Fantasy Football 2014: Unknown NFL Sleepers and Rankings for Top Players

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy catches a pass during NFL football training camp Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL preseason kicked off on Sunday night, and fantasy football owners understand that it’s time to get serious as draft season approaches.

There are keys and strategies to winning a fantasy championship. Owners must be able to decipher the rankings of the top players and find the unknown NFL sleepers worth late-round selections.

Here are the top unknown sleepers at every position and the top 25 overall players.

Top Unknown Sleepers at Each Position
Position Sleepers
QuarterbackJosh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Running BackDevonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Wide ReceiverJordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
Tight EndTravis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
DefenseGreen Bay Packers
KickerNate Freese, Detroit Lions
Source: Donald Wood's Rankings
2014 Fantasy Football Top 25
Rank Player Bye Week
1 Jamaal Charles, KC6
2 LeSean McCoy, PHI7
3 Adrian Peterson, MIN10
4 Matt Forte, CHI9
5 Peyton Manning, DEN4
6 Eddie Lacy, GB9
7 Jimmy Graham, NO6
8 Calvin Johnson, DET9
9 Demaryius Thomas, DEN4
10 Marshawn Lynch, SEA4
11 Drew Brees, NO6
12 A.J. Green, CIN4
13 Aaron Rodgers, GB9
14 Dez Bryant, DAL11
15 Brandon Marshall, CHI9
16 Arian Foster, HOU10
17 Julio Jones, ATL9
18 DeMarco Murray, DAL11
19 Antonio Brown, PIT12
20 Doug Martin, TB 7
21 Le'Veon Bell, PIT12
22 Jordy Nelson, GB9
23 Alshon Jeffery, CHI9
24 Rob Gronkowski, NE10
25 Wes Welker, DEN4
Source: Donald Wood's Rankings

 

Sleeper You Can't Afford to Miss: Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles stunned the NFL when they released top receiver DeSean Jackson and he was signed by the division rival Washington Redskins. While Jackson’s departure stole the headlines, Philadelphia quietly added a player who could become a serious game changer.

The Eagles added former Vanderbilt star and rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews early in the second round of the 2014 draft.

It will be tough for Philadelphia to replace Jackson’s production (82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns), but Matthews will not be doing it alone. The return of Jeremy Maclin from a knee injury and the continued evolution of Riley Cooper will give Matthews room to learn on the job.

Hometown fans are excited about the addition, but they aren’t the only ones. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com and Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer both believe the Eagles have a gem with their second-round pick:

With defenses focusing on the players around him, Matthews will use his 6’3”, 212-pound frame to rise above defenders and make big catches. The rookie also has the ability to go over the middle, but it is his innate catching ability that will make him such a valuable target in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.

Regarding Matthews' fit with the Eagles, Mike Mayock of NFL.com mentioned the individual strengths and overall team advantages heading into 2014:

He'll fit in beautifully in Philadelphia and in Chip Kelly's offense. He makes tough catches. He has a big body. He ran faster than a lot of people anticipated (4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). The Eagles get Jeremy Maclin back. They have added Matthews and Darren Sproles. This team is going to be the first-, second- or third-leading scoring team in the league.

Quarterback Nick Foles proved last season that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he looks to continue proving people wrong in 2014. The lack of a speedy player like Jackson will hurt the team’s deep passing, but the combination of Matthews and Maclin will find success in the team’s high-tempo passing offense.

With the ability to run crisp routes, the willingness to go up and make tough catches in traffic, and the consistency to become a viable red-zone target, Matthews has the skill and the opportunity to become the unquestioned No. 2 receiver for the Eagles and a serious fantasy threat.

Philadelphia’s high-paced offense is built for fantasy football, and Matthews could be the biggest benefactor from Jackson’s offseason departure.

Look to draft him somewhere in the range of Round 9 through Round 12. 

Predicted Stat Line: 70 receptions for 1,100 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Stats via NFL.com.

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