As organized team activities (OTAs) wind down across the NFL and mini-camps lead us into training camp, I’ve decided to venture out of my Individual Defensive Player (IDP) bubble and offer up some offensive (take that word however you choose) ideas.
While I do love to dig deep and get dirty analyzing the defensive side of the ball, I actually play in many leagues that use the standard offensive skill position and defense/special teams formats. I could at this point rattle off tales of my numerous championships in such leagues but then I’d be ‘that guy.’
After participating in many mocks (expert and otherwise) as well as early drafts for actual leagues, I’ve come across certain players that repeatedly fall into very favorable average draft positions and decided to pontificate on a few here.
I’m not certain the term ‘sleeper’ still applies as there is such a proliferation of information available these days that few if any players can fly under the radar for long.
Ah, what the heck. In the grand tradition of “Coming to America” (“His momma call him Clay, I call him Clay.”) I will toe the standard line and present to you seven of my favorite ‘sleepers’ for 2013.
Rob Housler, TE, Arizona:
By the time fantasy draft day rolls around, the big kid out of Florida Atlantic may no longer be considered a sleeper. He’s running as the No. 1 tight end for Arizona in organized team activities and faces very little competition for that starting gig.
Jeff King is really the only other tight end on the roster that could eat into any potential playing time for Housler and he has battled a litany of injuries the past couple of seasons. Kory Sperry and Jim Dray will not supplant Housler on the depth chart.
In his second season in the desert last year, Housler was targeted 68 times and hauled in 45 receptions before landing on the Injured Reserve with a sprained AC joint in December.
He’s yet to reach the end zone but don’t hold that against him as many of the Cardinals receiving corps suffered the same fate last season. I’m not going out on a skinny branch here when I say that the Cardinals had a bit of a quarterbacking problem in 2012.
That has all changed as Arizona has ended the rotation of ridiculousness at quarterback by bringing in former Oakland and Cincinnati starter Carson Palmer. If you listen closely, over the din of Larry Fitzgerald owners rejoicing, you can hear the savvy fantasy owner whispering “Hey, this could help that Housler kid.”
That ‘Housler kid’ is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end that runs like a wide receiver and can stretch the field down the middle while creating mismatches galore. Carson Palmer is a smart quarterback that also loves to deliver the ball quickly to his tight end as opposed to scramble (I’m being kind, he’s a statue back there) or dump it off to running backs.
In Oakland last season, Palmer threw to the tight end position 124 times with 105 of those targets going to No. 1 tight end Brandon Myers. Under newly hired Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, first as the offensive coordinator and then interim head coach, the Indianapolis Colts threw 130 passes to the tight end position.
Look for a big uptick in the number of targets that Housler will see in 2013 and for him to also emerge as a red zone threat. Last season Palmer targeted Myers 14 times, and the Colts targeted their tight end 17 times in the red zone. His size and athleticism makes Housler an excellent option with defenses having to account for Larry Fitzgerald close to the goal line.
Housler’s current average draft position is approximately 226 overall and he’s coming off the board as the 26th TE. As the No. 1 tight end in the desert I look for him to haul in 65-70 receptions for 630-650 yards and at least five touchdowns. He’s a steal late in drafts that will pay nice fantasy dividends.