Updated sleepers, busts, breakouts
Earlier in the preseason, a number of our ESPN fantasy analysts offered some of their sleepers, busts and breakouts for the 2014 fantasy football season. Now, after a couple full weeks of preseason games and a ton of practices, we have started to change our tune on some of our choices.
In some cases, injuries have knocked guys out of contention or opened up a spot on the depth chart for a sleeper or breakout guy to shine. In other cases, we have changed our minds based on practice reports or preseason games. And in other instances, a summer full of mock drafts has shown us that a player is either going way too early or way too late compared to our rankings.
No matter the reason, it's time make some adjustments.
For a refresher, here's how we're defining the terms:
Sleeper: Player likely not drafted as a starting option in ESPN standard leagues, according to the current ESPN fantasy rankings, but could end up being an every-week starting option or star by the end of the season.
Bust: Player considered a sure starting option in ESPN standard leagues, according to ESPN fantasy rankings, but will not live up to expectations or draft-day value.
Breakout player: Player who could finish in the top five at his position but isn't currently ranked there, according to ESPN fantasy rankings. They could be very low-ranked players or players sitting in the top 10 at their position.
Our panel consists of Matthew Berry, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Ken Daube, Brian Gramling, Christopher Harris, KC Joyner, Eric Karabell, Tim Kavanagh, Keith Lipscomb, Jim McCormick, James Quintong, Matt Williamson and Field Yates.
The original list (including plenty of explanations for picks) is here. The names highlighted in bold are new compared to the original list. Plus, some of our analysts have provided more write-ups to explain some of their picks.
|Berry||Johnny Manziel||Andre Williams||Andrew Hawkins||Ladarius Green|
|Cockcroft||Jay Cutler||Khiry Robinson||Justin Hunter||Ladarius Green|
|Daube||Jay Cutler||Stevan Ridley||Hakeem Nicks||Ladarius Green|
|Gramling||EJ Manuel||Khiry Robinson||DeAndre Hopkins||Jace Amaro|
|Harris||Philip Rivers||Khiry Robinson||Danny Amendola||Zach Ertz|
|Joyner||Jay Cutler||Bryce Brown||Kenny Stills||Ladarius Green|
|Karabell||Ryan Tannehill||Khiry Robinson||Terrance Williams||Ladarius Green|
|Kavanagh||Jake Locker||Latavius Murray||Brandin Cooks||Ladarius Green|
|Lipscomb||Jay Cutler||Carlos Hyde||Cecil Shorts||Travis Kelce|
|McCormick||Carson Palmer||Jonathan Stewart||Markus Wheaton||Tyler Eifert|
|Quintong||EJ Manuel||Carlos Hyde||Terrance Williams||Ladarius Green|
|Williamson||Ryan Tannehill||Mark Ingram||Terrance Williams||Travis Kelce|
|Yates||Jay Cutler||Tre Mason||Miles Austin||Zach Ertz|
Miles Austin, WR, Cleveland Browns: Someone has to catch passes in Cleveland, and word out of Berea, Ohio, is that Austin is starting to look like the wide receiver we knew before hamstring and other issues bothered him in Dallas. Especially if Josh Gordon's suspension turns out to be a full year, Austin has value. --Field Yates
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles didn't lean as heavily on two-tight end sets in 2013 as I expect them to this season, and Ertz could end up passing Brent Celek as the leader at the position in terms of production. Watch out for the former second-round pick. --Field Yates
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers: This is about a strong belief in Hyde's skill set as well as being a year ahead of the curve on Frank Gore. After all, let's face it, Gore is showing few signs of slowing down, at least in terms of durability (hasn't missed a game since 2010). As Gore enters his age-31 season, I'm willing to spend a mid-to-late-round pick on Hyde as someone who can take advantage of the touches he receives in a run-heavy 49ers attack. When looking for sleepers, I think about players who are talented enough to put up big numbers if given the chance. To me, among players who enter the season as clear backups, Hyde is the most talented and would be a huge fantasy threat if given a starter's workload regularly. --Keith Lipscomb
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: Anthony Fasano is the expected starter at tight end, but I expect Andy Reid and Doug Pederson to use plenty of two-tight end sets in an effort to create mismatches that will take advantage of Kelce's impressive athleticism. Reid's teams have often fed the tight end in the past -- think Celek and L.J. Smith -- and Kelce has the ability to get downfield and do enough damage to make him worth a late-round selection, especially in deeper leagues. The ceiling is high, but the floor is basement-level because we're talking about a player still waiting for his first NFL catch. --Keith Lipscomb
Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks is understandably getting a ton of attention, but let's not forget how great Stills was last year. His 13.4 yards per attempt ranked first in the league among qualifying wide receivers, and he placed third in vertical YPA (17.5 on aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) and second in stretch vertical YPA (23.9 on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield). Stills had only 51 targets last year yet scored 88 fantasy points (ranked 48th). His move up the depth chart into a starting role could double his target volume, and if his YPA numbers stay anywhere near where they were last year, his fantasy point total will move into WR2 territory or higher. --KC Joyner
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins: I'm actually buying into the new Dolphins offensive system with Bill Lazor running it, and if Nick Foles can be a statistical star, so can the strong-armed Tannehill. He has weapons and a better offensive line, and it's not as though he was an embarrassment before. Only 11 quarterbacks threw more TD passes. --Eric Karabell
Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: After redshirting as a rookie, Wheaton is slotted to take a significant share of the available work. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery take with them 113 receptions, 188 targets, 16 TDs and 1,342 yards from last year's passing game. Wheaton will have every chance to succeed in a receiver-friendly scheme. --Jim McCormick
|Berry||Russell Wilson||Reggie Bush||DeSean Jackson||Vernon Davis|
|Cockcroft||Nick Foles||Frank Gore||Wes Welker||Rob Gronkowski|
|Daube||Robert Griffin III||Montee Ball||Cordarrelle Patterson||Julius Thomas|
|Gramling||Cam Newton||Ryan Mathews||DeSean Jackson||Dennis Pitta|
|Harris||Nick Foles||Chris Johnson||Wes Welker||Martellus Bennett|
|Joyner||Peyton Manning||Doug Martin||Demaryius Thomas||Jordan Reed|
|Karabell||Nick Foles||Doug Martin||Percy Harvin||Kyle Rudolph|
|Kavanagh||Tony Romo||Zac Stacy||Vincent Jackson||Kyle Rudolph|
|Lipscomb||Cam Newton||Marshawn Lynch||DeSean Jackson||Vernon Davis|
|McCormick||Cam Newton||C.J. Spiller||Wes Welker||Kyle Rudolph|
|Quintong||Cam Newton||Zac Stacy||Randall Cobb||Rob Gronkowski|
|Williamson||Cam Newton||Doug Martin||Wes Welker||Jordan Cameron|
|Yates||Nick Foles||Ryan Mathews||Julian Edelman||Vernon Davis|
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos: One of the most dangerous ways to project a player's value is to assume a job is completely owned by someone without ever seeing that be the case. There are two major factors working against Ball that people aren't accounting for: John Fox's propensity to use a running-back-by-committee approach and, more important in my opinion, that Ball isn't as good in pass protection as Ronnie Hillman or C.J. Anderson. Before you think that you shouldn't worry about Hillman or Anderson stealing Ball's projected workload, remember how you felt about Knowshon Moreno last year. --Ken Daube
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers: It's not that I don't like Davis but rather think that scoring a TD every four times you touch the ball is hard to repeat. Once Michael Crabtree returned last season, Davis totaled just 19 catches in eight games, including the playoffs. Crabtree will be there from the beginning this season, along with new addition Stevie Johnson, so on a team that threw the fewest passes in the NFL in 2013, I'm concerned that Davis' fantasy value is tied to his touchdowns and that he will be too inconsistent on a weekly basis. I have him in the tier that includes Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta and Greg Olsen, but in every mock I've been in he's gone well before I would consider taking him. --Keith Lipscomb
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: The innovating, productive system in Philly remains, but it's simply illogical to expect Foles to keep his interception total so low again. Regression is inevitable. Don't expect total failure, but the wide receiver crew has question marks. Investing a top-50 pick is risky. --Eric Karabell
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: People are too eager to forget that, before getting hurt last season, Martin was disappointing statistically, hardly the top-five pick he was expected to be. The Buccaneers claim they plan to keep Martin's touches in check, and the offensive line could be a major problem. This is not a top-10 running back. --Eric Karabell
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Bernard displayed feature back capabilities in his rookie season -- in the mold of LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles as opposed to an old-school grinder -- and should get more touches this season, despite the presence of second-round pick Jeremy Hill. Bernard had 149 points on 226 touches last season, and eclipsing 200 points is not out of the question with an increased workload in 2014. --Tim Kavanagh
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Matthew Berry: Love, hate and a requiem
- Karabell: Week 13 flex rankings
- Matthew Berry's fantasy football top 200 for Week 13
- Harris: Week 13 fantasy matchup tool
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