Picking up productive sleepers is the key to winning your fantasy football league.
You want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to landing breakout players, because there's no guarantee you'll be able to score them after they start producing big numbers.
Predicting breakout players isn't an exact science, however.
For every Randall Cobb there's a Peyton Hillis, but the only way to look like a genius at the end of the year is to take a few risks.
With that in mind, here are a few players worth taking a risk on when you draft your fantasy football team. They may not be rated as highly as some other players, but by the end of the season they could become your ticket to a championship.
Stevan Ridley, Running Back, New England Patriots
Ridley isn't being mentioned in the same breath as guys like Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, but he should be.
In fact, according to ESPN.com's live draft results, Ridley isn't even among the top 10 running backs being drafted on average.
Last season, Ridley had a big year for the Patriots, rushing for 1,263 yards with 12 touchdowns. Given the way New England's roster has been flipped on its head of late, you can be sure he'll be given an even bigger role this season.
Tom Brady's arsenal of capable receivers was stripped this offseason. His two top pass catchers—Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd—are no longer on the roster, and Rob Gronkowski is still recovering from surgeries.
We all know that Brady is capable of putting up gaudy numbers no matter who he's throwing the ball to, but the absence of his top targets from last year will inevitably lead to more carries for Ridley.
Pick up Ridley as your second running back in round four or five and you'll be sitting pretty at the end of the year.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals
It won't take long for fans to realize that Eifert—not Jermaine Gresham—will be Andy Dalton's favorite tight end target in 2013.
Gresham has hands of stone. He has all the other physical attributes scouts look for in a prototypical pass-catching tight end, but he can't hang on to the football.
Eifert, on the other hand, has the best hands of any receiving prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class. He's also a phenomenal athlete who will be utilized heavily in Jay Gruden's offense with the Bengals.
According to ESPN.com's live draft results, fantasy owners are taking Gresham over Eifert, and Eifert is currently the No. 22-ranked tight end on average. He's being slotted on average as the 148th player in fantasy football drafts.
Eifert has the makings of a true star at the tight end position. In addition to his soft hands, superb speed and athleticism, Eifert is adept at catching balls at their highest point. He's going to become a red-zone dynamo and a fantasy football stud.
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals still have a lot of work to do in order to compete with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, but the team's offense should be formidable this season.
New quarterback Carson Palmer is a volume passer, and new head coach and offensive mastermind Bruce Arians has a penchant for getting the most out of the players at his disposal.
Arians has been pleased with his young receiver this offseason. He recently spoke to reporters, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, saying:
I am really happy with him. I see him making leaps and bounds getting better. He’s very serious about what he does. He doesn’t like to make mistakes. He’s totally bought in and if he just continues to improve his fundamentals he’s another guy who can have a breakout year.
Urban also wrote an article featuring what he believes will be the team's depth chart at the beginning of the season, and he has Floyd slotted as the team's No. 2 receiver.
Floyd's emergence should also help Fitzgerald's fantasy numbers as teams will be forced to cover two capable receivers. With both players contributing, Arizona's offense could be a potent aerial attack.
One thing's for certain in all of this: The Cardinals expect Floyd to become a star, and you'd be smart to get on board early and draft him as your third receiver this season.
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