Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Dalton is not going prior to the tenth round in my fantasy league, thus making him a "deep sleeper." Look at the weapons Dalton has: A.J. Green, Jermaine Greshamâ¦a healthy Jordan Shipley. These are good players. While the Bengals did sign BenJarvus Green-Ellis, bear in mind that he's not the second coming of Eric Dickerson. He won't impact Dalton's numbers ... which, by the way, were a healthy 3,398 yards passing and 20 touchdowns in 2011.
Baron Batch, RB, Steelers: If you were to define a "deep" sleeper, this would have to be the guy. Batch isn't gonna start, especially when Rashard Mendenhall gets back. But Steeler fans have been excited about Batch, who looked great last summer until hurting his ACL. With Isaac Redman as the penciled in starter, nothing is certain, i.e., it's not like Batch has Jerome Bettis in front of him. Redman might start, but Batch's explosiveness will be hard to ignore when he gets on the field.
Taiwan Jones, RB, Raiders: Speaking of quick, Jones looked the part. He showed great speed -- football speed -- last preseason. He then ran into three problems: a) Darren McFadden's presence on the depth chart, b) Michael Bush being the best handcuff in Fantasy, and c) injury problems. But considering McFadden can't play 16 games to save his life (seven last year), Bush now resides in Chicago, and Jones is healthy now ... look out. This, at the very least, could be a great handcuff pick for when Run DMC starts limping.
Isaiah Pead, RB, Rams: At some point, Steven Jackson will hit the wall. With 2,507 career touches under his belt -- by FAR the most of any active running back -- this could be the season. Pead comes with a lot of potential as the 50th overall pick in April's draft. I was on the fence about Pead, but after Michael Fabiano and I discussed Pead's situation ad nauseum while shopping for a Jeep Wrangler, I came off that fence. I guess I saw symmetry in the mileage of my current Jeep and the Rams' Jackson.
Jon Baldwin, WR, Chiefs: Teammate Steve Breaston told the Kansas City Star how engaged Baldwin has been in meetings and practice. That's big, because the hardest adjustment for rookie receivers is the cerebral part: identifying coverages and hot reads, pre-snap. This means the game will slow down for him. Take a shot on the guy. He ran a 4.45 at the combine, and has hit lower times. With his size (6-foot-4, 228 pounds), speed, and team investment (he was a first round pick), Baldwin will be a big part of the offense. Also consider that this is a make-or-break year for quarterback Matt Cassel. Baldwin is worth a late pick.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Redskins: Washington has high hopes for Leonard Hankerson, who was a third round pick in 2011. That's too high a draft choice for Mike Shanahan to not get him on the field. While Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are in the mix, the latter has never had a big year and is coming off a season-ending ankle injuryâ¦while Garcon has been consistently inconsistent.
Greg Little, WR, Browns: The Browns have to be more successful throwing the ball to win games this year, or else they won't get Trent Richardson's butt going in the run game. That serves Greg Little, who had a nice rookie season with 61 catches for 709 yards. That was with no ground attack, and a decimated offensive line. Take a flier on Little, the best wideout on Cleveland's roster.
Jordan Shipley, WR, Bengals: Shipley could have a 70-catch season out of the slot. The Bengals were high on him after he caught 52 passes as a rookie. He lost almost all of 2011 to injury, but with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell gone, Shipley should figure heavily in the offense. Rookie Mohamed Sanu (6-2, 211) isn't the right size to be a slot guy in the NFL. That spells P-P-R for Shipley.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants: Bennett as a deep sleeper is really the result of a simple equation: opportunity=production. Travis Beckum went down in the Super Bowl, might be back for week one. Maybe. He tore an ACL. Throw in the fact that Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard are suiting up for other teams, and Bennett should be getting a lot of looks early in the season. He'll also be quite motivated for two games ... when Big Blue faces the Cowboys.
Jared Cook, TE, Titans: Cook is a good football player whose fantasy season flew under the radar. His 759 yards ranked 14th among tight ends, meaning this guy would be a good spot starterâ¦particularly in 12-team leagues. He's definitely worth a late rounder. Don't forget, he's only played three years in the league. Like the Titans, he's ascending, not descending.