Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2013 Draft Prep: Early sleepers

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

We all want to look good on Draft Day. It's fun to brag at the end of the year that you predicted before the season started that Robert Griffin III, Stevan Ridley and Randall Cobb would be stars -- and it comes true.

Figuring out who the next standout players are going to be might be the best part of our Draft Prep work. It's great to call someone a sleeper, and at the end of the year you realize you were right.

FREE Draft Kits!
Mike Tolbert
Get everything you need to dominate on Draft Day in one convenient place with our Downloadable Draft Kit, complete with projections, rankings and outlooks for 2013!
Download your Draft Kit now!

Last season in this space, I had Cobb and Kyle Rudolph as sleepers, and they were both fantastic. Of course, I also listed Peyton Hillis and Robert Meachem -- and now it's time to change the subject. It just shows that when you gamble on players it doesn't always work the way you hoped.

That's why they are called "sleepers." If we knew they were going to be stars this column would be called "guarantees."

With that in mind, here are 10 sleepers for you to mull over in advance of training camp. We'll be taking another stab at this prior to the start of the season to give you an updated version following preseason action.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Let's imagine the perfect scenario for Manning. Hakeem Nicks is healthy and signs a contract extension, and Victor Cruz gets a new contract as well, bringing both into training camp on time. Brandon Myers plays like he did in Oakland last year, and the offensive line is again dominant. Rueben Randle also proves to be more than capable as the No. 3 receiver, and David Wilson injects a different dimension of speed out of the backfield. It's really not that much of a stretch for Manning to have all these things happen. Keep in mind that prior to last year's debacle -- he had four games with five Fantasy points or less -- Manning had consecutive seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns and was a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback. He could easily creep back into the Top 12 and you can draft him this season with a late-round pick.
I'd take him ahead of: Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger

Andre Brown, RB, Giants: The Giants are banking on Wilson being the lead running back in this tandem, and so are we. That doesn't mean Brown won't have a role -- and a significant one at that. He led the Giants in rushing touchdowns last year with eight, and he had a five-game scoring streak before suffering a broken leg in November. Coach Tom Coughlin told me at the owners meeting that health is the key for Brown, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. "The thing with Andre is he's got to come roaring back and fight his way through an entire season in the NFL and stay healthy," Coughlin said. Wilson should start, but he is unproven in his second year. We envision Brown sharing carries with Wilson and working at the goal line. He could reach double digits in touchdowns, and 1,000 total yards isn't a stretch (he averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year). Health is an issue, but since you can draft Brown with a mid-round pick, he's worth the gamble.
I'd take him ahead of: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jonathan Stewart, Mark Ingram

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals: I wasn't a big fan of the Bengals signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis to be their starter last year. Now, he was a pleasant surprise with 1,094 rushing yards and six touchdowns and, more importantly, seven games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. But he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and has limited receiving skills (his 22 catches last year were a career high). Bernard will work in tandem with Green-Ellis, and he could easily overtake the veteran if he plays to his potential. He ran for more than 1,200 yards and caught at least 45 passes for at least 350 yards in each of his two seasons at North Carolina, and he was the first running back drafted this season in the second round. He is projected to work on passing downs and be a change-of-pace rusher for Green-Ellis. Don't be surprised if and when Bernard surpasses Green-Ellis as the featured rusher.
I'd take him ahead of: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Pierce, Bryce Brown

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: The top Fantasy producers in the New Orleans backfield this season should be Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram. After all, Sproles plays on passing downs in this pass-heavy offense, and Ingram should be the one working at the goal line. That doesn't mean Thomas will get left out, and he's a great buy with a late-round pick. There have been three times in Thomas' career where he's had at least 110 carries (2008, 2009 and 2011). Each time he's had over 900 total yards and six touchdowns. Chris Ivory is gone, meaning an injury to Ingram (he's battled knee problems) or Sproles (he missed three games last year) gives Thomas an increased workload. And during offseason workouts Thomas worked with the starting unit. He's a key reserve this season with the chance to be a spot starter if things go his way.
I'd take him ahead of: Fred Jackson, Vick Ballard, DeAngelo Williams

Ben Tate, RB, Texans: In 2011, Tate was a Top 30 Fantasy running back despite starting just two games. He had over 1,000 total yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry with four touchdowns. Tate was healthy that season and able to showcase his skills in somewhat of a shared role with Arian Foster. Last year, Tate struggled with injuries and had just over 300 total yards and averaged 4.3 yards per carry with two touchdowns. Coach Gary Kubiak told me at the NFL owners meeting in March that Tate will be a significant contributor this year. "He's a fine young player when he has been healthy," Kubiak said. "He has played very well for us. All signs are that he's back and ready to go." The key for Tate will be workload, and Foster is coming off a busy year in 2012 when he had over 450 touches, including the playoffs. Foster might suffer a breakdown or the Texans could scale back his work. Either way, Tate should benefit.
I'd take him ahead of: Isaiah Pead, Ronnie Hillman, Vick Ballard

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns: Gordon was expected to be a breakout candidate in 2013, but his two-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy put a damper on his full potential. Now he's falling to a range where Fantasy owners can gamble on him with a mid-round pick and still get great production even with the games he'll be out. The Browns have a new offensive system in place with coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner, and the passing game in Cleveland should benefit. "Josh is a talented guy," Chudzinski told me. "He has all the tools to be a solid receiver, a solid No. 1 receiver in this league." We agree, and we hope he can stay out of trouble. Draft him as your No. 3 or 4 receiver this year, and don't be surprised if he is a fixture in your starting lineup once he gets back on the field and playing at a high level.
I'd take him ahead of: Anquan Boldin, Miles Austin, Denarius Moore

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: Floyd closed last season with 14 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown on 22 targets in his final two games against Chicago and San Francisco with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. This year, Hoyer is gone, as well as the other lesser options under center in Arizona, replaced with a significant upgrade in Carson Palmer. The Cardinals also get a huge boost in Bruce Arians as head coach, and he's ready to make Floyd into a star. Arians has already said Floyd is "making leaps and bounds getting better," and he's ready to assume the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Larry Fitzgerald. That should mean plenty of single coverage, and we like Floyd as a late-round pick in all leagues. If you want to make a comparison to the Colts offense Arians ran last year, then consider Floyd this year's T.Y. Hilton. Last year, Hilton had 50 catches for 861 yards and seven touchdowns, and Floyd has the potential for similar results.
I'd take him ahead of: Sidney Rice, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright

Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions: Broyles is trying to come back from a second torn ACL in as many seasons, which makes him a risky commodity. But when he's been on the field he's been productive (he had 349 receptions, 4,586 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns at Oklahoma). Last year, once Broyles got back on the field for the Lions, he had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in three of six games. He suffered the second knee injury in December, but he was back on the field for offseason workouts. Some in Detroit consider him a breakout candidate, and we agree since he will see plenty of single coverage thanks to Calvin Johnson. Broyles will likely open as the slot receiver for the Lions, but he's going to see a boatload of targets. Matthew Stafford threw an NFL-record 727 passes last year, and he will love using Broyles when he's on the field. He's a great late-round pick in all leagues.
I'd take him ahead of: Cordarrelle Patterson, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon LaFell

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: There are several rookie receivers to like this year, from Tavon Austin (you'll see him in my breakout column) to Aaron Dobson. Hopkins is another potential standout. He is expected to start this season opposite Andre Johnson, and Kubiak has already called him "special" and compared him to former Broncos star Rod Smith. The Texans needed to inject some life into this passing game since Johnson and Owen Daniels can't do it all on their own. In three seasons at Clemson, Hopkins caught 205 passes for 3,009 yards and 27 touchdowns, including 18 in 13 games in 2012. He won't post those kind of stats as a rookie, but he will get plenty of single coverage and should be somewhat polished in his first year. He's a good late-round pick in the majority of leagues.
I'd take him ahead of: Emmanuel Sanders, Santonio Holmes, Brian Hartline

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: I had Finley as a bust last season, and for the most part he was. He did have a career-high 61 catches, but he managed just 667 yards and two touchdowns. He also had just two games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league, with one of those coming in Week 1. This year, Finley should rebound and might be in line for a career season. He's playing for a new contract, and the offseason reports have been glowing. He's lost weight, he's going to see more time in the slot and coach Mike McCarthy said Finley looks "excellent." The last time Finley was in a contract year he had 55 catches for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. He's capable of those stats again, and he's a great target with a late-round pick if you miss on your tight end of choice. The Packers have a loaded receiving corps with Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, but someone will have to help replace Greg Jennings. Finley is going to help in that regard, and he's a good bounce-back candidate this season.
I'd take him ahead of: Owen Daniels, Brandon Pettigrew, Brandon Myers

Off the radar: 10 deep sleepers of varying degrees
Jay Cutler, QB, CHI Coach Marc Trestman and a contract year should bring out the best in Cutler.
Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL Ray Rice remains the starter, but Pierce will get enough work to be a potential flex.
Joseph Randle, RB, DAL DeMarco Murray has missed nine games in two years. Randle is the new backup.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, GB Someone has to lead this backfield, and Franklin could end up winning the job.
Daryl Richardson, RB, STL Starter could be Zac Stacy or Isaiah Pead, but Richardson has the most experience.
Mike Gillislee, RB, MIA Might be third on the depth chart now, but he could emerge if Lamar Miller falters.
Rueben Randle, WR, NYG If something happens to Nicks or Cruz then Randle will become a star.
Chris Givens, WR, STL Givens is getting overlooked because of Austin, which is a mistake.
Vincent Brown, WR, SD A broken ankle ruined last year's season, but he's healthy and could play a big role.
Aaron Dobson, WR, NE The receiving corps is wide open, and Dobson will be catching passes from Tom Brady.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Steelers K Shaun Suisham scores nine points vs. Bengals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham made two field goals and three extra points in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Suisham connected from 29 and 25 yards out in the second quarter to help give his team a 20-10 halftime advantage, and they were able to maintain that margin in the second half. The kicker finishes the regular season with 29 field goals in 32 attempts, but he went just 1-for-3 in attempts of 50 yards or more, with both misses coming at home. He'll have to kick at home in the first round of the playoffs when the Ravens come to town Saturday.


Steelers WR Martavis Bryant catches TD in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had just one catch on two targets Sunday but scored a 21-yard touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Bryant was targeted on a screen pass in the second quarter and split his blockers en route to an easy score on his only catch of the night. He wraps up his rookie season with 26 receptions, 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Bryant will match up with the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown scores two TDs in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven of his 13 targets for 128 yards with one touchdown and added a 71-yard punt return touchdown in his team's 27-17 division-clinching win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Brown fielded a first-quarter punt on one side of the field and took the ball halfway across the field to his right before changing directions and sprinting back to his left, outrunning the punt coverage team to the edge and racing ahead for the first score of the game. He made an outstanding adjustment on a fourth-quarter pass that was well defended to beat his man and cut past another would-be tackler for a 63-yard touchdown that gave his quarterback a share of the season passing-yardage lead.

Brown had his own stack of accomplishments in 2014, finishing with franchise-best marks in receiving while leading the league with 129 receptions and 1,698 receiving yards while also racking up 13 receiving touchdowns. He'll square off with a depleted Ravens secondary at home in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger finishes 2014 as passing coleader
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of his 38 passes for 317 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Roethlisberger connected with Martavis Bryant on a screen pass for a 21-yard score in the second quarter then appeared to be completely in sync with leading receiver Antonio Brown on a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that featured an excellent adjustment from the receiver on well-covered route. That play, which was Roethlisberger's last completion of the day, left the Pittsburgh quarterback with a share of the passing lead on the season, tying Drew Brees with 4,952 passing yards.

Roethlisberger racked up 32 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions, and he managed to start all 16 regular-season games for just the third time in his career. With the win, the Steelers wrap up the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They'll face the Ravens at home Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals' Mike Nugent makes one FG, misses one in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Bengals kicker Mike Nugent made just one of his two field-goal attempts in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Nugent was able to nail a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but after a Bengals drive stalled to open the second half, he was wide right on a 50-yard attempt. The kicker ends the regular season with 26 field goals on 33 attempts, but he hadn't missed since Week 6 before Sunday's season finale. Nugent will kick indoors in the first round of the playoffs as the Bengals head to Indianapolis to face the Colts.


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham catches TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham caught all three of his targets for 20 yards with one touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Steelers in Week 17.

Gresham came out of the game twice in the first half with a back issue and was deemed questionable to return after his second exit from the game. He was able to make it back and score a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring his team within three points, though he appeared to be shaken up on the play.

Gresham ends the regular season with 62 receptions, 460 yards and five touchdowns, including a score in each of his last three games. He'll have a full week to recuperate before the Bengals face the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday.


Bengals RB Giovani Bernard scores TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Bengals running back Giovani Bernard rushed for eight yards on just three carries but racked up seven receptions on eight targets for 56 yards and a touchdown in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers Sunday.

Bernard displayed excellent athleticism on his 17-yard score in the first quarter, grabbing a short pass across the middle of the field and hurdling over a defender on his way to the end zone. While he's seen his role in the running game reduced in recent weeks, Bernard remains an integral part of the passing attack, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games over the last two weeks.

Bernard ends the regular season with 680 rushing yards on 168 carries and 349 receiving yards on 43 receptions along with seven total touchdowns. He'll square off with the Colts in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.


Bengals RB Jeremy Hill rushes for 100 yards vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Bengals running back Jeremy Hill rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries and added 10 more yards on two receptions in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Hill closed out his rookie season with three consecutive 100-yard efforts, and he reached the mark five times over the course of the year. He ends the regular season with 1,124 rushing yards on 222 carries as well as 215 receiving yards on 27 receptions to go with 11 touchdowns.

Hill will square off with the Colts Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals WR A.J. Green in concussion protocol
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is in the concussion protocol after exiting Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Steelers with a head injury, the team announced.

Green lost a fumble and took a shot to the head in the fourth quarter of the game, sending him to the locker room for examination. He finished the game with a team-high eight receptions and 82 yards. Green secured his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season with the performance, ending the regular season with 1,041 yards and six touchdowns on 69 receptions.

The Bengals will head to Indianapolis to face the Colts Sunday, leaving Green with a full week to get cleared.


Bengals QB Andy Dalton throws two TDs in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 27 of his 38 pass attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers.

Dalton hit Giovani Bernard with a pass over the middle of the field in the red zone, and he was able to leap over a defender en route to the pylon to score a 17-yard touchdown. Dalton's second score came on a five-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham in the fourth quarter, with the tight end doing most of the work after the catch.

Dalton ends the regular season with 3,398 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as well as 169 rushing yards on 60 carries with another four scores on the ground. The Bengals will head to Indianapolis for a first-round matchup with the Colts Sunday.


 
 
 
Rankings