In light of The League opening its fifth season tonight on FXX I look at five top NFL sleepers to watch out for when drafting your team trading players and getting into game shape for Week 1 of the NFL regular season. These players may not be at the top of their position’s fantasy rankings but each one has the potential to supplement the “big boys” on your team. Take a look scoop up these players and brag to friends while you stand atop the leaderboard after Week 1.
Top 5 Fantasy Football Sleepers – NFL Opening Week
Jarett Burke | Sep 5
Ty Hilton WR Indianapolis Colts – Week 1 vs. Oakland Raiders
Andrew Luck and Hilton entered the league together and played well together in their rookie seasons. Luck proved he is the real deal yet Hilton was no slouch – racking up 861 yards and seven touchdowns while hauling in 13 receptions of 20-plus yards. Need another reason to draft him? How about two: 35-year-old WR Reggie Wayne is not getting any younger and fellow wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey ranks 19 spots back of Hilton on Yahoo Sports’ 2013 composite wide receiver rankings 52 and 33 respectively. Need another more obvious reason? The Colts take on the woeful Raiders in Week 1 – a team expected to give Jacksonville a run for their money as the NFL’s worst.
Lamar Miller RB Miami Dolphins – Week 1 at Cleveland Browns
With Reggie Bush now a Detroit Lion there is a massive hole ready to be filled in Miami’s backfield and the consensus is - come Week 1 - Miller will back the visiting Dolphins in their opener against the Browns. The 22-year-old Miami native not only has the speed of a track star which he was at the University of Miami but he also clocks in at 212 pounds – attributes that make him the frontrunner for the starting spot despite only getting 51 touches last season in limited action. He began the 2012 season on a role however gaining 65 yards on 10 carries in his first NFL game with the Fins – this after rushing for 1272 yards in his last season as a Hurricane. Expect him to get the ball early and often against the Browns a middle-of-the-pack defensive squad last season as Miami favored the run during the 2013 preseason. The Dolphins’ back sits at the 21 spot on Yahoo Sports’ running back rankings but 72% of experts rate him above his ADP.
Daryl Richardson RB St. Louis Rams – Week 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Like the other two running backs on this list Richardson aims to fill the gap left by his team’s 2012 starter; and like Miller and Brown he is expected to surpass his ADP by a wide margin according to Yahoo Sports experts – 68% of them in fact. Jeff Fisher named Richardson the starter ahead of Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy (neither getting a mention by Yahoo Sports); and rightfully so as the second-year back has both speed and hands posting 475 yards on just 98 touches in his rookie campaign for 4.8 yards per carry. As a starter this season looking and averaging out last year’s numbers Richardson’s could potentially surpass 1000 yards rushing. Coming right out of the gate regardless of opponent Richardson looks to have the edge on the other backs on this list.
Jordan Cameron TE Cleveland Browns – Week 1 vs. Miami Dolphins
In the past risking an early draft pick on anyone associated with Cleveland’s passing game was your worst mistake and your buddy’s dream. This preseason has been vastly different from last year’s regular season however as Brandon Weeden is clearly buying into new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s game plan. On top of Cameron’s massive size (6’5” 245lbs) and deceptive speed add new play-callers Rob Chudzinski and Turner – two men who have spent the better part of their careers developing tight end talent. Also with Benjamin Watson off to the Saints Cleveland lacks a high-profile tight end making Cameron the Browns’ secondary target behind WR Josh Gordon in an offense that loves to throw the ball. Factor in that Miami allowed nearly 4000 passing yards last season and the 25-year-old’s stock is high for Week 1. One Yahoo Sports expect places Cameron at the No. 6 spot among tight ends just behind Rob Gronkowski and ahead of Greg Olsen.
Terrelle Pryor QB Oakland Raiders – Week 1 at Indianapolis Colts
Didn’t I just write how Ty Hilton is going to rack up yardage against the woeful Raiders? Yes indeed I did. Instead of a paradox-pick however Pryor is a legitimate sleeper going into Week 1 against the Colts. Here’s the long and short of it: after passing for 93 yards and a score in Week 3’s preseason matchup against the Bears along with 37 yards and a second touchdown on the ground Pryor was all but given the starting nod going into Week 4 and the regular season; but 38 passing yards later in a 22-6 loss to the Seahawks head coach Dennis Allen refuses to release the name of his starter. The good news for the 24-year-old second-year quarterback is that newly acquired offensive coordinator Greg Olsen – who returns the Raiders to the run game this season - is fond of the young pivot telling CNS Bay Area that Pryor will be a dual role playmaker that is “just faster than other players.” This doesn’t mean that former Seahawk Matt Flynn won’t be under center against the Colts but with the league seeing an increase in quarterbacks that can get it done on the ground and in the air it’s in the Raiders’ favor to start Pryor. Here’s another reason why: with an inept offensive line whoever is taking the snaps for the Silver and Black will be running for his life - literally. With hot wheels and a smooth although inaccurate passing arm it makes sense for Pryor to get the nod. Why should you scoop him up? The Raiders will be playing from behind all season so Pryor is bound to put up modest numbers not only in the air but on the ground as well.
The League is now on FXX. Season premiere Tonight at 10:30P only on FXX. To find your channel go to getfxx.com.
Jarett Burke is a freelance sports writer covering the MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA. He currently works as the Sports Editor for SportsDirect Inc.