Entering the first week of NFL action, fantasy owners are usually reluctant to immediately make roster moves reticent to make roster moves after doing tons of draft prep on the guys they ended up drafting. But no matter how much research you do, NFL teams can still change up rosters and depth charts enough to ruin your fantasy players’ values or improve the value of some free agents.
Each week, we’ll share 8-12 players we think are worth a look in standard fantasy football leagues based on performance and upcoming matchups. Each of these players listed are owned in fewer than 30 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Geno Smith, New York Jets (Owned in 17 percent of CBSSports leagues, 6.7 percent of ESPN leagues and nine percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- It’s easy to write Smith off in fantasy leagues, because we haven't seen much fantasy value come out of this team in a few years. Three Jets were drafted in most formats -- RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory, and WR Eric Decker. For the two years before that, we only saw the starting running backs and Santonio Holmes get drafted in most formats.
However the Jets’ sophomore is worth a look in deep leagues, because he has an above-average wide receiver in Decker, a very good pass-catching back in Chris Johnson and he has the ability to get 40-50 rushing yards per game, like he did in each of the final four games last season (with three rushing touchdowns). If he shows any kind of consistency, he could be a worthy QB2 this season.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos(30 percent, 3.4 percent and 15 percent) -- Hillman was hampered by injuries in his rookie season before finally getting a shot, but he blew it by not being able to protect Peyton Manning. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball last season to be their new starter, pushing Hillman down the depth chart; but now that Knowshon Moreno is gone, Hillman looks to be the starter if Ball falters or gets injured. A speedy pass-catching running back who has been in this offense for three years sounds like an investment as a sleeper.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons(20 percent, 6.7 percent and 9 percent) -- With Steven Jackson’s hamstring healed, the Falcons running game looks to be intact for now. And while we love rookie Devonta Freeman, as do many others, considering his higher ownership percentages, the Falcons appear more intent on using a committee, led by Rodgers, if Jackson is hurt again.
James White, New England Patriots(15 percent, 3.1 percent and 17 percent) -- Despite the fact that White underwhelmed this preseason, the Patriots will likely go to the rookie out of Wisconsin at some point. Both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are in the final years of their contracts, and the Patriots will want to determine if White could be a starter next season. He’s an all-around back with ability to go between or around the tackles, and he had just two fumbles in 754 career touches in college.
Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots(28 percent, 9.4 percent, 25 percent) -- The second-year receiver had surgery on his foot in March, which slowed down his preseason progress and kept his ADP low. But he played in the team’s preseason finale, and he’s expected to start alongside Julian Edelman in Tom Brady’s offense. He might need a week or two to get into midseason shape, but his ceiling is quite high.
Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos(Nine percent, 2.8 percent, eight percent) -- The rookie out of Indiana will likely join Emmanuel Sanders in replacing Eric Decker. Latimer has good size (6-foot-2) and Sanders has speed to spare. Wes Welker is dealing with another concussion, and he's in the final year of his Broncos contract. Reports say that Latimer will be used in red-zone packages in the early part of the season.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals(Eight percent, 2.6 percent, six percent) -- Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has already compared Brown to Anquan Boldin, and the speedster seems to have overtaken Ted Ginn Jr. as the third wide receiver in Carson Palmer’s offense. Head coach Bruce Arians told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that the rookie could play in about 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. It’s tough to consider him anything more than a WR4/5 at this stage, but his ownership percentages should be in double digits, considering how many deep-rostered leagues there are.
2014 Fantasy Football Sleepers Vol. 3
Dan Herron - RB, Indianapolis Colts
Herron is a name for fantasy owners to stash away, as he probably won’t get drafted in standard leagues. However, if Trent Richardson continues to struggle, then eventually Herron will get a chance for significant carries. Ahmad Bradshaw can’t carry the load by himself.
Lance Dunbar - RB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys expect Dunbar to play a large roll in the passing game despite the presence of DeMarco Murray. His skillset would translate to a nice fantasy player if Murray gets injured at any point. Dunbar is a nice bench option in standard leagues.
Isaiah Crowell - RB, Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate isn’t exactly a sure thing in his first season as a starter and rookie Terrance West has failed to impress. Crowell could step in and emerge as fantasy option if Tate gets injured or underperforms. Crowell, an undrafted free agent, was a five-star recruit before off-the field issues derailed his college career.
Ronnie Hillman - RB, Denver Broncos
Last year Knowshon Moreno proved that any running back playing with Peyton Manning has RB1 potential. If Montee Ball struggles at any point, Hillman is the next man up.
Roy Helu - RB, Washington Redskins
The Redskins have a new coaching regime and we’re not 100 percent sure how the workload will be distributed. Helu is talented enough to steal touches from Alfred Morris if Jay Gruden decides to switch things up.
James White - RB, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick likes to scare fantasy owners with a rotation of running backs. Ask anyone who has ever owned Stevan Ridley how frustrating this could be. White is talented enough to make an impact at some point if Belichick decides to give him a shot.
Matt Asiata - RB, Minnesota Vikings
Obviously, Asiata isn’t going to help a fantasy owner unless Adrian Peterson gets injured. But if he gets a chance at regular carries, the Utah product is capable of producing in Norv Turner’s offense.
Mike Williams - WR, Buffalo Bills
Williams always seems to be an afterthought and this season is no different. He’s a red-zone threat who earned a starting gig with a nice preseason. It’s too bad E.J. Manuel is the guy throwing him passes, because he’s severely underrated as a fantasy asset.
Allen Hurns - WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The undrafted free agent out of Miami had a terrific preseason and showed nice chemistry with rookie QB Blake Bortles. With limited talent on the Jacksonville depth chart, Hurns has a legitimate chance to make help fantasy owners happy.
Cody Latimer - WR, Denver Broncos
A new toy for Peyton Manning will always has value and Latimer is talented enough to emerge in his rookie campaign. The rookie from Indiana will be a hot waiver-wire addition if he scores a TD on opening weekend.
John Brown - WR, Arizona Cardinals
The third-round rookie from Pittsburg State has caught the attention of Bruce Arians and is expected to be a significant part of the offense. His style mirrors T.Y. Hilton, who shined as a rookie under Arians.
Kenny Britt - WR, St. Louis Rams
Britt appeared to be the league’s next dominant receiver before injuries derailed his career. He’s apparently healthy and could lead the Rams in targets if he manages to stay on the field.
Eric Decker - WR, New York Jets
The veteran receiver is being overlooked, and for good reason, because he’s no longer catching passes from Peyton Manning. However, Decker will get a ton of targets for the Jets and is a nice value at his current average draft position.
Danny Amendola - WR, New England Patriots
The fragile receiver entered last season as a trendy fantasy option in the high-powered Patriots offense. This season, he’s an afterthought and could easily step up.
Harry Douglas - WR, Atlanta Falcons
Douglas showed last season that he can produce WR3 Fantasy number after Julio Jones went down with an injury. Douglas returns to being Matt Ryan’s third option with Jones and Roddy White back at full strength, but he could see ample targets with Tony Gonzalez retired.
Stedman Bailey - WR, St. Louis Rams
Bailey is suspended for the Ram’s first four games because of a failed PED test. However, he has a legitimate shot of emerging as the best receiver on the team as the season progresses.
Ryan Tannehill - QB, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill enters 2014 with a new offense under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and should improve from a fantasy standpoint. He has the tools and weapons to be a steady bye-week replacement if things break right for the third-year starter.
Carson Palmer - QB, Arizona Cardinals
Looking for a QB to plug in during bye weeks? Palmer could be your man in his second season of Bruce Arian’s high-powered vertical attack.
Derek Carr - QB, Oakland Raiders
Don’t rely on Carr in the early weeks of the season, but he’s a player to keep an eye on in deeper formats. The Raiders should be trailing in a lot of games and they have an offense that could lead to cheap production for the rookie QB.
Tim Wright - TE, New England Patriots
The Patriots acquired Wright during the preseason and it appears he could eventually play an Aaron Hernandez-like role. Tom Brady has proven that he loves throwing to his tight ends in the red zone. Wright caught 54 balls as a rookie in Tampa Bay last season and the sky is the limit… if he learns the Patriots’ offense.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins - TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The second-round rookie from Washington is 6-foot-6 and scored 21 TDs over 38 games in college. With Tim Wright out of town, Seferian-Jenkins could emerge as a fantasy weapon if he’s the athletic freak people think he is.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs(30 percent, 7.1 percent, 20 percent) -- Standing at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, with the speed and moves of a much smaller man, Kelce looks to become one of Alex Smith’s favorite targets now that he’s recovered from last year’s knee injury. The Chiefs have very few passing options, especially with Dwayne Bowe suspended for Week 1. If you have a mandatory roster requirement to take two tight ends, Kelce is a solid choice -- and he could break out with above average playmaking skills.
Nate Freese, Detroit Lions(28 percent, 3.5 percent, five percent) -- The rookie will kick for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, with 10 games played inside a dome this season. The Lions went from 36 field-goal attempts (sixth in the NFL) to 24 FGA last season (31st), but that number should buoy back up again in 2014.
Detroit Lions(24 percent, 5.1 percent, 33 percent) -- The Lions defense is under new management, and they have an excellent front seven. Their secondary was brutal last season, but their new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, is a defensive backs coach in the NFL from 2003-2009 before he became a DC for other teams. With games against the Giants, Panthers, Jets and Bills in the first five games (the Packers, too), the Lions defense has one of the strongest schedules.