Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings: Best Sleeper Options at Every Position
Don't fall asleep on Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon in Week 1. He will be going up against one of the league's worst secondaries and, given the chemistry he's developed with QB Blaine Gabbert, could be in for a monster day.
Blackmon isn't the only fantasy sleeper you need to consider starting this week, either.
Follow along as we break down the top sleepers at every position for Week 1.
Note: All rankings used are courtesy of ESPN.com
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (No. 17-Ranked QB)
Smith and the 49ers head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers—a team that features a sub-par secondary at best.
The key to whether or not Smith has a breakout game will be whether or not his offensive line gives him enough time to make his reads. He's proven over the course of the past 18 months or so that he's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL, and given time to read the field, Smith will have a huge game.
The additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham weren't felt much during the preseason, but if you know how Jim Harbaugh runs things, that's really no surprise. The 49ers held many a closed practice, and we have no idea what kind of shenanigans to expect in Week 1's contest against the Pack.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (No. 21-Ranked QB)
Bradford is clearly a deep sleeper. The Rams aren't going to blow anybody away this year in the grand scheme of things, but given the nature of the Detroit Lions' approach on both sides of the ball, the contest between the two clubs may well turn into a shootout of sorts on Sunday.
Bradford looked shaky at times during the preseason, but when you examine his body of work as a whole, it's easy to see that he is going to improve upon what was a terrible season in 2011. He completed 30-of-51 passes (58.8 percent) for 398 yards (7.8 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in four preseason appearances.
Making his case even stronger is the porous secondary he'll face. The Detroit Lions were terrible against the pass in 2011, and if anything, they got worse this year—not better.
Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers (No. 29-Ranked RB)
Ryan Mathews hasn't yet been cleared for contact, according to Scott Bair of the North County TImes, and he's not going to play in the team's regular season opener against the Oakland Raiders.
That makes Brown the Chargers' No. 1 option at the running back position. Norv Turner, though he's known as a passing guru, doesn't abandon the running game. Brown will get plenty of opportunities to pound the rock, and though the Raiders are stout up front, he'll be productive.
Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks (No. 38-Ranked RB)
Marshawn Lynch is questionable for the Seahawks' first regular season contest against the Arizona Cardinals, according to the AP. He's suffering from back spasms, and even if he does play, I expect Turbin to see plenty of action.
The Cardinals have a really good defense, but the Seahawks were able to run the ball effectively against good defenses last year.
I don't expect Turbin to go off for 100-plus yards and two touchdowns, but he'll have a productive day and is a good option as a RB2 or flex.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (No. 44-Ranked RB)
Mike Shanahan held Morris out of the team's last preseason game, treating him like a starter. That bodes well for Morris and anyone who has him on their fantasy team.
Morris is a quintessential Shanahan running back. He was drafted in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic this past spring, and he has taken advantage of injuries to other backs to make his way to the top of the depth chart.
Shanahan will be sure to pound the ball between the tackles in order to protect his rookie quarterback, and out of the three sleepers I've listed here, I expect Morris to have the biggest game.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 35-Ranked WR)
The Jaguars head up north to play the Minnesota Vikings—a team with issues in the secondary. Blaine Gabbert will see plenty of pressure, but he and Blackmon have developed an amazing amount of chemistry in a short time, and I expect them to connect more than a few times.
Blackmon's specialty is that he is exceptional after the catch. He will have a huge game, and I see him being the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL by the time the 2012 season is said and done.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers (No. 39-Ranked WR)
LaFell has taken over as the Panthers' No. 2 wide receiver for Legedu Naanee, who sought greener pastures with the Miami Dolphins.
LaFell has been productive as a role player for the past two seasons with the Panthers, but this is his season to break out. The former LSU standout will be one of Cam Newton's go-to guys, and I see the two of them having much success against what is a horrible Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (No. 18 Ranked TE)
Fleener didn't wow us in the preseason, but I attribute his lack of production to the fact that Andrew Luck is attempting to develop much-needed chemistry with his wide receivers. Luck and Fleener already have it, and we're going to see them connect on a regular basis in the regular season.
The Chicago Bears are thin at the linebacker position, and I expect Fleener's size and speed to make him a matchup nightmare. He'll have a huge advantage over any defender attempting to cover him, and Luck will find him at least five times in the Colts' opener.
Joel Dreessen, Denver Broncos (No. 24 Ranked TE)
Peyton Manning loves his tight ends. He always makes good use of them, and this week's contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be no different.
Ryan Clark, the Steelers' starting free safety, won't be playing due to the sickle cell anemia he carries with him (h/t ESPN.com's Stephania Bell). The altitude in Denver is dangerous to his health when exerting himself, and therefore the Steelers will be without one of their key defenders.
This is going to make things easier for Manning and his tight ends, and Dreessen will have a highly productive game.
Josh Scobee, Jacksonville Jaguars (Not Ranked)
Scobee has a few things going for him in Week 1 that make him a viable starter and awesome sleeper pick.
The Minnesota Vikings gave up the most points to kickers of any team in 2011—9.7 points, according to ESPN.
Secondly, Scobee had a terrific season last year, missing on only two attempts all year.
Finally, the Jaguars will likely have trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone with Gabbert still learning the ropes as an NFL quarterback. Even though the Vikings' secondary isn't top notch, every team's secondary is better in the red zone due to the fact that they simply don't have as much ground to cover.
Carolina Panthers (No. 24 Ranked D/ST)
The Panthers are going to be better on defense this year than most people give them credit for. The addition of Luke Kuechly makes their front seven much stronger, and the team has one of the most underrated starting linebackers in the NFL.
Jon Beason and James Anderson join the rookie to form a formidable trio.
Up front, the Panthers will be able to pressure Josh Freeman on a regular basis. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' depleted offensive line, and I expect the secondary to benefit from their pressure with at least two turnovers.
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