Now we’re down to what is likely to be a favorite topic of most fantasy players the “Sleepers”. For the most part, barring some shifting here and there, the top 10 at each position can be a bit cut and dry. The choices at the 5 and 6 position or the players at 7 and 8 can be very similar and the differences can often be minute. The process of grabbing a sleeper can be very myopic and leave teams in a hole, especially if an owner reaches too soon in a draft, so strategy is key when picking late in drafts. So here is a list of the most notable sleepers, baring some of the rookie class.
Jake Locker – The Titans have claimed that the preseason has left them split down the middle with their QB competition in camp, and the likelihood is that the veteran, Matt Hasselbeck, will win the job to start the season. That being said, with the potential the rookie showed last season and the implementation of a “Spread” offense with “Run N’ Shoot” concepts, Locker seems to be the more logical fit for the Titans. The team didn’t spend a top 10 pick on Locker at the number 8 spot last season to have him sit out this year. They want a more explosive offense and though Hasselbeck isn’t done, the future in Tennessee is with Locker. In the time he played last season he showed an ability to get the ball deep to mediocre receivers, plus had the ability to scramble and pick up yards on the ground with great success. He has a lot of upside.
Carson Palmer – After coming in almost halfway through the season and after being “retired” in Cincinnati, and took command of an offense he had no off-season with and players he hardly knew. He threw 300+ yards 3 times and ended the year with 417 yards against San Diego. This season he will get Darren McFadden back and full off-season program. There is a lot of youth and speed in Oakland and Palmer could greatly benefit stat-wise from dump offs to McFadden as well as hitting the deep routes to Denarius Moore or Jacobey Ford.
Other Notables – Jay Cutler and Matt Flynn
Kevin Smith – He came in last season off the streets and was an instant sensation in fantasy with 3 TD performance in Week 11 against the Panthers before he was later sidelined with an injury that seemed to limit his performance. The reality with incumbent Jahvid Best, is that his history of multiple concussions throughout his 2 NFL seasons as well as ones sustained in his days in college have left many to question whether or not he should even play football anymore. Best has not been cleared to play yet and even if he does come back it will be in a limited fashion. That leaves Smith ahead of untested 2nd back Mikel LeShoure, who will also be suspended to start the season. Smith should come into the season as the starter and is being vastly underrated. He is a solid pass catching receiver in an offense that will pass much more often than run. It also helps that he is slated as the best pass protecting back, which should give him an edge on snaps in the Lions pass happy system.
Ryan Williams – After tearing his patella tendon last season, Williams has returned for the Cardinals and has shown real promise during the preseason. He runs with power and speed and with Beanie Wells having yet to provide an ability to stay healthy, Williams could take the starting job before the season is over. Beanie is not yet healthy and could miss the entire preseason and if that happens, William could get the start in Week 1.
Other Notables – Shane Vereen, Jonathan Dwyer, Donald Brown, and Brian Powell
Eric Decker – While Dermaryius Thomas has all the upside for the Broncos receiving core, Decker could be a much safer pick. With Peyton Manning’s arm strength in question coming into the season, he could opt for quicker short throws early in the season and Decker could be the primary beneficiary. Manning has already shown rapport with Decker and could help him develop into a solid fantasy player, especially in PPR leagues.
Vincent Brown – He popped up on the radar last season after some solid showings and has continued to be solid during this offseason. He is unlikely to beat out Robert Meachem to start the season, but he has reportedly outplayed Meachem in training camp. He would have a hill to climb to get past Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd as well, but keep an eye out for Brown as all 3 receivers have had injury issues in their past.
Other Notables – Leonard Hankerson, Jonathan Baldwin, and Austin Collie
Kyle Rudolph – With Visanthe Shiancoe gone from Minnesota, Rudolph will have a chance to make a splash this season. He is a big target and could be a strong candidate for the second read in progressions behind Percy Harvin, as the Vikings receiving core could be left wanting.
Greg Olsen – After disappointing owners for many seasons after taking chances on him, this truly could be the year for Olsen. Last season saw up and down production, some of which can be attributed to Jeremy Shockey syphoning targets and playing time away. This season he should see an uptick in targets and production. The threat of Cam Newton and the Panthers running game should open up the pass and while Steve Smith will command attention, the WR2 role is unproven, leaving a vacuum that Olsen could fill. He’s worth a flier late in drafts, but not worth a reach.
Other Notables – Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett
About the Author
Written by David Willow
My name is David Willow. Your NFL and Fantasy Jedi. I have lived in Dallas, TX most of my life. I have been following both football and basketball since I was a child. I love being able to research and analyze different players and teams. I've been a fantasy sports enthusiast for around 8 years with some titles to back that. I have a Bachelors degree in History with a minor in English. Other hobbies include me being part of an acting workshop for five years, playing guitar, and working out. Hit me up with any comments, questions or opinions.