Fantasy Sleeprs AFC South
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 AFC South:
Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins WR
The Houston Texans have been looking for their replacement to amazingly average yet seemingly always good enough Kevin Walter for years and they finally think they have the man in DeAndre Hopkins. While at Clemson Hopkins proved he was an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands and warranted to the first round pick that the Texans chose to use on him in this years draft. I know that I said that rookies are hard to judge, but with the little turnover around him and realistic expectations Hopkins is poised to make a valuable impact in fantasy games.
With an Average Draft Position of 107, Hopkins is a pretty safe pick in the 10th round of a 10 team league or around the end of the 8th in a typical twelve team league. By this time in a draft most people are at the back end of their starting lineups or starting to fill out the bench. Hopkins has the potential to not only fill the void left by the departure of Walter, who totaled 220 points over the past three seasons, but actually take some of the load off of Andre Johnson as the season wears on. As Johnson as taken on the tendency to have some monster games, but also kind of disappear at time Hopkins will be counted on to try and take underneath routes and break them for large games, and also stretch the defense for the running game. He is a pretty safe pick at the back end of your line up and a bench player.
Also keep and eye on: Matt Schaub QB
Indianapolis Colts: Dwayne Allen TE
This is a quintessential case of media pumping up a fantasy candidate and just a player in general despite there being overwhelming evidence that he is not the best option. Luckily for Allen this refers to Coby Fleener, Allens backup, who is owned in a larger percentage of ESPN fantasy leagues and is being drafted eight tight ends higher despite being 2nd on the Colts depth chart. Some will attribute that to Fleener making a comeback after an injury riddled rookies season, or Stanford Offensive Coordinator taking over the same position with the Colts and will have a predisposition to start Fleener. However this is a completely ridiculous and simple untrue precedent that almost always makes people look like fools. If you need evidence just look at Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills not selecting Ryan Nassib in the NFL draft.
Looking at the Colt’s offense it seems to rely pretty heavily on the pass, which figures well for Allen. With Darrius Heyward-Bey as the third receiver to stretch the field on the outside and T.Y. Hilton working underneath routes as well as using his speed to get deep there could be a lot of room for Allen in the middle of the field, especially in the red zone. Early in the year the Colts will be trying to figure out who is going to be running the ball be in Ahmad Bradshaw or Vick Ballard, Andrew Luck will be the key to early season success for the Colts and Allen should get a good portion of those targets.
Also keep and eye on: Vick Ballard RB
Jacksonville Jaguars: Cecil Shorts WR
This one isn’t exactly a sleeper pick, but I was amazed at my draft last weekend with how far Shorts dropped before someone picked him up. Especially with Justin Blackmon being suspended for the first four games of the season Shorts is posed to make a big impact early with the Jaguars. Shorts hasn’t been able to put up the kind of numbers he could because of the Jag’s quarterback problems are preventing him from not only getting the targets, but also when he is looked at the ball can’t be counted on to be in the right spot. However he is worth the risk as he is being picked 30th among receivers in ESPN leagues despite being the 22nd most productive receiver in the league last year.
If the Jaguars new offense can get it together, and if Maurice Jones-Drew is able to force teams to show eight men in the box it could open up the deep routes down the field for Shorts. A bad quarterback can is a detriment to the receivers on his team, but it can be blown out of proportion especially with people pointing at Larry Fitzgerald’s number last season. However Gabbert and Henne’s biggest problems were constantly checking down and turnovers. They did end up combining for almost 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Now those aren’t great numbers by any means, but they are good enough to not necessarily scare off potential suitors for their receivers, especially as Justin Blackmon taking some of the pressure off when he returns from suspension.
Also keep an eye on: Denard Robinson QB/RB/WR
Tennessee Titans: Delanie Walker TE
This one just absolutely blows my mind to think about. Last weekend I partook in a 14 team 10 round draft and no one even thought about selecting Walker. In fact he was ranked 284th overall! First of all I don’t see how a starting tight end even falls that far in general, especially because there `are several reserves ranked ahead of him. Walker proved he was a viable receiving option in his time in San Francisco, even if he was under utilized last season as he struggled with drops and the offense evolved to feature less tight end options. Walker is a great blocker the will prove valuable at the goal line, and with Kendall Wright’s limited size and Kenny Britt’s injury history Walker could prove to be extremely valuable as a receiving threat as well. The Titans failed to utilize Jared Cook, but with the hopeful progression of Jake Locker behind center Walker could prove to be the quarterbacks best friend.
Walker has by no means proven himself to be a valuable fantasy commodity outside of the occasion spot start in which he could catch a touchdown pass, but in a game where volume is key starters can’t be over looked so easily, much less buried in the draft. As he is currently owned in less that one percent of leagues, he may not even warrant getting drafted, but as the season progresses he could be extremely helpful coming off of the waiver wire to aid with and an injury plagued team, especially depending on your leagues flex options.
Also keep an eye on: Justin Hunter WR