I know you guys are waiting for me to write my yearly over/under post, but I’m waiting a few more weeks before I feel comfortable making my final predictions. In the mean time, head over to SportsBettingInfo.com and glance over the lines.
This post is all about fantasy football sleepers. I’ve sorted them by position to make it easier to look through. I’ve mixed in the deep sleepers with ‘these players aren’t properly ranked’ sleepers. I’ve been pretty successful with my sleepers in the past and I hope to keep my hot streak intact.
Here are my early sleepers for the 2014 fantasy football season.
Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers: Rivers is currently ranked as the #14 quarterback on ESPN. I would draft Rivers over Matt Ryan and Tony Romo, who are both ranked high. Rivers has played every game since 2006. I’m a big proponent in drafting quarterbacks with a track record of being on the field. He threw 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in 2013. I know the AFC West plays the NFC West this season, but Rivers will still put up double-digit points week after week.
Mike Glennon – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I’m not sold on Josh McCown keeping the starting job in Tampa. I know he looked like an All-Pro at times in Chicago last season, but he has regression written all over him. He came into the 2013 season with more interceptions than touchdowns for his career. Glennon flourished last season with a team that mostly quit on their coach.
Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals: Palmer is the prototypical backup fantasy quarterback. There are other quarterbacks with more upside ranked below him, but I have faith in Bruce Arians. He knows he will need to put up points in the NFC West, if he wants to make it out alive. He’s great with quarterbacks and I think Palmer has one more very good season left in him.
Matt Schaub – Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr is expected to take over at some point, at least by most ‘experts’. I don’t think it’s a sure thing. Oakland made some big acquisitions this offseason. They aren’t exactly in rebuilding mode. Schaub is only a season removed from passing over 4,000 yards. Last season’s pick-six issue was an aberration. Schaub and James Jones will hook up a lot.
Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins: I expect a bump in numbers from Tannehill. Quarterbacks usually make leaps in their second and third years and it will happen with him. He had five 300+ yard passing games last season. Three of those games came against playoff teams (Indy, Carolina & New England). He’s one of the quarterbacks ranked in the twenties that has a big upside. He will be a great backup or a nice #2 in two-quarterback leagues.
LeGarrette Blount – Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s about time Blount ends up on a team that will actually use him. New England seemed to save him until the playoffs. He could end up being The Bus 2.0 in Pittsburgh. I’. very high on Blount this season.
Marcus Lattimore – San Francisco 49ers: Lattimore will start the season on the non-football injury list, but I still think he has a shot at scoring touchdowns. The Niners have a glut of running backs and Lattimore will need a strong camp to prove he deserves to be high in the pecking order. Frank Gore, LaMichael James and rookie Carlos Hyde will not make it easy. Lattimore is a deep, deep sleeper. Keep an eye on his progression during training camp.
Khiry Robinson – New Orleans Saints: Robinson is a trendy sleeper. Sean Payton isn’t afraid to mix it up at running back. Darren Sproles is no longer in New Orleans and it opens up playing time. Pierre Thomas will most likely fill pass-catching running back duties and leave the traditional duties to Mark Ingram and Robinson. With a good training camp, he could even end up with over half the carries.
Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders: Murray is currently #3 on the depth chart behind the often-injury duo of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Murray isn’t the poster boy of health either. He was injured and was out his entire rookie season. He ran a 4.38 40-yard time at the rookie combine, oh, and he’s 6’3 and 230 pounds. Murray is one of my favorite sleepers this season.
Terrance West – Cleveland Browns: West is another sleeper running back currently behind a running back with an injury history (Ben Tate). New Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine has already said, “the Tate/West battle might be the best competition at training camp.” He could be worth taking a flyer on in the late rounds, even if Tate wins the starting job.
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons: Steven Jackson has the starting job, but he isn’t known for catching balls out of the backfield. Freeman is built like Darren Sproles and has a similar skill-set. Freeman may not rush for 1,000 yards, but I could see him ending the season with combined rushing/running totaling 800+ yards.
Stepfan Taylor – Arizona Cardinals: If you draft Andre Ellington, you need to own Taylor as his handcuff. I don’t think newly-signed Jonathan Dwyer is a threat to take the backup job. Taylor is a big running back and runs in-between the tackles. He could get a lot of touches at the goal line.
Tre Mason – St. Louis Rams: Zac Stacy overachieved last season and I don’t think he can repeat his 2013 numbers. Mason is more versatile and it wouldn’t surprise me if he takes the starting job away from Stacy at some point.
Montee Ball – Denver Broncos: Ball was a trendy fantasy sleeper last season, but Knowshon Moreno had a career year. He worked on his pass-blocking skills in the offseason, which will earn him more playing time. Peyton Manning will throw you in the doghouse if you can’t pass block in front of him. He was a touchdown machine in college and that translates in the pros. The job is open and Ball should take it in training camp.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Indianapolis Colts: The Colts benefited from using Donald Brown as a change-of-pace back with Trent Richardson last season. Ahmad Bradshaw will be battling for that role. Vick Ballard was injured and will miss the season, so competition won’t be very stiff. I expect he will get plenty of touches.
Ka’Deem Carey – Chicago Bears: Matt Forte is coming off a season in which he had 363 touches. When a running back gets 300+ touches in a season, he doesn’t usually fair well the following year. I expect Chicago to limit Forte some throughout the season to save him for late in the year. Carey has a lot of upside and could be a nice surprise for fantasy owners.
Dexter McCluster – Tennessee Titans: McCluster is a dual-threat fantasy running back. He will be active in the passing game with some rushing touches thrown in the mix. Rookie Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene will share the running back duties with McCluster, but neither of those backs have the big-play ability as McCluster.
Justin Hunter – Tennessee Titans: Hunter didn’t put up big numbers as a rookie, but he did average 19.7 yards per catch. He’s a deep threat and will make big plays. He could be a streaky player with most of his points coming off long passes. He’s still worth a spot as a #3 wide receiver or as a flex option.
Markus Wheaton – Pittsburgh Steelers: Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery both left via free agency. New faces will need to emerge to fill their production. Wheaton will be fighting newly-acquired receivers Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey for the #2 wide receiver job. Moore could be a product of the New Orleans offense and I watched Heyward-Bey all season in Indy…it wasn’t pretty. Wheaton could win the job and if he does, he will put up nice numbers.
Jarrett Boykin – Green Bay Packers: With James Jones signing with Oakland, the #3 receiver job is open. I don’t see another receiver on the roster taking the job away from Boykin. Aaron Rodgers will make a star out of a receiver and Boykin will get a nice amount of targets.
Kenny Stills – New Orleans Saints: New Orleans drafted Brandin Cooks in the first-round and will see the field plenty in his rookie season. Stills seems to be the forgotten man in New Orleans. He averaged 20 yards per catch last season and Brees speaks highly of him.
Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton has to throw it to someone, right? Steve Smith left town and he has an entire new set of receivers. I don’t love Benjamin’s skill-set, but between Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood, I like his chances of getting targets.
Mario Manningham – New York Giants: Manningham found out that greener pastures aren’t always as green as expected. He returns to the Big Apple to a situation familiar to him. Eli Manning had an awful 2013 season and he will benefit from having a receiver back he has chemistry with.
Mike Williams – Buffalo Bills: Williams missed most of last season with a hamstring injury and he didn’t miss much in Tampa. He got into some trouble in the offseason and they shipped him to Buffalo for a packet of beans. I’m excited to see what kind of numbers he will put up with EJ Manuel, who has a big arm.
Da’Rick Rogers – Indianapolis Colts: As a Colts fan, I’m quite familiar with Rogers. He emerged last in the season when Reggie Wayne tore his ACL. He became one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets. Indy did draft Donte Moncreif and signed Hakeem Nicks, but I think Rogers has a shot at getting a targets. Keep an eye on Rogers this preseason.
DeVier Posey – Houston Texans: Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over as the starting quarterback this season. His numbers may not be great, but he puts up passing yards. Posey will see more action than he did in 2013. He may not be great, but take a look at him in deep leagues.
Jeremy Kerley – New York Jets: Kerley could end up with 50+ receptions and you could get him late in your draft. He might be a nice fill-in receiver on your team, especially in PPR leagues.
Dwayne Allen – Indianapolis Colts: Before Allen was injured last year, he was the #1 tight end. He even saw more targets in 2012. I know Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener have a chemistry that dates back to college, but Allen is great. I would draft Allen over Fleener in all leagues.
Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions: Ebron is a tricky sleeper. One one hand, you have an established tight end in Brandon Pettigrew and last year’s endzone target Josheph Fauria…but would the Lions use a high draft pick to just let him collect dust? No. Ebron will get on the field and has major upside.
Charles Clay – Miami Dolphins: Right now, ESPN has Clay outside of their top-ten tight end rankings. I would rather have Clay than Dennis Pitta or Jordan Reed, who are both ranked above him. Clay is Tannehill’s security blanket. He will have a big year.
Levine Toilolo – Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez is no longer in town and Atlanta needs someone to step up. Toilolo is huge and is a better raw talent than Chase Choffman or Bear Pascoe. He’s my favorite tight end sleeper.
Brandon Myers – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa drafted Austin Seferian-Jenkins and will be the #1 tight end in Tampa. Myers has a track record of being a loyal fantasy tight end. Myers may not be drafted, but keep an eye on him early this season. He could see more targets in-between the 20s with Jenkins being an endzone guy.
Ladarius Green – San Diego Chargers: Green saw some time in 2013 and looked like a future starting tight end. Antonio Gates is still around, but he’s getting long in the tooth. Green could take over today and I think San Diego doesn’t miss a step.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lovie Smith is the new head coach in Tampa and he loves him some defense and special teams. They upgraded their defensive line and could be a sneaky good fantasy defense this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: First of all, I’m in love with Dri Archer. I believe he will be the kickoff and punt return specialist. He’s a special talent. On the defense side, they are getting older. The leaders on defense are smart and the Cameron Heyward/Brett Keisel DE tandem will be dangerous. I think Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor have at least one more productive year together.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders added Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and first-round pick Khalil Mack to their defense. Oakland is my favorite D/ST fantasy sleeper this year.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.