Football sleepers to stack your team late
Not Your Average Joe
Published: Friday, September 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 00:09
Haven’t had your NFL fantasy football draft this year yet? Have no idea what you’re doing? No problem. Your resident expert is here to help, or if you ask my editor Tom Downey, resident big mouth.
Most of your bigger picks are pretty self-evident. Take a quick look at any sports page and you know who it is that should be starting at most of your positions. It’s not until you reach those backups, the off-week personnel that are more often than not taken late in the draft, that you can truly separate yourself from those mediocre teams in your league. Here are five players to keep your eye on who haven’t gotten much press.
1. Daryl Richardson, (RB, St. Louis)
Those of you who are St. Louis fans know just how disappointing Rams’ fantasy numbers have been for the past few years. Sam Bradford hasn’t panned out (though there are ‘experts’ saying he could be a sleeper this year. Spoiler alert – he’s not), and the running game is in disarray since the departure of Steven Jackson. Enter Daryl Richardson, the Abilene Christian 23 year-old who will start the 2013 season as the No. 1 tailback in St. Louis. He’s a big question mark – just nine carries in the preseason – but he put up decent numbers last year, averaging a solid 4.8 yards a carry on 98 attempts. He has potential as a receiving threat as well, and according to FantasyPros.com, he is going as the 55 pick overall on average, good enough for 28 at his position. If you’re looking for a solid flex player or a nice depth pick, Richardson is your man for the first week or two.
2. Lamar Miller, (RB, Miami)
The Miami Dolphins are easily the biggest unknown of the 2013 NFL season. Ryan Tannehill is trying to prove that he can continue to put up 3,000+ yards while whittling down the turnovers, and it appears Miami will favor the pass in the absence of a resurgent Reggie Bush. With Mike Wallace’s arrival shifting defenses’ focuses to the air, this leaves the running game open for Lamar Miller, who was just named as the starting back Aug. 26. He rushed 51 times for 250 yards last year, and this year he will be expected to be the lights-out running back he was back at the University of Miami. He’ll probably even get some short passes while defensive backs are tied up with the deep threat that is Wallace, so I’m hoping Miller can have a blowout year. And he better – he’s my number No. 3 RB (thanks, Autopick?).
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (DEF)
I can hear the jabbering now: “Joe, you’re a Steelers fan. Get over it. Their defense isn’t what it was.” This is true, which is why they aren’t going first among defenses like they have been throughout the late 2000’s. Last year was rough for the Steel Curtain, as they were rarely healthy and the team limped to an 8-8 season. And even though Sports Illustrated and ESPN analysts have consistently smacked them around coming into this year, the fact remains that the Steelers have been ranked No. 1 in total defense the past two seasons. Couple that with a healthy Troy Polamalu and the addition of Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas, and Dick LeBeau’s squad might just surprise you.
4. Golden Tate (WR, Seattle)
With Russell Wilson continuing to grow as a remarkable threat in Seattle, no one stands to gain from it more than the fourth year wide out. Golden Tate hasn’t had the opportunities that many others have had around the league to put up solid fantasy points, but his 688 yards and seven touchdowns last year made him a solid option for those with a flex position in their league. Barring injury, his numbers are almost certain to go up this year. Watch for him to hit the 1,000 yard mark.
5. Alex Smith (QB, Kansas City)
After being ousted by Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco last season, Alex Smith has something to prove to his critics, his old coaches, and just about every fan around the league that labels him a “game manager.” While there may be truth in that statement, it doesn’t mean those traits can’t be useful in the fantasy world. Andy Reid paid a large price to bring him on in Kansas City, and he’s going to give Smith all the freedom he wants to get the job done. Last year, he completed a career high 70% of his passes in just 9 games. His 13-5 TD touchdown to interception ratio was also promising, and his new team should improve after severely underperforming in 2012.
As always, research can only go far in the world of fantasy sports. It’s great to prepare, but when your week is on the line you’ve got to go with your gut. There are 16 spots on the average roster, and chances are eight of them will change by the time your season ends, so don’t sweat a risky pick or two. Trust your instincts and take some chances if you think they’ll pay off.
Best of luck to you all this season, and have fun out on the fantasy gridiron!
Oh, and wish me luck as well. Tom Downey thinks he has my number, so apparently I need all the help I can get. But we’ll see about that.