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How The Draft Was Won – Finding Late-Round Gems

How The Draft Was Won – Finding the Hidden Gems That Will Lead You to Victory

Anyone and everyone can and will print a list of sleepers for the upcoming draft. The problem is that many people jump on the sleeper bandwagon and by draft day, the “sleeper” gets drafted way too early. Then, he becomes someone that must produce relative to the position that he is chosen. The true sleeper is the player that outperforms his draft position.  

Last year, for my main draft, I picked up Ray Rice and Cedric Benson after Round 7. The year before, I picked up Chris Johnson in Round 15 and missed Matt Forte by one pick in Round 14. That’s not to say that I didn’t have my share of late-round losers over the years, but taking chances on players in late rounds will generally not hurt you.

I want to show you where to get the information you need to create your own sleeper list. Then you can begin prospecting for those draft gems yourself.


Change is Good – Changes create opportunities for players to excel or fail. New head coaches or offensive coordinators, new veteran quarterback, offensive line upgrades and injuries are just a few of the circumstances that can produce a quality late-round sleeper. Some prime examples from last year would be Sidney Rice (addition of Brett Favre), Steve Smith (Plaxico Burress vacancy), Jamaal Charles (goodbye Larry Johnson), Cedric Benson (change in offensive strategy with Palmer injury). These are just a few examples, and many times, the changes can be bad. But, the bad changes usually affect early-round picks such as Matt Forte, Michael Turner and Calvin Johnson last year. If you take a late-round flyer and it doesn’t work out, cut them and move on.


2) Local Info can be a Goldmine
– Many websites give you access to information written by local beat reporters. Often, this information gets filtered out by the time it makes it to the larger national websites or the information becomes a small side note. If you read the local coverage, you may find out information about players and position battles that you won’t find out elsewhere.


3)  Preseason Games
– Only the first half of the second to last preseason game really matters. What? This is tune-up time for the start of the regular season. The stats don’t matter, but it is the only time during preseason that you will see all of the projected starters on the field at the same time, with few exceptions such as injuries.


4)  Targets/touches
– Look at a player that with a good chance to get opportunities. Maybe the guy in front of him is on shaky ground and if given the opportunity, he could become a monster.

Here is a sample list of late-round players to possibly keep an eye on. You might say “no way,” but don’t be afraid to take chances in late rounds, because that is where the season is often won. These guys won’t be your starters at the beginning of the season, hopefully, but they may be in your starting lineup by the midway point. Pick them up in the late rounds and avoid the waiver wire rush.


– Seems to be recovered from nagging injuries. Added supporting cast (Antonio Bryant, Jordan Shipley, Jermaine Gresham, Terrell Owens). Difficult strength of schedule (can’t run all game if you are behind). Only a couple of injured seasons removed from some big fantasy numbers.

Chaz Schilens
– One of my sleepers last year until he was injured. Quarterback upgrade will help tremendously. Keep an eye on health status, but he is a go-to guy and will probably be overlooked until late on draft day.

Larry Johnson
– He has something to prove and something in the tank. If he doesn’t win the starting job outright, he is one head knock (Clinton Portis) away from a lot of carries, and he may get the goal line touches anyway.

Julian Edelman
– Could see a lot of targets and fill the Wes Welker role if Torry Holt doesn’t step up and Welker’s recovery time drags out.

Greg Camarillo
– See what a difference it makes when

has Brandon Marshall lined up on the other side instead of Ted Ginn Jr.

Joe Flacco
– Added cast of receivers and Ray Rice. Would make a great backup quarterback on your roster if someone doesn’t grab him too early.  

Ben Tate
– Rookie on a high-powered offense that may get an opportunity quickly with the way Gary Kubiak yanks runningbacks.

Now that you have some basics, do your research, make your own list and don’t reach for them too early. Good luck!

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