Sorry about the delay on my follow-up article, guys! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. After doing a few more mock drafts in preparation for the Football and Futbol Fantasy draft, I’ve found a couple of sleepers that could put your team over the top. Note that the NFC seems to have a lot more offensive talent, so I’m digging deep for a few sleepers, but here’s a few for you guys anyway! Also, click here for a few of my sleepers in the AFC.
1. Tavon Austin (WR #30, 74th overall) – This is normally too high for me to list a guy as a “sleeper,” but I think that Austin can fit the bill for this one. Receivers being drafted around Austin include DeSean Jackson, Greg Jennings, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Johnson. All of these receivers, in my opinion, are too streaky to trust week in and week out (Jennings moreso because of his QB, but eh). Austin, however, should show the NFL that he is an elite slot receiver right away. Although a smaller receiver, Austin has a remarkable ability to not be hit at all. He has incredible hands and has some of the best lateral movement I’ve ever seen. He is a weapon all over the field: receiver, kick returner, and even at runningback. This culminated into a MONSTER performance against #12 Oklahoma: 21 carries for 344 yards, 4 catches for 82 yards, 572 all-purpose yards (!), and 2 TD’s. Yes, Austin averaged over seventeen yards a touch. Very few players are capable of carrying their team like Austin did that night, and he wasn’t even the player on his team that scored the most TD’s that night. While it would be a bit much to expect anything close to this ever again, having this level of ability is extremely, extremely rare. With the powerhouse of an offense that St. Louis has assembled this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Austin as the face of it. Draft him and he’s a flex at worst…and could very well end up being your top scorer some weeks.
2. Martellus Bennett (TE #12, 126th overall) – Disclaimer on this post: I’m a believer that the Bears will be much, much better on offense this year. Last year’s Bears basically amounted to Brandon Marshall running wild while the rest of the team kinda stood around making it possible, leading to incredible inconsistency across the board. With QB Guru Marc Trestman leading the way, I feel as though the Bears will be better offensively across the board. Enter Bennett, a perenially-disappointing TE formerly on the Cowboys and Giants. Bennett has had opportunities before and failed to produce, raising questions as to if he will ever post numbers that are representative of his massive talent. I believe that Chicago will prove to be a nice change of scenery for Bennett, and this might finally be the year to cash in on him. Reports out of training camp are nothing but positive, as it seems like Trestman really expects a lot out of Bennett. Cutler has posted average stats as a redzone QB throughout his career, but I believe much of this has to do with the subpar receiving talent that had been on the Bears before now. With a healthy Marshall, a tougher Jeffrey, and a better O-line, I expect Cutler to greatly improve on his numbers, making Bennett a viable option to start this year in fantasy.
3. Ryan Broyles (WR #90, 166th overall) – After the Titus Young saga early in the offseason, many people have seemed to forget about the “other” WR spot on the Lions. Megatron will still obviously be the highlight of this offense, but there are only so many triple teams that a player can fight against before the defense starts to practically ignore everyone else on the team. Young had the talent to take over the WR2 spot before going insane, and while veteran Nate Burleson has held down the spot until now, it seems like it’s time for Broyles to take over. Injuries to different ACL’s have slowed down his ability to see the field until now, but Broyles was recently cleared for practice, and the Lions believe that he should be healthy and ready to go. For the ninetieth receiver being drafted, you could do a lot worse than the pass-happy Lion’s potential go-to slot receiver. There still are obvious injury concerns, but swing for the fences towards the end of the draft and just hope that the talent comes through.
4. Zach Miller (TE # 26, 261st overall) – …told you I had to dig deep haha. Back in Miller’s Raiders days, the go-to receiver was a top-10 option at the position in fantasy terms. Since reuniting with his former coach Tom Cable in Seattle, Miller has been used for his tremendous blocking ability more than his receiving potential. In fact, the other Seahawks TE, Anthony McCoy, stole 22 targets and 3 TD’s while Miller was forced into a blocking role. As the season went on, though, the Seahawks were able to open up their game plan a bit more, allowing Miller to run more routes than before. This culminated into an eight-catch (on nine targets!) game for 142 yards and a TD. Miller is about one of the slowest players you’ll see on the field on Sundays, but he is an ultra-reliable security blanket when he is able to actually run his routes and catch passes. If Wilson is able to get him the ball this season, Miller could explode from the 26th best TE and have a few weeks worth starting. If you were afraid to grab any tight ends until the end of the draft, or just weren’t happy with the one you got, Miller’s a name to keep in mind. He could be a priority waiver wire pickup that could sneak his way back into the top 10…or he could get stuck blocking all season.
5. Buccaneers D/ST (D/ST #14, 299th overall) – Defenses typically get ignored in fantasy drafts until the very end, unless you’re the type of player that likes to draft the #1 rated defense in the seventh round to fill up your starting lineup as soon as possible. Personally, I like to wait until the tail end of the draft and get whatever defense I think will be up-and-coming for the next season. It worked very well two years ago, grabbing the Texans D/ST with the final pick of the draft, and it worked last year to a lesser extent with the Bengals D/ST later in the draft. I believe that the Bucs D is due for a return to excellence this season. After finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs, the Bucs decided to revamp their defensive backfield with a couple of key additions. The most obvious addition, of course, is Revis, the ex-Jet who should significantly help shut down any team’s receiver, but the hard-hitting Dashon Goldson should give the Bucs a pair of relentless safeties to shore up the back end. Having the league’s best rush defense is a slightly misleading statistic, since it would obviously be easier to throw on last year’s Bucs than run against them, but I do believe that they do have a very solid run defense that should only be exemplified once the pass is shut down as well. They went 3-3 in their division last year, sweeping the Panthers and splitting with the Falcons, which should only improve as the team’s defense drastically improves. Admittedly, this is a gut call, and one you should probably only make if you’ve found yourself at the end of the draft scrambling for a defense. But hey, if you’re scrambling for a defense, why not this one?