Anyone can follow a fantasy draft cheat sheet and simply pick the best available player according to, say, Yahoo!’s rankings. But finding the top value picks and sleepers in the later rounds could be the difference between winning a fantasy title and being the punch line of your league. To help you decide which mid- to late-round players are worth pursuing, we’ve targeted three sleepers at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end that will make you look like a fantasy genius come December.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
He has the NFL’s best receiving duo in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and he’s no longer one of the most-sacked QBs. Last year, he was sacked 5.1 percent of the time — the sixth-lowest rate in the league.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
The 32-year-old has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in five of his past six seasons, and he was fourth in the league with 32 touchdown passes in 2013.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t bet on Dalton in the playoffs, but for fantasy he’s a late-round steal. In 2013, he threw more touchdowns than anyone not named Manning or Brees.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
It might not be the most popular move to draft a guy who’s suspended after an offseason domestic violence incident, but Rice should get plenty of carries when he returns from his two-game ban.
Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars don’t have many other options at running back. Gerhart, who’s battling a hip flexor injury, averaged 7.9 yards per rush in limited action with the Vikings last season.
Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
The rookie out of Towson is behind Ben Tate on the depth chart, but West has been impressive in camp and Tate has a history of getting injured.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
The former Steelers wideout gets the Peyton Manning bump. Sanders comes into the Broncos’ lineup in place of now-Jets receiver Eric Decker, who had 1,288 yards and 11 TDs in this offense in 2013.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in three straight seasons, so the Saints’ first-round pick should get his chances in the pass-happy offense.
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
Few teams throw as much as Detroit, and Tate, who was with Seattle last year, could be the No. 2 receiver the Lions have been looking for to take pressure off Calvin Johnson.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
As a rookie last year, he struggled to stay healthy, but his 55.4 yards per game ranked sixth in the NFL among tight ends. Reed had at least three catches in eight of the nine games he played in 2013.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder may be Miami’s best red-zone option. Last year, he had a team-high six touchdowns and went for at least 80 receiving yards in four games.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ second-round pick in 2012 has had a couple underwhelming seasons in the NFL, but he ended 2013 strong — with 11 catches for 120 yards and a TD in two playoff games.
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