A major part of dynasty fantasy football is finding players who will carry your franchise to a championship year in and year out. The problem, however, is that everyone else in your league is searching for those same players. If you’re like me, you’re constantly searching for that small edge each sleeper might give you, but finding those sleepers is incredibly difficult since each player in the NFL seems to be mentioned as a sleeper somewhere on the internet at least once.
Additionally, every fantasy sleeper article out there seems to list only a handful of players which makes the process even more drawn out as you move from page to page looking for that one gem among countless names of players that are anything but sleepers. How many times do I have to see that Calvin Johnson is a sleeper? Are you kidding me? Furthermore, most sleeper lists target fantasy football players who play in redraft leagues where a player needs to hit now and is available everywhere. If you’ve been playing in a league for more than one season then many of those players have already been scooped up long ago making those lists nearly worthless. We’re in the midst of uncovering a sleeper for every team all Spring and Summer throughout our team capsules.
What I’m hoping to do here is give dynasty fantasy football players a watch list they can take into an initial draft, rookie draft or hit their waivers with and find several of these names available right now – these players should all be monitored throughout the preseason.
Many of the players listed below are highly speculative, but that’s what makes them preseason watch list candidates, the potential for a nice payoff with minimal risk. Some of those listed below will require some time to blossom, others will require one or more breaks to be in a position to make some fantasy noise, others still will require both time and some breaks to be worth much.
The players I’m sharing here likely will be available well into a startup draft, after much of your team should already be in place and you can start to afford to take some risks. Like any list, I don’t guarantee everyone here will yield some kind of return, honestly, many won’t. However, a case can be made for each and every player on this list to suddenly explode on the scene given the right series of events. Who would have guessed Arian Foster would come out of nowhere to dominate the running back position in fantasy football as he has, or even last year at this time few even knew Victor Cruz was in the NFL, much less that he would finish as a top five wide receiver last season.
Now then, let me share some background on this list.
First, this list was compiled starting in July of 2012, if you’re reading this in August of 2015 then first off, hello from the past.
Second, this information degrades and expires rather quickly, so it likely isn’t worth much after this season. Either you acted upon it and achieved a positive or negative result or you didn’t act upon it and shouldn’t use the information here to make future decisions beyond the 2012 season. Things change in football and fantasy football daily, the depth charts I used to compile this list will likely look nothing like those a year from now, but hopefully the players I’ve mentioned here have moved up in those charts and you’ll see something from these players this preseason. Put simply, the window to act upon this list is limited but can yield positive dynasty results; if you act outside of this window it could yield negative dynasty results.
Third, I’ve focused on one dynasty fantasy football preseason player to watch from each team and elaborated on why this player should be considered a sleeper. I’ve tried to keep the explanation roughly around a full length paragraph. As such, certain information may be left out or cut back. I could probably expound on these players in much more depth, but this article would quickly become a book and the content would be nearly worthless by the time it got to you. For the sake of relaying this information quickly and not boring everyone out of their mind I settled on a paragraph a player. I’ve tried to pack as much information into each player’s paragraph as I could.
Fourth, I’ve based each players worth on a 12 owner, 40 round startup draft which includes IDP players. Since there isn’t really a “standard” league size, format or layout I had to go with one I think a large amount of readers can relate to. If your league varies from this format I can try to adjust my values for a certain player or two if you’re curious. However, a sleeper in one league is likely a sleeper in most leagues. If you like that player get them where you feel most comfortable, just don’t wait too long or you might miss them.
Fifth, I’ve assigned a numeric value I’ve dubbed the “Sleeper Index.” The Sleeper Index is a number between one and ten, in which one is the least valuable and ten is the most valuable, which seeks to give a more solid valuation that the “Worth” section. The Sleeper Index takes into account where you should be able to draft the player, how much you can expect out of the player if they get on the field, the length of time between now and when you can expect the player to regularly be on the field and the player’s long term fantasy trade value.
Lastly, the “Homework” players listed below are essentially a bonus preseason player to watch that I tossed in. These are players you may, or may not have to do some additional research (or “homework”) on. Some have more immediate worth than the players I mentioned, others are much deeper sleepers than the player I focused on for a given team. Essentially, you get a player to monitor for each team, but by acting quickly, we’ll double the offer for free giving you two players for each team as long as you pay separate shipping and handling on each of them!
If you have any questions or want some clarification about what I’ve laid out I’d be happy to address those questions and comments in the “Comments” section below, on the DLF message board or on Twitter by sending a message to me at @TheFFGhost. I’ll try my best to respond to everyone I can!
Well then, on with list! Enjoy!
Arizona Cardinals – Rob Housler – Housler seems to be in a prime position as a buy-low candidate right now. Todd Heap is in the last year of his current contract and appears to be fading as a starter. Housler is going to be able to take part in his first full NFL season and admitted to running into a “rookie wall” last year. Housler appears to be in line for more playing time as coaches have mentioned him by name and tight ends as a position as targets for increased focus in their offense. Additionally, Larry Fitzgerald stated he believes that tight end is the strongest position on the Cardinals offense this year. All signs point to Housler becoming more valuable going forward.
Worth: Late round pick in a deep dynasty draft.
Sleeper Index: 6
Homework: LaRon Byrd
Atlanta Falcons – Jacquizz Rodgers – Rodgers has been called a sleeper more and more often in several fantasy circles. “Quizz” is reprtedly being tabbed for a “Darren Sproles-like role” according to some fantasy outlets. Worst case it appears as if Rodgers has now passed Jason Snelling on the depth chart behind Michael Turner. Turner is now 30 years old, the dreaded age for running backs. Signs point to Rodgers getting an increased role in new Falcons Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter’s offense. Koetter has stated that he will be incorporating the screen pass into Atlanta’s game plan this year, a la Darren Sproles, and he has a lot of experience utilizing smaller sized running backs, namely the similar sized Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville.
Worth: Late middle to early late round pick in a deep dynasty draft
Sleeper Index: 9
Homework: Robbie Frey
Baltimore Ravens – Tommy Streeter – Streeter was drafted much deeper than many expected, going in the sixth round as opposed to the third to fifth grade several pegged him at. The 220 pound, 6’-5” Streeter has operated at the college level on almost raw athleticism alone and still managed to pull down 52 catches for 967 yards and nine touchdowns in his three years at Miami with 46 of those catches coming in his final year for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. At the NFL Combine, Streeter impressed at almost every event and posted an impressive 4.4 40-yard dash. Streeter has been taken under Ray Lewis’ wing during the offseason working out with Lewis and learning what it takes physically to be an NFL player. Coach Harbaugh has been impressed calling Streeter a tall and fast player who is going to be good. Streeter could be well positioned to move up the depth chart with Boldin aging and Tandon Doss failing to impress on a regular basis.
Worth: Worth a flier late in the draft but is strictly a stash and hold at this point.
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Tandon Doss
Buffalo Bills – T.J. Graham – Graham is being talked up as a speedster among speedsters by those familiar in attendance at Bills’ OTAs. Yeah, yeah, I know a fast receiver during OTAs does not mean a whole heck of a lot. However, the #2 wide receiver spot appears wide open as no one on the team currently appears to be pulling away. Donald Jones and David Nelson have both been passable but neither have really wowed. What is helping Graham’s case is he is trying to learn all the wide receiver positions making him very flexible and able to be plugged in at a moment’s notice.
Worth: This would be a very deep stash but keep an eye on him and the situation in Buffalo
Sleeper Index: 2
Homework: Marcus Easley
Carolina Panthers – Kealoha Pilares – Pilares has flown under the radar for a while now, but is only behind Steve Smith in Carolina. With Smith clearly getting up there in age, Pilares may see more and more time in the near future. Even Smith himself labeled Pilares as a fantasy sleeper to watch out for. He showed amazing ability as a kick returner for Carolina last year, but has several experts intrigued by his natural ability on the field.
Worth: Until Smith is gone, Pilares is just a stash, but given the chance he will perform instantly.
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Nelson Rosario
Chicago Bears – Kellen Davis – There is a gathering hype surrounding Davis based upon the departure of Mike Martz as Offensive Coordinator and Mike Tice, a former tight end, being installed as his replacement. Martz has regularly underutilized the tight end position while Tice uses it as a major part of his offense. Further evidence that Davis deserves an extra look, his competition at tight end, Matt Spaeth, confirmed the increased role of tight ends in the 2012 Bears offense and said of Davis, “I think Kellen is a tremendous, tremendous talent” and called him a “freakish athlete.” Spaeth also believes that Davis’ “best stuff is yet to come.” Pretty impressive when they guy you’re fighting for playing time with is talking you up!
Worth: Davis is worth a late pick as your #2 tight end. He should develop nicely this year.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Evan Rodriguez
Cincinnati Bengals – Dan Herron – Herron is being talked up by those familiar with the Bengals as a player who might be the Bengals running back by the end of the season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was brought in this year to replace Cedric Benson. There is talk that Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott will split carries, but if there was much faith in Scott, the Bengals wouldn’t have signed Green-Ellis. The flip side to that argument is that Green-Ellis isn’t the kind of running back who can take a team on his back and win games by himself. Herron is a strong runner and seems to be the most well-rounded of the running backs currently on the Cincinnati roster. Former Bengals running back Pete Johnson has even gone so far as to state the Herron will be the Bengals starting running back by Week one. I’m not going that far, but a lot of people are seeing “something” about this guy and it’s coming from many different angles.
Worth: I’m picking him up late in rookie drafts and in the closing rounds of dynasty drafts
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Jordan Shipley
Cleveland Browns – Travis Benjamin – Mark it down now – I believe Travis Benjamin will be the slot wide receiver in the Browns offense this year. With a new rookie quarterback likely at the helm this season, the slot receiver could be a hot position to play in. Just as tight ends are called the security blanket of rookie quarterbacks, slot receivers function in much the same way, serving as a quick outlet when the pressure gets too much. Benjamin is very speedy and elusive, but is too short to play on the outside and has problems getting up field. His frame and skill set are tailor made for the slot, perhaps better than anyone on the Browns roster.
Worth: Worth a late flier in deep dynasty leagues, may see some production as soon as this year.
Sleeper Index: 5
Homework: Josh Gordon
Dallas Cowboys – Danny Coale – When you have the potential to line up opposite Miles Austin and Dez Bryant then you could see a lot of passes come your way, just ask Laurent Robinson. Coale is being trumpeted by several NFL analysts as a big-time rookie sleeper and I’m in agreement. Coale is perfect for the slot position in the Cowboys offense with a speedy 4.4 40-yard dash time and crisp route running. Coach Garrett has already been singing his praises saying “We’re excited about him,” and, “he has good traits to be an inside receiver.” Unfortunately, Coale broke his foot in OTAs, but it should only hold him out for a month or so. Nevertheless, any time not on the field is worrying but if he can bounce back quickly the impact should be minimal. Hopefully we’ll get to see him in the final preseason game.
Worth: Coale should be picked up in the late rounds of an initial draft and absolutely should be selected after the third round in a rookie draft.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Phillip Tanner
Denver Broncos – Ronnie Hillman – When Denver traded up in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and selected Ronnie Hillman, many thought it was pretty obvious he would be their starting running back at some point. Hillman has had a great career at San Diego State University racking up 3243 yards over two years and breaking Marshall Faulk’s freshman record for most yards rushed in a season and then smashing the WAC rushing record his sophomore season. Hillman is already second in line on the depth charts of some Broncos watchers surpassing Knowshon Moreno even before training camp. I don’t see Hillman ripping the NFL to shreds and might not even see all that much time his rookie season, but if you can grab a starting running back before anyone you obviously do it. The injury to Mario Fannin helps his cause as well.
Worth: Hillman should be a late middle round pick in most start-ups and will be gone in the first or second of most rookie drafts.
Sleeper Index: 8
Homework: Brock Osweiler
Detroit Lions – Ryan Broyles – Broyles looked amazing during his college career and looked certain to go in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, then during a game against Texas A&M he tore his ACL. Broyles ended his career as the NCAA career leader in receptions at 349. The Lions took a gamble on Broyles drafting him in the second round and I believe it is for a purpose. Broyles should be a plug and play option for the Lions at the slot and should pick up right where he left off in college. His smooth route running and amazing hands should make him a favorite of Matthew Stafford very quickly.
Worth: Broyles should be picked up in the late rounds of an initial draft and around the third round of a rookie draft.
Sleeper Index: 9
Homework: Kevin Smith
Green Bay Packers – Randall Cobb – Cobb has been labeled a sleeper for over a year now, but I think we will start to see Cobb come on slower than your typical sleeper. The explosion of Jordy Nelson has somewhat eclipsed the fact that Cobb was also a contributor to the Green Bay offense last year posting 25 receptions, 375 yards and one touchdown. With Donald Driver likely in his last year and Greg Jennings in a contract year, Cobb could be leaned on to perform much more than he did in his rookie season. His frame is perfect for the slot but his skills translate to any wide receiver position on the field. In such a high flying offense with fantasy stud quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm Cobb could explode in an instant and never look back.
Worth: Cobb is going in the middle rounds of most start-ups as Cobbs’ stock continues to rise.
Sleeper Index: 8
Homework: Alex Green
Houston Texans – DeVier Posey – Posey has found himself in a very unique position, drafted as a high draft pick and clearly expected to pay off he finds himself filling the shoes of a bust that was shipped out of town and only behind two wide receivers who are both in their thirties (Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter). Posey has all the necessary tools to step in and contribute right away but will likely be worked slowly into the offense. If you can afford to hold Posey for a couple of years, or sooner given the history of injuries at the Texans’ wide receiving corps, you could soon be looking at a player ready to step in and put up good numbers.
Worth: Not rosterable in an initial draft, but should come off the board in the fourth or fifth round in a rookie draft.
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Lestar Jean
Indianapolis Colts – Donald Brown – Brown is going to be leaned on heavily to carry the rushing duties on a young and inexperienced team. There is no doubt that Andrew Luck was drafted to throw the ball but even the number one draft pick can’t throw the ball every down. With the departure of Joseph Addai, the clear number one running back falls into Brown’s lap. Looking long term, Brown isn’t the answer, but grabbing a starting running back, riding him for a while and trading him away is what dynasty football is all about. Brown will be a low level running back option but he will put up points and will be a good bye week fill in, his trade value will also be much higher than his draft position, exactly what you’re looking for in a potential sleeper. His owners have to hope he shows well this preseason.
Worth: You can pick up Brown in the late rounds of an initial draft.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Vick Ballard
Jacksonville Jaguars – Rashad Jennings – Jennings is very likely to see an increase in his touches this year as Maurice Jones-Drew comes off a rushing title last year and is getting older. The presence of a bone-on-bone knee injury for Jones-Drew is extremely worrying and will very likely shorten his career at some point. Jennings has proved he can shoulder a decent load in the NFL when in 2010 he carried the ball 84 times for 459 yards as well as 223 receiving yards off of 26 receptions. Of concern, however, is the fact that in 2011 Jennings suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for the entire season. Personally, the injury to Jennings doesn’t worry that much given his limited use, MJD’s injury coupled with the fact he has over 300 rushing attempts each of the three past seasons is extremely worrying. I firmly believe Jacksonville will cut back on MJD’s exposure this year as they try to conserve him, Jennings will likely start to eat into MJD’s touches and a limited running back by committee (RBBC) will start to take hold. If you’re an MJD owner, you’d be suicidal not to have Jennings stashed away. If you don’t own MJD, but can nab Jennings, do it – his value has steadily been increasing and you can demand a lot from the MJD owners out there.
Worth: Worth a stash in deep leagues, take a late flier on him.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Mike Brown
Kansas City Chiefs – Devon Wylie – Devon Wylie is one of my favorite prospects coming out of this year’s draft. He is a super speedy receiver who was drafted out of Fresno State in the fourth round. Wylie showed amazing promise during his career as a Bulldog and picked up right where he left off with an impressive display at the NFL Combine posting a 4.39 40-yard dash. The comparisons to Wes Welker are obvious and being thrown left, right and everywhere by a lot of fantasy experts. What is interesting to note, however, is that Scott Pioli is the General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Why does that matter? Well Pioli had the same responsibilities for the New England Patriots when they obtained Welker. Coincidence? Maybe, but it certainly is very interesting.
Worth: I’m grabbing him late in start-up drafts, near the very end of the draft. I’ve seen him go as high as the third round in some rookie drafts with him normally coming off the board in the fourth or fifth round.
Sleeper Index: 6
Homework: Cyrus Gray
Miami Dolphins – Michael Egnew – A big-bodied tight end with great hands and only Anthony Fasano in front of him? What’s not to like here? Egnew measures 6’-5” and weighs 250 lbs. At the NFL Combine, Egnew was either the leader or near the top of every drill with an impressive 4.62 40-yard dash. During his stint at Missouri, Egnew was able to catch 147 passes for 1,332 yards and eight touchdowns. A concern, however, is that he saw a deep decline in his production from his sophomore to his junior year. A converted wide receiver, Egnew will make an ideal move/joker tight end provided Miami utilizes him correctly.
Worth: I like Egnew in the late rounds of a rookie draft but would only take a flier on him in an initial draft.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Davone Bess
Minnesota Vikings – Jerome Simpson – While an easy choice here is Kyle Rudolph I think the cat is out of the bag there. Simpson on the other hand has been overshadowed his entire time in Cincinnati, first by Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, then by AJ Green. Simpson is now going to be working in Harvin’s shadow, but Simpson is a different kind of wide receiver than Harvin and could carve out his own niche with the Vikings as a legit deep threat. If not for a pot bust and subsequent three game suspension, one NFL team stated they believed Simpson was worth $5 million dollars a year as opposed to the one year $2 million dollar deal he had to sign following the bust. Even sharing the field with Green last year, Simpson managed to pull down 50 receptions for 725 yards, that’s absolutely startable as a low level WR2 to WR3 and makes for a welcome flex option. Simpson should see more looks this year and for years to come (if he gets re-signed).
Worth: I’ve taken Simpson in the late middle rounds of some start up drafts.
Sleeper Index: 8
Homework: Kyle Rudolph
New England Patriots – Stevan Ridley – Last season, Ridley was able to get on the field much more than his fellow 2011 draft-mate Shane Vereen and early word is that Ridley is in line to be the feature back in the New England offense. Ridley will split some carries with Vereen, but he appears to have the upper hand on the depth chart. Ridley isn’t going to the league rushing leader, but a starting running back in a high powered offense is never something you want to turn your nose up at. Ridley posted 441 yards off of 87 carries last year for an average carry of over 5 yards a carry, very impressive and certainly a back to consider if he can continue those statistics. We’ll be watching closely to see how this shakes out over the next month.
Worth: Ridley is a solid middle round pick and could surprise a lot of people
Sleeper Index: 5
Homework: Shane Vereen
New Orleans Saints – Nick Toon – Nick Toon has all the tools as well as the pedigree to be an impact NFL wide receiver. Toon is a tall receiver with great hands who should be able to move up the Saints depth chart provided he can stay on the field. Injuries are a concern, but his skills should win him some playing time and some opportunities for big plays. While it is early, in OTAs Toon has impressed his coaches who say his value has turned out to be much higher than fourth round pick he was selected with.
Worth: I’ve personally taken Toon as high as the third round of a rookie draft. I love the upside, skill set and opportunity he landed in. Toon is a perfect storm in my opinion.
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Mark Ingram
New York Giants – Martellus Bennett – The very simple fact of the matter is that in today’s NFL you must have a solid and high producing tight end to have an elite quarterback. If you don’t believe me, look at the top ten quarterbacks and I guarantee you each of them have a very good to elite tight end. Then look at everyone else – the difference is striking. With the significant hole at tight end for the Giants, Bennett will be leaned upon heavily. The tight end position on the Giants has produced good fantasy options in the past with Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard. Bennett showed a lot of potential his rookie season, but was never going to supplant Jason Witten in Dallas, with a fresh environment, great opportunity and one of the best quarterbacks in the game today, Bennett should be a great addition to any team.
Worth: Sneaky last middle round pick, especially if tight end scoring is favored in your league
Sleeper Index: 6
Homework: David Wilson
New York Jets – Terrance Ganaway – Shonn Greene has continually disappointed, and since Joe McKnight can’t displace Greene and doesn’t seem equipped to be an NFL starter, that leaves Bilal Powell. I don’t have much bad to say about Powell and think he actually deserves a mention here as well, but Ganaway was selected for a reason. First, Shonn Greene is in the last year of his contract and I’d be willing to bet that unless he absolutely stuns everyone this year that the Jets won’t resign him next season. That’s going to leave Ganaway in a prime spot to be the hard yards runner for the Jets next year. Ganaway has proven to be a very hard runner with just enough moves to make him dangerous a la Michael Bush, a great comparison to Ganaway’s size, frame and skill set.
Worth: Ganaway won’t be flying off the boards in many rookie drafts but I’ve grabbed him really late just for the sleeper value
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Hayden Smith
Oakland Raiders – David Ausberry – Ausberry was behind Boss in Oakland last year, but with Boss now playing for divisional rival Kansas City, Ausberry has a nice opportunity to step in and perform. Ausberry, just like Boss before him, isn’t going to be the next coming of Rob Gronkowski, but he should put up decent numbers. With the Raiders track team clearing out defenders, Ausberry could be in line for a fair amount of targets. Ausberry’s status is very nebulous right now but he appears to be the heir apparent in Oakland and since tight ends are all the rage right now he definitely deserves at least a good look over.
Worth: Ausberry will likely go undrafted in startup drafts but keep him on your watch list and see how he performs, if he appears comfortable when on the field you may want to take a waiver risk on him.
Sleeper Index: 3
Homework: Juron Criner
Philadelphia Eagles – Marvin McNutt – I really loved McNutt at Iowa – he is your prototypical big bodied wide receiver who can go up and get the ball or fight for it if needed. He will make a great red zone target and in my opinion is already better than Jason Avant. McNutt likely will be held back for a few years to develop while the contracts of Avant, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin tick down, so don’t expect immediate returns. Maclin’s contract is due to expire first, Avant is due to expire second and Jackson’s will expire last. I fully expect Maclin to be re-signed or extended, but if his asking price is too high the Eagles may not be able to accommodate him. Additionally, with Avant never being highly explosive and aging, I think eventually he will be a salary cap causality. McNutt will able to step in no matter the opportunity and should turn a lot of heads.
Worth: McNutt can be had late in most rookie drafts but can be stashed on the taxi squad for a while. If you’re patient, it could pay dividends down the road.
Sleeper Index: 4
Homework: Bryce Brown
Pittsburgh Steelers – Jonathan Dwyer – As you can see by my Steelers selections, I’m not overly sold on Isaac Redman. Talk of Rashard Mendenhall’s injury has ranged from him missing a few games to him missing the whole season, so this brings a significant number of question marks to the Pittsburgh backfield. Redman appears penciled in as the starter, but note that I said penciled in and not penned in, because pencil erases easily. From what he showed last year in limited action, Dwyer is the better of the two backs with the ability to be a true feature back as opposed to Redma, whom I feel is simply a stopgap or Band-Aid. Redman is getting drafted by a few owners based on assumption alone, but Dwyer is the true sleeper between the two in the Pittsburgh backfield. Let’s see if he can make some noise in preseason action and make the Steelers think a little more about giving him some time when it counts.
Worth: You can grab Dwyer late in a startup draft when no one is looking. Worst case I think he ends up splitting carries with Redman in an RBBC situation.
Sleeper Index: 5
Homework: Baron Batch
San Diego Chargers – Ladarius Green – Green appears to be in line to replace Antonio Gates, need I say much more? Green is very tall and agile so he’s definitely in the more “modern” tight end mold as opposed to a sixth lineman. Green ripped off a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine which ranked him second overall for all tight ends. Green’s targets increased every year of his college career with his senior years seeing him pull down 51 receptions for 606 yards and eight touchdowns. I fully expect Green to see some limited action this year as the Chargers slowly work him into their offense with a big jump in his second or third year. Learning from gates will make Green a monster when the time is right. Lots of potential here!
Worth: You can grab him late in most rookie drafts but he is definitely a prospect to target. In start-up drafts you can grab him in the waning rounds of the draft pretty easily.
Sleeper Index: 9
Homework: Vincent Brown
Seattle Seahawks – Robert Turbin – Turbin is a a big, powerful running back who doesn’t need to have a million moves because he can just bowl you over to pick up additional yards. His very physical running style has drawn a lot of comparisons to Marshawn Lynch, whom he, ironically, will be backing up to start his career. Turbin racked up 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns off 249 rushing attempts in his 2011 season at Utah State. He also added another 171 receiving yards and four touchdowns off 17 passes, showing his versatility in any offense. Injuries are a definite concern, but Lynch also has injury concerns, so the opportunity is definitely there. Then there is the little matter of Lynch’s current legal troubles which might allow Turbin to sneak on the field much earlier than many originally expected. Add that Lynch is notoriously a hot or cold runner, so a cold streak too long could spell additional opportunities for Turbin.
Worth: I’d pick up Turbin between rounds four and six in a rookie draft but I’d likely pass on him in an initial draft.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Russell Wilson
San Francisco 49ers – Kendall Hunter – I almost feel as if naming Hunter a player to watch is cheating here, but with the crowded San Francisco backfield the label fits. Between longtime 49er running back Frank Gore, new addition Brandon Jacobs and rookie pick LaMichael James, there is going to be a knockdown, drag out fight for carries, but Hunter is smack in the middle of the competition and best equipped to win the fight long term. Gore is aging and his skills are clearly declining, Jacobs isn’t much younger than Gore and will never be leaned upon by San Francisco to be “the man,” James is intriguing but he isn’t a three down back. Hunter is young, tested, dependable and will be depended on more as time goes by. Hunter has a prime opportunity to step in and be a force within the next year or so.
Worth: Hunter is moving up dynasty draft charts as the writing on the wall becomes more and more clear. I’d aim for him in the late teen to early twenty rounds of a startup draft.
Sleeper Index: 10
Homework: LaMichael James
St. Louis Rams – Danny Amendola – Amendola is one of my absolute favorite sleepers this year. Amendola erupted on the scene in 2010, catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns while becoming a PPR monster and a must own in every league. Amendola performed so well that he was only one reception behind the man every small wide receiver is compared to, Wes Welker, who pulled down 86 receptions. Amendola was already returning to form through three quarters of the Rams first 2011 game, but suffered a dislocated elbow which inevitably led to the end of his season. I like Amendola due to the fact that the injury was not to his legs meaning there should be no loss of production. Furthermore, Sam Bradford and Amendola showed they work well together, with two rookie wide receivers likely to be starting for the Rams, Bradford is going to crave a degree of consistency and familiarity, something Amendola can obviously provide.
Worth: In start-up drafts I’m grabbing Amendola in the beginning of the late rounds. I think he will be a steal and he is flying under the radar due to an injury that shouldn’t affect his performance in the slightest.
Sleeper Index: 8
Homework: Lance Kendricks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman – Freeman got a really bum rap last year for his team’s performance. Unfortunately for Freeman, fantasy football doesn’t factor in team play otherwise Freeman would be a stud quarterback in this league. LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams were singled out by multiple sources around the Buccaneers team as two players in particular who were simply dialing it in and not working as hard as they should. The results were clear as both had forgettable years. Additionally, Kellen Winslow was rumored to be demanding additional focus from Freeman so much so that many believed Winslow was in Josh Freeman’s head and altering his game. With Winslow gone and Blount and Williams on notice with the addition of Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, I think Freeman will see a much more focused and productive team. This, of course, spells a much better season next year and better dynasty value going forward for Freeman. It all starts this preseason.
Worth: Freeman is a solid middle round pick in a startup draft but should still be considered a QB2 for any team until results begin to appear.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Dallas Clark
Tennessee Titans – Nate Washington – Washington seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of wide receivers, no matter what he does, he can’t get any respect. Washington finished the year as the WR18 wide receiver in the NFL with 74 receptions for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns, yet his ADP this year? He’s going at #204 overall and #57 among wide receivers. What gives? Well, circumstances certainly play a part in this difference. Kenny Britt was out for a big chunk of last year and the Titans went out and drafted Kendall Wright this off season. Between Washington’s somewhat inflated 2011 statistics and his possible decrease in 2012 targets, his value has collapsed. I feel that while he won’t repeat last season’s numbers, Washington will put up statistics way ahead of his current ADP. Washington will have lots of opportunities this year to post respectable numbers with Britt’s continued legal and injury issues. While Washington won’t be a number one wide receiver on any fantasy team but he should make a very decent flex or bye week fill in. Let’s see if he can hold on to his status as a major player for the Titans during the preseason.
Worth: Washington is a great pickup in the late middle rounds in a startup draft.
Sleeper Index: 6
Homework: Jared Cook
Washington Redskins – Leonard Hankerson – Hankerson was pegged last year as an impact rookie to look out for, but much of the hype directed his way failed to be fully recognized. In 2011, Hankerson didn’t get on the field until Week seven and was injured in Week ten after having a breakout game where he pulled down eight receptions for 106 yards. For many, it was seen as the emergence of Hankerson as a legitimate threat at wide receiver for the Redskins, but late in the fourth quarter Hankerson injured his hip, an injury that ultimately ended his 2011 season just as it was taking off. During the offseason, the Redskins signed Pierre Garcon and drafted Robert Griffin III, which should significantly increase the offensive output for Washington. With Moss aging, I think it’s simply a matter of time until Hankerson is starting week in and week out, benefiting from the focus defenses will place on Garcon. His rise could start with a strong preseason.
Worth: Hankerson should be drafted in the middle rounds of every startup draft, his value will only increase from here on.
Sleeper Index: 7
Homework: Josh Morgan