Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Stars in Bad Situations Poised to Break Out

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23:  Mark Ingram #28 of the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Every year fantasy football players make a huge mistake in thinking bad team situations always equate to bad fantasy production—2013 will be no different in the world of fake football. 

Make no mistake—analyzing a team's situation is a good way to stay ahead of trends and find yourself a few sleepers. However, completely writing off a bad situation could cost you even more quality picks en route to contending in your league. 

Look no further than last year's edition of the New England Patriots for the perfect example. Most never dreamed of touching running back Steven Ridley because, after all, Tom Brady is going to air it out all the time and Ridley was part of a committee approach. 

How did Ridley treat fantasy owners who ignored his bad situation? He rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns while scoring as a top-10 option at his position above the likes of Trent Richardson, Matt Forte and Chris Johnson in standard leagues.

Here's a look at three stars poised to buck their bad situations and put up Ridley-like numbers in 2013. Plan accordingly. 


Note: All ADP data courtesy of


Rob Housler, TE, Arizona Cardinals

Rob Housler is far and away the biggest sleeper tight end in the NFL this year. You would not necessarily expect it with an older quarterback like Carson Palmer under center and a serious receiving threat in Larry Fitzgerald, but Housler could put up top-five numbers at his position. 

Here's why. 

Two major additions translate into Housler entering the upper echelon of tight ends. One is new head coach Bruce Arians, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.

Last year Arians drafted not one, but two tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The duo combined for 71 receptions as a major cog in Arians' scheme. 

The second addition is Palmer, a quarterback that quietly broke the 4,000-yard barrier last season despite playing on a horrific Oakland squad.

The biggest beneficiary to Palmer's production a year ago was Brandon Myers, another tight end no one saw coming. He reeled in 79 receptions for 806 yards and four scores. 

Given the love Arians and Palmer have for tight ends, Housler deserves to be drafted well above his ADP, which is not even in the top 200. 


Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Any member of the Jacksonville Jaguars is technically in an iffy fantasy situation, especially with Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert duking it out for playing time. 

Well, unless your name is Cecil Shorts. 

To be fair, Shorts currently has an ADP of 7.06, which may seem high for a member of the Jaguars, but it is not high enough. 

Shorts is an elite weapon. Last season he caught 55 passes from the ineffective quarterback duo and turned them into 979 yards and seven touchdowns. Oh, and he missed two full games. 

If Shorts can get the most out of these quarterbacks, imagine what he can do next season if Henne or Gabbert can actually manage games well and Shorts can stay on the field. 

Shorts is certainly in a bad situation, but things were actually worse last season when the team won two games. The front office has at least made some upgrades via the draft this year with the new regime in town. 

Expect Shorts to have an even bigger season in 2013. Draft him well above his current ADP. 


Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

A running back in New Orleans while quarterback Drew Brees is still around is always a risk unless you're heavy into PPR and want to grab Darren Sproles. 

Sproles is not the back to grab from the Saints roster this year. Instead you should look to third-year pro Mark Ingram. 

Yes, Ingram has done nothing of merit in his first two seasons thanks to injuries and the schematics of the Saints offense. 

2013 will be different. 

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that Ingram is healthy in a preseason for the first time in his career, and the team plans on using him in a more versatile role next season:

Ingram has looked strong, fast, fluid and a little slimmer -- a result of being fully healthy for the first time throughout an entire offseason since he joined the NFL. And the Saints have talked about using him in a more versatile way after pigeonholing him as the short-yardage/base offense running back the last two years.

If that's the case, look at the numbers from a year ago. Ingram was only given 156 opportunities, which he parlayed into 602 yards and five scores. 

Say the Saints give Ingram the majority of the load, and he hits around 200-225 carries next year. Averaged out, Ingram will break the 1,000-yard mark and still act as the primary red-zone back. 

Ingram's situation is perceived as a negative, but it may actually be a positive given defenses have to focus so much on stopping the high-flying aerial attack. 

Ingram just needs to be given a fair shot, and he'll easily outplay his ADP of 8.03. It sounds as if 2013 will be Ingram's big chance. Hop on and enjoy the ride. 


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