Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Unexpected Veterans Poised to Explode
Perhaps the hottest commodity in the world of fantasy football is attempting to predict which NFL rookies will have breakout years. Another sexy topic is picking super sophomores or under-the-radar guys to win your fantasy league.
What about the veterans? If you're playing dynasty, fine, ignore the older guys early. But buyer beware—it could come back to haunt you. That advice holds true for any format.
Each year we see veterans explode back onto the scene, or even for the first time, and the guys or gals smart enough to take the gamble and deal with the initial ridicule wound up winning leagues.
Remember last year when the best advice was to pass over Adrian Peterson?
Exactly. While that may be a bit extreme, it's becoming all too easy to write off veterans as passable. Here are three guys you shouldn't dream of passing on in 2013—they will put you over the hump and into the championship game.
Carson Palmer's Quest for Redemption
Palmer has had quite the journey over the past couple of seasons and has lost the trust of fantasy owners everywhere as a result.
The former No. 1 pick spent last year in Oakland surrounded by questionable talent and still managed to throw for over 4,000 yards to go with his 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Now imagine what he'll do with one of the NFL's greatest receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and an up-and-coming talent in second-year receiver Michael Floyd. The latter is an exciting talent who Palmer will have to rely on much of the time as Fitzgerald will be blanketed in coverage, but it sounds like Floyd is taking the No. 2 job with ease per Starving Scout on Twitter:
Michael Floyd was impressive today as the clear #2 WR. He was physical, fast, & displayed a great ability to adjust to the ball. #CardsCamp— Starving Scout (@StarvingScout) July 29, 2013
The offensive line in Arizona is a cause for concern, especially when paired with Palmer's iffy athleticism and pocket presence at times. Much of his production will also hinge on running back Rashard Mendenhall having a bounce-back year of his own to take pressure off the aerial attack.
Palmer surpassing the 4,000-yard mark again is not unfathomable. He has plenty of arm talent left as he showed us last year and now has a variety of targets to rely on each time he drops back.
Did we mention his new head coach happens to be an offensive guru? Bruce Arians got the most out of a rookie last year (albeit a very good one) in Andrew Luck. If he can pull a repeat performance, Arians could mold Palmer into a top-five fantasy quarterback.
Palmer's stock hasn't been higher since he shredded his knee.
Fred Davis the Comeback Kid
Davis has not been the biggest name in fantasy football over the course of his career, but he can be now with Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
Last season saw Davis go down seven games into the season with an Achilles tear. Had he stayed upright, Davis was on pace for almost 750 yards receiving with a rookie quarterback.
The good news is Davis is on the comeback trail in a major way. According to the Washington Post, Davis has shown no ill effects and is beating coverage routinely:
Davis hasn’t displayed any ill effects from the Achilles’ tendon injury that cost him the final nine games of last season. After having surgery Oct. 23 and spending the winter inching his way back, Davis received clearance to run in the spring. The Redskins held him out of all offseason practices to give him additional time to train and heal, and Davis got the green light last week to practice fully once camp began.
Six days of practice in, Davis appears to have recaptured his speed and explosiveness. He has run routes without limitation and gotten open, beating coverage by linebackers and safeties.
If Davis can stay healthy, he is truly a threat to put up numbers borderline worthy of being a No. 1 tight end on a fantasy roster. The reports continue to pile in that he's back to his normal self, this time from Daniel Jeremiah:
Redskins TE Fred Davis looked explosive today. He dominated the 1-1's vs LB's/Safeties.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 2, 2013
Griffin threw for 3,200 yards last year and 20 scores, but expect him to pass more next season as the coaching staff attempts to prevent another injury.
Add in defenses focusing on Alfred Morris, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last year, as well as receiver Pierre Garcon, and Davis could become Griffin's favorite target.
Davis creates a wide array of mismatches on his own. Throw in the fact he's now a complementary piece on an explosive offense, and he could be one of the best fantasy tight ends on the year.
Rejuvenated Maurice Jones-Drew
Is it cheating to slap MJD on a list like this? Perhaps. He's only two years removed from averaging over 100 yards a game as he rumbled to over 1,600 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
However, MJD's 2012 campaign in which he appeared in only six games, scored once and hardly rushed for over 400 yards left a sour taste in the mouths of fantasy owners everywhere.
Oh, did we also mention he's easing his way back into things after undergoing Lisfranc surgery?
Not only that, MJD is 28 years old, dangerously close to the dreaded age of 30, and plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Down on MJD yet?
Alas, there's plenty of hope and reason you should grab Jones-Drew while the rest of your league scoffs. For one, he's in a contract year and looking to cash in via free agency before he hits 30. There's nothing better than a contract-year player if you partake in fantasy football.
Secondly, all signs point toward Jones-Drew being perfectly healthy as Fox Sports reported on Twitter:
Maurice Jones-Drew has been given full medical clearance by the Jags to take part in training-camp activities: http://t.co/FkUZq2Ju4E— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLONFOX) July 23, 2013
Are you taking a chance on MJD this year?
If MJD is healthy, you're probably going to see him record top-15 fantasy production at his position. Why? The combo of Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback is laughably bad (neither completed 60 percent of their attempts last season), and it could result in the coaching staff riding MJD into the ground.
When Jones-Drew recorded his career-high 1,606 yards rushing in 2011, the coaching staff fed him the ball 343 times. A horrific quarterback situation could see the same thing happen this year.
The good news is Jones-Drew appears healthy. A bad situation for a player does not always equate to a bad situation for fantasy owners.
Thus is the case with MJD in 2013. Grab him after he takes the predictable dive, and you'll be that much better for it.
Follow me on Twitter for more NFL news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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