Snagging Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas in the first round doesn’t exactly make you a fantasy football genius.
Finding the next Odell Beckham Jr.? That’s a different story.
Just as you can count on a fantasy stud like Bryant or Thomas delivering the goods, you also can bank on a handful of lesser-known players stepping up to exceed everyone’s expectations. Beckham was last year’s shining example, as the New York Giants wide receiver flew under the radar for the first few weeks of the season before transforming into one of the best players in all of fantasy football.
Players like Beckham don’t come around often, but identifying this year’s “sleepers” doesn’t have to be that hard. Here are 10 players who you should keep your eye on after the big guns come off your league’s draft board.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 6)
The Cowboys could afford to part with DeMarco Murray because they have the best offensive line in the NFL. If Randle can beat out aging Darren McFadden for the starting job, expect him to ride his line to a breakout year.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (Bye Week: 7)
The secret might be out on Adams after Jordy Nelson’s season-ending injury. The second-year wideout figures to be the No. 2 target behind Randall Cobb in one of the best offenses in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers clearly trusts him. All signs point to a breakout year.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye Week: 11)
News of Bryant’s four-game suspension obviously drops his value a bit. But Bryant made a big splash by catching eight touchdown passes as a rookie, and the Steelers have big plans for him as their No. 2 receiver when he returns. He’s a good add in the later rounds if you can afford to wait out his suspension.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 11)
Crowell finally emerged as the Browns’ top backfield option last season, and with Pro Bowl center Alex Mack back in the mix this year, Crowell could rack up the numbers in that shiny new uniform of his.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week: 5)
The return of Adrian Peterson should help this offense immensely, and Bridgewater showed enough upside last season to make us believe he’s ready to take a leap.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 11)
Spiller should fit perfectly in this offense as a backfield receiving threat and change-of-pace runner for Mark Ingram. If Spiller can stay on the field, expect healthy numbers in both categories.
Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 7)
With Julius Thomas out of the mix, Latimer is projected to be Peyton Manning’s third option as a slot receiver. That worked out OK for Emmanuel Sanders last season.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (Bye Week: 10)
The featured-back role in Atlanta is up for grabs, and if Freeman can beat out rookie Tevin Coleman, he should see plenty of action behind an offensive line bolstered by the addition of first-round draft pick Jake Matthews.
Stedman Bailey, WR, St. Louis Rams (Bye Week: 6)
Having a competent quarterback under center is a rarity in St. Louis. But Nick Foles should spread the wealth if he stays healthy, and a speedster like Bailey has the requisite talent to cash in.
Scott Chandler, TE, New England Patriots (Bye Week: 4)
Don’t pass up on Chandler just because he’s behind Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s health never is guaranteed, and Tim Wright snagged six touchdown passes as Tom Brady’s TE2 last season. The Patriots signed Chandler for a reason.
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