Waiver-wire transactions swing the pendulum of almost every fantasy football league, and many of those moves come after Week 1. After all, there are always players who impress in the season’s opening game whom everyone overlooked.
The key is to get those guys in the latter rounds on draft day before the whole league is snatching them up as free agents.
With that in mind, here is a look at three late-round sleepers who will give your 2014 fantasy team some much-needed depth in the skill positions.
RB Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Zac Stacy is the man in St. Louis when it comes to running backs, but Tre Mason has more big-play potential and will see an increase in carries as the season progresses.
Yes, Stacy totaled 973 yards on the ground last season, but he averaged 3.9 yards a carry. Stacy is a consistent running back who wears the defense down over the course of a game, but Mason has the speed to steal touches as a change-of-pace option.
Albert Breer of NFL Network was certainly impressed early in the preseason:
Tre Mason running with the same type of authority and decisiveness he did at Auburn. Rams may have a gem there.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 9, 2014
Mason’s versatility alone will get him on the field this season, and with opportunity comes fantasy points for running backs. He is a solid pass-catcher and blocker, which means he should be fine on the field in third-down situations, and has a nose for the end zone. Mason tallied 25 total touchdowns a year ago at Auburn.
This is not to suggest that Stacy will lose his starting spot, but there will be some split carries with Mason’s speed, big-play ability and prowess for the goal line.
RB Ka’Deem Carey, Chicago Bears
Matt Forte will turn 29 years old this season. Forte touched the ball an astounding 363 times in the Chicago Bears offense last year. Forte needs a reliable backup to keep him fresh in 2014 if the Bears have any postseason plans.
Enter Ka’Deem Carey.
Carey finished third in the NCAA with 1,885 rushing yards last year at Arizona, and at 5’10” and 207 pounds, he brings the size and speed combination so many look for in a running back. He is the productive backup runner that Chicago simply didn’t have behind Forte in 2013.
The Bears return all 11 starters from an offense that put up more points than every team in the league except the Denver Broncos last year. When Carey gets his opportunities with Forte catching a well-deserved breather, he will have plenty of holes to run through.
Defenses simply cannot stuff the box against a passing attack that features Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. With room to operate, Carey will get into the secondary, bowl over a few defensive backs and rack up some fantasy points along the way.
That’s what he did at Arizona.
WR Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
With Chip Kelly’s high-powered and fast-paced offensive attack, fantasy stats are sure to follow. It is a simple deduction really—with a faster pace comes more plays, and with more plays comes more yards.
Who leads the Eagles in receiving yards?
DeSean Jackson is no longer around at wide receiver, and Jeremy Maclin is returning from a season-ending injury from a year ago. The door is wide open for Jordan Matthews to earn significant playing time and the fantasy production that comes with that designation in this offense.
We are talking about the all-time leader in SEC receiving yards and catches from his time at Vanderbilt, so we know Matthews can produce. In fact, he caught 262 passes for 3,759 yards and 24 touchdowns in his collegiate career.
However, Matthews struggled a bit in the Eagles preseason opener when he dropped three passes. Kelly discussed the outing, via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com:
He was inconsistent. There was a ball on the sideline he could have caught. I don't know if he was pressing, but there was some inconsistencies there. Sometimes it's the first time out there for guys in bright lights so they can have the chance to play that out of their system and calm down.
Matthews could certainly be forgiven if nerves got to him during his first ever NFL game. You, however, won’t be forgiven in your fantasy football league if you overlook the rookie wide receiver.
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