Every season there’s a handful of unheralded players – sleepers, dark horses, breakouts – that flash into the fantasy football limelight by inexplicably becoming NFL starters, and in some cases, top 5 players at their position. If you’re like me, you’re scouring the Internet this time of year searching for these players. Savvy fantasy football owners know that unearthing football gems late in the draft can be the difference between winning a league championship, and finishing as an also-ran.
Who will be this season’s Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery, or Julian Edelman? After hours of research, I’ve compiled a top-50 list of players that are mentioned most often by fantasy football experts as having the potential to produce a breakout season. If their consensus carries any weight, it may be wise to look carefully at the players on this list, especially those at the top.
The Top 50 Fantasy Football Sleepers for 2014
RB Khiry Robinson NO
Need only beat out 30-year-old Darren Sproles, 29-year-old Pierre Thomas, and under-achieving Mark Ingram. Robinson gained 102 yards on 21 carries in two games last season and showed good burst and vision.
TE Ladarius Green SD
Finished 2013 strong. Antonio Gates is starting to slow down and is injury prone. Even if Gates is able to remain healthy, San Diego will use plenty of two tight-end sets. Green could emerge as the Chargers No. 1 fantasy tight end before the season is through.
RB Andre Ellington Arz
A solid rookie season, coupled with the assertion by head coach Bruce Arians that Ellington will be the team’s 2014 featured ball carrier, has sent Ellington’s stock soaring. Ellington averaged 6.5 yards per rush last season, and is expected to touch the ball close to 20 times a game this coming season.
WR Terrence Williams Dal
Williams will assume the #2 receivers role in Dallas with the departure of the oft-injured Miles Austin. Williams had a solid rookie campaign (44 receptions, 736 yards, 5 TDs). One can safely assume a 50% increase in those numbers, with a slightly higher potential ceiling.
QB Josh McCown TB
McCown had the best season of his career in 2013 filling in for injured Jay Cutler. McCown played so well there was talk about him keeping his starting job even when Cutler got healthy. McCown is now the starter with the Bucs. The Bucs have some offensive potential with an improving receiver corps.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson Min
Patterson came into his own at the end of last season, and was perhaps the best receiver in the league over the final four weeks. He can produce in all aspects of the game. The addition of offensive guru Norv Turner to the coaching staff, and the settling of the QB situation, will only enhance Patterson’s chances.
WR DeAndre Hopkins Hou
Changes are in the air in Houston for 2014. The Texans have new leadership in head coach Bill O’Brien, and journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s had moments of success, joins the fold. But much of Hopkins achievements in 2014 will hinge on whether Andre Johnson defects from the team. Hopkins is likely to have better numbers if Johnson sticks around because of less defensive attention, yet Hopkins has the potential to be a fantasy WR1/WR2 regardless of Johnson’s situation.
WR Justin Hunter Ten
Justin Hunter is being vastly overlooked this season, despite showing signs for a breakout year. Hunter scored four touchdowns last season, and at 6-foot-4, his jump ball targets in the end zone promise to be increased. Another matter is the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt as the new head coach. Last season, the Chargers offense prospered with Whisenhunt serving as offensive coordinator.