As a brand new NFL season draws nearer, we all know guys like Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson, and Aaron Rodgers will have great years, baring injuries. There is only so much top level to go around though. Here are a few under the radar candidates for break out seasons.
Mohamed Sanu– He missed a lot of time due to injuries during the first four years of his career in Cincinnati, but when healthy, his versatility is appealing. A wide receiver by position, Sanu can do a little bit of everything. He can run the ball on options, reverses and end arounds. He even lined up at quarterback on occasion for the Bengals. With Roddy White out of the picture, the Falcons were in desperate need of another pass catching target to take the heat off of Julio Jones. The five-year $32.5 million deal they locked up Sanu with in free agency is a risk given his injury history, but he is more than capable of filling the so-called “Robin” role.
Jameis Winston– I know he is not up for any good citizen awards, but I am stunned by the lack of praise the former Florida State standout received for his rookie season. He threw for over 4,000 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. For a rookie who started all 16 games for a team that was 2-14 before he got there, those numbers are really impressive. Winston led the Bucs to a record of just 5-11. They lost five games by just a single possession. Another year of experience for Winston and the law of averages tells me that those games could go the other way in 2016. The offense is already loaded with talent like Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Evans. The defense is the only thing that may keep the Bucs from the playoffs this year. Regardless, I expect a noticeably slimmer Winston to rise towards the NFL’s elite.
C.J. Anderson– The man crush I developed on this guy as his powerful runs were leading the Broncos in their late-season surge last year boarders on unhealthy. I just love the way he runs into defenders rather than around them. Two 100+ rushing yard performances against New England last year sealed the deal for me. You can relive his game-winning scamper in week 12 against the Pats on the NFL’s YouTube channel above. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. With Peyton Manning gone, the shotgun and pistol will likely become a thing of the past in Denver. This will only help Anderson run the ball downhill more effectively. If not forced to split too many carries with Ronnie Hillman and rookie Devontae Booker, I think he has a real shot to lead in the league in rushing.
Clive Walford– Here is my very deep fantasy draft sleeper. The Raiders tight end only caught 33 balls in an injury plagued rookie season. However, there were enough flashes of size, speed, and raw athleticism to catch my attention. If this guy pops like I think he is going to, the Raiders talented offense will have another talented piece for Derek Carr to throw to. You can see Walford’s glimpses of brilliance below thanks to Pablo Productions on YouTube.
A final word in closing. There are several defensive players out there that are fantastic and primed for great years. Defensive players do not get the publicity for one simple reason. In most cases, you cannot put them on your fantasy team. I am fortunate enough to draft individual defensive players in all the leagues I am in. Just remember, defenders are people too.