It's that time of year – fantasy football draft season! For some, draft day is the best part of the fantasy season. For others, it's stressful. After researching and mock drafting, fantasy owners have a feel for how their team may come together on draft day.
Related: These Guys Aren't Worth Their ADP
However, for those that are just starting to look at who to draft, here are some middle- and late-round sleepers to keep in mind. These players are all being drafted in the 10th round or later, and all have the potential to yield a value higher than their current average draft position (ADP).
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (current ADP: 10.8)
In 2015, Rivers finished eighth among quarterbacks in total fantasy points (assuming four points per passing touchdown). The Chargers had the second-most pass attempts in the league, and that isn't going to change in 2016. Rivers is a solid starting quarterback, and would be a great complement to Tom Brady owners. If anything, Rivers is consistent. He didn’t throw more than two interceptions in a single game. He only had fewer than 200 yards passing once and he had eight games with at least 300 yards. Fantasy owners should expect about 4,500 yards and about 30 touchdowns, which is QB1 territory.
Related: Quarterback Tiers and Rankings
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (current ADP: 12.6)
In two seasons in the NFL, Carr has averaged more than 3,600 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. His numbers increased from his rookie season, thanks in part to the addition of first-round pick Amari Cooper and free-agent signee Michael Crabtree. That productive duo is back and Carr also has shown an ability to produce even in tough matchups. He and Tom Brady would make for a potent one-two punch at quarterback, with the latter being a great value coming off of the board in the 12th round. Here are Oakland’s first four games while Brady is suspended: at New Orleans, vs. Atlanta, at Tennessee, at Baltimore.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (current ADP: 11.9)
The Bengals’ passing attack is kind of up in the air with complementary wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu having departed via free agency and tight end Tyler Eifert injured. However, Bernard and Jeremy Hill will still share carries, with the former’s role likely being the same as last year. Bernard ended the season with 730 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, along with 49 receptions for 472 yards. Hill is more of the goal-line back and the one who will find the end zone, but Bernard has more value in PPR leagues, as there’s a chance he could be even more involved as a receiver because of the personnel changes. His ADP is about right (don't reach for him), but he has the potential to exceed that value, especially with Eifert sidelined.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions (current ADP: 12.7)
While Detroit has historically been a pass-first offense, Calvin Johnson is no longer part of the picture. Abdullah is the lead back, and even though his rookie season was a little rough and he had offseason shoulder surgery, he should be healthy for Week 1 and ready to go. The knock against Abdullah is how much the other backs on the roster will be used. Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Stevan Ridley will all compete to take touches from Abdullah. However, if Abdullah can start the season strong, the Lions won't have a reason to take him out. It's a gamble, and the current ADP is where he should be, but the potential is there for him to put up better numbers than 2015.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots (current ADP: 13.4)
Initially, reports were that Blount was fighting for a roster spot with the Patriots. However, with the news that Dion Lewis is out 8-10 weeks because of another procedure needed on his surgically repaired knee, Blount’s status with the team seems secure. James White is expected to serve as the primary pass-catching back, but Blount should get the bulk of the carries. His ADP will likely rise, and given the uncertainty surrounding Lewis’ return, Blount will have fantasy value. He should be drafted before the 13th round.
Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (current ADP: 14.0)
Despite being 30 years old, Johnson rushed for 814 yards last season. He only had three touchdowns, but he showed that he still was not over the hill, for a RB. David Johnson is the guy everyone is drafting (in the first round), but the Cardinals have yet to commit to Johnson as the every-down back. They have said he's the starter, but Chris Johnson (as well as Andre Ellington) will also be involved in the game plan. He's certainly a David Johnson handcuff, but the former NFL rushing champion also is worth consideration as a late-round pick.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (current ADP: 14.2)
When Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left Cincinnati via free agency it opened up the Bengals’ starting WR spot opposite A.J. Green. Boyd was drafted and Brandon LaFell was signed. When healthy, LaFell will likely get the starting nod. However, LaFell has proven time and time again that he's not a consistent wide receiver and he’s also dealing with a hand injury (torn ligament) that he will attempt to play with. Meanwhile, Boyd has looked good in the preseason and in time he will be Cincinnati’s No. 2 WR. Draft him knowing that LaFell will eventually cede the No. 2 spot, and perhaps sooner rather than later.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore Ravens (current ADP: 14.6)
While Aiken is behind Steve Smith Sr. on the depth chart, Smith is coming off a torn Achilles and he's 37 years old. Smith is a talented receiver, but his age and the injury are not in his favor. Enter Aiken, who led the Ravens with 944 yards receiving and five touchdowns last season. He's being drafted very late, but he has potential to become a solid WR2 in fantasy lineups. The Ravens receiving corps is up in the air (Smith, Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman), but someone will emerge as a fantasy commodity. Draft Aiken now and hope that he's the one to break through.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (current ADP: 15.0)
Sanu moves from being the No. 2 across from A.J. Green to being the No. 2 receiver opposite Julio Jones. While Atlanta's offense doesn't usually support two wide receivers, that's not to say it isn't possible (Roddy White, anyone?). Sanu’s production last season was down compared to his numbers from 2014. He had about half of the receiving yards (394 vs. 790) and no touchdown catches (5 in 2014). Atlanta has been searching for a productive No. 2 to pair with Jones since White started to decline, and the hope is that’s Sanu. While Sanu has had issues with drops in the past, he has looked good in the preseason. He's a solid late-round sleeper who could end up providing WR2 production.
Martellus Bennett, TE, New England Patriots (current ADP: 13.9)
While Bennett isn't going to be the next Aaron Hernandez (on the field), the Patriots do love to use two-tight end sets. Bennett has the talent to become a complement to Rob Gronkowski, and when Gronk misses time for injury (it's inevitable), Bennett will serve as the No. 1 TE for the Patriots. The Pats love using the tight end in the red zone, and even though his overall numbers declined steeply with the Bears last season, he still wound up with three touchdowns. He's getting overlooked on draft day because of Gronk, but Bennett will have a role, and is going to outperform his 13th-round draft position.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.