The Complete 2013 Fantasy Football Primer
A Google search for fantasy football sleepers reveals almost 2.5 million results. Fantasy football breakouts: almost 750,000. Fantasy football busts: just over 500,000.
You have come to a place that wraps up all of your fantasy football draft preparation in one tidy package: Bleacher Report's fantasy football 2013 preview. All the sleepers, busts and breakouts at each position are outlined and analyzed for you here.
Fantasy drafters have endless resources for content, but simple is best. A cluttered mind is a slower one.
Ah, fantasy's reality. That seemingly contradictory phrase.
See, anyone can play fantasy football, but not everyone truly understands what a sleeper, bust and breakout are in fantasy terms. Everything is relative to position.
A sleeper is any player who falls in a draft. It can happen for a variety of reasons, most of which are unjustified.
A bust is any player who has the potential to disappoint this season at his relative draft position. No one cares if your late-round pick disappoints you, because you can cut him and replace him without missing a beat. So—and this is where the fantasy laymen have some issues with this writer—you have to label some of the most intriguing names in fantasy football as potential busts.
How about this one: Drew Brees. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind. I will explain that pick in the ensuing slides.
A breakout is any player primed for a career year. He can be very similar to a sleeper, as a breakout is going to widely outperform his draft position too. But unlike a sleeper, a breakout doesn't have to fall in drafts. He can be a reasonably liked player the masses just don't see as ready to take the huge step from good to great.
I will take you through it all step by step and position by position. Click through and prepare to dominate the competition.
Quarterback Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
Quarterback won't be the first position you select in drafts—at least it shouldn't be—but it will be your highest-scoring position on a regular basis. You only start one quarterback in a standard league, so you have to make that pick count.
The fantasy masses are sleeping on the position all around this year. The new wave of talent led by Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson has added a lot of depth to the quarterback position in fantasy drafts. You are advised to wait to pick your fantasy passer this season, because a stalwart starter is going to be on the board in Round 5 and later.
These names won't sound like sleepers to you, but after you do a few drafts, you will understand. Strong starting quarterbacks fall to the middle and late rounds in every draft. There are plenty of capable options in standard 12-team leagues. After the top few names go off the board, there isn't a huge difference in value between the next 10 options.
While everyone is buying into the new-wave guys, namely those that run the read-option, you can just sit back and be settled on the dropback passer likes of Luck or Tony Romo as your fantasy starter. Get the top five quarterback sleepers here.
Because you should be sleeping on the position, you put yourself at risk for drafting a bust if you select quarterback too early. Remember those who picked Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford in Round 2 a year ago? Yeah, they have been trying to forget it since.
Don't get sucked in by the hype, particularly with regard to last year's breakouts. Let someone else make that mistake.
We attack some of the biggest names in football here, something most fantasy analysts don't dare to do. We are so bold to tell you to avoid all of the overhyped read-option guys like Colin Kaepernick and Wilson. Also, we explain how age and decline eventually catches up to quarterbacks, even the Sainted Drew Brees. Avoid all of those broken down as the top five potential quarterback busts.
Again, because the quarterback draft pool generally doesn't get penetrated very deeply, we list some household names as breakouts. A quarterback who has had good seasons can still break out with a career year and trump his draft position by leaps and bounds.
Running Back Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
Running back is the position you will draft earliest and likely most often. It is also the position that gets injured the most and generates the most fantasy frustration.
Save yourself some headaches and follow the advice laid out here.
Unlike quarterback, good starting talent dries up quickly at this position. To find a sleeper at running back, you have to look toward players people just don't like that much.
Names like Mark Ingram and Ryan Mathews carry a negative stigma in fantasy circles. That will allow them to remain on the board well into drafts, but they will surprise you with starter-worthy rewards this season. Get our top five running back sleepers here.
Because everyone will be rattling off the best names at this position in the early rounds, some of the most well-liked players are labeled as busts here.
Avoid the likes of Trent Richardson and Steve Jackson at their respective draft positions if you want to be setting your fantasy lineup into December. Hint: Many of these bust picks had to do with age (30-year-old backs Jackson, Frank Gore and Darren Sproles) and injury risk (Maurice Jones-Drew). Read more about the top five running back busts here.
Again, you won't find well-regarded players slipping in drafts at this position. That doesn't mean there won't be candidates who outperform their draft positions.
This might be the most important piece of content in the entire series. Don't miss it, just like you won't want to miss on the career breakthroughs of DeMarco Murray, David Wilson and others. We have your top five running back breakouts right here.
Wide Receiver Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
The pass-happy NFL has made the wide receiver position a lot safer and more stable year to year than it was back in the beginning of fantasy football in the '80s and '90s. If you are averse to risk, you will select a lot of wideouts early.
While that strategy can prove fruitful, there are other ways to build your team.
This is easily the deepest position in fantasy, but sleeper picks like Vincent Brown, Torrey Smith and Greg Little are just not valued among the elite. Again, a sleeper is anyone who falls to an unreasonable level in drafts.
Some very good pass-catchers will be on the board later than they should be. The top five wide receiver sleepers are outlined here for you.
Because there are so many options at this position, you should avoid receivers like Steve Smith. They are old (Reggie Wayne), in unfortunate situations (Wes Welker), prone to injury (Pierre Garcon) or just due for statistical decline (James Jones).
There is no reason to pick these top five wide receiver busts. There are ample alternatives to them. Read all about how you should let someone else do it.
Some receivers come out of the woodwork every year. Others have been around for a couple of seasons but are finally due for huge career years.
For example, fantasy has the third-year receiver breakout strategy. Randall Cobb is in that category. Then there's Danny Amendola, who should be in for a load of targets in New England's offense. Read up on the top five wide receiver breakouts right here.
Tight End Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
You should have learned a lesson, or a number of lessons, at the tight end position a year ago. Some of them were painful; others were exhilarating.
We take you back to school on tight ends so you can school your competition.
A number of fantasy-starting tight ends were picked late, or not at all, a year ago. That is reason No. 1 you need to draft your primary tight end very late. Like quarterback, most fantasy leagues only start one player here.
Tight ends like Brandon Pettigrew and Brandon Myers will still be on the board very, very late in drafts—if they are even picked at all in a standard league. They lead our top five tight end sleepers, which you can read all about right here.
We thought we could see into the future a year ago. Elite tight ends were the trendiest and sexiest picks in fantasy. Like unfulfilled dreams of dating a supermodel, we were left disappointed. Don't be that guy who dreams big at tight end. Load up on positions that truly do fantasy damage on a grand scale—running back and receiver—and let someone else take the early tight end picks.
Yes, we are saying resist the temptation to pick Graham in Round 2, or any top-flight tight end for that matter. They dominate our top five tight end bust picks here.
Here is the primary reason you have to avoid the Grahams and Gronks at their elevated draft positions: Tight ends emerge from the depths of fantasy every year. Heath Miller (knee) wasn't picked last year, and he performed like a top-five option. And he won't get picked this year either.
There are just so many young tight ends who can erupt for fantasy owners, like Coby Fleener and Jordan Cameron. Get to know these top five tight end breakouts in depth here.
Defense/Special Teams Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
Unlike the tight end position, fantasy drafters have fully caught on to waiting a long time to pick defenses. Like quarterback, it is a position where you start just one, and, after the few elite options, there isn't much difference in value between the others.
Here are some different ways to approach the position in the late rounds, including waiting for the Pittsburgh Steelers to fall into your lap, jumping on the breakthrough that will be the New England Patriots or avoiding the dangers of buying into the Chicago Bears or Denver Broncos coming off their huge 2013.
Read up on top sleepers, busts and breakouts among the defensive/special teams units.
Kicker Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts
Last and most definitely least, we come to the kickers. It will be the last position everyone in your draft picks. Like defenses, kickers are interchangeable.
Here are some strategies for weeding through the options, including the top kicker sleepers, busts and breakouts. Read here as we advise you to buy into a breakthrough for new 49ers kicker Phil Dawson and avoid Sebastian Janikowski at all costs.
And if you have followed this writer for the whole month, you need to be kept up to date on the latest developments from the preseason. I outline the biggest developments from preseason Week 3 right here.
Good luck and happy drafting!
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.