After all of the offseason talk about fantasy football sleepers, you’ve let us down. Looking at player availability in various formats, it’s clear that people are still going with safe picks over high-risk, high-reward options.
All of you waiver wire warriors should listen up, though. You’ve got to take at least one or two chances early on. Taking the right risk early on is what wins championships. And that’s what we’re all about isn’t it? Winning?
While the following players may not be true “sleepers” in essence, they’ve obviously flown under the radar enough to be available in plenty of leagues out there. So, take a look and get on the wire to get these guys now—before they blow up and you’re helplessly stuck watching your competition snatch them up.
TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (Available in 84 percent of leagues)
What’s scaring people away from the Indianapolis Colts’ tight ends? Specifically, where did “that loving feeling” go for second-year tight end Coby Fleener? We’ve seen dual-tight end situations work out in the league. With Andrew Luck looking as promising as he has, there’s no doubt there’s room for two. So if it’s not that, then what?
Fleener will benefit from Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's—his and Luck’s coach while there—arrival in Indy this year. Colts GM Ryan Grigson agrees and thinks this is the year his tight end breaks out, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:
So I think just him having that comfort with Pep being here and being back in the system, it’s really come across like he’s ready to have a great year. We expect that from him, top. He’s got to get better as a blocker, he knows that. We want him to be a threat downfield.
After a shaky rookie season riddled by injuries, coach Chuck Pagano also said he expects Fleener’s production to double this season.
So while he has struggled some this preseason, the people in decision-making positions in Indy are fully behind their former early second-round pick. He has the size, athleticism, quarterback and system in place that it takes for a tight end to prosper in fantasy. Get him on your bench, now.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (Available in 50 percent of leagues)
It feels crazy having to talk about the talent DeAndre Hopkins brings to the table and the opportunity he has in the Houston Texans offense. If he’s available in 50 percent of fantasy football leagues, then I’m playing in the wrong leagues.
Sign me up for one of those.
But seriously, get on it. Hopkins is a tremendous talent who was having a great summer before sustaining a concussion in Week 2 of the preseason. He recently passed NFL concussion protocol and is set to start in Week 1, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins passed last test on concussion protocol and is ready to go for Chargers.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) September 3, 2013
The Texans have been dying for a dynamic No. 2 receiver to complement Andre Johnson—Hopkins is it. No more praying Kevin Walter or Jacoby Jones will emerge. Pick up Hopkins now.
RB Felix Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers (Available in 91 percent of leagues)
Running back has continued to be a problem area for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After rookie Le’Veon Bell was sidelined for some time with a midfoot sprain, the team traded for Felix Jones.
It was sounding like he just might start in Week 1, too. Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review originally said that was the plan. However, the team recently announced it would be Isaac Redman getting the start on opening day, per Robinson.
Redman missed nearly all of the preseason with a pinched nerve, Jonathan Dwyer was released when the team cut down to 53 players last weekend and Bell will be out for several weeks. Opportunity is still knocking for Jones, who coach Mike Tomlin seems to like despite only working with him for a limited amount of time.
“Obviously, we're going to spell Isaac,” Tomlin said, according to Robinson. “We haven't detailed the rotation or the nature of the rotation at this point. ... We're continuing to get to know Felix. We like his natural run instincts.”
Until then, Jones has an opportunity to carve a significant role in Todd Haley’s offense. While I’m not comparing him to Jamaal Charles, he is a similar type of runner. Haley got the most out of Charles while in Kansas City, including the back’s best season in 2010 when he totaled 1,935 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns.
*Player availability percentages based off of Yahoo! Sports’ fantasy football league data.