While it may be a while before you’re conducting your 2013 fantasy football draft, that does not mean you can’t prepare early and start signaling out some sleepers to keep an eye on for next year.
Sleeper is an ambiguous word for sure, but the following players listed in this slideshow will not be going early (say within the first seven to eight rounds) in next year’s drafts, and they could significantly outplay their value.
So jot down these names or do whatever you have to do to remember them, but keep these guys in mind when you’re drafting next summer. In order, here are the top 10 sleepers to target next year.
With his 16.6 yards per reception, Chris Givens is a legitimate deep threat who could break out next year.
Obviously when Sam Bradford looked deep, Givens was his main man, and Givens did score three touchdowns among his 42 receptions. Although Danny Amendola is Bradford’s most trusted receiver, Givens is the playmaking option who could rack up the touchdowns.
With another year to get down pat his rhythm with Bradford, Givens has a chance to shine and is a deep sleeper to keep an eye on for fantasy drafts.
While he did not enjoy the season like others in his rookie fraternity did (Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson), Ryan Tannehill was no slouch. It will only be a matter of time before he becomes a dependable starting quarterback. And yes, that means even in fantasy leagues.
Not equipped with the greatest of weapons, Tannehill still did his part and kept the Dolphins afloat for much of the season.
For the year, Tannehill completed a respectable 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,294 yards. Although he did not pass for many touchdowns (12), he did not throw too many picks (13) either. The touchdown-to-interception ratio will only get better when the Dolphins add more playmakers around Tannehill.
Expect the Dolphins to address the wide receiver position either through the draft or free agency. Tannehill will initially be selected as a No. 2 quarterback next year, but the upside is strong with him for a breakout season.
As Russell Wilson develops into a complete quarterback, Golden Tate has the highest ceiling to make leaps and bounds in his game next year.
Tate is already coming off a solid season (688 receiving yards, seven touchdowns), but expect him to really reach his potential next year. As Wilson grows and expands on his game, Tate will be a receiver he trusts.
At age 24, Tate’s better days are clearly ahead of him.
As a legitimate deep threat for Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon had himself quite the rookie season in Cleveland, recording 50 receptions for 805 yards and five touchdowns.
Gordon also had an astonishing 16.1 yards per reception in 2012. Weeden and Gordon will only grow on their rapport, and with a full offseason to get acclimated to each other, anticipate bigger and better things in their sophomore seasons.
The New Orleans Saints running back by committee may cease to exist after the way Mark Ingram ended the 2012 season.
After a year and a half of disappointing results, Ingram looked solid to close out the season. In his last eight games, Ingram received more than 10 carries in all but one contest. This came after Ingram only received 54 carries in the first eight games.
Ingram capitalized on the extra carries by rushing for 424 yards and four touchdowns in the last eight games.
While he won’t get you a ton of yardage, Ingram will have plenty of chances to score, as he will still be a part of a high-scoring offense. Ingram makes for an excellent No. 3 running back or flex-play next year.
After injuries derailed his rookie season, Alshon Jeffery never really got the chance to showcase his immense talent.
With him returning to full health in 2013, Jeffery should capitalize on his rookie experience and give Jay Cutler a dangerous option opposite Brandon Marshall. In 2012, Jeffery managed a very dangerous 15.3 yards per reception to go with three touchdowns in 10 games played.
Once Jeffery and Cutler get into more of a consistent rhythm, the sky will be the limit for Jeffery.
Sooner or later, the St. Louis Rams will hand the reins as lead back over to Daryl Richardson.
Either the Rams will trade Steven Jackson to a contending team or ultimately phase him out of the game plan. Jackson has run his course in St. Louis, and the Rams will want to see what they have in Richardson.
Richardson looked good when given an opportunity this year. Richardson averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per carry on 98 attempts. While receiving no more than 15 carries in any one game, Richardson still ran for more than 50 yards four times.
For some reason, Richardson was completely left out of the game plan down the stretch, only receiving a combined 16 carries in the last five games.
The Rams know that Richardson is the running back of the future, and he should prove to be a great middle-to-late-round selection in drafts next summer.
Depending on how things shake out in the offseason, there is a good chance that Jacquizz Rodgers will be the lead back in Atlanta next year, as Michael Turner is just not getting it done on a consistent basis anymore.
Rodgers is clearly the more explosive back and a better fit in the Falcons offense.
Rodgers is about to approach his third year in the NFL, and the training wheels are bound to come off in 2013. Rodgers is an adept pass-catcher as well, making him a more complete back than Turner. Even if Turner is still around, Rodgers will likely be the safer pick in fantasy drafts next year.
Much like Rodgers, expect Kendall Hunter to eventually replace an aging star and become the lead back for his team.
First, though, Hunter has to get healthy after experiencing a season-ending Achilles injury. However, Hunter will still get a good chance to become the 49ers lead back next year because of his explosive playmaking ability. After all, Hunter did average 5.2 yards per carry this year.
With Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the 49ers will want to start thinking about the future of the offense and that will be implementing Hunter more into the mix.
With Ahmad Bradshaw’s future in New York in question, David Wilson has the chance to be the lead dog in New York next year.
Wilson finished his rookie season on a high note, recording four total touchdowns in the last four games, while rushing for 75 yards or more twice in that span.
Wilson has great burst out of the backfield, and his speed is a game changer. Even if Bradshaw returns to the Giants, Wilson will no doubt get a ton of touches in the Giants offense.