[dropcap]F[/dropcap]antasy Sleepers – They’re like politics. Everyone talks about them but they’re never agreed upon. I consider a sleeper to be an under the radar kind of player who an individual believes will outperform the expectations of most and really outperform their average draft position; a name that a lot of people aren’t giving enough credit or hype.
An ideal sleeper is someone who will be drafted in the middle to late rounds but perform like an early to mid round player. Therefore I will not be naming players like Chris Johnson and Eric Decker as sleepers.
The following, in no particular order, are my 10 PPR (point per reception) “sleepers” for the 2013 fantasy football season.
RB – New England Patriots
Stevan Ridley is the featured back in New England but Vereen is a decent PPR option this season, especially with Danny Woodhead gone. In fact, I see him as the reincarnation of Woodhead for the Patriots.
Keep in mind that New England lost its two best receivers from 2012 in Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd who had over 300 targets between the two of them. Plus it’s time to face the reality that Rob Gronkowski could miss some playing time. Danny Amendola and rookie Aaron Dobson won’t make up for over 300 targets by themselves and Vereen has proved himself as a good pass-catching running back and is now second in command to Ridley.
Needless to say, I really like Vereen’s upside this season and see him catching at least 40 passes with 6-8 total scores. He’ll make a nice PPR sleeper.
RB – San Diego Chargers
In my opinion Woodhead is one of the most undervalued players in fantasy football. In 2012 he had more targets (55) than Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, and Jamaal Charles and more receptions (40) than Ryan Mathews, Steven Jackson, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Frank Gore – all of whom are kings of PPR scoring, save for maybe Mathews.
Woodhead may not get that many targets with the Chargers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was close. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has lost some steam and also lost deep threat Vincent Jackson. I really like the value Woodhead has in PPR leagues and am excited about his role in new head coach Mike McCoy’s offense. Especially with fellow Chargers’ running back Ryan Mathews’ injury history.
The 5’8″ Chadron State College alum also has some seemingly favorable match-ups with games against the Titans, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs(2), and Raiders(2).
WR – St. Louis Rams
Givens was one of my favorite under the radar players in 2012 after current Patriots’ receiver Danny Amendola went down with a broken collarbone. Now Givens has earned a starting role and is primed for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Givens is a tremendous deep threat but his speed makes him a big catch-and-go option as well. With Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Givens on the same receiving corps, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of dink and dunk, slant route kind of plays from the Rams in 2013. Austin is getting, and will be getting, a lot of the attention in St. Louis this off-season, and probably deservedly so, but Givens will surprise some people in 2013.
WR – Tennessee Titans
Wright didn’t seem to get a lot of credit from the fantasy football world after a good rookie season. His 104 targets led the team as did his 64 receptions. The fact that third year quarterback Jake Locker has said his surgically repaired shoulder feels normal is also encouraging for Wright.
In the nine games in 2012 in which Britt and Wright were both targeted at least once by Locker, Locker targeted Wright more than Britt in six of those games and in two of those games they were each targeted equally. In other words, when the three play together, Locker looks for Wright more than he looks for Britt. Wright also has a decent fantasy schedule with games against the Jaguars(2), Colts(2), Raiders, and Cardinals – all in weeks 10-16.
Kenny Britt has disappointed fantasy owners for four seasons now and Kendall Wright is primed to build on his impressive rookie campaign. I really like White as a late round sleeper in PPR leagues this season.
WR – New Orleans Saints
One of my favorite under the radar PPR wide players over the past few years has been Lance Moore. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham get all the accolades for fantasy success, but Moore holds his own. His 104 targets were just as many as Randall Cobb had and more than Danny Amendola (a PPR stud when healthy), Hakeem Nicks, and James Jones.
When Moore plays at least 15 games a season he’s good for at least 65 catches, save the 2007 season. The icing on Moore’s cake is that he’s totaled 22 touchdowns in three seasons, so he’s a proven scorer as well.
WR – Indianapolis Colts
Another second year receiver (Givens being the other) I like as a PPR sleeper in 2013 is T.Y. Hilton. Hilton provided great value as a third round pick for the Colts last season. He is a yards after catch gem, averaging 17.2 yards after catch during his rookie season. The 55 catch percentage (50/90) wasn’t eye-popping, but I expect that number to go up after a full season with standout quarterback Andrew Luck.
Reggie Wayne is obviously one of the most dominant PPR receivers in fantasy football and is Andrew Luck’s favorite target, but Hilton was Luck’s second favorite receiver and has more play-making ability. I would gladly take Hilton late in the fifth round or early in the sixth round in my PPR leagues.
TE – Carolina Panthers
One may not have been able to tell from the Panthers’ lackluster 2012 season but Greg Olsen had himself a career year. He had career highs in receptions (69), yards (843), and yards per catch (12.2) while adding a team high five touchdowns. Olsen’s 104 targets and 69 catches were fifth and sixth, respectively, among tight ends last season. He was the second most targeted Panthers player by far in 2012, behind only Steve Smith.
The former Bears’ tight end was a security blanket of sorts for quarterback Cam Newton, specifically in the red-zone, which is where Olsen scored three of his five touchdowns last season. It’s also important to keep in mind that the Panthers played from behind a lot in 2012 and therefore were forced to pass often. Similar circumstances would not be surprising to me in 2013.
Olsen’s 2012 production deserves him a 10th round draft pick at the latest for in 2013 PPR league drafts.
WR – Cincinnati Bengals
Hawkins was one of my favorite under the radar players in PPR leagues in 2012. He quietly put together 51 catches, 533 yards, and four touchdowns as a slot receiver for the Bengals. He was underutilized by Cincinnati in my opinion, although his 80 targets were second on the team to A.J. Green.
Hawkins is one of the fastest, most agile receivers in the NFL and ran a 4.34 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2008. If the Bengals are smart they’ll give a lot more looks, especially on screens, because he is lethal in the open field. If that happens, he’ll be one of the best kept secrets in the NFL this season.
RB – Cincinnati Bengals
The word “potential” gets thrown out a lot when it comes to rookies, but justly so, and I’m going to use it again. Among all rookie running backs Bernard may have the most potential, and this is a fairly deep class of running backs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis will surely take away carries and a few touchdowns, but Bernard has more talent and more versatility which makes him a nice PPR sleeper. I would personally take a chance on Bernard in the ballpark of the seventh round in PPR scoring leagues.
RB – St. Louis Rams
The Rams have a crowded backfield with Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson, and rookie Zac Stacy, but I still think Stacy has decent value in PPR leagues. Stacy’s build at 5’9″ 210 lbs. reminds me of another running back with similar attributes – Maurice Jones-Drew. No, I’m not saying Zac Stacy is the next Maurice Jones-Drew, but they’re both short, strong, and explosive running backs that can make things happen in the open field.
The Rams made a big move in the offseason signing free agent left tackle Jake Long. Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Stedman Bailey will all help open up the field for the St. Louis running backs. If the Rams are smart, they will utilize Stacy often in the passing game. What makes Stacy even more attractive is that the Rams have the 13th best schedule as far as yards per game allowed against running backs is concerned. Favorable opponents, at least based on last season, include the Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Colts, Cardinals, and Saints.