Fantasy Football 2014: Top Sleepers, Mock Draft Strategy, Rankings Cheat Sheet

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVAugust 5, 2014

New Orleans Saints running back Khiry Robinson (29) carries during minicamp at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL preseason slate just got underway Sunday night, which means the clock is ticking for fantasy football owners to study up before drafting. 

It takes much more than a strong first few picks to be a fantasy champion. Nabbing a top running back or a touchdown-guzzling quarterback is a must in the opening round, but that's only the start.

The ability to add the right sleepers can be the difference between boasting a stacked lineup all season and having to search the waiver wire every week. Some of the most talked-about sleepers will come off the board early, but impact players are found in the latter rounds every year, and 2014 will be no exception.

Here's a player from every position you should target after assembling your starting lineup:

Top 2014 Sleepers at Each Position
PositionSleeper
QuarterbackJosh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Running BackKhiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints
Wide ReceiverJustin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
Tight EndTim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DefenseNew York Jets
KickerBlair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
Steven Cook's projections

 

Rankings Cheat Sheet

2014 Fantasy Football Top 25
RankPlayerBye Week
1Jamaal Charles, KC6
2Adrian Peterson, MIN10
3LeSean McCoy, PHI7
4Peyton Manning, DEN4
5Eddie Lacy, GB9
6Matt Forte, CHI9
7Calvin Johnson, DET9
8Jimmy Graham, NO4
9A.J. Green, CIN4
10Aaron Rodgers, GB9
11Dez Bryant, DAL11
12Demaryius Thomas, DEN4
13Marshawn Lynch, SEA4
14Brandon Marshall, CHI9
15Drew Brees, NO6
16Arian Foster, HOU10
17Julio Jones, ATL9
18DeMarco Murray, DAL11
19Doug Martin, TB7
20Antonio Brown, PIT12
21Le'Veon Bell, PIT12
22Rob Gronkowski, NE10
23Giovani Bernard, CIN4
24Zac Stacy, STL4
25Montee Ball, DEN4
Steven Cook's rankings

 

Mock Draft Strategy

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: Defensive end Bryan Johnson #67 of the Buffalo Bills tackles running back Michael Cox #29 of the New York Giants at the 2014 NFL Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 3, 2014 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Im
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Most fantasy owners' mock drafts will start to be defined simply by who's available when said owner makes his or her pick.

More often than not, running backs dominate the top of the rankings. 2014 figures to be no different, with backs such as Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson sure to go early on. 

Going in any direction other than running back with an opening pick used to be suicide, but that becomes less and less true every year as the NFL becomes increasingly pass-happy. Now, it's impossible to ignore a quarterback such as Peyton Manning or a receiver such as Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green in the first round.

Picking the best single player available—regardless of position—is usually the way to go early on. Even if you end up with two receivers or two backs, the quality available in the third, fourth and fifth rounds often allows owners to make up for any deficiencies caused by early selections.

It's also never a bad idea to wait and see at the quarterback position. Adding Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers can give you solid production each week, but it's not far from what a mid-round value pick such as Tony Romo or Andrew Luck will put up.

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: Wide receiver Mike Williams #19 and wide receiver Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills talks prior to the game against against the New York Giants at the 2014 NFL Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 3, 2014 in Canton, O
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Another strong strategy is to keep your sleepers at the forefront. Many of the less-touted players you're targeting are also circled by other owners, so picking the right sleepers well ahead of their projected selection can be the difference between getting that impact bench player or not getting him. 

Lastbut just as importantdon't log out of the fantasy draft just because your starting lineup is solid and you've added a few bench standouts. Some players on the waiver wire will put up strong opening games, so there's always the opportunity to nab an unheralded player poised for a breakout.

The NFL season is just around the corner, and fantasy football drafts are already starting to fly around. Don't be the one who comes underprepared.