Fantasy Football is all about making the right decisions and getting the advantage over your opponents, not to mention a little bit of luck. Every year owners draft in their leagues thinking they’ve crafted the superior team. Some spend weeks or months scrupulously researching each player, weighing their pros and cons and ranking them. Others just wing it.
By the time all of the “gems” are off the board the real fun begins. Owners then begin their search for “sleepers”. Sleepers are often breakout candidates drafted in the middle to late rounds. They could be rookies, third year players poised for a breakout year or aging veterans who look like they’ll make an impact. Everyone’s got their own sleepers that they like and getting lucky with a sleeper pick can mean the difference between playoffs and shame.
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10 David Wilson – RB – New York Giants
So far the 2012 first round pick hasn’t met expectations. Last year was supposed to be a breakout year for the versatile back, but trouble holding onto the ball and injuries made Wilson one of the biggest busts in fantasy football. Now that former Raiders bell-cow Rashad Jennings is penned in as the starter and health concerns still linger, Wilson will be fighting to get back into the starting rotation. Here’s the thing; Wilson has recently been cleared to play this season and there’s no signs that he doesn’t still possess that big play ability that made him a first round pick. The arrival of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is promising given Wilsons versatility, even if he doesn’t find his way into the starting line-up there are plenty of ways to utilize someone with Wilson's skill set.
9 Matt Schaub – QB – Oakland Raiders
Another rebound candidate, Matt Schaub's divorce from the Texans wasn’t pretty. Schaub had one of his worst years in 2013 and at age 33 his career looks to be on the decline. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have another good year left in him. The Raiders got themselves a number of weapons and made key acquisitions in both the draft and free agency, although Schaub doesn’t have an Andre Johnson to throw to this time around he’s surrounded by a number of weapons. Despite the fact that he isn’t one of the elite fantasy QBs, you can definitely expect him to put up 20+ point performances consistently now that he’s in the silver and black.
8 Emmanuel Sanders – WR – Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning makes the players around him better - it’s what makes him one of the best QBs in the NFL. New Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders is going to benefit greatly from this. In Sanders’ last two years with the Steelers he started all 16 games and showed himself to be capable of being a starting receiver in the NFL. Now most will look to receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas as the Broncos’ playmakers on offense, but Sanders is going to take over for recently departed wide out Eric Decker who is coming off a season where he caught 87 balls for over 1,200 yards. Peyton Manning works well with young receivers and turns them into studs, expect Sanders to be no different.
7 New England Patriots D\ST
What jumps out at you when you think about the New England Patriots is how much better their defense is looking, at least on paper. The defense was already ranked 10th in the league in points allowed, now with the additions of defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner they look to be even more imposing and will most definitely improve that 26th ranked secondary. The defensive line looks solid with veteran Vince Wilfork returning from injury, along with Florida standout Dominique Easley and the addition of former Saints defensive end Will Smith the Patriots D looks very promising.
6 DeAndre Hopkins – WR – Houston Texans
Last year DeAndre Hopkins managed to snag a couple of TDs on 52 catches for 802 yards. Those are pretty decent numbers for a rookie wide receiver. It’s even more impressive when that rookie plays opposite Andre Johnson. With Johnson aging, Hopkins looks to expand his role in the Texans' offence, and if the running game is as bad as it was last year then it wouldn’t be surprising to see him emerge as the Texans’ feature receiver.
5 Josh McCown – QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Taking over for an injured Jay Cutler last year, Josh McCown ended his 2013 campaign with the third highest passer rating in the league behind Peyton Manning and Nick Foles. At age 35 McCown is now the starting QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and while it seems strange to see a career journeyman whose career is nearing the end of its road starting for a new team, McCown's play last year speaks for itself. He’s got two huge targets in receivers Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans and showed great decision making and some big play ability in Chicago. If he can hold onto what made him successful last year with the Bears he’ll be a decent fantasy QB.
4 Hakeem Nicks – WR – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are set at receiver with veteran Reggie Wayne and young stud T.Y. Hilton. Last year the Colts experimented with former Raiders first round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey as the 3rd receiver and it didn’t exactly pan out. The Colts look to be going through the same trial run with Nicks, however this time it’ll work for both parties. While he doesn’t have Heyward-Bey’s speed Nicks is a much more talented and accomplished route runner and pass catcher. If his knees hold up and he can stay motivated he should excel on the outside. Reggie Wayne is coming off a season-ending ACL injury and at age 35 it doesn’t seem implausible to think that he’ll slow down this year, giving Nicks the opportunity to step up.
3 Kenny Britt – WR – St. Louis Rams
Although talented and full of potential, the St. Louis Rams receiving corps is raw. Tavon Austin and Brian Quick have shown glimpses of greatness but the team lacks a true standout at receiver. Enter Kenny Britt whose run-ins with the law off the field have greatly damaged his career. Britt was a first round pick back in 2009 and is now reunited with the man that drafted him, Jeff Fisher. This is looking like a make or break year for former number one overall pick Sam Bradford, despite the potential of some of the younger targets on the team Britt has proven he can be a consistent receiver on the field. If the Rams want Bradford to succeed it would be safest to give Britt the ball. Tavon Austin is explosive but not a true number one receiver. Britt would excel as the Rams’ main pass catcher and provides some veteran comfort for a QB playing for his job.
2 Trent Richardson – RB – Indianapolis Colts
Traded to the Colts early on in the 2013 season Trent Richardson’s first year as a Colt was terrible. There’s no sugar-coating it, he was expected to be one of the best backs in fantasy football last year, and instead he averaged only 2.9 yards per carry and was benched in favour of Donald Brown. But things are looking up, chalk that awful 2013 up to growing pains and a strange new environment. Richardson’s now had time to learn the Colts' offense and will be playing along side the often injured Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard who was out all of last year. If Richardson can show the Colts what he showed the Browns during his rookie year then the young back should put up great numbers.
1 Eric Ebron – TE – Detroit Lions
Let’s get this out of the way quick. Yes he’s a rookie and yes he’s on the same offense as Calvin Johnson but the first round pick out of North Carolina is one of those tight ends in the mold of Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis. In today’s pass happy NFL you might as well see him as a number two receiver behind Johnson. Since the Lions already have veteran tight end Brandon Pettigrew all locked up in a new four-year deal, some wondered how the Lions would use Ebron. But the NFL is seeing a lot more two tight end sets in recent years since the Patriots made it popular, and Ebron has much more natural talent as a pass catcher than Pettigrew. Detroit will experiment with their new toy and line him up all over the field creating mismatches and definitely making some big plays.
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