Early 2013 Ranking of the Top 15 Fantasy Football Sleepers

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMay 17, 2013

Early 2013 Ranking of the Top 15 Fantasy Football Sleepers

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    Fantasy football sleepers can often make the difference between winning your league's championship and finishing in last place.

    Each year we see a handful of players come out of nowhere to have huge seasons, and the 2013 season will be no different. Some of the following sleepers will be consistent starters while others have the potential and upside to become top fantasy football players this year.

    The following players have been ranked by a combination of potential and opportunity for the upcoming season. Here are early rankings for the top fantasy football sleepers.

Notable Omissions

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    There are a handful of players that you won't see on the list that barely missed the cut to be truly considered sleepers at this point of the offseason. This, of course, could change as the offseason progresses, but right now the following players simply aren't the top sleepers in fantasy football.


    Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets

    There are two quarterbacks who made our rankings, but Smith isn't one of them. He certainly could get the chance to start from Week 1, but I just don't see it happening that early.

    It's more likely that the Jets will give Mark Sanchez some time to prove something and put in Smith if he fails. Right now, Smith isn't worthy of a spot on this list, but he should definitely be pegged as a player to watch throughout the preseason.


    Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts

    Allen was the best rookie tight end last year as he played spectacular football for Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the Colts were without a healthy Coby Fleener for the most of the season.

    Fleener's return, along with Allen playing more of an H-back role for the Colts, could hinder Allen's production this season.


    Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

    There is a Packers' running back in the rankings, but it isn't Lacy. I like Lacy a lot, but I think he'll have more of a goal-line role for the Packers. Either that or Lacy will be used only on set running downs, which will potentially allow defenses to slow him down.

    Look for Lacy to record some touchdowns this year, but not do much else on the ground in terms of production.


    Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

    Tannehill is our final notable omission, but the reason he doesn't make the list is because I no longer think he can be considered a sleeper.

    Everyone saw what he is capable of last season, and now with Mike Wallace as his No. 1 receiver season, he should have an extremely solid season.

15. Tyler Wilson, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    Even though the Oakland Raiders brought in Matt Flynn during the offseason, they thought highly enough of Tyler Wilson to spend a fourth-round draft pick on him this year.

    As Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com stated in a recent article, Wilson already looks like he'll make a push to be the starting quarterback in Oakland when the regular season starts. Wilson certainly has the arm strength and overall talent to be productive during his first year in the league.

    The reason that Wilson doesn't rank higher as a sleeper for fantasy football is due to the lack of weapons surrounding him. He doesn't have a legitimate No. 1 receiver to throw to and Darren McFadden simply can't stay healthy.

    If Wilson does start, he could develop into a quality bye-week option at quarterback with upside in dynasty leagues.

14. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns

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    Jordan Cameron is entering his third year in the NFL, but the 2013 season will be his first as the starting tight end for the Cleveland Browns. 

    While he's only recorded 26 career receptions, he should easily surpass that number this upcoming season. For starters, he's got a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner who should instantly improve the Browns offense.

    Combine that with the hope that Brandon Weeden will improve on his decision-making during his second year and you have the potential for a truly breakout campaign for Jordan.

13. Tommy Streeter, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens traded away Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason. They'll need to figure out how to replace Boldin's production or the offense could struggle.

    Enter Tommy Streeter, the second-year receiver who played for the Miami Hurricanes. Streeter was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft but was expected to contribute during his first year in the league.

    Unfortunately, he suffered a foot injury before the start of the season and was placed on injured reserve. Now that he's healthy, look for Streeter to become a solid contributor for Baltimore this season.

    At 6'5" and 220 pounds, Streeter has the size to be a possession receiver similar to Boldin. He could also become a legitimate threat in the red zone and put up quality touchdown numbers this year.

12. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

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    Few teams revamped their backfield like the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. Not only did they release Beanie Wells and sign Rashard Mendenhall, but they also drafted Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington.

    While Mendenhall will likely start the season as the No. 1 back on the depth chart, don't be surprised if Ellington eventually emerges as the top runner in Arizona. He's got all the skills desired in an every-down back, including the ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Ellington has the ability to quickly get into second gear to run away from defenders. He's also surprisingly agile in the open field and consistently picks up positive yards. 

    Of all the running backs on the Cardinals roster, Ellington has the most upside and could become quite the fantasy football sleeper.

11. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

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    Of all the quarterbacks drafted during the 2013 NFL draft, EJ Manuel has the most potential in fantasy football during the upcoming season. All he has to do is beat out Kevin Kolb for the starting job and he'll be in charge of a potentially dangerous offense.

    What ultimately makes Manuel a legitimate sleeper this year is the weapons that surround him in Buffalo. From C.J. Spiller to Stevie Johnson and fellow rookie Robert Woods, Manuel will have plenty of playmakers to throw to in the Bills' offense.

    He'll have to win the starting job first, of course, but if he can do that, Manuel could have a very productive rookie season in terms of fantasy football.

10. Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay Packers

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    While Eddie Lacy was the higher draft pick for the Green Bay Packers, Johnathan Franklin could end up being more productive as a rookie for fantasy football.

    Lacy is a big and bruising running back, but Franklin is more of an all-around back. He'll not only make big plays on the ground, but he's a capable blocker and receiver out of the backfield.

    Franklin has the potential to be the three-down running back that the Packers have been lacking for so long. Even though Green Bay runs a pass-first, pass-second and run-third offense, Franklin still has plenty value if he becomes the main ball-carrier in Green Bay.

9. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills

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    Of all the wide receivers drafted during the 2013 draft, Robert Woods might be the most NFL ready of them all.

    What he lacks in elite athleticism or physical tools, he makes up for with a great understanding of the game. He's a polished route-runner who should step in right away and be the No. 2 receiver in Buffalo.

    The big question will revolve around just how good of quarterback play Woods gets from either EJ Manuel or Kevin Kolb. If Woods and his quarterback show chemistry early in the season, he could be in for a quality rookie season.

8. Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos

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    If all the pieces fall the correct way, Montee Ball could be in for a huge fantasy football season. However, he'll need to get past Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno to do so.

    While that seems like a difficult task, it should be easier than it looks. At least one of those running backs should be released before the start of the season. Neither Hillman or Moreno have proved to be consistent or dangerous enough to be an every-down back.

    Ball, on the other hand, is a touchdown machine who simply knows how to constantly pick up chunks of yards. He had one of the best college careers of any running back and should really excel for the Denver Broncos.

    Once Ball starts getting carries, which is definitely a possibility in Denver, he should make the most of the opportunity.

7. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jonathan Baldwin has failed to even come close to making the type of impact many expected him to make coming out of college. He's only recorded 41 career receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns.

    However, Baldwin has had to deal with injuries and having Matt Cassel as a quarterback for his first two seasons. Now with Alex Smith and a new head coach in Andy Reid, Baldwin has a great opportunity in front of him.

    As long as he can stay healthy, he could finally turn into that legitimate No. 2 receiver that the Kansas City Chiefs thought he could become. While he may not be ready to slide into a starting spot in your lineup, he'll definitely be a strong weekly candidate for the flex position.

6. Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets

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    If Geno Smith ends up starting at quarterback for the New York Jets, Stephen Hill's stock goes up significantly for fantasy football. However, with Mark Sanchez currently at the helm in New York, Hill isn't as big of a sleeper as he could be.

    There were moments during Hill's rookie season last year where he looked like a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He's an explosive receiver who has the ability to make plays all over the field.

    Hill could have an extremely solid season with some consistent play from the quarterback position.

5. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

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    While Alshon Jeffery certainly had his struggles during his rookie season, he also had some quality games last year. One of those games came in Week 17, where Jeffery had four receptions for 76 yards.

    Jeffery should certainly see his role increase for the Chicago Bears this year. New head coach Marc Trestman should instantly improve the play of Jay Cutler and the overall passing game in Chicago.

    Don't be surprised if Jeffery becomes a strong No. 2 receiver candidate in fantasy football this year.

4. Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams did a fantastic job of adding weapons to its offense, and Zac Stacy has the opportunity to be the most productive of the bunch.

    With Steven Jackson leaving this offseason, the starting running back job in St. Louis is literally wide open. Sure, Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead will bring some competition, but neither proved to be franchise running backs last year.

    Stacy was one of the most underrated running backs in the 2013 NFL draft, but has the talent to make an impact in every single aspect of the game. He can run, he can catch, he's a capable blocker and he has the ability to make big plays.

    Stacy should compete for the starting job in Week 1 and could have a surprise rookie season like Alfred Morris did last year.

3. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    With the loss of Mike Wallace, there is a big opportunity for a player to step in and become Ben Roethlisberger's new favorite target. While the favorites for that honor are Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, don't count Markus Wheaton out.

    In fact, in terms of actual ability, Wheaton's game is quite similar to that of Wallace. Wheaton is a big-play threat who should get his fair share of touchdowns during his rookie season.

    If he can consistently make plays down the field, Wheaton could end up having one of the most productive rookie seasons for fantasy football this year.

2. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    The rookie sleeper with the most potential to put up monster numbers in fantasy football this year is Giovani Bernard. 

    Bernard will likely start the season sharing carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but it shouldn't be too long until Bernard is handling the majority of the load in Cincinnati. Where Green-Ellis is more of a power back, Bernard is a quicker and shiftier back.

    However, he's definitely got the strength, receiving ability and blocking skills to play all three downs for the Bengals. Don't be surprised when Bernard takes away the majority of Green-Ellis' carries early in the season and makes a run at Offensive Rookie of the Year.

1. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins

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    The top sleeper for fantasy football is second-year running back Lamar Miller. With Reggie Bush now in Detroit, the Miami Dolphins have to find a new primary ball-carrier to replace him.

    Both Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee could make a case for being the starting running back in Miami. However, Miller is a more talented and better all-around player than either Thomas or Gillislee.

    Miller didn't see much playing time last year, but there were times when he was able to show off his dynamic playmaking skills. It's those open-field skills that allow him to get big gains that will ultimately force the Dolphins to give him the majority of the carries.

    He'll take full advantage of the opportunity this season and turn into a legitimate starting running back for fantasy football.