The draft is complete and next on the agenda for fans is the NFL fantasy leagues. Who are some sleepers to keep watch on as the season approaches?
Brandin Cooks – WR – New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints needed a replacement for Darren Sproles and so they went out right away and got one in the NFL draft. Brandin Cooks has that same speed, shiftiness and versatility to make plays in space. The bonus is he’s also three inches taller. Sean Payton should find a myriad of matchups to create for the rookie from day one. If Cooks plays like he did at Oregon State, he’ll make fantasy owners very happy.
Montee Ball – RB – Denver Broncos
Knowshon Moreno is gone and Ronnie Hillman is no threat in competition. Basically it is now the Montee Ball show at running back for the Denver Broncos. The second-year man earned his spurs last season in limited fashion and he has the skill set to become a three-down player who can balance the offense for Peyton Manning. His knack for cashing in at the goal line should also give a healthy boost to his NFL fantasy stock.
E.J. Manuel – QB – Buffalo Bills
Of all the 2013 quarterbacks who could make a jump in 2014, none has a better chance than Buffalo Bills starter E.J. Manuel. The addition of Sammy Watkins at receiver to join Robert Woods should give him firepower on the outside while the additions of Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson could potentially turn the Bills into a dominant running team, which in turn will keep Manuel protected. Add in his impressive athleticism and the young man is poised for big things this season.
C.J. Fiedorowicz – TE – Houston Texans
Bill O’Brien loves to use tight ends in his offense. One of the best he ever coached was in 2010 when he sent rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to the Pro Bowl. With the Houston Texans he now has Garrett Graham but also got a potential steal in the draft with C.J. Fiedorowicz. The Iowa standout is best known for his blocking at the moment but scouts could clearly see he has the ability to get open down the field and make tough catches. If O’Brien can get the quarterback situation settled, Fiedorowicz has the size and athleticism to become a surprise producer.
Jeremiah Attaochu – OLB – San Diego Chargers
The only defender on this list, Jeremiah Attaochu was a late riser in many draft circles and for good reason. The Georgia Tech outside linebacker is a really good football player. He is one of those guys with athletic talent and a gritty disposition. He plays with an edge and high motor. Opponents dislike him and that only fuels his fire. The San Diego Chargers were wise to trade up for him and if he plays right away he’ll reward that faith by becoming a surprise pass rush threat for them.
Marquess Wilson – WR – Chicago Bears
A 7th round pick in 2013, Marquess Wilson really did draw much notice through most of the seasons save for some interest from draft experts who felt his raw talent was of a 1st or 2nd round grade if not for his falling out at Washington State. Wilson began to show flashes of what he could do late in the season including a big catch against Green Bay in the finale. After a year working with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, he could be yet another breakout star for the Chicago Bears offense.
Devonta Freeman – RB – Atlanta Falcons
This may have been one of the quietest steal of the draft and a potential NFL fantasy boom. Devonta Freeman was one of the key players to carry the Florida State offense on their run to the national title. Short as he may be, he has the toughness, strength, balance and vision of a three-down back plus the versatility to catch passes and block blitzers. He goes into a offense that loves to run the ball with a quarterback in Matt Ryan who will feed him. Freeman will have to supplant veteran Stephen Jackson, but that might not be hard after the year he had in 2013.