Every year we overlook a player in fantasy football and it comes back to bite us. Either that, or injury gives way to a backup that comes out of nowhere to crush it.
Nick Foles was a good example in 2013, as he started the season as Michael Vick’s top backup with the Philadelphia Eagles and ended up tearing the league up with 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
You had to get Foles off the waiver wire or via a trade last year, because he went largely undrafted in most leagues. That’s understandable, however, since he wasn’t the projected starter. And even if he had been, he was a fairly unproven commodity and would have carried significant risk.
Clearly… he would have been a risk worth taking. So, are there any gems that are sliding out of drafts this year that we should start paying attention to? Absolutely there are. Here are five guys with the role or upside to shock us all during fantasy football 2014:
1. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Bradford has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career and hasn’t been able to do enough to get his Rams above .500. Those two things are true. However, he’s also had a pretty shaky offensive line, hasn’t always had the best weapons and also has a team that constantly changes offensive systems.
The good news is Bradford is healthy again and does finally have a pretty solid stable of offensive weapons. Considering he was on pace to put up career numbers across the board before going down last year, he’s probably one of the more underrated fantasy quarterbacks heading into 2014.
2. Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
Rashad Jennings has one good half-season to his name and it happened last year with the Raiders. In fact, it happened against mostly weak competition when the Raiders’ season was already in the bag. Now he’s in New York and suddenly going to be a fantasy stud at age 29?
It’s doubtful. It’s also doubtful that David Wilson (neck injury and fumbles) erupts into the fantasy demon we all hoped he’d be a year ago. He still hasn’t even been medically cleared for contact. That could open the door for the rookie Williams, who doesn’t have the best hands but is a solid, athletic rusher. He’s going undrafted right now in most leagues, but he has enough talent to be monitored and/or stashed.
3. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
Last year Montee Ball was a huge rookie sleeper. He was drafted in the third or fourth round of many fantasy football drafts as he was expected to be a legit RB2 in Denver’s potent offense. Instead, he was a supplementary part and the Broncos turned Knowshon Moreno into a top-five producer.
Naturally, Ball is being looked at as that potential stud again — and this time it might actually work out. Even if it does, whoever is behind him could take over his old role and provide solid Flex value in random weeks throughout the 2014 season.
But what if Ball catches the ‘fumble bug’ again? Or gets hurt? That could vault someone like Hillman into a nice position and give him immediate fantasy value. That’s what stashing is all about sometimes, and Hillman still can’t be written off in the competition with C.J. Anderson to be Ball’s top handcuff. If he wins that backup job, that alone makes him worth drafting. If Ball doesn’t work out, Hillman could be one of the biggest acquisitions of the year.
4. Andre Holmes, WR, Oakland Raiders
Holmes is a very interesting case, as he quietly put up 431 yards down the stretch for the Raiders last year, while also sporting a gaudy 17.2 yards per catch average. A big target with nice wheels, Holmes has the physical ability to turn into quite the force, especially if his role within the offense grows and the quarterback play in Oakland improves.
He’s said to be ahead of Denarius Moore and could challenge Rod Streaker for snap count. In fact, James Jones is the team’s top receiver and he’s already is nicked up before training camp. Holmes may not blast off right out of the gates, but in a muddied receiving corps, he’s a talented player with some upside. He’s worth stashing in deeper leagues.
5. Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt says Walker reminds him of Antonio Gates, and Walker thinks he can catch 80+ balls this year. I think both Walker and Whisenhunt are crazy, but their outlandish claims should still have the production meeting somewhere in the middle.
After all, Walker did haul in career-year production in his first year as a starter in 2013, which was good for 12th place among fantasy tight ends. That’s too good to have him going undrafted. Walker is not dynamic, but he’s solid security.