The stars will remain covered as the NFL season draws ever nearer. So who are some sleepers for fans to ponder in 2014?
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Houston Texans
It’s hard to remember given the seasons that have passed, but there was a stretch of time when Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick was viewed as a franchise-caliber quarterback in Buffalo. Unfortunately things didn’t play out as hoped and he’s spent the past couple years since as a journeyman backup. However, having landed on a Houston Texans roster bereft of any clear-cut starters, the 31-year old may have one more chance to command the huddle. He will learn under a proven offensive coach in Bill O’Brien and be surrounded by a strong cast of talent. If there is one or two more good years left in that body, it should show in 2014.
Khiry Robinson – New Orleans Saints
The NFL has always been about being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of opportunities. Once considered a nondescript undrafted free agent out of small West Texas A&M, Khiry Robinson emerged late in 2013 for the New Orleans Saints. Despite playing primarily as a reserve, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry and became their most productive runner in the playoffs. With Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory gone, Pierre Thomas aging and Mark Ingram failing to live up to expectations, Robinson has a great chance to become more than just a backup.
Rueben Randle – New York Giants
Victor Cruz asked his team for more help at wide receiver and he got his wish when the New York Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in the 1st round. However, Cruz isn’t the only player who could benefit from the rookie’s presence on the field. Fans and experts have been quick to denounce receiver Rueben Randle in spite of only playing two years and actually posting 611 yards and six touchdowns last season, which aren’t bad number. Still only 23-years old, he has room to grow and mature. With Eli Manning returning healthy and hopefully with better pass protection, the third-year receiver might be the one who flips the switch for the G-Men.
Lamarr Houston – Chicago Bears
Some believe a player who posted only six sacks last season wasn’t worth the deal the Chicago Bears gave Lamarr Houston. It’s true the 26-year old isn’t known for dropping quarterbacks at this point, but that’s not entirely his fault. It’s important to keep in context that Houston has played his entire career for some pretty bad Oakland Raiders teams, never having much help on the defensive line. For the first time in his career Houston will get a chance to rush with a proven star across from him in All-Pro Jared Allen. This could be the breakthrough he’s been aiming for and the Bears are hoping for.
Brandon Browner – New England Patriots
All the talk around camp of late has been pretty much Darrelle Revis 24/7 for the New England Patriots. That’s understandable considering the reputation. However, it’s important to remember Revis wasn’t the only corner the Pats scooped up in free agency. There was also former Seahawks Brandon Browner, a tall, physical former Pro Bowler who is a natural in press coverage and could be the one primarily targeted by offenses due to the presence of Revis on the opposite side. That could lead to some head-turning numbers for Browner if he plays up to his accustomed level and is just more good NFL news for New England.