What makes a fantasy sleeper a true fantasy sleeper? Some say it’s just a guy no one sees coming. Some relate legit fantasy sleeper status in fantasy football leagues to value or ADP (average draft position). Some just say a sleeper is a guy you gut tells you is going to be better than other people think. Others say a sleeper is a guy being merely overlooked, and some say a sleeper is a guy that is a flat out lock to be a stud.
All of those are right, and none of them are right. A true fantasy sleeper is probably a combination of them all, but the reality when it comes to fantasy sleepers, is that everyone has their own definition. And that’s okay.
The important thing is to actually take the time to figure out who your own are. Who are some guys flying somewhat under the radar that are on the verge of big things and could crush it for you in fantasy football? Find them, and they’re your fantasy football sleepers.
The 2014 fantasy football season is approaching, so I’m gone ahead and compiled a long list of my own fantasy football sleepers. I’m using my own personal definition, too. Ultimately, though, it’s up to you to decide if my fantasy sleepers are your fantasy sleepers, too.
Note: My fantasy sleepers are players who have not had a true breakout season leading into 2014 and are being drafted beyond round five on a regular basis. “Breaking Out” consists of 3,000+ yard seasons for quarterbacks and 1,000+ yard and/or 10+ TDs for running backs, wide receivers or tight ends. FantasyFootballCalculator.com’s ADP info is used for this article. Rookies are not included.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
McCown arguably broke out last year, as we can all probably agree he would have had pretty sick numbers if he had played 16 games in 2013. Still, he didn’t play a full season, has otherwise been a career backup and is now in a new city with a new offense, new coaching and new weapons. Despite the change and the fact that he’s a career journeyman, he has nice weapons and played well enough last year to make me think he has to-15 potential. He carries risk and is more of a QB2 for now, but McCown is a nice quarterback sleeper if you like waiting on quarterbacks in drafts.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans
Locker has been a pretty erratic player so far in his career, as he’s inaccurate when healthy and the rest of the time he’s nursing an injury. He showed some promise last year, though, and it’s possible new head coach Ken Whisenhunt could be the missing link to Locker’s success. He’s only worth stashing in deep leagues right now, but he’s certainly a guy to watch.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns
Tate had a pretty good rookie season but has since been “meh” and has struggled with injuries. As Cleveland’s starter, he’ll have a solid role out of the gates and has low-end RB1 upside. He’s a solid RB2 to roll with as long as he’s healthy, though.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
I’m not totally a believer in Miller. I was last year, and he bombed pretty badly. However, he’s quite explosive and has the versatility to be an every down player. His value probably depends on Knowshon Moreno being a free agent bust. He’s worth a shot later in drafts.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Pierce should start at running back for Baltimore in the first two games of the year, as Ray Rice serves a 2-game ban. He could be a good play both weeks, while he might hold onto a key role even when Rice returns. He’s a solid Flex shot no matter what, and needs to be rostered.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Ingram is basically a draft bust at this point, but as he enters a contract year it appears the Saints will finally give him a real shot at being “the guy”. They’ll still use Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas as part of their traditional three-back rotation, but Ingram currently has the most immediate value and upside. He’s worth a shot late in drafts.
Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Michael’s name was heating up earlier in the summer, but things have cooled down ever since Marshawn Lynch returned from a brief holdout. Michael doesn’t have anything more than random Flex value to begin 2014, but if Lynch proves to be ineffective or gets hurt, Michael’s stock will soar. He’s one to monitor closely and stash if you have the bench room.
Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots
With Dobson’s foot injury finally starting to look behind him, he can fully concentrate on locking up his starting job on the outside. Obviously a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman will keep him from going completely nuts, but Dobson clearly has the talent to excel in this offense. His size and speed give him a shot at legit WR2 value despite the log-jam of healthy targets for Tom Brady. He just needs to cut back drops and other mental errors.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s all about opportunity. Wheaton is a burner who has flashed the ability to be a game changer and he’s going to get the chance to do that on a regular basis in 2014. Antonio Brown is still king kong in this passing game, but Wheaton is pretty talented and is the locked in #2 guy. With Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders leaving 16 combined touchdowns behind, Wheaton might have more sleeper appeal than people think.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Andre Johnson is going to remain Houston’s main reception king in 2014, but Hopkins flashed star potential as a rookie in 2013 and really should only get better. His quarterback situation is shaky, but he’s talented enough to take a shot on as a WR3 or WR4. He has terrific upside.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans
Hunter might have even more upside than Hopkins, as he’s a raw talent that can thrive as a red-zone target or turn on the jets and break long plays open. He still needs work on his route-running, but he’s a strong candidate for this year’s “Josh Gordon” label.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Randle is a sleeper by default, as he takes over Hakeem Nicks’ old role as New York’s #2 guy. Rookie Odell Beckham can’t stay healthy, so it’s unlikely Randle will be threatened early for the gig. The Giants have no reliable tight end, either, so Randle should get targeted a lot. He’s an inconsistent route-runner and Eli Manning has been terrible, but he’s worth a shot as a high upside WR3 or WR4.
Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams
Quick is probably the least trustworthy wide receiver sleeper on this list, but he had awesome college tape and brings a nice combo of size/speed to the table. He plays on turf and at least for the moment is slated as the Rams’ #2 receiver, so he has some upside. He’s more of a deep roster stash than a guy you need to draft, however.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s have Eifert kick off our long list of tight end sleepers, as Marvin Jones should be done until week 10 with a busted foot and the Bengals naturally need to fit their athletic tight end into the offense more. Cincy is switching to a more run-based offense, but that won’t matter if they use Eifert more in the slot. That, combined with the loss of Jones, could see him improve on a decent rookie season. He’s only a TE2 for now, but he’s not that far away from scratching at TE1 numbers.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Anthony Fasano is the “starter” but Kelce looks ready to go off after a lost 2013 season. He is a poor man’s Rob Gronkowski with great size and solid speed. He can reel in any pass and can also break away after the catch. He’s a dangerous weapon that needs to be snagged late in drafts if you have room on your bench. If you like to stream tight ends, he’s a great one to start with.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers
Antonio Gates is still going to be the main tight end, but Green proved last year he’s ready for a big role. He still may not be close to TE1 status yet, but he’s worth stashing and keeping an eye on.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz came on strong to end his rookie season and with the departure of DeSean Jackson, figures to have a pretty prominent role in the passing game this year. He has the size and speed to be a terror. He has legit TE1 upside and is a steal late in fantasy football drafts.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Reed is the least quiet fantasy tight end sleeper of this group, but he’s still worth mentioning as he can be had anywhere from rounds 7-9. Some are scared of his concussion history, but if he can stay healthy he’s going to be amazing this year.
*Photo Credit – Brian Hill via Flickr.