A Fantasy “Sleeper” is defined as a player (in this case NFL) who you believe will have a “breakout” season, while not being ranked in the Top 10 at his position before the season started. Here is my list for the 2014-15 season.
1) Carlos Hyde RB (49ers)
My top-rated running back coming into the draft this past May. Carlos Hyde improved his production every season at Ohio State since his freshman season in 2010. Last season, he rushed for 1,521 yards and accumulated 15 touchdowns. In his College career, Hyde rushed for 3,198 yards, 6.1 Yards per carry, and 41 total touchdowns. Hyde runs like he’s mad at the ground and he is the perfect back for what the 49ers like to do. He’s big and physical, while having good feet and vision. I love his talent. Lets be honest here. Frank Gore is not getting any younger at the age of 31. The 10-year veteran is just 33 yards short of 10,000 rushing yards. Gore ran for 1,128 yards with 9 touchdowns last season, and has at least 250 carries for three straight years. Hyde is expected to receive at least 7-10 touches per game to start, but don’t be shocked if he’s a bigger part of the 49ers offense and in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Aided by a very solid offensive line, look for Hyde to rush for 1000+ yards with 10 total touchdowns this season. Yeah, I said it!
2) Andre Ellington RB (Arizona)
Reminds me of Jamaal Charles quite a bit. There are some concerns that his small frame can hold up for 16 games. He played in 15 games last year, gaining 652 yards on just 118 attempts. Andre scored just 4 total touchdowns and I would expect that number to at least double if he stays healthy. There is no denying his skill-set and he did add about 8-10 lbs of muscle this off-season. He’s at the ripe age of 25 where many running backs have career type seasons. The Cardinals’ offensive line will be better than last season and might even become a strength of the team. Ellington is on the verge of stardom. Look for him to gather ginormous points in running, receiving, and scoring.
3) Terrance Williams WR (Dallas)
Miles Austin has taken his injured hamstrings to Cleveland. In all seriousness, I wish Miles the best and hope he can stay healthy for the Browns. Terrance has that great combination of size and speed. Listed at 6′ 2″, 209 lbs, Williams is one of the fastest players on the team, while using the slot to his advantage as well. The local boy had a solid rookie season with 736 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. His longest scoring play was an 82-yard skinny post from the left side against the Broncos. Look for Terrance Williams to amass 1000 receiving yards and at least 7 touchdowns, as most teams’ focus will be on trying to cover Dez Bryant with an extra safety. The Cowboys are expecting big things from Williams and you should too.
4) Colin Kaepernick QB (San Francisco)
Currently being drafted No. 11 in mock drafts. Colin is poised to have his best season yet. The team is extremely motivated after how last season ended in heart break fashion. Actually, it’s been two straight postseason meltdowns so the motivation is there. The offense is loaded with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Anquan Bolden, Stevie Johnson, Vernon Davis, not to mention a very talented backfield. Lets not forget about Kaepernicks running ability. Only Russell Wilson ran for more touchdowns as a QB last season. The defense looks really good and I am expecting big things from this team in 2014-15. They are one hungry bunch. If you don’t get one of the Top 3 QB’s than wait and grab Kaepernick in the 8th or 9th round.
5) Jay Cutler QB (Chicago)
Jay Cutler is ranked anywhere from No. 12 to No.16 at the QB position. The Bears feature two of the league’s top 7 wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Not to mention a top 5 overall player in running back Matt Forte. Both receivers are capable of 1,000+ receiving yards and double digit touchdowns. Marshall accomplished the feet last year and don’t be shocked if both players reach that level this season. This offense is loaded and if Cutler can stay healthy he should have his best season to date. Cutler has never finished with a QBR of 90 or better in a season. He had a career high of 89.2 last season. This could be that year. He’s a steal in the mid rounds this season.
6) Tony Romo QB (Dallas)
The Cowboys will have a new offensive play-caller for the third straight season. Although Bill Callahan is still the offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan will be calling the plays. He loves to throw the ball early and often. Tony Romo’s career numbers are quite impressive with 29,565 passing yards, 64.6% completion percentage, and 208 touchdown passes. His 95.8 career QBR ranks fourth, behind Rivers, Manning, and Aaron Rogers. Romo had 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013-14 for the second time in three years. Romo is better than most people think. At 34 years of age Romo has at least two very productive season in the tank. During his five-year tenure the Lions offense never ranked less than sixth in pass attempts. The Cowboys offense is loaded including a very good offensive line. The Cowboys defense figures to allow a lot of points, so the Cowboys might be playing catch-up more often than not. Romo has posted better stats than where he is being drafted for 6 straight seasons.
7) Emmanuel Sanders WR (Denver)
I am expecting big things from Sanders with the Broncos. Peyton Manning likes to throw touchdowns and Sanders will help fans forget about the departure of Eric Decker (Jets). Sanders is entering his fifth season at age 27, coming off a solid campaign with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 67 receptions, 740 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. I would be shocked if Sanders didn’t have his best season to date with Manning at QB. Extremely quick and gets open more often than not. Sanders is a steal after the 10th round.
8) Sam Bradford QB (Rams)
At 26 years of age, the time is now for Bradford to take that next step. There are some signs he will. Sam was well on his way to posting career-best numbers last season after throwing 14 touchdown passes in seven games, Bradford suffered a season-ending ACL injury. The Rams have a plethora of young talent that is on the verge of breaking out. Chris Givens and Tavon Austin figure to get better. Kenny Britt was a great pickup an should help the Rams in red-zone scoring. Bradford could end being the “steal” of your draft.
9) Montee Ball RB (Denver)
Denver has a lot of talented running backs but Ball has the most upside. He didn’t win the starting job last season due to protection issues in both basic and blitz-heavy defenses. In this offense, the potential for 1,500+ rushing yards and 10+ touchdowns is certainly there. Ball averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 16 games. Solid. Look for Ball to have a huge breakout type season if he can stay healthy. He will also be a force in the passing game as well. Big things from Ball in 2014-15.
10) DeAndre Hopkins WR (Houston)
Considering all of the quarterback issues last season the Texans endured, Hopkins managed to put decent numbers with 52 receptions, 802 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Just two seasons ago, Hopkins was the No. 1 receiver in a Clemson offense that featured Sammy Watkins. This guy is poised for a huge breakout type season and will be a nice point producer as a No. 2 or 3 receiver. Currently being drafted 30th among receivers which should be going up as more drafts get underway.
Good Luck on draft day!