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Lopez: Ten NFL Sleepers That Could Make Your Fantasy Season

By John P. Lopez
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Every year, it happens: Why didn’t I draft THAT guy?!

Well, here are a few players who just may become that guy for your fantasy football team. Keep in mind, none should be drafted in the first-round. But with a little knowledge and good planning, taking the following ten players ahead of where most “cheat sheets” and draft lists have them rated just may prove to be the difference for your fantasy football hopes.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams

The Rams may not be considered among the elite, but Bradford has a million-and-one reasons to be on the verge of a breakout year. The millions: It’s a contract year. It never fails, players in a contract year somehow dig deep and come up with big numbers. The other reason? With Steven Jackson gone, the Rams have switched to a much more wide-open spread offense, and in receivers Tavon Austin and Chris Givens, he has legit targets.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

So long as Tom Brady stays healthy, which could be iffy this year given he’s already taken a scary shot on his left knee, his favorite target out of the backfield will get great numbers. With Danny Woodhead gone, Vereen may well follow-up a decent year (76-carries, 40-receptions) with some head-turning numbers. And with tight end shaky in lieu of Aaron Hernadez’ absence, Red Zone touches will be available.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

He’s been largely a disappointment for two seasons, but the third year in a running back’s career often is when the light goes off. And with Sean Payton back coaching, Ingram could find stability and more production. He averaged just 3.9-yards a carry, but it seems Ingram enters a season 100-percent healthy for the first time as a pro.

Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers

Rivers easily is the most under-valued quarterback in fantasy football – largely because his team consistently has under-achieved. But what do fantasy coaches care about that? His numbers still figure to be there – especially with a new offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and a fresh start.

Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Percy Harvin’s season-ending surgery prior to training camp was a devastating blow. But someone’s going to be on the receive end of so many targets that figure to come out of a wide-open and explosive Seahawks offense. Every indication is that Tate has had a huge camp thus far and has become one of quarterback Russell Wilson’s favorite targets.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars

The Jaguars are horrible at quarterback. Just horrible. But they will be behind in a lot of games and have to throw the ball. And last year when the ball did go up and find a Jaguars’ receivers hands, it was Shorts who often made the biggest plays. Don’t worry about how many games the Jags will lose, because it will be a lot. Shorts scores fantasy points. Simple as that.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Cardinals

Mendenhall proved to be a huge disappointment in 2012, but was coming off ACL surgery. He also was miscast, never finding his role. Now, he has been reunited with Bruce Arians, who as Steelers offensive coordinator utilized Mendenhall nicely to the tune of an average of 1,100-yards and 10-TDs. He’s having a good camp and will be the featured back in an offense that loves pounding it in the Red Zone.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins

Don’t sweat the uneven preseason Tannehill has had thus far. He’s a second-year player with a world of ability and thus far in the preseason, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who coached Tannehill at Texas A&M, has been stretching the playbook, giving Tannehill several different sets, checks and tests. Sherman knows how far his quarterback has come and is confident his 2012 numbers of 3,294-yards and 12 TDs will improve drastically.

Deandre Hopkins, WR, Texans

The Texans have been dreaming of having a player like Hopkins to complement Andre Johnson, stretch the field and give quarterback Matt Schaub a legitimate bail-out in the Red Zone for jump-balls and 50-50 back-shoulder throws. They’ve finally got it right. Hopkins’ terrific preseason has been no fluke. He will become a big-play and Red Zone threat, without question.

Kenny Britt, WR, Titans

Britt might be a character issue and that’s always a concern. Another concern: He’s tore his ACL in 2011 and never was 100-percent in 2012. Still, when healthy he has been a game-breaker and big-play machine with the ability to be an upper-echelon receiver in the league. This also is a contract for Britt, Jake Locker has shown signs of improvement and Britt has had a fantastic preseason.

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