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NFL fantasy football: 10 sleepers to target

Draft kit | Deep sleepers | Busts | Breakouts | Bargains | Strategies

 

 

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins: Don't think for a second this is going to be a time-share situation with Daniel Thomas in Miami. Okay, you can let the rest of your league think so, because that will help you draft Miller. Miller is going to be the workhorse, because he's talented enough in all phases of the running game to be a star. The Dolphins were very much okay with losing Bush because of Miller's potential, which he flashed a little of in 2012. Thomas has proven he can't stay healthy nor can he hold onto the football, which means Miami can't count on him to be more than someone who gives Miller a breather.

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Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers: Well, he's on everyone's sleeper list which means he won't be a sleeper for long. The Chargers backfield situation is a mess. They can't trust Ryan Mathews to do anything, and the rest of the running back stable is very pedestrian. Despite Woodhead finishing 24th in fantasy points among running backs last season, he's still not viewed very highly in fantasy circles. This year is going to change that. He'll be involved deeply in the running game and in catching balls out of the backfield. He could total 1,000 yards from scrimmage with five to eight touchdowns.

Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams: On the surface it looks like Richardson and Isaiah Pead will split the carries in St. Louis, but Richardson is the true player to own. Pead barely dented the stat sheet in 2012 while Richardson averaged a 4.8 yards-per-carry on 98 rushes. He had nearly as many 20-plus yard runs (four) as Steven Jackson (five), and Jackson had over 150 more rushing attempts. A team doesn't let someone like Jackson walk unless they have a replacement plan, and that plan is NEVER an untested running back like Pead. Richardson's the real deal in an offense that promises to be more explosive than they've been since the days of 'The Greatest Show On Turf.'

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers: He went from fantasy must-own to fantasy indifferent after Green Bay drafted Johnathan Franklin two rounds after they selected Lacy. I like Lacy a little more than most because the Packers are looking for a complete backfield makeover, and while John Kuhn may steal some red-zone carries, Lacy will be the primary back when Green Bay is inside the 10. Cedric Benson was a decent No. 3 fantasy running back a year ago until he got hurt, as he was capable of 50 yards and a touchdown every week. Can Lacy do that? Sure. He could end up being a surprising flex player in 2013. Franklin may go undrafted in a lot of leagues, but Lacy has to be owned.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons: I'm not sold on Steven Jackson suddenly discovering the fountain of youth in Atlanta. Rodgers is an explosive, dynamic player who's slowly becoming a Darren Sproles clone. Rodgers fits with the mold of how the Falcons want to play: fast and dangerous. Jackson's going to be another version of Michael Turner: a veteran whose best days are behind him and will find it tougher sledding than anticipated. Last year, Rodgers ran for 362 yards and had 402 yards receiving. He should have statistics similar to Danny Woodhead - 500 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and five or more touchdowns, which would put him in the top 20 for fantasy points for running backs.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Things have actually been pretty clear so far in training camp for Saints running backs. Ingram has had the running game all to himself as Pierre Thomas attempts to return from injury, and while Darren Sproles is still going to be a PPR machine, right now Ingram will get the first and second down carries and all of the goal line work. The coaching staff is buzzing about him and without Chris Ivory around, there's a clear pecking order for New Orleans. Plus, it's the magical Year 3 for him. This is his time. Take him as your No. 4 RB.

Eddie Lacy has the inside track on a starting job for the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
Eddie Lacy has the inside track on a starting job for the Green Bay Packers in 2013. (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports/)

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Sanders was nearly a Patriot in the offseason, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger bent the ears of Steelers' brass and they decided to keep him, which is great news for Sanders. He caught a career-high 44 passes last season as the Steelers third wide receiver. He's poised to add potentially 30 more to that number in 2013, now that he's the teams' No. 2 receiving threat behind Antonio Brown. All he was missing was opportunity to play a bigger role, and now he has it.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: He fell from my 'breakout' list to the 'sleeper' list due to his four-game suspension to begin 2013 (which is a third of your fantasy season). However he's ready to be a star wide receiver once he gets going again. It may take him a couple of games to get back to his late-season form, but you could have yourself one heckuva sleeper by taking him late. He'll be ignored by plenty of other owners who will find it hard to pull the trigger on a guy who they can't play until October. But Blackmon will overtake Cecil Shorts as the No. 1 wide receiver in Jacksonville by Week 10, hopefully just in time for your stretch run and playoffs.

Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams: I guarantee you other owners in your league right now have no idea what team Cook signed with. But being part of the Rams' offensive makeover is going to be huge for him. Cook has always had the talent and athleticism to be elite, and now he has a fresh start on a team that promises to be more dynamic than they've been in years. The Rams' skill position players will be fast, and that'll open up a lot of room for Cook to dominate in over the middle. He can be a top-seven tight end in 2013.

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download the weekly NFL Fantasy Live podcast with him alongside Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison. Talk to him on twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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