I’m going to do you a favor by bursting your bubble nice and early: Cordarrelle Patterson is not a sleeper. Neither is Gio Bernard, Andre Ellington or Toby Gerhart.
We’re at a point in the fantasy world right now where it’s really hard to sneak anything past our opponents. The average fantasy footballer is sharper, more informed and more dedicated to his/her craft than ever before.
In order to find a real sleeper, we’re going to have to dig deeper and be willing to take risks. These guys fit the bill:
Eat your wheat
Last year, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery combined for 113 receptions and 16 touchdowns from Ben Roethlisberger. Both are gone now, leaving second-year man Markus Wheaton entrenched as the starting “X” opposite “Z” Antonio Brown. It’s the same role Mike Wallace used to play, which is interesting because Wheaton drew Wallace comparisons coming out of Oregon State. This is a guy with 4.4 speed, one that played ahead of fellow Beaver Brandin Cooks in 2012 and is expanding his route tree rapidly. There’s a lot of room for the speedy Wheaton to break out this year.
Z.E. stands for TD
We started to see a little of what Zach Ertz is capable of late in his rookie year, as he caught five touchdowns across the final nine games (including playoffs). Now Ertz is gaining more traction in his second season and is ticketed for a major boost in role as the Eagles try to replace DeSean Jackson. The Stanford product is a walking red-zone mismatch thanks to unique athletic ability and a 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame. Ertz is currently the 11th tight end off the board in fantasy drafts, often available in the 10th round.
Head on straight
If this was August of 2011, I would have told you that Kenny Britt is on the verge of absolute superstardom. Since then, he’s torn his ACL, had a fistful of run-ins with the law and got benched by the Titans last season. But Britt is still only 25-years-old, and now he’s reunited with old friend Jeff Fisher as part of a Rams receiving corps that’s among the worst in the league. Britt reportedly has his head on straight and is healthy, so it’s no shock he’s penned in as the No. 1 receiver for Sam Bradford. You won’t find anyone with more natural talent for cheaper on draft day.
Jonathan Grimes, RB, Texans – Now up to second on the depth chart behind an injury-flagged Arian Foster.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens – Outplaying Ray Rice at camp as they adjust to Gary Kubiak’s one-cut scheme. Bounce-back for Pierce coming.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals — Preseason usage suggests Ellington will stay on the field for third downs, red-zone work.
NFL Offensive Lines
A good O-line is good for all skill players involved. The best:
1. Cowboys – Three ascending first-round picks that are panning out in LT Tyron Smith, C T Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin. There will be massive holes for DeMarco Murray.
2. Eagles – Even without RT Lane Johnson for the first four games, this athletic unit is dominant in the screen game. Will be even better once Johnson returns.
3. Broncos – This unit was elite last year even without All-Pro LT Ryan Clady (foot). Now he’s back to complement a powerful interior that features Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin.
Marvin Jones was highlighted in green on my lists as a likely breakout candidate, but he’s completely off them now. A broken foot for a wideout is bad news, as we’ve seen recently with players like Hakeem Nicks, Julio Jones and Aaron Dobson. Even though Jones could be back by Week 5 or so, I’ll let someone else stash him. Look for low-upside slot man Mohamed Sanu and intriguing second-year tight end Tyler Eifert to get a few extra targets while Jones is sidelined.