12 Biggest PPR Sleepers in 2013 Fantasy Football
Writing about sleepers in fantasy football is a tricky task because someone always swears up and down that he was tracking the guys you list before you.
So tracking sleepers is like being a hipster. It's not cool unless you picked them out first.
The reality is that sleepers are merely guys whom the world at large are undervaluing at this very moment. It happens every year, and the players involved are different every year because once a guy has a great season, everyone is all over him.
So here are a dozen players the majority are missing out on right now; you should be grabbing them before they sell out, become mainstream and aren't cool anymore.
As a general note, this is a list of players for a point-per-reception league. In other words, you get an extra point for every catch a receiver or running back makes.
But you probably haven't heard of it before. It's very underground.
Danny Woodhead, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
Danny Woodhead has been a fun player to watch and follow from a general NFL standpoint, but he's never been all that much of a fantasy factor. New England liked to use him in very specific spots, not carrying the ball a ton and catching the ball in fits and starts.
Last season was his best, as he totaled 400-plus yards on 40 catches. In your average point-per-reception league, that's a solid 80 points he netted you.
What will keep people from looking at him is the low total of yards he got between the tackles—just 301 yards on a mere 76 carries.
So why should you be looking at him?
Woodhead has shown he can run the ball for more yards, as he did back in his first year with New England when he carried the ball 97 times for a total of 547 yards. Can he tote the rock as a lead back?
No, but he doesn't have to for your purposes. We know that he can get a good share of the carries and produce.
And he should get the chance behind Ryan Mathews, who has yet to finish a season. Mathews had a lot of promise, but durability has been his Achilles' heel (and hopefully he can avoid that injury). He has missed 10 games in the three years he's been in the league.
Woodhead won't be a starter for your fantasy team, but he will get enough carries and catches to end up a solid low-end second running back or flex option with upside.
He's certainly worth more than his current Average Draft Position (ADP) of 135th player off the board and 50th running back.
Nate Burleson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
As Nate Burleson is coming off a broken leg and is about 500 years old (31, actually), I could see you raise an eyebrow here. Do I really expect to see him have a good season?
Listen, before he broke his leg last season, Burleson was on pace for somewhere in the neighborhood of 114 targets, which would be the second-highest of his career.
In six games last year, Burleson caught just under 63 percent of his targets. Assuming he kept up that pace, he was heading toward 71 catches, the second-highest total of his career.
The Lions are desperate for a receiver to pull coverage off of Calvin Johnson. The early indication from last year was that they felt Burleson was going to be that guy. They certainly threw the ball enough.
Aside from age and the recent injury, people shy away from Burleson because of second-year receiver Ryan Broyles.
It's a fair concern, one we'll talk about in a later slide as Broyles could be a big factor as well in this offense.
Still, it's Broyles' second ACL tear in two years and even if it's a different knee, the Lions might bring him back slowly.
That would leave plenty of room for Burleson.
Besides, Matt Stafford threw the ball 727 times last year. There are plenty of targets to go around.
Shane Vereen, Running Back, New England Patriots
So much has happened at the tight end and wide receiver positions in New England that we may be overlooking a change in the backfield with significant fantasy relevance.
Now that Danny Woodhead has left for San Diego, Shane Vereen looks like the guy to pick up the slack on third downs for the Patriots.
Vereen had a relatively quiet 2012, but don't let that lull you to sleep. He's a good back who can catch the ball well and also do more between the tackles than Woodhead could.
Even better (sorry, Patriots fans), with Rob Gronkowski possibly out for the start of the season and Aaron Hernandez cut, Tom Brady suddenly has a lot less toys to play with and will need a short-yardage target.
Therefore, Vereen could be a player with ridiculous upside, held back only because Stevan Ridley is undoubtedly the lead back in New England.
That said, Vereen is in line for a very good season.
Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Mike Wallace taking his talents to South Beach, everyone has his eyes set on Antonio Brown. Sure, many people are thinking about taking a mid-to-late-round flier on Emmanuel Sanders, but just as many are wondering if rookie Markus Wheaton will overtake Sanders this year.
We're all selling Sanders short.
Despite the presence of Wallace and Brown, Sanders still saw 75 targets, catching 44 for a total of 626 yards. Without Wallace in house, Sanders should see those numbers rise significantly.
Expect Sanders to catch between 70 and 80 balls and nudge the dial toward 900 or so yards. It shouldn't be hard for him to top that single touchdown from last year either, though I expect a pretty big bump by him as this offense gets back to where it has been in the past.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
People are all over the place when it comes to second-year Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Once considered one of the best receivers in the country, Jeffery dropped in the 2012 draft due to work ethic concerns. The Bears were all too happy to grab him in the second round, but after that, not much went right for Jeffery.
His rookie season was marred by injury issues as well as the regular learning curve of an NFL wide receiver. Jeffery needs to settle down and not get baited into offensive pass interference penalties or allow himself to get tied up at the line with hand fighting, both of which happened too often in 2012.
A year later, expect Jeffery to live up to expectations. In fact, expect him to go beyond them.
This is an offense that will move quickly and keep a defense on its toes all game. Yes, Jeffery will split targets with Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett and even Matt Forte, but he will also find himself open frequently as the defense chooses to key more on those three players than Jeffery.
Not only do I see him catching more balls, but he'll be a much bigger player in this offense than people think.
Brandon Myers, Tight End, New York Giants
The New York Giants didn't worry about drafting or paying a big-time tight end this offseason because they were planning on doing what they normally do.
That means they looked for an inexpensive but effective alternative.
Brandon Myers caught 79 catches for 806 yards and four touchdowns with an Oakland Raiders team that struggled for wins but not with putting up yards or fantasy points.
Myers could be a perfect fit for an offense that passes plenty of times in a game and could be a great weapon in the way Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss were for stretches in their time.
While the free-agent market wasn't all that interested in Myers, he showed the ability to make plays and be a consistent target.
Eli Manning should find Myers an attractive target, enough to give him some work even if he already has Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
If you're looking to wait on a tight end, Myers is an intriguing option with some upside.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Running Back, Atlanta Falcons
With Steven Jackson in town, fantasy owners are wondering if it's time to write off Jacquizz Rodgers as a guy who will never amount to much in fantasy circles.
While he may not put up tremendous yards on the ground, he did see a big increase in his targets and receiving yards.
Some of that was just the fact that former Falcons running back Michael Turner was terrible catching passes. Steven Jackson is in town now, and he can catch the ball.
That said, Rodgers is still likely to be a vital and important part of this offense going forward. While Jackson can catch the ball, Rodgers is a little more dynamic and has shown flashes of good speed.
While Jackson will get the bulk of the heavy lifting, Rodgers could emerge as a very good candidate for the flex spot as he piles up the receiving yards.
Cecil Shorts, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
With Justin Blackmon facing a suspension to start the 2013 season, Cecil Shorts will have to pick up the slack. Again.
Last season when Blackmon struggled, Shorts emerged as a reliable go-to guy for both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Despite the emergence last season and the suspension of the one guy who was a big threat to steal targets, Shorts is still overlooked by many fantasy owners.
Maybe it's the uncertainty at quarterback or the small school background or even the fact that he plays for the Jaguars.
Other owners' loss is your gain though. Expect him to build on last year and top 70 catches and 1,000 yards. We know the Jaguars will have to throw a lot again this year.
Most of those passes will go toward Shorts.
Jeremy Kerley, Wide Receiver, New York Jets
When all hell broke loose and every other receiving threat in the New York Jets offense collapsed, Jeremy Kerley was the one bright spot a Jets fan could cling to.
While Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill are healthy, Holmes is a headcase who alienates his teammates as much as he helps them (and has never cracked 1,000 yards as a Jet), and Hill was sloppy last year and is still raw.
From an NFL standpoint, Kerley is a poor man's Randall Cobb, but he was the one reliable player a Jets quarterback could throw to.
It remains so right now. Whether it is Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith, the quarterback throwing the ball will know he can hurl it toward Kerley and that he will not only come down with the ball, but find some extra yards after the fact.
While I don't know that this offense is capable of producing a 1,000-yard receiver, Kerley is still the guy for my money who will produce the most points and has the best chance of producing some good numbers for fantasy owners as well.
Aim for him as a third or fourth wide receiver with upside.
Dustin Keller, Tight End, Miami Dolphins
Dustin Keller never fulfilled the promise of his talent during his time with the New York Jets. While some of that was on him, a lot more of that was on the team around him and the game-planning, which never gave him much of a chance.
Miami will still look toward its wide receivers and backfield more than the tight end position, but that doesn't mean Keller won't put up a significant number of catches.
Last year the Dolphins threw to the tight end position 11 times and that was to Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay, neither of whom is all that talented.
Keller may not see all those targets (he does have Mike Wallace in the offense), but he should see plenty. While he won't break the 1,000-yard mark, I expect him to hit in the neighborhood of 800 yards.
While Fasano was unable to really do much with his 44 catches, expect Keller to get more production out of more catches.
Vincent Brown, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers
Vincent Brown missed the 2012 season with a broken ankle, while Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd battled their own injuries but produced.
Still, the Chargers offense was awful. There is ample room for the talented Brown to make his presence known, especially since new head coach Mike McCoy is looking to shake things up.
Brown is a fast, sure-handed receiver who can fight for a ball. Floyd has struggled with the No. 1 spot, and Alexander has not been consistent.
Philip Rivers needs help from someone beyond Antonio Gates, and Brown will be a reliable option. While you can pick him up as a fourth wide receiver, the payoff is likely to be much greater.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
I'm in the midst of a large project that involves watching every single pass Christian Ponder threw in 2012. The vast majority of them were thrown under 10 yards. The receivers made up any extra yards after the catch and for the first half of the season, most of that work was done by Percy Harvin.
Harvin is now in Seattle, but the Vikings haven't ignored the need for a player who could do what Harvin can.
Enter Cordarrelle Patterson, a raw rookie out of Tennessee who spent more time in JUCO than at the top level of college football.
Patterson is a dynamic receiver and terribly dangerous after the catch. While we mostly assume rookie wide receivers will have little to no impact, there's a good chance that Christian Ponder will fall into old habits and look for a short option when his vertical option (in the form of Greg Jennings) is covered downfield.
With his speed, size and strength, Patterson is someone who could put some points on the board for both Minnesota and fantasy owners.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.