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The Top Quarterback Sleeper Predictions of 2013

Updated on 6/26/2014 by Brad Perniciaro
Confirmed QB Sleepers for the 2013 Fantasy Football Season.

Were you smart (or lucky) enough to draft one of the top five quarterback sleepers in 2013?

Every year fantasy football writers around the web publish their lists of potential quarterback sleepers.  But does anyone ever go back to validate which players actually qualified as a QB sleeper?  Better yet, does anyone ever go back to recognize those journalists who made the best sleeper predictions?  The purpose of this article is to fill that void. 

First, we will identify those NFL quarterbacks who met our sleeper criteria in 2013, presenting concrete evidence to justify this distinction.  Then, for each quarterback sleeper we'll highlight a writer who was able to correctly forecast that player's potential during the preseason.

Ever wonder which fantasy expert to trust when customizing your fantasy football rankings?  The writers credited in this article should be at the top of your list.

Defining a Quarterback Sleeper

We define sleepers as those players with the greatest potential to significantly out-perform their perceived value.  In order to make the sleeper determination, we'll therefore need to quantify perceived value and actual fantasy performance.  To quantify perceived value, we'll utilize each player's ADP before the first game of the regular season.  For actual fantasy performance, we'll simply reference that player's final fantasy rank among quarterbacks using total fantasy points scored.    

To determine if a player earned the sleeper distinction, we'll consider both their ranking/ADP differential and their final rank among quarterbacks.  Obviously, those quarterbacks with the highest ADP/ranking differential were the biggest surprises of the season and provided the most value.  But at the same time, highly-ranked players who provided value are more beneficial than lower-ranked players who provided similar value.

In order to be considered a sleeper, each quarterback had to out-perform their ADP by at least 10 positions.  In this particular sleeper analysis, each of the five players mentioned in this article finished the season ranked in the top 16 among quarterbacks. 

Awarding the Best Quarterback Predictions

Football Award for the Best Fantasy Sleeper Predictions

To find the best fantasy sleeper predictions I reviewed online articles published between June 1st and September 4th, specifically looking for those that predicted the top quarterback sleepers confirmed in this article.  I then chose those articles that provided the most compelling argument for the player in question.

I am not associated with any of the authors mentioned nor the websites they represent.   This article is an honest evaluation of sleeper predictions which gives no preference to the popularity of a site or writer.

Evaluating QB Sleepers in 2013

Quarterback sleepers are notoriously hard to predict.  For one, most fantasy teams only start one quarterback each week.  This means that your pool of potential sleepers is very small, roughly 32-40 players. 

Another reason that there are few sleepers at this position is because quarterbacks generally have long careers with few dramatic shifts in production.  Unlike other positions, statistical deviations  for a QB are more likely to occur gradually over a career.

Still, we were able to identify five quarterbacks who surprised in 2013 and rightfully earned their title of fantasy sleeper.  Of course, some deserve the title more than others, but all far out-played their perceived, pre-season value.  This list includes Nick Foles, Phillip Rivers, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, and Ryan Tannehill.

   

1.  Nick Foles - Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles was a top fantasy sleeper in 2013.

Foles provided the best value in 2013

Nick Foles was on everyone's fantasy radar as soon as Chip Kelly was named the Eagles head coach back in January of 2013.  Considering the high-scoring offense Kelly masterminded at Oregon, fantasy owners knew that whoever won the quarterback job in Philly was set to have a considerable impact. 

However, Foles became an afterthought when Mike Vick won the pre-season quarterback competition, being named the starter before the third preseason game.  Vick began the season on-fire but was ultimately battered and beaten until a hamstring injury sidelined him for good in week 8.  Foles took over for good in week 9 and never looked back.

When the regular season started, Nick Foles had an ADP of QB35, but with only nine official starts under his belt he ended his 2013 campaign ranked 11th among quarterbacks using standard scoring.   That's a massive differential of 24 positions, the highest differential of any quarterbacks in 2013.

Nick Foles' 2013 Sleeper Value

Nick Foles' average draft position, ranking, and sleeper value.

Even more impressive, if you consider the fantasy points per start statistic, Foles actually finished the season ranked 3rd behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.  Owners who had the prescience to acquire him off of waivers when Vick started to struggle were rewarded with a string of awesome late-season performances which put Foles on par with the elite at the quarterback position.

Sleeper Prediction Award - Nick Foles

Award for the best sleeper prediction.
Rotoviz.com predicted Nick Foles' success in 2013.

For most fantasy owners, there was no question that Michael Vick was the Philly quarterback to target in 2013.  Nevertheless, a few fantasy writers felt that it was Foles who had the most potential.  Jon Moore sized-up Foles in a great article for RotoViz way back in July.  In the article Jon highlighted Foles' supporting cast and correctly tied his potential to Chip Kelly's success: 

Jon Moore predicted Nick Foles' potential.What I can tell you for sure is that he is free [ADP of QB35], is throwing to Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson, is handing it off to LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, and has a record-breaking offensive mastermind as his head coach.  If this Chip Kelly/NFL experiment works out, here’s guessing Nick Foles will be a big part of the reason.

Incredible write-up and prediction by Jon.  You can follow Jon on Twitter (@TheCFX) and check out his posts at Rotoviz & The College Football Experiment.

 

2.  Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers

Phillip Rivers shocked everyone with a rebound season in 2013.

Rivers made a huge comeback in 2013.

I can't think of another NFL quarterback whose value has plummeted in recent years like that of the Chargers' Phillip Rivers.  Rivers went from being mentioned among the elite QBs in the league to a player that fantasy owners avoided like the plague in 2013 drafts. 

Some have correctly argued that Phillip Rivers' performance in recent years has been respectable considering his supporting cast.  However, there is no avoiding the fact that, from a fantasy perspective, Rivers stock has taken a nose-dive since his stellar 2010 season.

The chart below illustrates how Rivers' fantasy point output plummeted in 2011 and 2012. Rivers finished well within the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks from 2008 to 2010, even finishing as high as #2 in 2008. However, his final ranking dropped from 5th (in 2010), to 9th (2011), to 20th (2012) among QBs using total fantasy points scored.

Phillip Rivers' Fantasy Point Output by Year

Phillip Rivers' Fantasy Points Have Declined in the Last Two years

 

As mock drafts began to play-out between August and September, it became apparent that Rivers' value would continue to decline in 2013 as owners drafted him at an average position of QB23. That would hardly qualify him for bye week duty in most fantasy leagues. 

But Rivers surprised everyone by turning in a stellar year and finishing ranked 4th among fantasy quarterbacks, a differential of 19 positions compared to his ADP.  That kind of comeback paid-off huge for astute fantasy owners and made Rivers the front-runner for NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013. 

Phillip Rivers' 2013 Sleeper Value

Rivers out-performed his pre-season ADP by 19 total positions

 

Sleeper Prediction Award - Phillip Rivers

Award for the best sleeper prediction.
CBS Houston predicted Rivers' success in 2013.

Not everyone was surprised with Rivers' astonishing bounce-back from obscurity.  John Lopez of CBS Houston correctly named Rivers the most underrated QB in fantasy football, including Rivers in his list of ten sleepers who could make your fantasy season

 

John Lopez correctly predicted Phillip Rivers would be a sleeper in 2013. Rivers is easily the most under-valued quarterback in fantasy football – largely because his team has consistently under-achieved. But what do fantasy coaches care about that? His numbers still figure to be there – especially with a new offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and a fresh start.

Dead-on evaluation by John.  You can keep up with John's other predictions on Twitter (@LopezOnSports)or listen to him on In the Loop - With Nick & Lopez.

 

3.  Andy Dalton - Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton continued his regular season successes in 2013

Dalton was an elite fantasy QB in 2013

Although not a consensus sleeper candidate in 2013 (that wouldn't have made him a sleeper, now would it?), Dalton's numbers over the last two years provided reasons for optimism.  In his sophomore year, Dalton saw improvement in the fantasy stats that count:

  • Passing yardage increased from 3,398 to 3,669
  • Passing touchdowns increased from 20 to 27
  • Rushing touchdowns increased from 1 to 4

These improvements were enough to promote Dalton from the 14th ranked QB in 2011 to the 12th ranked QB in 2012. Still, owners remained skeptical of Dalton in 2013 fantasy drafts, drafting him [on average] a full four positions (QB16) lower than his final 2012 ranking.

Although Dalton showed improvement in his sophomore year, it would have taken a leap of faith to believe he could crack the top five in 2013.  But Dalton did just that, surpassing the likes of Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, and Tom Brady on his way to finishing as the 3rd ranked quarterback in fantasy football.

Andy Dalton's 2013 Sleeper Value

Dalton finished the season ranked 3rd, 13 positions higher than his average draft position.

Sleeper Prediction Award - Andy Dalton

Award for the best sleeper prediction of Andy Dalton.
Yahoo! Fantasy Sports

One writer recognized Dalton's upward trend and believed it would continue in 2013.  Chris Roling of Yahoo! Sports praised Dalton's 2012 numbers in an article way back in July and forecast his production to increase significantly with a better supporting cast.

Chris Roling profile picture

All things taken into consideration around him, paired with the fact his natural development curve has been trending upward, it's not too ridiculous to think Dalton can throw for over 4,000 yards and in the neighborhood of 35 touchdowns.

Strike while the iron is hot. Dalton is by no means flying off the draft boards, regardless of the type of league you play. Focus on important positions while others take the Aaron Rodgers' of the world, swoop back around in the mid-rounds, pick up Dalton and win your fantasy league in 2013.

Some great prophetic reasoning from Mr. Roling.  Follow him on Twitter (@Chris_Roling) or check out his articles at Bleacher Report.

 

4.  Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith Justified his Sleeper Label in 2013

Smith led the Chiefs to an 11-5 record.

2012 was a rough year for Alex Smith.  After leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship in 2011, Smith lost the starting gig to poster-boy Colin Kaepernick in 2012 after missing two games due to a concussion - this despite the 49ers having a 6-2 record at the time of his injury.

Smith was ultimately traded to the Kansas City Chiefs before the 2013 season while Kaepernick went on to became a media darling, frequently appearing in commercials showing off his tattoos and King Tut beard.  While the 49ers' future looked bright, K.C. seemed to provide the perfect setting for Smith to revert to the pedestrian numbers he posted early in his career. 

However, strange thing happened: Kansas City rode Smith to an astonishing 9-0 record to start the season.   Not only that, Smith far outplayed his pre-season fantasy stock and finished ranked 13th among quarterbacks (a full 13 positions higher than his ADP of QB26).

Alex Smith's 2013 Sleeper Value

Alex Smith's fantasy points ranking out-paced his ADP by 13 positions
 

Sleeper Prediction Award - Alex Smith

Award for the best sleeper prediction.
Huffington Post Logo

I would say Smith's surge in performance was impossible to predict, but Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post did just that in an August article for the Huffington Post.  Joe saw Smith's potential, wisely noting that new head coach Andy Reid loves to throw the football and wouldn't have sent two draft picks to the 49ers if he didn't see potential in Smith. 

Joe Fortenbaugh correctly predicted Alex Smith would be a sleeper in 2013.

Recognized as the proverbial game manager during his time in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh, we can assure you that Andy Reid doesn’t plan on using the soon-to-be eight-year veteran the same way in Kansas City, otherwise he wouldn’t have shipped two draft picks to the Bay Area to acquire Smith’s services. Reid loves to throw the football and a new city and new conference isn’t going to change that.

Great prediction by Joe and a very unexpected season from Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Keep up with Joe by following his Twitter feed (@JoeFortenbaugh) and reading his in-depth articles at the National Football Post.

 

5.   Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins

Tannehill was a border-line sleeper in 2013

Tannehill out-performed his ADP '13

Ryan Tannehill isn’t a stellar NFL quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, his abysmal performances during the last two weeks of the regular season may have cost him his job. On paper, his 2013 numbers are good but not great (3,913 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions), and in most fantasy leagues utilizing one starting quarterback he was probably no more than a backup.

But for those fantasy leagues that start two quarterbacks, Tannehill provided great value in 2013. He also filled-in admirably for teams that needed a replacement quarterback between weeks 13 and 15, when he averaged an impressive 28.5 fantasy points per game.  

Tannehill finished the 2013 season ranked 16th among fantasy quarterbacks. With an ADP of QB27 that means he out-performed his pre-season value by 11 positions. This was largest ADP/Rank differential of any quarterback finishing outside the top 15.

Ryan Tannehill's Sleeper Value

Ryan Tannehill out-played his average draft position by 11 spots.

There was some guarded optimism surrounding Tannehill before the season, especially following the signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace.  However, there wasn't much respect from fantasy owners who continued to draft him lower (ADP of QB27) than where he ultimately ranked in 2012 (24th among quarterbacks).

Sleeper Prediction Award - Ryan Tannehill

Award for the best sleeper prediction.
Masterball Fantasy Baseball

One fantasy writer put his name on the line and promoted Tannehill to his pre-season fantasy sleeper list: Ryan Carey of Mastersball.com.  Ryan noted that Tannehill didn't get the respect he deserved following his 2012 season and would be a solid pick-up for a rock-bottom price in 2013.

Ryan Carey predicted Ryan Tannehill's success in 2013.

With all the success of last year’s rookie quarterback class, Ryan Tannehill’s quality season kind of got lost in the shuffle. Mike Wallace is a huge upgrade as the top WR, and lets sure-handed Brian Hartline slide down into a more suitable role in the offense. Dustin Keller brings more athleticism as the new starting TE.

Tannehill will be a quality backup QB at a bargain price, one whose game will improve in every facet this year. His age and his running ability make him an intriguing option over some of the aging and injury-prone options available late in drafts.

Ryan writes regularly over at Mastersball.com and has been known to dominate various expert leagues around the web.  While Mastersball focuses primarily on fantasy baseball, you can obviously find some fantasy football gems there as well. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpcarey.

Closing Thoughts

This article provided clear evidence for the top quarterback sleepers in 2013. Predicting these sleepers wasn't easy and each of the writers profiled should be commended.  Show them some love by following their social accounts and sharing their content.

Are there other possible QB sleepers that you think were worthy but who weren't mentioned in this article?  Did you also publish a sleeper prediction article listing one of these quarterbacks?  Tell me  about it in the comments section.

If you liked this article, please show your appreciation by sharing it using the buttons below.  Also, stay-tuned for more a few more articles detailing the top running back, wide receiver, and tight end sleeper predictions of 2013.

 

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