Every sleeper you’re targeting in your 2013 fantasy football draft, your opponents are probably already well aware of. Desperate times demand desperate measures.
So you’ll have to do a little bit more digging to get the jump on the masses.
Dig no deeper than the deepest sleepers that will reward you with fantasy glory. These are the players that aren’t on the radar—whether due to ability or position on the depth chart. But injuries and promotions do occur, and talent always rises to the top.
The following sleeper picks have both the talent and the potential opportunity to be big-time steals this season, especially considering their remarkably low average draft positions.
WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Player Ranking: 84th WR, 279 overall
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen will benefit from a depleted receiving corps in San Diego. With Philip Rivers slinging the ball, it could even be a breakout season for the former California University standout. However, he has continued to battle with an ailing knee injury that he suffered while at Cal.
The entire passing game situation is a bit murky right now for the Chargers. Standout receiver Danario Alexander suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and Malcom Floyd is sidelined for an extended amount of time. That has propelled the third-round rookie into a starting role.
Opposite of Allen, Vincent Brown has also missed time this offseason with a hamstring injury. If things continue to trend downward for the Chargers’ receivers, Allen could end up being the only competent target for their passing game. That’s not too far-fetched considering the squad’s collective injury history between Eddie Royal, Floyd and Brown.
To this point, Allen has collected just six receptions for 48 yards during the preseason. But you can’t discount the talent he brings to the table as a capable pass-catcher. Plus, he’ll have Rivers throwing him the ball. The 10th-year passer is coming off of a down year but he has thrown for more than 3,600 yards and 25-plus touchdowns in each of the last five seasons.
Someone is going to be on the receiving end for him this year. There’s a good chance it will be Allen who benefits the most.
RB Kenjon Barner, Carolina Panthers
Player Ranking: 89th RB, 330 overall
While DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are certainly capable backs in Carolina’s offense, the two are both aging and have their fair share of injury histories. Stewart is currently nicked up and could end up on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin the season while he recovers from offseason ankle surgery. That means he could miss the first six weeks of the season if he isn’t activated before September 1.
And while Kenjon Barner has struggled with consistency and with holding onto the football—two fumbles in three preseason appearances—the Panthers may have no choice but to utilize him early on in a third-down role.
Anytime a player with Barner’s athleticism and speed is given an opportunity, there’s a chance for fireworks. Whether it’s utilizing him strictly as a reserve behind Williams, or in a third-down role, Carolina’s rookie has game-breaking speed that can quickly make defenses pay.
Look for Barner to get his opportunities. Do you really want to miss out on having an explosive player like him on your bench in the event he does light it up early on with Stewart sidelined?
I didn’t think so.
WR Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
Player Ranking: 97th WR, 340 overall
Injuries have been a common theme to this point, so we’ll take a look at another player who will benefit from extra playing time as a result of his teammates’ misfortunes. Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse is making the most out of his opportunities this offseason after going undrafted and contributing solely on special teams last season.
Kearse has caught four balls for 52 yards and two touchdowns and also returned a punt for a score in three preseason appearances. Percy Harvin’s absence will give him opportunities to play early on, but he will still likely find himself fighting for playing time behind Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.
But Rice hasn’t exactly been reliable when it comes to staying healthy, either. He’s played a full season only twice in his six-year career, although one of them was in 2012. Currently, Rice is recovering from a knee injury but hopes to be ready to play in Week 1, per Rotowire.com (via ESPN.com).
If Rice does miss time, Kearse will likely see much of the snaps Rice would as he’s the best prototypical outside threat on the roster at 6’2”, 205 pounds. He has the speed, too, and was clocked in at 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, per NFLDraftScout.com.
While you shouldn’t be targeting him early, don’t forget about Kearse on draft day. Maybe take a late flier on a high-upside player who could end being a significant offensive contributor in an offense that will reward you with consistent play at the quarterback position.
Player rankings provided by FantasyPros.com. Rankings are for standard scoring leagues, not PPR.