As Fantasy Football Draft Season heats up and enters full stride, RotoBaller will be bringing all sorts of high quality sleepers to target in your drafts. These are a couple of high-profile 2013 free agent signings who turned out to be disappointments last year but could be big time fantasy football sleepers in 2014.
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Fantasy owners who took Jackson last year as a borderline 1st round pick thought they were poised for a playoff spot in their league when the season started, but then after scoring his first TD in Week 2 (ironically against his old team the Rams), Jackson promptly went on the shelf for five weeks with an injury. The Falcons offensive line was atrocious last year, but Jackson did show signs of what a full, healthy season could look like for the RB, putting up double-digit fantasy performances in four out of the last six weeks and going over 20 points in Week 13 against the Bills.
Jackson is over the 30-year-old mark and with some competition he may not reach 1,000 yards, but in a pass-happy offense he could be a red zone monster like the Burner Michael Turner. Turner had over 10 TDs every year with the Falcons, and they basically still have the same scheme. We all know that Jackson is a much better pass catcher out of the backfield, so that only adds to his value, especially in PPR leagues. The Falcons have upgraded their offensive line and claim to have a more balanced attack this year. We have Jackson ranked at #25 on the RB board, because of his age, injury issues last year and his low 3.5 YPC, but there's a chance he will end up with RB1 TD totals if he can stay healthy.
The Falcons schedule should allow them to bounce back offensively from last season, and with a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones, I can see Jackson finding a lot of running lanes. Look for him to have between 800-1000 yards and 8-12 TDs. I have seen him drafted between the seventh and ninth round in mocks, which represents great value considering he could finish in the top 15 RB.
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Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
He was supposed to be Wes Welker 2.0, but and what fantasy owners got was a bench player they overpaid for. There is no doubt that Amendola has had trouble staying healthy and on the field, and that risk is still there. Nevertheless, we have him ranked #48 among wide receivers, and ESPN has him as the 95th overall player, and at that point there is some marked sleeper potential. I doubt that he even gets drafted at that slot, though. In most of my mocks to this point, he has been there in the 13th through the final round, going undrafted in some leagues.
Amendola showed flashes of fantasy relevance last year, posting three games with over 100 yards and double-digit fantasy points. His counterpart Julian Eldeman is ranked 22nd at the position here at RotoBaller and as the 61st overall player on ESPN. Now that Gronk is back and will be stretching the field for New England, I can see Edelman and Amendola having big years like New England had expected when they signed Amendola a year ago. The Pats schedule a is cakewalk for their WR corps after a few tough early games, and their offense should have no problem returning to form as long as Gronk can stay on the field. Amendola could end up with 75-100 catches and 5-10 TDs-- that late in the draft, I think the risk is well worth the reward.