This is a list of my favorite 2012 fantasy football late-round sleepers - underrated players whom you should target in the later rounds. The Average Draft Position (ADP) is found on FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions. Bye: 5. ADP: 10.08.
Mikel Leshoure has become a bit of a forgotten man in the wake of his injury and suspension. He'll miss the first two games of the season, but that could be a blessing in disguise because it'll give him more time to heal. Kevin Smith tends to get hurt a lot - as his fantasy owners discovered this past weekend - so Leshoure could step in as the starter sometime in October, or perhaps even sooner; he appeared as though he was healthy when he played 18 snaps at Oakland.
Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers. Bye: 9. ADP: 11.11.
I've come to love Kendall Hunter as a fantasy sleeper this year. He's an exceptional runner; he has a good mix of speed and power, and he always keeps his legs churning. The only thing holding him back from being the starter right now is a Frank Gore injury, which is not an uncommon occurrence. Hunter will see plenty of action this season behind a powerful offensive front. He'll post big numbers once Gore goes down.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks. Bye: 11. ADP: 13.09.
I know it's only the preseason, but Russell Wilson has looked like a stud in each game. He was really impressive versus Kansas City's starters, leading the team to a score on six of the seven drives he played. Wilson can post great rushing numbers, so he's worth looking into as a high-upside QB2.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans. Bye: 11. ADP: 9.01.
I didn't like Nate Washington going into this season because Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright were the projected starters. That's no longer the case, as the injured Britt is facing a suspension. Washington will be Tennessee's No. 1 wideout until Wright gains some experience. I'm all for grabbing any team's top receiver at the end of the ninth round, assuming that the quarterback is at least somewhat functional. In the three games in which Jake Locker saw extensive action last year, Washington caught 22 balls for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
Jared Cook, TE, Titans. Bye: 11. ADP: 12.07.
Jared Cook is a really athletic tight end who caught fire at the end of last season. He definitely has TE1 potential, so he's a steal in the the middle of the 12th round.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings. Bye: 11. ADP: 13.09.
Kyle Rudolph has been Christian Ponder's favorite target throughout training camp and the preseason. Rudolph is a talented tight end who should have a big second season.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts. Bye: 4. ADP: 12.07.
Austin Collie suffered a concussion a week ago and consequently has seen his ADP drop into the middle of the 12th round. However, Collie's concussion apparently wasn't too bad and it looks like he'll be able to suit up Week 1. He's worth a shot in Rounds 11 or 12, given that Andrew Luck prefers throwing to him over anyone else.
Rod Streater, WR, Raiders. Bye: 5. ADP: 15+.
Carson Palmer has targeted rookie Rod Streater 17 times this preseason. That's more than double compared to the next Oakland wideout (Darrius Heyward-Bey, 8). The Raider announcers repeatedly stated that the talented Streater is going to be a big part of Oakland's game plan this season. He legitimately could be the next Victor Cruz.
Jake Locker, QB, Titans. Bye: 11. ADP: 13.03.
Despite a horrific showing at Tampa Bay, Jake Locker won the starting job. He then responded with a solid outing versus Arizona, so that was encouraging. While there's still a chance he could flop and lose the gig to Matt Hasselbeck, Locker should be drafted as a QB2 if you have a dependable starter because he has immense upside. He'll pile up rushing yards.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons. Bye: 7. ADP: 9.04.
Michael Turner has looked slow and sluggish this preseason, which is hardly a surprise to anyone who paid attention to how much he struggled down the stretch last year. Jacquizz Rodgers makes Atlanta's offense more explosive, so I expect him to be featured pretty prominently this season.
Taiwan Jones, RB, Raiders. Bye: 5. ADP: 14+.
Everyone knows how injury-prone Darren McFadden is by now. The unbelievably fast Taiwan Jones easily won Oakland's backup running back gig. He'll be a big producer if/when McFadden goes down.
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers. Bye: 6. ADP: 11.05.
Greg Olsen was a disappointment in his first year with the Panthers, catching just 45 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns. The good news is that Jeremy Shockey is no longer on the roster, so Olsen should see more targets go his way. Ron Rivera recently said that Olsen can post Rob Gronkowski- and Jimmy Graham-type numbers.
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots. Bye: 9. ADP: 13.06.
Shane Vereen has lost the starting job to Stevan Ridley, but that's never a permanent thing with Bill Belichick. Considering Ridley's fumbling problems, the talented Vereen could reenter the starting lineup sometime down the road. He's definitely worth a late-round flier.
Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs. Bye: 7. ADP: 15+. (PPR Only)
Matt Cassel has targeted Dexter McCluster 17 times this preseason. McCluster is finally being utilized correctly - out of the slot - so considering that Dwayne Bowe looks out of shape, McCluster could catch a ton of passes this year.
Steve Smith, WR, Rams. Bye: 9. ADP: 15+.
Steve Smith is the Ram receiver you want in non-PPR formats. He's looked pretty healthy this season, so he might just be back to pre-2010 form. The only downside is that he doesn't have much touchdown potential, given the overall struggles of St. Louis' offense.
Danny Amendola, WR, Rams. Bye: 9. ADP: 10.05. (PPR Only)
As Marshall Faulk said during the Rams-Chiefs telecast, "Sam Bradford has his blanky back." Bradford loves throwing to Danny Amendola, who will once again serve as a solid PPR flex player.
Tim Tebow, QB, Jets. Bye: 9. ADP: 15+.
The rapidly regressing Mark Sanchez has predictably flopped this preseason, which means Tim Tebow will be the starter sometime soon. Tebow has proven to be a solid fantasy quarterback because of his rushing ability.
Vick Ballard, RB, Colts. Bye: 4. ADP: 15+.
Vick Ballard looked pretty good as a rotational back with Donald Brown in the Colts' preseason game at Pittsburgh. Donald Brown is not very good, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Ballard take over as the No. 1 back in the second half of the season.
Lestar Jean, WR, Texans. Bye: 8. ADP: 15+.
Lestar Jean was the talk of the Houston OTAs. He has certainly lived up to the hype in the preseason, leading Houston players not named Andre Johnson in targets from Matt Schaub. Again, you can check out the full list of 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Targets here.
Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Bye: 6. ADP: 14.05.
Devery Henderson has proven to be a solid producer when one of the other receivers has been out of the lineup. Robert Meachem is gone, so that counts. Brees hasn't thrown to any receiver more than Henderson this preseason. Check out the full list of 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Targets here.