The NFL Preseason has entered its final week and rosters around the league are starting to take shape. Teams are beginning to prepare for the regular season which begins on Thursday, September 4 when the defending champion Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers.
As the preseason comes to a close, fantasy football drafts around the world are taking place in order for leagues to be ready to begin when Week 1 arrives. Over the past couple weeks we've been posting our fantasy rankings, Top 20 NFL Fantasy Quarterbacks, Top 20 NFL Fantasy Running Backs, Top 20 NFL Fantasy Wide Receivers and Top 20 NFL Fantasy Tight Ends.
This week we'll shift our focus from the traditional rankings to some helpful hints that can help you get a leg up on the competition, starting with some of the top sleeper picks from around the league.
Toby Gerhart, Jaguars
After spending the first four years of his career as Adrian Peterson's backup in Minnesota, Gerhart signed with the Jaguars and will be their starting tailback when the season begins. Even though Gerhart is 27, he's got a lot less wear and tear than most running backs his age. He's only had 276 rushing attempts, averaging a solid 4.7 yards per carry, and is a good pass-catching option out of the backfield.
Bishop Sankey, Titans
Sankey was the first running back taken in the 2014 NFL Draft (54th overall) and has a good chance to make some noise as a rookie in Tennessee. With Chris Johnson out of the picture, Sankey's only competition for the starting job is Shonn Greene and it's no secret that Sankey is a better option both as a runner and as a receiver. The Titans have one of the better offensive lines in the AFC and Sankey will contribute as an above-average blocker as well.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts
The Indianapolis Colts had one of the more explosive offenses in the league last season despite having serious issues at running back. Former first round pick Trent Richardson had offseason shoulder surgery and Bradshaw had a serious neck injury cut his 2013 season short after just three games. It appears that the Colts are giving Richardson a shot as the opening day starter but that could change very quickly. Richardson has been mostly disappointing during his short career and Bradshaw had earned the starting job last year before being sidelined with his neck injury.
Khiry Robinson, Saints
Saints coach Sean Payton got a call from Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells towards the end of last season asking why he wasn't using rookie Khiry Robinson more often, saying he could have the next Curtis Martin on his hands. Payton responded by giving Robinson a bigger role during the Saints two playoff games, resulting in 21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown for the 24-year-old. Heading into 2014 Robinson could be in line for a much larger workload as he's a better runner than Pierre Thomas and a better pass-catcher than Mark Ingram.
Markus Wheaton, Steelers
It's looking more and more like Wheaton will be in the Steelers starting lineup opposite Antonio Brown when the season begins. Following the offseason departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh is looking for a big things out of the second-year receiver. Wheaton could be the next Steelers receiver (like Brown, Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and others) to do very little in their first year before going on to having a very successful career.
Justin Hunter, Titans
Another guy entering his sophomore year, Hunter was fairly inconsistent during his rookie season but made enough big plays (he had touchdowns of 34, 41 and 51 yards) to find himself on many people's fantasy radar. His main competition to start alongside Kendall Wright is veteran Nate Washington but Hunter's combination of size and speed (6-4, 203 with a 39-inch vertical jump) could see the Titans lean towards using him more often.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
There are only a few players in the league who are a threat to score every time they touch the ball and Cordarrelle Patterson is one of them. He scored nine touchdowns as a rookie despite getting just 57 touches from scrimmage; four receiving, three rushing and two as a returner, where he averaged over 30 yards per kick return and had his two touchdowns go for over 100-yards apiece. With Norv Turner now running the show in Minnesota, Patterson's role will certainly be increased and he could take a big step towards becoming the Vikings number one receiver.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
The Eagles offense was extremely explosive under Chip Kelly in 2013 despite Maclin being out after suffering a torn ACL. Now Maclin is healthy and comes into the upcoming season as the Eagles top wideout following the departure of DeSean Jackson. After missing all of last season, Maclin could get overlooked in fantasy drafts and be a great pickup much later than he probably should be.
Kendall Wright, Titans
Last season Kendall Wright emerged as a legitimate fantasy receiver, coming away with 94 receptions and 1,079 yards. He only scored two touchdowns but that can be partially attributed to his lack of rapport with Tennessee starting QB Jake Locker, who's played in just 18 of the Titans last 32 games. The two have had an entire offseason to build up their relationship and with Wright entering his third season in the league, a breakout year could be coming.
Zach Ertz, Eagles
While tight ends generally don't do much during their rookie seasons, Ertz came on strong towards the end of 2013. He scored four touchdowns in the Eagles final six games and seemed to gain the trust of quarterback Nick Foles in the red zone. Philadelphia still has Brent Celek in the mix but Ertz will likely get the majority of the tight end snaps, especially inside the 20.
Ladarius Green, Chargers
The heir apparent to Antonio Gates, Green has a huge upside and is playing for a team that knows how to maximize the efforts of a great tight end. Gates isn't getting any younger and Green showed last season that he can be just as dangerous as a pass-catcher. The Chargers have been giving Green plenty of looks with the starting offense during training camp and the preseason and will likely find ways to get both tight ends involved in the passing game this season.
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