Fantasy Sleepers: NFC East
As fantasy football season starts to encroach on us, I will be looking at identifying one or two potential breakout stars or underrated fantasy players on each team. I will try to stay away from rookies as much as I can because it is so hard to judge how they will do in camp or how many touches they will get. A lot of fantasy football is finding players who are due an increase in workload or has found the right “fit” for their playing style. The sleepers are players that fall from the first five or even ten rounds of you fantasy football draft, but round out your roster early in the season, only to become your superstars by the end. Here is a look at the NFC East
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo QB
Tony Romo probably catches more flack than any other quarterback in the league, and only some of it is deserved. People love talking about how Romo can’t win the big game and how he can’t show up when it matters most. The important thing to remember here is that his inability to win big games doesn’t matter at all in regards to fantasy football. Last year Romo ranked as the 9th best fantasy quarterback last season and that includes his terrible stinkers when he underperformed on Monday night or late game must win games late in the season. This actually makes one of my favorite fantasy quaterbacks, despite being ranked 12th by ESPN for the upcoming season.
It does require a backup that you feel comfortable playing 3-5 times a season, not something that you would hope, but Romo is one of the top fantasy quarterbacks when he plays well and is overwhelmingly consistent in when he plays dud games. By accepting that anytime Romo plays in primetime or when the national spotlight is on him and then you have a serviceable bench player, someone like Alex Smith or a comparable third tier player comes to mind then you have an explosive and consistent quarterback duo. Romo typically slips in drafts, especially live drafts or other drafts where people aren’t staring at professional rankings during the process and can be picked up at a bargain. Quarterbacks are becoming increasingly valuable in fantasy, but running backs are still the kings. Watch as Romo continues to put up top 10 numbers despite being the 15th or 16th quarterback picked.
Also keep and eye on: Joseph Randle
New York Giants: Andre Brown RB
Several people have jumped on the David Wilson bandwagon after his stellar end to the season last year piling up 247 yards on the ground on only 43 carries. His season totals were dismal, but with Ahmad Bradshaw leaving via free agency Wilson is due to triple or possible quadruple his workload from last season. However, if we think back to the beginning of last season Wilson found himself squarely in the dog house of head coach Tom Coughlin after struggling to hold on to the football early. That explains why Wilson piled up 43 of his 71 carries over the last four games of the season despite being active for every game.
Brown on the other hand had a higher rushing average, more carries, more receptions and receiving yards not to mention already piling up eight rushing touchdowns by the time of his week 10 broken leg landing him on the injured reserve. Brown had an incredible season last year in limited work partnering with Ahmad Bradshaw early on in the season. Players coming off injury also tend to be under valued come draft day and Brown might slip down draft boards. If Wilson fails to find his late season form Brown could end up being one of the top fantasy running backs in the league given the chance. At this point he could be an elite RB3 or lower end RB2, but he is one injury or coaches decision away from a solid RB1.
Also keep an eye on: Louis Murphy
Philadelphia Eagles: Bryce Brown RB
The Eagles are by far the hardest team to pick a potential sleeper for because they have very little turn over at the skill positions as well as a new offense that we haven’t really seen before in the NFL. That being said the former #1 running back recruit Bryce Brown showed flashes of being a capable NFL running back last season. ESPN currently has him ranked as the 41st running back that should be taken off the board. LeSean McCoy clearly has the go ahead for the starting gig in Philadelphia and seems to be a perfect fit skill wise for what the Eagles might try and do this season depending on how Chip Kelly adapts his game.
Brown however could get a lot of carries in short yardage and the goal line being the more downhill runner between him and McCoy. Kelly may also try to limit McCoy’s carries as the season goes on as to not put to much wear and tear on him in this primarily experimental season. Its also worth noting that McCoy hasn’t played in all 16 games since his rookie season. This should give Brown at least one or two starts at some point during the season, and the Eagles passing attack will continue to struggle unless Michael Vick can get his act together. This should lead to a lot of rushes and Brown should figure prominently.
Washington Redskins: Evan Royster RB
Mike Shanahan is a fantasy savior, or a fantasy Satan depending on which one of his running backs he select. Last season rookie Alfred Morris shocked the NFL piling up over 1,600 yards on the ground. Unfortunately he wasn’t named starter until about 2 hours before his week one game and Royster and Roy Helu were supposed to carry the running attack. Shanahan is notorious for being inconsistent with his starting running back, but whoever he chooses is bound to get over 1,000 yards. In Denver, between 1998 and 2008 or post Elway and Terrell Davis the Broncos had 8 different leading rushers and only Clinton Portis repeated back to back. Of those leading rushers only 3 failed to reach 1,000 yards. That kind of inconsistency drives people crazy, but it leads to a lot of opportunity to steal someone who isn’t in a high draft position. Royster hasn’t really hasn’t really shown that he can be a solid NFL back, but someone needs to benefit from Shanahan’s madness. Royster is rated on the 74th running back on the board so he will probably end up being udrafted, unless your league has a weird running back craze. Morris could be another Clinton Portis and put incredible numbers his first few years in the league, but I wouldn’t count on it. My advice is to hesitate on Morris at the top of the draft and take a late round flyer on one of his backups, could end up saving a mediocre draft and turning you into a contender.
Also keep and eye on: Logan Paulson TE