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Fantasy: Super-deep sleepers for 2023


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In an effort to shine a light on the unnoticed or outright ignored, we've built a list of players with average draft positions outside the top 200 who could become fantasy relevant if things fall their way this season.

Keep these players on your watch list and be ready to pounce when their opportunity arises.

Clayton Tune, QB, Cardinals

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As Edwin Porras of Fantasy Points explained on theScore Fantasy Football Podcast, Kyler Murray's surgery to repair a torn ACL didn't take place until Jan. 3, which puts his earliest return date at late September or, more likely, October.

That leaves the door open for one of Arizona's backups to see starts for at least the opening month, if not longer.

Veteran Colt McCoy will enter training as the safest option, but in a year when the Cardinals are tied for the lowest projected win total - the team might be more interested in finding out if it has something in fifth-round rookie Tune.

Tune got more first-team reps than expected with both Murray and McCoy sitting out OTAs due to injury, and several beat writers have speculated he'll be in the mix to start Week 1.

If you're in a superflex league, Tune is well worth an end-of-the-bench stash until we find out if he's up to the task.

Other super-deep sleeper QB candidates:

  • Sam Darnold, 49ers - Brock Purdy's recovery from offseason elbow surgery puts his early-season availability in doubt, so San Francisco may need to find a short-term replacement in the opening weeks. Trey Lance has the highest ceiling of any QB on the roster, but many people in and around the team have gone out of their way to praise Darnold this offseason. Don't be surprised if Kyle Shanahan chooses Darnold over Lance in as Purdy's immediate backup.
  • Jarrett Stidham, Broncos - Russell Wilson is coming off a down year, but Denver's front office is hopeful that the arrival of Sean Payton will get him back on track. If his struggles continue, Stidham is waiting in the wings following his strong finish as the Raiders' starter over the final two weeks last season.
  • Mike White, Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa's concussion history increases the fantasy value of his backup. White had back-to-back 300-yard performances in relief duty for the Jets last year and was brought in to be an insurance policy in the event Tagovailoa misses time again. With Miami's talented receiving corps, White would be a must-add waiver wire option if he's needed to start.

Jordan Mason, RB, 49ers

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The perennial productivity of Kyle Shanahan's rushing attack makes every back on San Francisco's roster notable for fantasy.

As an undrafted rookie, Mason rose up the depth chart last year and eventually found himself earning snaps in the second half of the season when No. 2 back Elijah Mitchell dealt with injuries. Mason flashed on limited touches, topping 50 rushing yards in three straight contests.

When Mitchell was sidelined for some of the team's recent offseason practices, Mason once again turned heads and pushed for a bigger role behind starter Christian McCaffrey.

If Mitchell can't get past his durability issues, Mason could emerge as McCaffrey's backup this season, making Mason a sneaky last-round selection in fantasy drafts.

Other super-deep sleeper RB candidates:

  • Zamir White, Raiders - A year after being overhyped as a rookie, White has been forgotten by many fantasy managers. However, Josh Jacobs' contract situation remains an issue for Las Vegas and adds an extra potential path to White earning snaps. The 23-year-old is a hard-charging straight-line runner who would take over the bulk of early-down touches if Jacobs holds out or gets injured.
  • Eric Gray, Giants - Similar to the scenario unfolding in the Raiders' backfield, Saquon Barkley has yet to sign his franchise tag and has entertained the idea of sitting out due to his lack of a new deal. It's possible New York could sign a veteran free agent if that happens, but if the team rolls with its current roster, Gray would be a very intriguing option. Current backup Matt Breida doesn't offer much upside at this stage of his career.
  • Isaiah Spiller, Chargers - Injuries derailed the start of Spiller's NFL career a year ago, but he'll have another chance this summer to compete for the No. 2 job behind Austin Ekeler. If he can unseat Joshua Kelley, Spiller would offer weekly flex value while also being an Ekeler injury away from starting in one of the league's best offenses.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Lions

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Amon-Ra St. Brown proved himself to be one of the NFL's top wideouts, but the Lions will be searching for pass-catchers to contribute alongside him while sophomore Jameson Williams serves a six-game suspension.

Reynolds was off to a shockingly hot start last year before getting hurt, with stat lines of 3-38-1, 6-96-0, 7-81-1, and 6-92-0 from Weeks 2 to 5.

In Williams' absence, Reynolds will get another opportunity to produce since the only other depth receivers who will vie for targets are 33-year-old Marvin Jones and undersized slot man Kalif Raymond.

Unless rookie tight end Sam LaPorta takes on a major role right out of the gate, Reynolds could be Jared Goff's second-best downfield weapon for the first month-and-a-half.

It's enough to earn him consideration as a late-round pick before he becomes a popular waiver add in the first few weeks.

Other super-deep sleeper WR candidates:

  • Puka Nacua, Rams - The Rams' receiver room is very unproven behind Cooper Kupp. Van Jefferson has a chance to be the No. 2 option, but fifth-round rookie Nucua has generated a steady drumbeat in offseason practices and even drew praise from Kupp himself. With a strong veteran quarterback in Matthew Stafford throwing the ball and a skill set reminiscent of former Ram Robert Woods, Nacua should be on your late-round target list.
  • Laviska Shenault, Panthers - Rookie quarterback Bryce Young is the real deal in Carolina and should lift the entire offense. We don't currently have an established pecking order in the receiving corps, so taking chances on Jonathan Mingo, DJ Chark, Adam Thielen, Terrace Marshall, and Shenault makes for worthwhile lottery tickets in fantasy. Shenault was barely a factor during his first season with the Panthers but has a pair of 600-yard campaigns on his resume from his time with the Jaguars. Head coach Frank Reich was also coy about how the team might be planning to use Shenault, even referencing Shenault's similarities to Deebo Samuel. It's a long shot, but so is everyone on this list.
  • Richie James, Chiefs - James had a couple of brief fantasy moments as a member of the 49ers, but it wasn't until he landed with the Giants last season that he actually began to produce. James posted a career year with 57 receptions, 569 yards, and four touchdowns in New York while catching passes from Daniel Jones. Now, he goes to a Kansas City receiver room full of unproven wideouts. It wouldn't take much for a path to clear, allowing James to step into meaningful snaps in a Patrick Mahomes' offense.

Cole Turner, TE, Commanders

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Turner is behind veteran Logan Thomas on the depth chart, but the sophomore is a name to keep a close eye on.

The 2022 fifth-rounder stood out at OTAs for the second straight year as one of the most targeted players in practice. The hope is that he won't have his season derailed by injuries this time.

Even Thomas acknowledged that Turner is built for new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy's scheme, which is expected to feature tight ends.

A breakout seems inevitable, the only question is when Turner passes Thomas - who turns 32 in July - and moves into the starting lineup. Have Turner on your watchlist and be ready to pounce when we get news of his rise or a potential Thomas injury.

Other super-deep sleeper TE candidates:

  • Noah Gray, Chiefs - At some point, 33-year-old Travis Kelce is going to show signs of decline or miss time with an injury. Gray has been a part-time contributor in the Chiefs' offense and is the next man up if Kelce hits the trainer's table. Any pass-catcher attached to Patrick Mahomes is notable for fantasy, especially if it's his starting tight end.
  • Robert Tonyan, Bears - Early reports suggest Tonyan has been seeing a decent amount of targets in Chicago's practices, and the team might be preparing to deploy more two-tight end sets this season. Though he would still likely need a Cole Kmet injury to become a fantasy starter again, Tonyan has delivered in the past thanks to his red-zone production.
  • Daniel Bellinger, Giants - Darren Waller is my favorite tight end to target outside of the elite names at the position. However, some fantasy managers are still worried about his extensive injury history. If you're one of them, you should get familiar with Bellinger, who popped up on the fantasy radar a couple times as a rookie and would step into the starting role if Waller gets hurt.

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