Sleepers and undervalued players are always key to winning a fantasy championship. I think undervalued players are key more so than sleepers. I view a sleeper as that player that comes out of nowhere to help propel your team to a championship or high finish. Last year, Texans RB Arian Foster was a sleeper, as were Buccaneers WR Mike Williams, Eagles QB Michael Vick and Broncos QB Kyle Orton. QB Ben Roethlisberger, whose suspension allowed him to drop, turned out to be an undervalued player.
Someone who is undervalued can be an upper-tier player, not just an unknown. QBs Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan were undervalued last year because they performed above their expectations. Let's get it people! One note, ADP means average draft position, an average of where players go by position and overall using hundreds of drafts with the same scoring rules.
Donovan McNabb, Vikings
Position ADP: 18
Overall ADP: 163 (Round 14 in a 12-team league)
McNabb returns to a more run-heavy West Coast offense than he was accustomed to with the Eagles. That's OK. He has Adrian Peterson to shoulder the load. In the last two years, Peterson has averaged 40 receptions and the team wants to involve him more in the vertical passing game. Factor in WR Percy Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe, and McNabb has a set of players who can make big plays. Granted, you'd want a larger corp of quality receivers, but McNabb has just enough. While the rest of the pass catchers on the roster aren't fantasy or NFL stars, I view Michael Jenkins, Greg Camarillo, Bernard Berrian and TE Kyle Rudolph as players that won't be stars but can create a clutch play to help their quarterback out.
While I'm not writing off all of last season, I know when you get into Mike Shanahan's dog house, it's tough to get out. I include McNabb among my sleepers mostly because of where he's going. If I can grab him in the 14th round as my No. 2 fantasy quarterback, I'll do it in a heartbeat.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Position ADP: 19
Overall ADP: 168 (Round 14 in a 12-team league)
Putting Fitzpatrick on this list makes me nervous because we're talking about the Bills. A team with a horrific line equals a quarterback who will probably be running for his life and put up inconsistent numbers. What if he had seen all the reps in camp last year? Started all 16 games? We'd be looking at a potential of 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Sure, he has a horrible offensive line and questionable receivers. RB Fred Jackson is a solid all-around player with nice hands, and if the team can develop C.J. Spiller into a quality third down back, Fitzpatrick will be fine. When someone with Fitzpatrick's offensive potential is available in the 14th round, as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback, you can't go wrong. Just because a pick isn't sexy, it does not make it a bad pick!
Kevin Kolb, Cardinals
Position ADP: 20
Overall ADP: 171 (Round 15 in a 12-team league)
First, I'm not a fan of what the team paid for Kolb — $65 million ($21.5 million guaranteed). He owes the Eagles his next child based on how much they pumped him up. I don't begrudge him, and I'm not envious. Frankly, I can't even imagine having that much money. I question the move, though, because some of the money could have gone to other areas of need.
If this reads as if this he is a on my bust list, he's not. Kolb has shown the ability to post big numbers when he has time to throw. It's his ADP that tells me to take a chance on his potential that late in a draft. As your No. 2 fantasy quarterback, that late, you can't ask for a better player with upside. That's important because it means you don't have to use an earlier round for a bench player. You can, hopefully, scoop up another quality running back or wideout to fill out those slots.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Position ADP: 8
Overall ADP: 72 (Round Six in a 12-team league)
Big Ben missed the first four games of the season last year and still finished with 19 touchdowns (two were rushing). The team has deep threat WR Mike Wallace, who is entering his third season and primed to break out. Let's not forget veteran Hines Ward, who is an incredible blocker and complete player. Though past his prime, Ward is still a quality possession receiver. Adding TE Heath Miller gives Roethlisberger a complementary set of receivers.
The team has balance, but it's Roethlisberger's uncanny ability to feel the pressure, sidestep defenders and not run but buy himself precious seconds to find the receiver who has broken free. His field vision separates him the pack and could eventually make him a Hall of Fame quarterback. If you miss the elite quarterbacks and decide to wait, Big Ben is a potential quality option.
Tony Romo, Cowboys
Position ADP: 7
Overall ADP: 65 (Round Six in a 12-team league)
When healthy, Romo can post numbers close to some of the quarterbacks ahead of him. The reason I view him as undervalued is because he's going right around the sixth round in a 12-team league.
Romo was a top-10 fantasy quarterback who was reliable until last season. He's having a great camp and the team is retooled to compete. As long as he has Miles Austin as his No. 1 wideout, that will not put as much pressure on potential phenom Dez Bryant as he enters his second year. Romo's running backs also can catch the ball, as well. He's great value at that point in the draft, and I believe he can be a top-10 fantasy quarterback again.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
Position ADP: 23
Overall ADP: 197 (Round 17 in a 12-team league)
I'm not as big a fan of Orton this year as I was last season. However, he's going with the 197th overall pick, and he's a proven starter. Normally, I wouldn't target him as my No. 2. However, draft strategy can change during the draft. If forced to wait for a No. 2 quarterback, regardless of reasons, you can pick him up. Like all No. 2 fantasy quarterbacks, you don't want to use him, but he's a steady player and would not hurt your team with slight production.
For those arguing he's on a run-first team, with Orton, the Broncos can use a balanced approach with the run setting up the pass. Come on, would you rather have Orton or Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton as your fantasy backup?