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Fantasy Football Sleepers Versus Zombies: 10 to Target and 10 to Avoid


I’ve selected a pair of competing players from each round, one you can win with and one to avoid. The sleepers are players who might wake up and deliver you a fantasy title. The zombies are unredeemable skeletal beings running around trying to take a mouthful of Rob Corddry brains.

Before I get sidetracked again by Number Six, let’s jump to the football analysis.

Round 5 Sleeper – Daryl Richardson Zombie – Shane Vereen

It’s tempting to say Daryl Richardson can be a poor man’s version of Reggie Bush except 1) Bush isn’t actually very good and 2) we’re still enthused about his prospects anyway. In the end, Richardson might prove to be a slightly more conspicuously consumptive version of the Lions’ trendy new back.

We’re not excited about Bush because he’s about to deliver on the promise he flashed back way back at USC. We’re excited because Matthew Stafford has shown only three modes as a pro: long pass to Megatron, pass batted away by uncovered Brandon Pettigrew, and check down to the running back. Bush could see 100 targets. Well, Richardson could see almost that many.

Meanwhile, we know a lot about Shane Vereen’s ceiling. He’s the new Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead. Right now, Vereen is somewhat bizarrely benefitting from the enigmatic riddle he’s created by not being talented enough to beat out Danny Woodhead. Because we don’t know what he is, we dare to dream.

Unfortunately, Shane Vereen isn’t a big time athlete. He was a huge reach by the Patriots in the second round, which is one of the reasons he played behind similarly big reach Stevan Ridley in 2012. In the minds of his fiercest proponents, Vereen is an uninjured version of Jahvid Best who’s about to take the field as a crucial cog in the Best Offense Ever. But he’s not.  He was a solid college player with mediocre speed who’s failed to make an impact in the NFL. We haven’t seen what he can do as a professional, but, after two seasons of opportunity, that shouldn’t be a point in his favor.

Here are the projections I generated for Richardson and Vereen in my RB Sim Lab article.

Daryl Richardson Shane Vereen
 Standard  Half PPR  PPR  Standard  Half PPR  PPR
Low 4.2 5.4 6.3 Low 3.3 4.3 5
Median 5.6 7.4 9.4 Median 5.1 6.3 7.4
High 12.1 14.3 17.2 High 8 10.1 12

Richardson dominates on every level and in every format. His high projection in ppr is more than five points above what you can expect from Vereen. He’s the clear guy to target.

Round 6 Sleeper – Andre Brown Zombie – DeAngelo Williams

Last season Andre Brown found himself on a crowded roster with an established veteran and an intriguing rookie star. He emerged with a 28-point performance in Week 3 and a 20-point performance in Week 10, along with some other solid games along the way.

DeAngelo Williams frequently got significant touches at the expense of Jonathan Stewart in 2012 and yet was outgained by Cam Newton (741-737) and outscored by Newton and Tolbert (8-7-5). He’s not even a good RB3.

Here are my projections for the two players from the Comprehensive RB Workshop.

Rk Player RB Lab Custom Cheat Sheet Sim Score Final Projection
28 Andre Brown 9.6 12.8 4.4 9.2
40 DeAngelo Williams 6.5 7.6 9 7.2


Round 7 Sleeper – Ronnie Hillman Zombie – Ben Tate

I usually like to take the high upside backup (Montee Ball) over the nominal starter (Ronnie Hillman) if I’m getting a discount on the backup. Opportunity means more than talent in determining running back points, but since I don’t pretend to know what NFL head coaches are going to do – a belligerent bully might decide to punish David Wilson all year – I like to take the cheaper, better guy.

In this case, the sleeper might not have NFL athleticism and the probable starter might be the cheaper, better guy. And that would obviously build in even more upside and value. Hillman’s recent rise in ADP is justified.

Ben Tate seems like a weird guy to avoid since he’s averaged almost the exact same number of fantasy points per snap as Arian Foster over the last two seasons. And although Jonathan Bales assures us it shouldn’t be a concern, many are wondering if Foster’s training camp injuries aren’t a sign of the end.

But I can’t get any of the RB Sim Score apps to give me a decent result for Tate. He finished 49th in the Comprehensive RB Workshop Rankings and bombed in all three projection systems. Tate is big and fast but is always hurt. Moreover, there are plenty of reasons to think he’s not a very good football player. He averaged fewer than 4.5 yards per touch last season. He’s basically Knile Davis from the timeline out of Abed’s nightmares. If your fantasy draft were a game of existential paintball, Cierre Wood would be the man to make Tate disappear for good.

Round 8 Sleeper – Jermichael Finley Zombie – Antonio Gates

Tight end articles tend to generate a little less interest than those for the glamour positions, but readers actually preferred the tight end entry in my breakdown of age-related inefficiencies. Jermichael Finley was the reason why. Bales also featured Finley as the star of his TE Volatility Ratings.

Meanwhile, Antonio Gates receives a 6.8 as his median projection in ppr according to the Tight End Sim Score App. The Fantasy Douche recently suggested Gates is the obvious beneficiary of the injury debacle in San Diego, but he also agrees with Davis Mattek that Ladarius Green is the way to play the San Diego tight end situation.

Round 9 Sleeper – Lance Moore Zombie – Eli Manning

Almost everything in fantasy football makes some kind of sense. I don’t agree that Adrian Peterson should be taken in the first five picks much less No. 1 overall, but I understand why people think that. He almost set the NFL rushing record. I don’t think T.Y. Hilton should be drafted in the single digit rounds when you can get the higher ceiling Chris Givens significantly cheaper. But I understand why everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon. Hilton flashes all the time.

I don’t understand Lance Moore in Round 9.

Drafters seem to be forgetting Moore finished as WR21 in 2012 despite missing a game and recording his second lowest touchdown number in the last five years. My WR Custom Cheat Sheet pushed him down to WR36, but that’s his absolute floor. An honorable mention on the 10 Most Undervalued List, if you’re passing on Moore at this point in a draft, you’re going to lose your league.

Manning is the single worst pick in 2013. He’s being drafted just after the superstars and just before a whole wave of intriguing players with better upside. Eli is the poster boy for how not to play late round QB. Frankly, I think he should go undrafted in most formats.

Round 10 Sleeper – DeAndre Hopkins Zombie – Vincent Brown

It would be impossible for one website to cover a player who’s never played an NFL snap more thoroughly than RotoViz has covered Hopkins. Jon Moore shows how he’s dominated SEC defenses. I’ve argued he should go No. 1 in rookie drafts. Davis Mattek thinks he’s the only rosterable rookie WR. Hopkins is going to keep rising and perhaps even end up overvalued.

The Fantasy Douche is smartly getting out of the way of the Vincent Brown freight train, but since I’m never going to draft him anyway, I’ll stand on the tracks with Davis Mattek. Brown is one of five guys I would avoid because they didn’t distinguish themselves through the Dominator Rating or Height-adjusted Speed Score.

I could see Brown getting off to a decent start, but if you offered me Brown or Keenan Allen simply for the playoff portion of the fantasy schedule, I’d take Allen. Compare their college heat maps via the College WR Career Graph app.

Brown v Allen HM

Round 11 Sleeper – Michael Floyd Zombie – Joseph Randle

Michael Floyd’s the headliner for my WR Breakout column. Joseph Randle has been vanquished by the superior Lance Dunbar and appears to be fighting with Philip Tanner for third string duties.

Round 12 Sleeper – Alshon Jeffery Zombie – Denarius Moore

Coleman Kelly debunks our infatuation with rookie receivers and offers an excellent breakdown of Jeffery’s collegiate dominance. He ranks No. 5 on my breakout list. Denarius Moore was one of the worst players in football last year and now gets to catch passes from Matt Flynn.

Round 13 Sleeper – Joique Bell Zombie – Daniel Thomas

Bell finished as RB23 last year despite receiving only 134 touches. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’s actually a superior back to Reggie Bush, and Charles Kleinheksel expertly makes the case for Bell as a priority handcuff with stand alone value.

Just when you think the Dolphins might be able to achieve some success despite Jeff Ireland’s legendary ineptitude, they decide the RB battle between Lamar Miller and Thomas is “neck and neck.” I haven’t bothered to even project Thomas this summer. Take a quick look at his Year Over Year change plot courtesy of the RB Sim Score app.

Thomas YOY


Round 14 Sleeper – E.J. Manuel Zombie – Ryan Tannehill

Before the NFL Draft I argued Manuel would be a bargain as soon as No. 8 to the Bills. The scouts claimed he wasn’t ready, but since he was actually good in college I feel like you were safe ignoring those criticisms. Fresh off of two encouraging preseason performances, it looks like he’ll play a full complement of snaps once his knee heels. His value in an up tempo offense could be of the borderline QB1 variety.

Ryan Tannehill is a trap player for those using the late round strategy. Never a RotoViz favorite, he doesn’t even rate a mention in Staff Writer’s Custom Cheat Sheet projections. His ADP is cratering despite a solid preseason. The injury to Dustin Keller eliminated Tannehill as a draftable QB for 2013.

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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