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Fantasy Football Sleepers: Before You Draft

A re-vamped offensive line and electrifying rookie receiver has Sam Bradford poised for a great season. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Throughout the duration of the fantasy football season we constantly find ourselves searching for those players that are underrated or are unnoticed during the draft. These players can either make or break your fantasy season. Depending on how these players are utilized, where they are drafted, and the overall value that they will contribute based on the point settings in respected leagues, sleepers are the most intriguing aspect of the fantasy football season.

Fantasy football is not all about the players that put up the flashiest statistics from the year before, it’s about the players that contain high value based on where they are being taken in a draft. For each eligible fantasy position I have found a key player for each position that should be highlighted on your draft board going into the season to gain that edge over your competitors that will propel you closer to a league championship.

Let’s start with the signal callers.

Quarterback

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford is not getting as much attention as he deserves heading into the 2013 season. Last year Bradford put up career highs 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns. Ranked as the 17th quarterback by ESPN, Sam Bradford is someone that should be targeted in the later rounds of the draft that could provide your team with tremendous upside.

With an upgraded offensive line stocked with veterans, Bradford will start the season poised to put up respectable passing numbers. Electrifying Rookie Tavon Austin out of West Virginia University will instantly bolster this St. Louis Rams offense and will help contribute to Bradford’s offensive statistics. Running back Daryl Richardson should also provide the Rams with a solidified run game that will open up the opportunity for Bradford to spread the offense and through for more valuable passing yards and touchdowns. Sam Bradford hasn’t lived up to his potential yet in the NFL since coming out of Oklahoma, but with his soundings and new look offense I am counting on him this year to become a fantasy stud.

Running Back

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots

Shane Vereen is an interesting player going into the 2013 fantasy football season especially in PPR leagues. New England running backs are usually red flagged in a negative way going into a draft because no one can really predict how the Patriots will use their running backs and not many people feel they are worth the risk. This season is different.

The Patriots led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year and with this young receiving group Tom Brady is going to be handing the ball off a whole lot more than we are used to seeing. This opens the door for New England backs to be targeted in the draft, especially Vereen. Stevan Ridley is being drafted very high this year so instead of targeting him you can wait a few rounds and grab a guy like Shane Vereen that could put up similar, if not better numbers than Ridley. Vereen may start the season sharing carries with Legarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden, but the way that the Patriots have been utilizing Shane Vereen in practice and preseason is indicating that he will be more of a running back/wide out for Tom Brady. By taking Vereen in a draft you are potentially ending up with a back that could catch 50+ balls and play a similar role to what we saw out of Matt Forte in Chicago a few years ago.

Wide Receiver

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is a guy that is not getting much attention going into drafts. From my last few drafts he’s been taken around the ninth round so this could provide your team with a great value pick based on where he is being taken. Mike Williams has the potential to be an every day starter for your line up.

The past three years Williams had played every game for the Buccaneers, so durability should not be an issue. In last three years Mike Williams has averaged 64 catches for 910 yards. Of course most of this hinges on how Josh Freeman will perform under center which is why he is falling down many draft boards. Regardless of how good or bad Josh Freeman performs this year Mike Williams will still get many red zone targets and be the go to receiver in Tampa. It is a risk but Freeman should get back on track this year and the best way for that to start is for him to get the ball to one of the brighter young receivers in the game, in Mike Williams.

Tight End

Anthony Fasano, Kansas City Chiefs

Anthony Fasano is coming to Kansas City after playing in Miami the year before where he put up career high 41 catches. He has missed only four games in the last seven seasons so you can count on him to stay healthy, which is a problem for the upper-tier fantasy tight ends this year. So with Fasano you’re getting a player that put up a career high in catches the year before under a rookie quarterback and now he’s in Kansas City with newly acquired Alex Smith. Smith is one of the more accurate passers in the game so this will only help boost Anthony Fasano onto the scene in Kansas City.

With a shallow receiving core for the Chiefs, Fasano is poised to get many looks from Smith which could make him a steal based on where he is being drafted. With an overall slim tight end group in the 2013 fantasy football season, holding out on a tight end early and grabbing a player like Anthony Fasano in the later rounds on the draft could pay big dividends.

Kicker

Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers

Kickers are almost always taken in the last couple rounds of the draft, barring that one team that will always reach a few rounds up and grab a kicker while we sit back and have a good laugh.

Phil Dawson has been irrelevant for the most part while he was a member of the Cleveland Browns but if you’re looking for a kicker in the last round grabbing Dawson could be a great way to round out your team. With San Francisco’s offense and for the amount of time they are in the red zone, it is expected that they will put up enough points for Dawson to finish in the top five if not the top kicker in fantasy football this upcoming season. Grab him.

Defense/Special Teams

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys defense/special teams didn’t put up much to make them relevant last season, but with a new system in place the 2013 season could be a different story. The addition of reputable defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin adds a whole new philosophy to this Dallas Cowboys defense.

Currently they are revamping the style of their defense with the hope to use pass rushers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware in a 4-3 scheme which should improve from the 25 points per game and 355.4 yards per game this unit averaged last season. It might be worth the look to take the Cowboys defense/special teams unit with the new emphasis Kiffin brings to the table on defense and the low risk/high reward value that you could be getting in return.

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