Drafting solid core players in the early rounds paired with the ability to pick players that will outperform their draft position in the later rounds is the formula for any successful 2013 fantasy football draft. While the definition of a sleeper is open to debate and opinion, for the sake of this article we’ll define a sleeper simply as a player that will outperform their draft position.
Miller is about to get a huge opportunity to show the world what he can do and I am buying into the hype. He was solid last year in limited action and with Reggie Bush in Detroit this is going to open the door for Miller to get a lot more touches. All of the preseason reports have been positive on this young running back and I think he is well worth a draft pick in the early rounds.
There is no doubt that Amendola will have a great fantasy season, if he can stay healthy. At this point in his career it’s a big IF though. He has battled injuries his entire career and this will make some people scared to draft him. I think this fear of injury will make Amendola a good gamble on draft day since he should slip a bit. With all the issues in New England they are going to have to rely heavily on Amendola on that offense. If he is able to play 16 games this year it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up being a top 10 fantasy receiver.
Wilson is one of those players that has a chance for a big play every time he touches the ball and I like his chances for a solid fantasy year. With Bradshaw now out of the way this should mean a lot more touches for Wilson. He is still going to be splitting touches with Andre Brown who is another talented young runner, but as long as Wilson can consistently get 15+ touches I think he could easily be a top 20 fantasy running back this year.
So far this preseason I am surprised at the lack of love that Bernard is getting in the fantasy rankings. The only guy he has in front of him is a very boring and mediocre BenJarvus Green-Ellis and I think Bernard will get a lot of touches right out of the gate. He was extremely productive with his time with the Tar Heels and he has the potential of being a great value on draft day.
The Pittsburgh running game has been a mess over the last couple of years, but Bell could be their answer. There isn’t much competition for carries and he is an aggressive runner and fits the style of running back that we are used to seeing for the Steelers. Bell also has decent hands, catching 32 passes last year for Michigan State. He should get a decent amount of hype this preseason and you will have to use a decent draft pick to get him, but I think he could be well worth it in the early middle rounds.
Ball is going to be the most talked about rookie running back heading into the season. Not only were his numbers amazing at Wisconsin last year, but he landed in a great situation with the Broncos. They are a high powered offense that should score a ton of points and with McGahee officially out of the way there aren’t that many guys left that he will have to compete with for carries. Peyton Manning has a way of making players around him better and for as much upside as Ball has this year I think he is well worth a gamble in the early second round.
Shorts is entering is third season with Jacksonville and even though his quarterback situation could be better, I still like his upside this year. Blackmon is suspended for the first 4 games of the season and this should help Shorts get off to a solid start this year. The Jaguars will be playing from behind for a majority of the season and their offense lacks weapons, so look for them to try to get the ball in the hands of Shorts early and often.
Wilson is all over the place on expert rankings this year, I have seen him as high as 4 and as low as 11 in some quarterback rankings. I am not willing to put him in the top 5 for QBs, but the fact that he is seeing such a range in his rankings makes me think he might slip a bit on draft day. In my rankings I have him as the 6th best QB and I think he could be a steal in most drafts depending on when he gets drafted. The Seahawks were solid on offense last year and with the addition of Harvin they should only be better.
Schaub had a great year in 2012, but he isn’t getting much love in a lot of other expert rankings. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and I see no reason why he can’t at least match those numbers this year. The Texans used a couple of draft picks to help pad their offensive line and they also used their first round pick on Deandre Hopkins a solid receiver out of Clemson. These new additions could make the Texans offense even better this year, making Schaub a very solid QB2 in my mind.
When it comes to handcuffs this year I think Pierce is the best guy out there. He displayed great talent down the stretch last year and while I think Rice is still the man in Baltimore, Pierce will certainly take some of his carries. I think Pierce will see enough touches to where he has value even if Rice stays healthy, but if Rice were to go down with an injury than Pierce could be a top ten running back. You are going to have to use a decent middle round pick to get him since everyone is talking about this guy, but it could be well worth the gamble.