The key to winning a fantasy football league is the ability to recruit Sleepers. “Sleepers” are NFL rookies or players who haven’t had much of an impact on their NFL careers. In the world of fantasy football, this is the way to win the league championship. Last year, Alfred Morris, as a rookie, was expected to be part of a RB committee, at best, and he took control of the No. 1 RB position and delivered over 1,600 yards and 13 TDs. In his sophomore year, Stevan Ridley impressed Bill Belichick enough to get full-time RB duties and proved him right by rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 TDs. Nobody expected any of those performances and the owner really had to screw up the rest of his team to miss out on the league playoffs. When you can take a player as a midfielder or a bench player and he becomes your No. 1 producer at that position, my friends, you have a true sleeper. Below are the best fantasy football sleepers by position for the 2013 season.
2013 fantasy football sleepers
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (AZ) – Palmer leaves Oakland and lands on the same vertical pass attack he led in Oakland. He put up some pretty good fantasy football numbers in Oakland and they had limited talent, at best. In Arizona, he has an arsenal of weapons. The big gun is Larry Fitzgerald. This combination, if I can take a chance, will rival the numbers Tom Brady and Randy Moss put up in 2007. Besides Fitz, I’m expecting great seasons from Michael Floyd (breakout season for him) and Andre Roberts. What surprises me most about this season is that Palmer is the 19th quarterback selected, on average, which puts him in the 12th round or later.
Runner-up: Jay Cutler (CHI) – Cutler is on a one-year contract, has an improved offensive line and a new coach who focuses on offense, unlike his last coach. Cutler is being drafted ahead of Palmer as the 16th QB taken with an ADP in the 10th round. I think Palmer has a higher ceiling this year, but both will put up big numbers for his ADP.
RB: Andre Brown (NYG) – I know he’s in a battle with David Wilson for the starting RB job and there’s talk of one RB per committee, but I love where they recruit him. It’s almost as if the audience is already giving Wilson the starting position. Even if that happens, at 6,227 pounds, Brown is the goal-line rusher, as evidenced by his 8 TDs last year in just over half a season. Since Tom Coughlin is an old-school coach, I think Brown will be his favorite based on his ballhandling and his blocking skills, as well as being a powerful running back. With him being drafted in the eighth round, she’s a perfect pick as his third or fourth RB.
Runner-up: DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – Williams closed out 2012 with a 210-yard game and gets the starting role this year with Jonathan Stewart injured. If Williams can show that he can carry the load full-time again, it will be a steal in a 10th-round ADP.
WR: Golden Tate (SEA) – Tate is entering his third season, which is the classic breakout season for a WR. It also helps that Percy Harvin is out for the season and Sidney Rice is injured again. Tate had good chemistry with Russell Wilson last year, which got steadily better as the season went on. He had 32 receptions, 493 yards and 4 TDs in the last 9 games. Tate has a golden opportunity to secure the No. 1 WR spot, which is huge for a Round 12 ADP…although I expect this to pick up quickly towards the start of the season.
Runner-up: Emmanuel Sanders (PITT) – The Steelers paid to keep Sanders on the team after losing Mike Wallace in Miami. They plan to get their money’s worth out of it. He is an unknown playmaker, averaging 14.2 ypc last year and just over 5 yac. Big Ben likes playmakers and will watch Sanders often, even if Antonio Brown is considered to be the No. 1 WR. With a 12th-round ADP, Sanders is a great fourth WR who can be easily counted on. to start every week.
YOU: Brandon Myers (NYG) – The Giants lost Martellus Bennett (another Sleeper) to the Bears and replaced him with the underrated Myers. Myers had an incredible 79 catches and 800 yards last year and joined the Giants as a free agent. Hey? Man, Oakland doesn’t know talent. Eli likes his tight ends, in more ways than one, and he will use Myers as much as possible and make his name known this year. TE is a deep position, so Myers has an ADP in round 13.
Runner-up: Rob Housler (AZ) – The quarterback who threw all those passes to Myers is now Housler’s quarterback, Carson Palmer. Housler is only getting drafted in deep leagues, so he is one of fantasy football’s true sleepers. He had 45 catches last year in an anemic Cards offense. With Palmer at the helm, there’s no reason not to expect a 50% increase in production from Housler.
D: Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have played solid defense in recent seasons, but they are always overlooked as they are in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens. Truth be told, the Bengals are better than those two teams this season. This group of unknowns is extremely talented. Led by Geno Atkins and his 12.5 sacks last year, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are next in productivity. In the offseason, they added James Harrison to really inspire this team. Drafting a defense always depends on your scoring system. Most leagues don’t reward defense beyond fumbles, interceptions and sacks, which Cincy does well at, but doesn’t allow much separation in scoring between teams. If your league is set up to award points based on low yards and points allowed as well, you’ll want the Bengals to be your first D in the draft. Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and Denver will be selected too high. You can get the Bengals in the 13th round with ease.
K: Phil Dawson – I’m always reluctant to put this position in an article about the Sleepers, but I decided I would do it this year. The 49ers finally figured out that David Akers hit the wall and cut him in late 2012. He missed TOO MANY field goals last year. However, he had 94 attempts in the last 2 seasons to lead the league. Dawson isn’t a name that gets a lot of buzz, but he did 54 of 60 FGs during that time frame, including 27 of 29 40+. With that accuracy and a similar number of attempts, Dawson could easily lead the league in points this year.