Fantasy Football Sleepers 2013: Shane Vereen and Studs Poised to Break out

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2013

Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football enthusiasts know it best—for every C.J. Spiller there's a Jonathan Stewart. For every Dez Bryant there's a Brandon Lloyd. Every Rob Gronkowski has a Jermichael Finley (or parties, forearms and backs). 

You get the idea. 

The smart fantasy football players out there do one thing—keep it simple. Staying ahead of trends will in turn allow you to stay ahead of the competition in your league. 

Some risks are necessary, but most more often than not fail to give back properly. Then again, if you stay ahead of trends you'll find your views on safe and risky picks are skewed in comparison to the average fantasy player. 

Whether you're playing dynasty, keeper or whatever may tickle your fancy, here are three guys that are widely considered risks, but will perform better than expected. 

In turn, you'll look like a madman. 

Until you win your league. 

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals 

What a difference a year can make. 

Well, and a new quarterback. 

Gone are John Skelton and his passing-to-the-turf ways (also known as a 54 percent completion percentage). 

Instead, second-year receiver Michael Floyd will be hauling in passes from Carson Palmer, a man who completed over 60 percent of his passes last season on his way to 4,000 yards passing and 22 touchdowns despite playing on an abysmal Oakland roster. 

Floyd, after just 45 receptions for over 500 yards and two scores as a rookie, will benefit from Palmer's arrival. He'll also see less coverage than usual thanks to the presence of the team's No. 1 target, Larry Fitzgerald

Of course, Floyd is mostly responsible for the uptick in production he'll see during his breakout sophomore campaign. He has all the physical tools to succeed and pulled off the miracle of being above average with Skelton, and sometimes Kevin Kolb, at quarterback. 

He's also impressed his new head coach Bruce Arians, an aerial-oriented mastermind who squeezed every ounce of talent out of a depleted Colts roster last year. Arians is already impressed with Floyd as he told reporters via Darren Urban of

I am really happy with him. I see him making leaps and bounds getting better. He’s very serious about what he does. He doesn’t like to make mistakes. He’s totally bought in and if he just continues to improve his fundamentals he’s another guy who can have a breakout year.

80-100 receptions for Floyd are not out of the question. If you're playing PPR, your head just exploded considering he's a No. 2 target. Fortunately for Floyd owners, Arians and Palmer make the perfect match considering both prefer heavy volume passing attacks. 

Expect Floyd to put up massive points next year. Get him while you can. 

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers 

Fantasy players may scoff at this one, but hear us out. 

As you already know, Mike Wallace took his talents to South Beach. This will presumably open up more opportunities for Antonio Brown. 

Except now Brown will have to deal with the coverage and attention that comes from being a No. 1 receiver. Sanders will see about the same as a year ago. 

Last season Sanders was targeted 75 times by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Sanders reeled in 44 of those for just over 600 yards receiving and scored once. 

When it comes to playing under-the-radar, Sanders is about as good as it gets. 

Big Ben has attempted over 440 passes in three of the last four seasons. The only time he didn't was in 2010, when he only appeared in 12 contests. 

With that trend in mind, Sanders is going to see a serious jump in targets, which will result in higher statistics. Sanders should reel in around 75 receptions and flirt with the 1,000 yard mark unless Big Ben gets hurt. 

He's a smart play, and a potentially later-round one at that. 

Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots 

You know the deal with the Patriots. Gone are Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker. Danny Amendola is a supposed upgrade, but he has to actually stay healthy to have an impact. 

Stevan Ridley is going to receive most of the attention from fantasy enthusiasts this year, and rightfully so considering he notched over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year. 

That's solid fantasy production no doubt, but holding off for Vereen may be the smarter play, especially if your league tallies receptions. 

Vereen didn't do anything overly sexy last year. He rushed for just over 250 yards and three scores while adding 149 yards and a touchdown through the air. 

With Vereen it's not about what he has done in the past, but what he will be asked to do now that the Patriots' offense has been neutered. 

Vereen has lined up at wide receiver in spring practices, as noted by Paul Perillo of the Patriots official website:

During the spring there were times when Vereen lined up as a receiver on the outside where the Patriots were looking to isolate him in space against a linebacker. It was similar to last year's divisional playoff win over Houston when he caught a long touchdown pass down the left sideline on a double move. I can see Brady and Vereen hooking up in a similar fashion – only more often – this year. 

Note that this is exactly how New England formerly utilized Woodhead, who brought in 40 receptions for almost 500 yards. 

Not only will Vereen be tasked with helping to replace Woodhead's production, the Patriots will also use him in creative ways to fill the void left by Hernandez. 

Oh, and he's also the No. 2 back on the depth chart who will spell Ridley and act as a change of pace. 

Vereen is in for a massive year. Nab him as early as possible no matter what kind of league you're looking to win. 

Follow me on Twitter for NFL news, analysis and more @Chris_Roling


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