What is a fantasy football sleeper? A sleeper is a player that you most likely will not draft as a starter for your team, but could potentially end up being a starter for you every week by the end of the year. The real benefit to picking the right sleepers is that you end up with a starter that you didn't have to spend a high draft pick on. Before he became a superstar, Arian Foster was designated as a sleeper by many (including our friend Maurice Jones-Drew). Foster, of course, went on to have a monster year. Fantasy owners who drafted him in the 9th or 10th-round for example ended up with a player worthy of a 1st-round pick. Not every player is going to have that potential, but here's who we see with the potential to make your season a winning one.
== QB ==
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
All the pieces are in place for Tannehill this year. The Dolphins upgraded their offensive line. With both Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace in his arsenal, Miami has the ability to shine in both the ground and air game. Tannehill improved his game last year posting his best numbers in yards (3,913), TD's (24), and increased his completion percentage to 60.4%. The new OC Bill Lazor is coming down from Philly where he helped Nick Foles achieve a breakout year. Finally, when we look at where Tannehill finished in fantasy points last year, he was right behind Tom Brady. Had Tannehill thrown one more score, he could have finished ahead of Brady. There's no reason to think that Tannehill (currently ranked 18th on FFN) couldn't finish in the Top 12 among fantasy QB's this year making him a potential starter for your team.
Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When McCown filled in for an injured Jay Cutler last year, he made the most of that opportunity. He threw the ball 224 times and tallied up 1,829 yards and 13 scores. His completion percentage was an impressive 66.5%. He may not be throwing to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery anymore, but he does have 1st-round pick Mike Evans and playmaker Vincent Jackson. He also has a bevy of running backs including Doug Martin that defenses will have to contend with. McCown is currently ranked 25th among QB's on FFN. He will finish the year higher than that.
== RB ==
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
With both Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James suffering injuries already, what looked like a deep backfield has suddenly lost some of its depth. Hyde was drafted as the heir-apparent to Frank Gore in San Fran's run-heavy offense. Assuming Gore stays healthy all year, Hyde will likely serve as a strong complement to Gore. It wouldn't surprise us to see Carlos given 10-12 carries per game. If Gore goes down, Hyde has the potential to really shine because of the workload. He's currently ranked 46th among RB's on FFN so he'll be available at the tail-end of your draft (RB4 or RB5).
Devonta Freeman, Falcons
Steven Jackson's numbers are not what they used to be, and with a hamstring injury already hitting him this preseason, his durability remains a question mark. Jacquizz Rodgers showed some potential last year in Jackson's absence, but he's more of a receiving back than a bruiser capable of running the ball inside (3.6 YPC). Devonta Freeman is that kind of back, and he's not getting the kind of attention and love that other rookies like Hyde, Bishop Sankey, or Tre Mason do. FFN currently has him at #51 among RB's which means that he'll likely still be available with one of your last picks.
Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
Playing backup to Adrian Peterson means that you're not going to get the starting gig very often. Gerhart didn't get to carry the ball a lot last year, but when he did, he made the most of it with 7.9 yards per carry (283 yards on 36 carries). MJD has left Jacksonville for the dreary backfield of Oakland and Gerhart has left Minnesota to fill the vacant spot. Many analysts expect Gerhart to see 250-300 carries this year. Should that happen, Gerhart could flirt with low-end RB1/high-end RB2 status based upon workload alone. If you're drafting Gerhart as your RB3, you're doing great.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
OK - we'll bite...again. Richardson was an epic failure compared to his draft position last year. He was not productive in Cleveland and he was worse in Indy, so why would we call him a "sleeper"? It's simple. You're likely to draft Richardson as an RB3/Flex play. He's ranked 27th among RB's on FFN, but he's had an entire offseason to learn the playbook and both Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are coming off injuries. With lowered expectations, we anticipate Richardson ending the season as a solid RB2. If you can get him as your RB3 or Flex play, consider that a win.
== WR ==
Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts
This is not the same Hakeem Nicks who was fantasy gold a few years ago in New York. He's playing WR3 to Hilton and Wayne this year. Early reports out of training camp show Nicks not yet in game shape, so why would we mark him as a sleeper? Well, he's currently ranked 46th out of all WR's on FFN and we're confident he'll be in game shape before Week 1. He has the potential to be incredible as we've already seen, and he's in an offense where he won't draw the double team. Andrew Luck is a great QB, and if the Colts run the 3 & 4-receiver sets that we expect them to, Nicks makes an attractive target. Nicks is being drafted as a low-end WR4 right now giving him plenty of room to move up.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
At #33 in the FFN rankings, Sammy Watkins will likely be drafted as a WR3 with potential flex appeal. We think he'll outperform his rankings and make a solid WR2. Watkins will become the No. 1 wideout on the Bills and has the explosiveness that (once combined with some NFL experience) will translate to fantasy goodness. The Bills are going to try and get the ball into his hands. We think there's a ton of potential there, particulary in PPR formats.
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
Lining up opposite Dez Bryant will be Terrance Williams. With Miles Austin out of Dallas and into Cleveland, Williams has comfortably claimed his spot. Bryant will continue to see double teams and defenses have to keep an eye on TE Jason Witten along with RB threat Demarco Murray leaving Williams with plenty of opportunity to break free. Williams hit his stride last year hauling in 44 catches for 736 yards and 5 scores. The word is out on Williams as we have seen his rank climb to 28th out of all WR's on FFN. That puts him one spot ahead of Julian Edelman and Mike Wallace. That's some pretty nice territory for the young man.
== TE ==
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Charles Clay finished last season with a very respectable 759 yards and 6 scores. We expect Tannehill to have a solid year and a rising tide lifts all boats. Last year, Clay finished 6th in fantasy points, so if he gets drafted this year where his #13 FFN ranking has him, he could make fantasy owners quite happy. We would be surprised not to see Clay in the Top 10 this year again.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
There is a lot of excitement in Washington this preseason. RGIII is healthy and looking solid. The addition of DeSean Jackson complements Pierre Garcon nicely. The running game is actually solid and stable. This is the type of environment where a guy like Jordan Reed should flourish. In the four games before his concussion last year, Reed tallied 323 yards and 2 scores. That's an average of 80 yards and half a score each week - fantastic for any TE not named Gronk or Graham! Jordan Reed is currently the 10th-ranked TE on FFN and could very well end the season higher.
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