Never Say Never: Sleepers  


Rank's 11 Sleepers: Keeping tabs on James White


Two of my favorite sleeper receivers are being motivated this offseason. My guy, Robert Woods, hasn't played with the Bills first-teamers. Which is actually more annoying than it is concerning. I mean, Woods was pretty decent during his first season in Buffalo with 587 receiving yards and three touchdowns during his rookie campaign. But the Bills have played the depth chart game so far this preseason. Which is cool, until this (expletive) goes through the third preseason game.

But heck, that will just help his average draft position (ADP).

The Tennessee Titans have taken a different tact with Justin Hunter. The team gave him a "J.A.G." nameplate. No, not a Jacksonville Jaguars nameplate. Though, that would be kind of funny. Could you imagine if a team motivated a player by giving him a jersey of a team nobody would want to play for?

Oh wait, he already has a Titans jersey on.

Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was the one who put the J.A.G. label on the back of Hunter's jersey. Something Jefferson probably knows a lot about. (Shawn's hobby is sewing, that wasn't a knock on him being just a guy when he played for, wait, who did he play for again?)

But I kind of dig this. Woods and Hunter have been on Rank's 11 all offseason, so it was just a matter of time before they felt a little too comfortable. I'm down with the coaches keeping them on their toes a little bit for the coming year. We want them to maximize their talent.

All right, let's turn our attention to a few more sleepers for this coming week. Instead of the normal 11, let's go in-depth on one of the best handcuffs in the league, as well as four really deep sleepers we need to keep an eye on.

And without further ado...

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers: There is going to have to be a changing of the guard in San Francisco at some point considering Frank Gore is the last remaining member from the 49ers Super Bowl XXIX championship team (not really). But here's the deal with Gore, he's 31-years-old. The magical decline for running backs typically starts at age 30. Gore was able to avoid disaster last year and had more than 1,100 yards with nine touchdowns. And he's missed just one start in the last three years. I have to believe even if Gore is able to play at a high level this season, the 49ers have to mix in Hyde to at least keep Gore healthy for the playoffs.

Hyde's ADP in a 10-team league is around Round 10. Which means the secret might be out on him. Actually, you couldn't have watched last week's game and come away unimpressed. Well, you could have, but then I would have questioned your acumen.

Juwan Thompson, RB, Denver Broncos: Thompson made the most of his preseason opportunity thanks to injuries to Montee Ball (appendectomy) and C.J. Anderson (concussion). Thompson rushed for 59 yards on six carries, and yeah, it came against second-teamers, curtain-jerkers and the like. But it's still worth noting. Plus, Thompson is considered a special teams ace, too. That could play a role on if he's going to end up making the team or not. Remember, Terrell Davis got his start because he was able to contribute on special teams. (Please tell me you all remember when Terrell Davis played. I would be crushed to think I was that old.) And if I can be completely honest here, the running back behind Peyton Manning is somewhat replaceable. Kind of like the drummer in your favorite band.

Thompson has no average draft position. He's not going in leagues. He's just somebody to keep an eye on. Especially if Ball has trouble getting back.

John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals: There is one name that refuses to go away this summer, and it's Brown. The coaches have raved about him at great length and the hype only seems to build. Here's my fear about Brown, however. You're going to say hey, I'm going to take a super later flier on him. And he's not going to do much out of the gate. And then some time around Week 3, you're going to say forget it, and release him because he's just hasn't panned out. And then he's going to have this unexpected great game against the 49ers. And you're going to run out and get him off the waiver wire. And then the Cardinals are going to have a bye in Week 4, so you have to sit on him for a week. You start him in Week 5, and he does nothing against the Broncos. So you drop him. Then he has a great game against the Redskins in Week 6 so you put in a waiver claim for him. But somebody will have already scooped him up at that point. And then you'll be super morose and remember I wrote this in August. So you'll tweet me and we end up as best friends.

Brown is also not being drafted in leagues. For now.

James White, RB, New England Patriots: The Patriots have a rather muddled backfield with Shane Vereen (yay!) and Stevan Ridley (boo!), but things have now gotten interesting with the rookie from Wisconsin. I mentioned him last week in this space, but he warrants mentioning again. If only because he received first-team reps with the Patriots in joint practices against the Eagles. But before you go crazy and be like, "Oh my God, he's the new No. 1" realize the Patriots wanted to get a look at him going against dudes in different colored jerseys.

That being said, this is a situation to be monitored. I imagine Ridley is one fumble away from being "future endeavored" by the Patriots, so I would keep an eye on this for real.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: Well, we seem to be pretty low on fantasy tight end sleepers. We talked a little bit about Kyle Rudolph last week, and he's still my jam. But Kelce, wow. Did you see him outrun the Bengals secondary last week? I mean, we can talk about second-teamers and stuff like that. But the dude seriously just blew by dudes who play in the secondary. IN. THE. SECONDARY. I don't want to get too hyper about this, but who else does Alex Smith have to throw the ball to, other than Jamaal Charles? I mean, would there be anything more Alex Smith than him throwing a short, little dump-off pass to Kelce and having this dude take it to the house?

Again, no average draft position.

You can follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank. You get fantasy for most of the day, but he loves the #HashTagWars from @midnight really late, so you've been warned. Be on the lookout for Like/dislike this week. He promises not to mail it in again. Yet he probably will.