Rank's 11 Offseason Sleepers: On the (Montee) Ball

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The other day, I was getting ready to enjoy my Seal Beach roll at Tsunami Sushi here on Pacific Coast Highway. The food runner leaned in to drop off the plate and asked, "So, do you have any good sleepers for 2014?"

It's a clear illustration that there is no rest for the fantasy enthusiast who still wants to get a jump on the competition. And by jump, I mean a pretty sizable leap because we're still a ways away from getting into the deal of a thing. And for (expletive) sake, Lana, I'm still waiting for my edamame. Really, is there anything as disheartening as having your sushi arrive before you get your soy beans?

And please, there is no need to send a Sapporo my way, either. I'm happy to do it. Plus, you know, I'm getting paid for this (expletive). So here is my list of sleepers for the coming season. I'm going to release one per week, because just like you don't want your English roll and spicy tuna hand roll to end up at your table at the same time, it's better to space these things out to aid in digestion.

And where the hell is that edamame, anyway?

Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos


Yeah, yeah. Many of you read this and immediately go "derp" because everybody knows Ball is going to be one of the best running backs in the 2014 season. But it's important to note that not everybody is as astute as you. So congratulations to you for knowing all of this. Kudos, salutations and so forth. You get a gold star for the day, but you should read on because there is much to learn here.

What we know is Knowshon Moreno is going to be allowed to test the free-agent market and he's likely going to end up some place else (Arizona, maybe?). The reason he's allowed to leave is Ball played very well during the final half of his rookie season.

"Obviously we think very highly of [Ball]" Broncos coach John Fox said during the NFL Scouting Combine. "I thought he had tremendous growth as a rookie running back in this league. He got better with every week. We look for a big improvement next year and think he's very, very capable."

So things are looking pretty good for Ball. And before you ask, yes, there were high expectations for Ball headed into last season. Some had him as the top running back to own even though Ronnie Hillman was listed as the No. 1 running back through training camp.

When Hillman fumbled his chance, Ball was given every opportunity to succeed. And then he fumbled away his chances with giveaways in Week 2 and Week 3. But he started to see the field a lot more toward the end of the season. There were even some games where he was clearly the star running back. Plus, he was getting some goal-line looks.

So Ball is our top sleeper right now. Of course, by the time we get into the summer, Ball might end up being a first-round pick with the way some of us like to overinflate running backs. But he's going to open the season as my No. 11 running back. I have him just ahead of Ben Tate, though that could change if Ball gets into a really good spot. But we have time to think about all of that.

- Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @AdamRank

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