The NFL offseason may be the least exciting time of the year for some fans, but for football enthusiasts (like myself), the offseason is full of excitement, surprises and decisions that make you question your football knowledge. That being said, there are always prospects that everyone thinks will have a major impact but fail (remember Matt Leinart?) and players that are taken late but have a major impact their rookie season (that Russell Wilson guy is pretty good). Leading into the NFL draft, which is only a month away, there are many rookies that look like they can have a major impact not only on whatever NFL team they are drafted for, but for your fantasy football team as well. Deciding which rookies to select during your fantasy draft in August is always a difficult decision. Will they have rookie years like Trent Richardson and Doug Martin? Or will they put up numbers like Darius Heyward-Bey, who has failed to reach his potential ever since he was drafted 7th overall in 2009? Today we will look at 5 incoming rookie sleepers that should be successful on your fantasy football team, no matter which team selects them on May 8th through the 10th. Note: I'm going for sleepers, not the guys like Sammy Watkins who we all believe will have a major impact.
1. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State - A lot of different draft experts have a different opinion on this kid. Some believe that he is 1st round talent, others believe he will fall into the 2nd round. His numbers at the combine weren't phenomenal, only putting up an official time of 4.61, but for this 6-5 wide out, who cares? To me, whenever I watched this kid play for the Seminoles, I thought mismatch every time he lined up. If you split him out wide, he is more physical than almost any corner he will face. Line him up in the slot, I'd love to find a linebacker or nickel back that could beat him. Why is his ability to create a mismatch so important? Because all fantasy football owners love WRs that are Red Zone targets and score TOUCHDOWNS. Benjamin is that guy, scoring 15 touchdowns last year for the national champions (including the game winner over Auburn). Depending on where he gets drafted in May is key to where you should draft him, but if he gets drafted by a team like Atlanta where he can fill in for Tony Gonzalez, or in New Orleans where Drew Brees loves to throw the ball, he can bring plenty of value to the table as a mid to late round pick with a lot of potential value.
2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon - The Black Mamba is one of the more difficult players to judge in this year's NFL Draft. Why? Because he is 5-9 and 176 lbs. He cannot play the role of a traditional RB and there isn't a team out there that runs Oregon's offense that allows him to become a big factor in the outside zone game. Then why is he on the list? Because he ran a 4.39 40 at his pro day and you cannot teach speed. If you have watched Oregon play (all you East Coast guys may have missed out) then you know what kind of play making skills he has. Get the ball in his hands and watch out, this kid can fly. I compare him to Darren Sproles, a receiving RB that can be used to stretch the field in the run game and make plays in the pass game. Even better, he most likely will be used as a KR as well, so that brings value to him in fantasy football. No matter if he gets drafted in the 3rd round or falls to the 6th round in May, Thomas is a guy that you should have on your radar come your draft day in August, because he has big time potential for big time numbers if he lands on the right team.
3. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State - Derek Carr, the gunslinger from Fresno State, is a very intriguing prospect, as no one is quite sure where he is going to land come May. And by May 9th, we most likely will know whether or not he will be competing for a starting spot in training camp. While most fans are worried about his last name, don't worry, he's not his brother. For now, let's just say he is a starter next year. Why do I think his game transitions well to the NFL? Because he is used to throwing the ball around 45 times a game (or in the season opening comeback win against Rutgers, where he threw it 73 times), and knows how to find the open guy that can score. Last season, he put the ball in the endzone 50 times, and even though that was against Mountain West competition, that is still a heck of a season for a QB that only played 14 games. While I'm not saying that he will score 50 touchdowns this year, because let's be realistic, his coach will probably put a leash on him early on, he can still be a solid backup quarterback in a fantasy league where you can start 2 QBs. With his ability to make the right read and deliver the ball where he wants, don't be afraid to snag him up with your pick in the last two rounds of the draft come August.
4. Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State - Most likely your guys' first question is, who? Though he's not a very well known TE right now, Gillmore is projected to be a mid-round pick who will be brought in to be a blocking TE for the team that drafts him. He is no Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, TEs that we know will come in and have a major impact in fantasy football, but I'm looking for sleepers here! Gilmore is probably the riskiest guy I will put on this list, as his numbers don't show up as dominant numbers or TE1 numbers in fantasy football, but he also played for a team with a RB that scored 31 times. The Senior Bowl is where Gilmore really stood out against other top seniors in the country. In the Senior Bowl, Gilmore caught 5 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. If you play in a PPR league, that's 17 points, not a bad day from your TE. Now I'm not saying to draft him, as there will be other TEs in the NFL that will have much better numbers, but I'm saying keep an eye out for this guy and if he puts up some good numbers early on, snag him up as a TE2 if one if your guys goes down to injury.
5. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona - My first question when looking at the draft "experts" list of RBs is, how is this guy not ranked higher? Well, he doesn't have killer speed, only running a 4.7 40 at the combine, but if you watch him play, he produces. To me, production matters the most. Last year he ran for 1885 yards and 19 touchdowns, which was actually worse than the year prior when he ran for 1929 yards and 23 touchdowns. Fantasy football owners love a guy that can score, and this guy has a nose for the endzone. The only thing that would cause me to worry about a guy like Carey when it comes to drafting him in August is where he ends up. If he is buried on the depth chart then I'll pass on him. But if he is a #2 guy on a team's depth chart, he might be worth a look in a 10 or 12 man league with a late round pick. My suggestion on Carey, keep your eye on him in May and if he is in the right situation, don't be afraid to snag him up late in your draft.