Never Say Never: Sleepers  

 

Rank's 11 Sleepers: Last-minute study session

There were a couple of classes at my college where you could pretty much skip for weeks and then just show up the day before the test to get all of the information you needed to pass with flying colors. And while I realize this is a very serious charge against the Harvard of the West Coast (Cal State Fullerton) it did help me pass a few courses.

No, I never looked at it as cheating, but rather I gained life skills. You know how everybody loves to talk about time management and multi-tasking? Well, it would be a waste of valuable resources and three weeks of my time when I could learn everything I needed to know in one day. Work smarter, not harder.

The preseason can kind of be like that. If you're one of those people who have other interests (video games, baseball, WWE) and missed the first two weeks, don't sweat. We just need to buckle in right now and study to be ready for our fantasy drafts.

So here are some sleepers who have surfaced over the last few weeks, and dudes we need to watch in this all-important Week 3 to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

Consider this one great, big study group. We good? You sure? All right.

And without further ado ...

Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans
I've talked about him at great length this offseason. And for good reason. The guy is pretty good and he's poised for a breakout. You've read enough about him. His ADP puts him behind dudes like Dwayne Bowe, Riley Cooper and Mike Wallace. But real talk, I'd take him ahead of all three right now.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
I've been rather vocal about going all-in on Jimmy Graham from the fifth overall pick on. I'm super serious. But if that plan fails (and it did in my one draft because I had the No. 7 pick and Graham went No. 5), I'm cool to wait for somebody like Ertz who has ruled for the Eagles this preseason. The Eagles are using him like they did at Stanford, as he's lined up all over the field. His ADP is the 11th round.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Indianapolis Colts
I know it feels weird to be like, 'hey remember that guy who was super awesome when the Giants won the Super Bowl? Well, that guy is my sleeper.' Nicks fell off the fantasy planet because of his touchdown strike last year, but he's played well in the preseason. I can't see how the Colts avoid him once the season starts. Well, if they want to win.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens aren't obligated to throw the A-shirt back into the mix after his two-game suspension is over. The first game is against the Bengals, though. That's a tough matchup. The Ravens had a combined 132 rush yards in two games against the Bengals last year. So Pierce might not be a guy I would draft in the single-digit rounds as his ADP suggests right now. But if he falls a round or two later, then we might be in business. And if he fails, it doesn't cost much.

Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills
Oh, look who is back in the mix. Everybody was all scared when Woods didn't open the season with the ones. But look where he is right now. It's called motivation people. And it worked. Thankfully, this preseason motivation has led folks to overlook him.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Ingram has become the leader in the clubhouse for the Saints running back job. Not only that, he's a threat to catch more passes, too. Darren Sproles had 71 receptions last year. That's with Pierre Thomas getting more than 70, too. So unless Thomas is going to set an NFL record with 150 receptions, those receptions need to be distributed. So why not Ingram?

Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
So if you take those 70, and we give like 25 to Ingram. I could reason we see Cooks come close to 50 this year for the Saints, as he will probably eat into Thomas' production just a tick, too. Plus Saints, y'all.

Jonathan Grimes, RB, Houston Texans
Grimes has seemingly locked up the No. 2 running back spot for the Texans. This is one of the most important handcuff spots in the league, just behind San Francisco (Carlos Hyde) and Seattle (Robert Turbin/Christine Michael).

Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis FC
Well, somebody has to catch passes in St. Louis, right? #Analysis

But for reals, though, Britt seems like the guy in St. Louis. There have been reports he has won the gig. Yet, there hasn't been too much to see here in the preseason. Most of you kids on the Twitter are skeptical about it. One person even said he's not going to fall for the Kenny Britt in the tailpipe trick again. (Wow, "Beverly Hills Cop" flashback, yo.) I snagged him in the 14th round of a draft. I didn't draft a kicker in that league, so if I don't see anything from Britt in Week 3 of the preseason I'm likely to punt. But hey, it's worth a look for a team's potential No. 1 receiver.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Green Bay Packers
Maybe it's because I sit too close to editor Alex Gelhar, but I hear about Randall Cobb way too much. But he's everybody's bread and butter this season and he's started to sneak into the WR1 conversation because Packers. Which is great, but he played in just six games last year when he was given a chance so there are a few concerns. (Although Jordy Nelson returned from an injury-shortened 2012 season to be pretty darn good last year.) But another guy to consider here is Boykin who filled in admirably for Cobb a few times last year. In fact, the first time he got extended work when he subbed in after Cobb was hurt against Baltimore; Aaron Rodgers targeted him six times. The two connected only once but it showed the quarterback has trust in him. WR Davonte Adams has also looked good at times for GB, too, so let's watch for him.

Fine, Green Bay has a lot of great offensive players, savvy?

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are likely to have two dudes who will compete hard for the #ThatHelpsNoOne POY award in Kelce and De'Anthony Thomas. Let's keep an eye on Kelce, though. This guy ran past defensive backs in both opening preseason games. He will be hard to ignore if he does it three consecutive weeks.

Broncos backup running backs
All right, this has been tough to handicap lately. Let's just say I don't trust Montee Ball. Maybe it's Wisconsin running backs (remember James White last week?), random injuries or pass blocking but something has kept Ball from being the guy in Denver. And you always want to take a running back behind Peyton Manning.

Ronnie Hillman is the leader in the clubhouse right now. And remember, he opened last preseason as the No. 1. Plus it would make Akbar Gbajabiamila super happy. I've still got a soft spot for C.J. Anderson. Juwan Thompson has been impressive at times, too.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Sanu was pretty good as a rookie two years ago before he got hurt, but kind of floundered during his sophomore season. And is it cool to call NFL players sophomores? Asking for a friend. But anyway, I'm going to keep an eye on him because he will be given an opportunity with Marvin Jones out for a while. I tried to look up his ADP, but it doesn't exist. Seriously, folks? You'd rather have Reuben Randale over Sanu? Have you seen Eli Manning play? Yeah, I don't know what to say.

Jaron Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
First it was John Brown acting like a boss in the preseason for Arizona. And now it's Jaron. I don't know, with Larry Fitzgerald and my guy, Michael Floyd there in Arizona right now, I'm cool. But again, we're looking for some sleepers so here you go.

Texans D/ST
J.J. Watt just hosses* dudes on the reg. And now you add Jadeveon Clowney and a healthy Brian Cushing to the mix? I love this. I wait on defenses. I figured to roll with the Arizona Cardinals, but with some key losses already, my new particular brand of vodka is the Texans.

*Stolen shamelessly from Brandon Stroud.

Team Dre
I love guys named Dre. DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Holmes and Andre Williams. Keep an eye on all of these guys. I especially like Hopkins to breakout for the Texans. Holmes has been listed with the ones in Oakland. The Giants are probably so morose over Eli Manning, they might run the ball 583 times this season, which could mean a heavy workload for Rashad Jennings and Williams.

Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
I love to load up on rookies in IDP leagues. They are always undervalued during the draft. So I've seen enough of Shazier to know he's going to be a hoss this year.

If you just thought to yourself, 'What's going on here? This is supposed to be Rank's 11 and he went way overboard' we would like to ask you to check yourself. Seriously, what's your damage? Just kidding. But Rank shorted us last week, so maybe he's trying to make good. Or if you read his intro, it wouldn't be a shock to find out he forgot how to count. Follow him on Twitter, though @adamrank. He surprisingly answers a lot of questions.

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