 15
2015 stats
REC36
YDS450
TD2

This wouldn't be the first time the Patriots swiped a receiver from a division rival and turned him into a regular part of their offense. Hogan is a very savvy route runner who can line up in the slot or work along the outside. That kind of versatility should keep him on the field often for New England. He also has proven to be a quick study, using his quick cuts to help draw rave reviews in spring minicamps. And unlike Edelman or Amendola, Hogan is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, so he has some size to him. Plus, he's healthy. While Edelman and Amendola have been sidelined this spring, Hogan has been the Patriots best receiver. There's a shot that continues into training camp, the preseason and the regular season. It's always worth trying to land one of Tom Brady's targets.

I'm drafting/adding Hogan if: I want a fourth or fifth receiver to stash on my bench and eventually develop into a potential starter.

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Sammie Coates HOU • WR •
2015 stats including playoffs
REC3
YDS72
TD0

It's just a hunch, but Coates' size and speed will give him a chance to establish himself versus Markus Wheaton's chance to take the next step in his progression. Coates is 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds and he can run. The knock on him coming out of Auburn was a penchant to drop passes, but perhaps he's come around on that. This offseason he's been the hero of Steelers camp by catching high, deep passes that may have normally gone to Martavis Bryant. Spending the offseason in Pittsburgh, working out at the team facility and paying attention to what the coaches asked him to improve have seemed to pay off so far for Coates. Next comes the playing time, which as one of the top three Steelers receivers, is promised.

I'm drafting/adding Coates if: I want a fifth receiver to stash on my bench and eventually develop into a potential starter.

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Pharoh Cooper LAR • WR • 10
2015 stats
REC66
YDS973
TD8

When you think of Rams receivers you think of ... okay, you probably get a headache. Tavon Austin found over 900 total yards and nine touchdowns last year (really!) but no one's waiting in line to draft him. Perhaps Cooper is the one who will push for the most targets in L.A. -- he's expected to fill in as the Rams new slot receiver. It's a role the Rams have tried to fill for years, being so desperate last season that they gave Wes Welker a shot at it in 2015. Cooper isn't a pure speedster but he is polished (back-to-back 60 catch seasons at South Carolina with a 15.6-yard average) and earned high praise from Jeff Fisher following minicamp, hinting at a large role for him. Do the math: if the Rams are going to put a rookie quarterback on the field in a conservative ball control offense that might wind up playing from behind more often than not, the quick-twitch slot receiver should get a lot of work.

I'm drafting/adding Cooper if: I want a fifth receiver in a deep league, especially in a PPR scoring system.

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Eric Ebron IND • TE •
2015 stats
REC47
YDS537
TD5

Look, someone's got to help pick up the 149 targets left behind by Calvin Johnson. Marvin Jones will get a bunch of them but Ebron should play nearly every down and should be at his best in his third year. At the very least we've seen Ebron improve his catch rate and receiving average over his first two seasons. A little leap in Year 3 would result in numbers in line with low-end start-worthy tight ends in Fantasy, whereas a big leap would put him beyond expectations. Given the Lions' offense without Megatron or a potent run game, there's a shot Ebron can contribute given over 100 targets (he had 70 in 14 games last season).

I'm drafting/adding Ebron if: I whiff on tight ends early on in my draft and want to speculate on someone with upside to start of the season.

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Jared Cook OAK • TE • 87
2015 stats
REC39
YDS481
TD0

I can't believe Cook is on a positive list. He might be the most underachieving Fantasy tight end of the last five years, but somehow the Packers signed him in free agency and will put him to work in their dynamic offense. You've got to admit the fit is great -- sharing the field with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Cook will never see tight coverage and should be a regular in the red zone. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Cook has never caught passes from a quarterback as good as Aaron Rodgers and has never been on a playoff team. One more fun fact: over the last three seasons Packers tight ends have averaged 97.7 targets, 64.7 catches and 7.0 touchdowns. Cook should dominate those numbers as the top guy at his position in Green Bay.

I'm drafting/adding Cook if: I'm in a deep league and want to take a big-time shot on a late-round tight end, be it as a potential starter or potential trade chip. Did I really just type that about Cook?!

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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