I’ve been playing Fantasy Football for about 8 years now and it’s impossible to think of Sundays without it. Every game on Sunday matters in Fantasy and each season is a new chance to achieve the ultimate glory of a 1st place finish and bragging rights amongst your friends for the rest of the year. If you play in competitive leagues you’ll learn that seasons aren’t won by 1st round picks, they’re won by picking up a top 10 talent in the late rounds or in free agency. Last year, I got lucky by selecting Reggie Bush, Robert Griffin and Reggie Wayne, all in later rounds, and all that became consistent starters each week for me. These sleeper picks can become contributors to your team or valuable trade assets. Either way it adds a significant competitive edge when you are able to collect the rewards on these late-round risks. I have compiled a list of who I think will be this year’s Doug Martin or Alfred Morris carrying you to your championship game.
Zach Sudfeld TE New England Patriots: The Patriots love to use the tight end position. No other team in the NFL throws to tight ends more than the Pats. He is a big target at 6’7 and should expect a lot of end zone targets from Tom Brady. After Graham, Gonzalez and Gronk there isn’t much difference between tight ends and I think Sudfeld is worth a spot on your roster. I think he will end up being a big part of the offense as he’ll be on the field a lot for his blocking and could see a lot of play action looks as well. Low Risk, High Reward.
Eddie Lacy RB Green Bay Packers– It seems like the Cheese-Heads haven’t had a solid running back to cheer for since Ahman Green. Finally the Packers have their man. He is a quick, powerful back that has a very promising future in the NFL. With defenses already compensating for Aaron Rodgers I except Lacy to be involved in a lot of draw plays and screen passes to give him solid yardage each game. Rookie running backs have been doing well lately and I expect Lacy to be no different.
Vincent Brown WR San Diego Chargers– The Chargers are terrible. Norv Turner successfully ruined Philip Rivers and the rest of the passing game during his tenure and the effects still linger after his departure. That being said, the Chargers will be playing a lot of games from behind and their healthiest wide receiver will get a lot of garbage time yardage. Considering his average draft position it is worth a pick as he should be a solid flex play and could end up being a starter each week.
Emmanuel Sanders WR Pittsburgh Steelers– Mike Wallace is gone and both Sanders and Antonio Brown should have big seasons for Pittsburgh. I think Sanders has a high ceiling and should take over Mike Wallace’s role as the dominant wideout for the Steelers. He is fast and a great route runner that showed flashes of talent when Brown or Wallace was injured. It should be telling how hard Tom Brady and the Patriots tried to sign Sanders this offseason. I would not be surprised if he turns in a top 10 effort this year.
Ahmad Bradshaw RB Indianapolis Colts– Low rated and drafted in the same round as guys like Daryl Richardson and Rashard Mendenhall in most leagues. He fell out of favor in the Giants organization and is coming off an injury which has hurt his draft stock. The fact remains that if he is healthy he is going to be a 3 down back and should get plenty of red zone carries. Good value for the late round, very underrated.
Andre Roberts WR Arizona Cardinals– Fun fact, Andre Roberts actually led the Cardinals in touchdown receptions. Yes, that is including Larry Fitzgerald. After 2 years of shockingly incompetent quarterback play, the Cardinals actually have a quarterback that can put together scoring drives. Carson Palmer is not the Pro Bowler that he used to be, but any quarterback is an upgrade over Ryan Lindley and John Skelton. I believe that the addition of Palmer and Bruce Arians will make Roberts a viable starting option each week. He’s going in the 14th round in average Yahoo drafts and could very well shake out to being a consistent starter.
Reggie Bush RB Detroit Lions– For some reason Reggie Bush has been underrated season after season. Regardless of whether this is due to him never living up to his draft position or his public life, Bush is an undeniable talent. Last year he came out of the gates strong but was hampered by an injury for the rest of the season. Provided he is healthy he is a must-start in PPR leagues. He is a great receiving back that should fit nicely into the Detroit offense. I expect a lot of big games from Bush this year.
EJ Manuel QB Buffalo Bills– Could make a big impact this year especially with his running ability. He should not be your starting quarterback as he is still an unproven rookie. However, much like RG3 last year, he’s going to be very exciting to watch and could turn into a trade asset. If he blossoms into a competent quarterback he could become your starter or you could trade him for a player of need. Consider it a late round investment with low risk.
While it is important to take calculated risks on the aforementioned sleepers it is equally important not to spend your high picks on inconsistent players. A bad early pick is very difficult to overcome and I wanted to make a list of the top guys going in the first half of the draft that you should stay away from at their projected positions.
Arian Foster RB Houston Texans– Last year I flipped RG3 and Reggie Bush for Foster thinking that it would be the slam dunk that I needed to close out my season. I was proven wrong as I watched the spark that had made Foster a top pick disappear in the second half of the season. His avg yards per carry dropped to a career low in 2012 as he lacked the physicality and breakaway speed that had made him such a star in the past 2 years.There were many occasions where Foster would sit out entire possessions while Ben Tate ran the ball. It should be noted that the Texans also utilize the tight ends in many goal line situations and many Foster owners saw their TD totals drop because of the likes of Garrett Graham and James Casey. I think he is a top 15 player, but to spend a top 5 pick on him carries too much risk given these issues. I would much rather have a CJ Spiller, LeSean McCoy or Alfred Morris at this spot.
Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons– Julio Jones is an incredible wide receiver and is a top 3 receiver in terms of talent. However, he is in a crowded Atlanta wide receiver corps where targets are not consistent. As a Jones owner last year it was very frustrating to watch the Falcons play. Any time Harry Douglas, Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez was having a big game it meant that Jones was going to end the game with about 3 catches on 4 targets, leaving you praying for a big play to salvage his game. Considering where he is being drafted it makes much more sense to draft an AJ Green or a Brandon Marshall who will get consistent targets. The best attribute a fantasy player can have is consistency and the Falcons’ offense is too unpredictable to rely on each week.
Reggie Wayne WR Indianapolis Colts- The consensus amongst the analysts is that this will be a regression year for the colts. The Colts over-performed in a big way last year and with the loss of Bruce Arians the offense could take a big step back. While Wayne put up monster reception numbers last year this year he is going about 2 rounds higher than he should this year. Wayne got by on targets last year, but with the emergence of TY Hilton and Duane Allen, he saw his targets dip in the second half. I think that Wayne’s age and the drop in targets will make him a flex option rather than a consistent starter.
Matt Ryan QB Atlanta Falcons– Matt Ryan is one of the guys that no one has owned more than once. It seems like someone who is surrounded by as much talent as Ryan is should be able to be a top 5 quarterback each year. However, anyone who has owned him has seen the projected 25 points against the Saints and convinced themselves that he’s bound to put up some big numbers in a shootout game, only to see him put up an 8 point performance. Why does this happen? The Falcons run the ball. A lot. The Falcons ran as much as anyone and they had the ghost of Michael Turner and his 3.6 yards per carry in the backfield. Ryan is wildly inconsistent in his fantasy production and is not stable enough to be the starter of a competitive team.
Kyle Rudolph TE Minnesota Vikings– Another inconsistent player. Kyle Rudolph or Brent Celek 2.0 as I call him, will rope most players in with a 2 touchdown game only to disappear in the next. Did I mention that Christian Ponder is throwing to him? There are very few tight ends that will deliver consistent production so this is nothing new for the position. However, Rudolph had enough big games last year that he is going about 2 rounds earlier than he should. My advice is to hang back and draft a Greg Olsen or a Martellus Bennett in the later rounds and get similar talent being thrown to by Pro Bowl quarterbacks instead of a future backup.
David Wilson RB NY Giants For the record, I think Wilson will have a good season. However he is being drafted in the top 25 and I see the same drawbacks with him as with Jamaal Charles. He’s a 20-20 guy. He will get plenty of carries on drives but is likely to get subbed out of the red zone offense. Often, he won’t see the end zone unless he breaks off a big run. The Giants usually have a timeshare at running back and I would not be surprised if Andre Brown steals a lot of the red zone carries. I think he will get a lot of yardage but not enough scores to justify his draft position.
Andre Johnson WR Houston Texans Is he even overrated anymore? He has been on a steady decline for the past 3 years and has no place in the upper echelon of receivers. Just stay away.
Stay tuned for my 2013 NFL Season Predictions next week.