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Fantasy Football: Top 10 Sleepers to Watch, but Not Draft

Andrew GouldFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2014

Fantasy Football: Top 10 Sleepers to Watch, but Not Draft

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    Not every fantasy football sleeper has to cost you a precious draft pick.

    Some players reside so far under the radar that you can wait for them to prove their worth during the preseason or even after a couple regular season contests. 

    Although you may not have to draft these players, you should monitor their progress and keep them in your sights. If they show any signs of life or receive a needed opening for playing time, add a vital member to your squad by scooping up one or more of them.

    Some of these sleepers' success is improbable, but finding an imperfect player at the bottom of the barrel can salvage your team’s chances of winning. 

10. Martellus Bennett

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    If Eli Manning can lead Jake Ballard to fantasy football relevancy, Martellus Bennett has a shot.

    After playing under Jason Witten’s shadow for four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Bennett finally has a chance to start in the NFL. The tight end has not caught a single touchdown in the past three seasons, but perhaps departing to the divisional foe New York Giants will spark a revival.

    Despite his three-year touchdown drought, Bennett is a big, talented receiver who could benefit from a change of scenery. He does not possess the most reliable hands, but New York has nobody better.

    Keep tabs on Bennett, who could emerge as an intriguing option at tight end if everything pans the right way. 

9. Nick Toon

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    His name alone should warrant some consideration among drafters, especially those who are 90s kids. Come on, how can you not want Nick Toon?

    Also, he gets to catch footballs from Drew Brees" target="_blank">Drew Brees, so that helps too.

    Selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Toon displays good speed for a 6’3’’, 218-pound wide receiver. The New Orleans Saints still roster plenty of talented wide receivers, but Robert Meachem’s departure offers some opportunity for Toon to work his way into their high-powered offense as their fourth receiver.

    Keep an eye on the rookie’s progress through the preseason to see if he is worthy of a late-round flier or should just be monitored throughout the year. Toon will need to find a way to earn consistent playing time, but if he can figure it out, the rugrat will be all that. 

8. Jacquizz Rodgers

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    After recently turning 30, Michael Turner is now an old man in running back years.

    Following four years carrying the workload for the Atlanta Falcons, the team should look to lessen The Burner’s burden and spread out those rushes.

    Jacquizz Rodgers did not impress that much with 3.6 yards per carry, but he also caught 21 passes in limited playing time. The 5’6” scat-back could morph into the second coming of Darren Sproles with more touches this season.

    In a points per reception league, grabbing Rodgers in one of the last rounds makes sense. In other leagues, make sure the Falcons give him a chance before giving him a chance on your fantasy team.  

7. Steve Smith (Rams)

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    Remember when Steve Smith caught 107 passes in 2009 and created serious doubts over which wide receiver was the "other" Steve Smith?

    Smith’s career looked promising before a left knee surgery disrupted his progress. Smith failed to rebound last year, catching 11 passes in nine games with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    While he showed little during his comeback attempt, Smith signed with the St. Louis Rams, who can sure use some help at wide receiver. If Smith shows any signs of the guy who became Manning’s go-to target during their first Super Bowl run, he could start in St. Louis.

    Banking on Smith recovering is a real shot in the dark, which is why he should remain undrafted in most leagues. Keep an eye on him early in the season to see if he can return to form.

6. Dennis Pitta

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    I know that you have no desire to draft a backup tight end on your fantasy football team. Nor should you.

    With a break of two, however, Dennis Pitta could seize the starting role and make a splash in fantasy leagues.

    During his first full season earning significant snaps, Pitta established a rapport with Joe Flacco as the year concluded. Pitta caught three touchdown passes in his final five regular season games and visited the end zone again in the AFC Championship game.

    Ed Dickson stands in Pitta’s way, but Pitta could steal the starting position after outperforming his counterpart at the end of the year. If Dickson suffers an injury or simply squanders his spot, Pitta is a player to watch on the waiver wire and consider grabbing if he starts strong.

5. Jake Locker

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    Engrossed in a tight battle with Matt Hasselbeck to go under center for the Tennessee Titans, Jake Locker’s uncertain playing time will detract drafters in re-draft leagues.

    If the Titans make the prudent choice, Locker will run the show in Tennessee and gain consideration as a reserve or matchup play in most fantasy formats.

    In limited action last season, Locker tallied a 99.4 quarterback rating and prevented defenders from capturing any turnovers. He played prominently in three games, all without star wide receiver Kenny Britt. They also added another target in rookie Kendall Wright to provide Locker with another offensive asset.

    With a starting job, Locker could leap into the top 20 with potential to rise higher. 

4. Matt Moore

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    Not many NFL quarterbacks are only the second most popular athlete in their state with the same name.

    So goes the life of Matt Moore, a solid passer who should receive more credit. He’s not the Miami Dolphins’ long-awaited replacement to Dan Marino, but Moore deserves the starting nod over rookie Ryan Tannehill and grizzled veteran David Garrard.

    There are plenty of valid reasons to overlook Moore on draft day. The position features several appealing options, Moore’s starting spot is far from locked up and Miami lacks talented receivers after Brandon Marshall’s departure.

    In 13 games last season, Moore amassed 2,497 passing yards with 18 total touchdowns. His 87.1 quarterback rating and 60.5 completion percentage grade higher than Flacco, Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton, who are each ranked as popular fantasy reserves.

    As Moore likely goes undrafted, watch Miami’s training camp battle and track his progress if he lands the job. He might offer sneaky value as a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.

3. Jacoby Jones

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    In fantasy football circles, few players are a bigger tease than Jacoby Jones.

    For the past couple years, drafters targeted Jones in hopes of him breaking out aside Andre Johnson with the Houston Texans. It never happened, so Houston jettisoned him, and fantasy owners seem to have had enough with the talented, yet disappointing wide receiver as well.

    So now that nobody is anticipating anything from Jones, this will probably be the year he delivers on that untapped potential.

    Jones can win the No. 3 receiver spot in Baltimore behind the aging Anquan Boldin and the inconsistent Torrey Smith. A change of scenery could wake up Jones, who is running out of chances to surface as a dependable professional.

    Spurned drafters will not spend a draft pick on Jones, but keep his name in the back of your mind once the season commences. One big game in September could spark a breakout year. 

2. Chris Rainey

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    Rashard Mendenhall’s ACL injury opens up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backfield, which often provides ample opportunities for rushers. Isaac Redman could fill in admirably, but he is no lock to run away with the spot.

    If the Steelers are searching for an explosive rusher to shine during Mendenhall’s absence, Chis Rainey is their man.  

    The fifth-round draft selection can emerge as a versatile change-of-pace back for Pittsburgh during his rookie campaign. Todd Haley could attempt to implement Rainey the way he used Dexter McCluster in Kansas City. While McCluster has failed to excel with the Chiefs, he presented some value to owners in points per reception leagues.

    Rainey has potential to do the same, but he could burgeon even further into a breakout running back.  

1. Lamar Miller

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    Most third-string running backs will slip through the cracks on draft day, so Lamar Miller likely will not find a home in most 10 and 12-team leagues.

    He might be worth a late-round flier, but at least keep an eye on the talented young runner.

    Miller’s draft stock plummeted due to knee issues that caused him to fall to the Dolphins at a bargain price in the fourth round. They already have Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, but Miller still has a chance to make his presence felt this season.

    Bush is still working to shed his reputation as an injury-prone back who struggles to run in between the tackles. Thomas posted a disappointing 3.5 yards per carry and now must look over his shoulder with Miller fighting to creep up the depth chart.

    Miller, who possesses good size and speed, might make a significant impact in fantasy leagues by the year’s end.

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