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On draft day, don't sleep on underrated fantasy football players like the Falcons' Matt Ryan.
It's fantasy football time, which means millions of fans will be drafting their teams over the next few weeks. Here's a look at 15 sleeper picks that could mean the difference between winning or losing your league this season.
These guys are fringe big names, so don’t sleep on them for too long.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
With Roddy White and Julio Jones — and, to a lesser extent, Tony Gonzalez — as playmaking targets, Ryan may vault into fantasy football’s elite echelon this season. “Matty Ice” could be Tom Brady Lite at a much cheaper price.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
It’s put up or shut up time for the triple-threat who was the No. 9 overall pick in 2010. Fans in Buffalo (and Toronto?) think the light has finally come on for the former Clemson superstar.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers
With a sluggish start to his career in the rearview mirror, Benson has produced three consecutive 1,000-yard, six-TD seasons, all with the Bengals. Now the 29-year-old back joins one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens
A second-year deep threat coming off a 50-catch, 841-yard (16.8 ypc), seven-TD rookie campaign, Smith has tremendous upside and should be snatched up after the big dog receivers are gone.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
The 12th-year pass-catcher turns 34 in November and is coming off his worst season since 2003. But in his seven previous seasons, Wayne averaged 92 catches for 1,264 yards and eight TDs. He could bounce back to that norm with Andrew Luck at quarterback.
In standard 12-team leagues, these guys will likely fall for a while.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers
The young Bucs added 6’5” wideout Vincent Jackson as well as veteran tight end Dallas Clark this offseason. And remember (because most drafters have already forgotten), Freeman threw for 3,400 yards, 25 TDs and just six INTs in 2010.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
Many are scared off by the Saints’ loaded backfield. But, if healthy, the former Heisman Trophy winner brings a skill set unmatched by anyone else in New Orleans.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions
After suffering a torn left Achilles in August 2011, Leshoure missed his entire rookie season. With Jahvid Best on the PUP list, Leshoure has an opportunity to become Motown’s feature back.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Denver’s Eric Decker could be a poor man’s Wes Welker this year. But Thomas has huge play ability — which he showed with a combined 10 catches for 297-yards and a TD in two playoff games.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins
Robert Griffin III’s go-to guy will likely be Garcon, who signed a five-year, $42.5 million deal this offseason. If RG3 plays as well as expected, Garcon will post a career year statistically.
DEEP LEAGUE, DEEP SLEEPERS
Flying well below the radar, these guys are worth a late-round flyer.
Jake Locker, QB, Titans
The second-year dual-threat gunslinger is battling Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job in Tennessee. When (not if) Locker takes over the Titans, make sure he’s on your roster.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
Quizz’s size (5’6”, 196) has always been a drawback. But he’s cat quick, more powerful than given credit for and a blur with the ball in open spaces.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Fumble-itis could derail Cobb. But there’s enough upside for the receiver-returner who has a chance to line up just about anywhere on the field for the potent Packers.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants
An athletic freak at 6’6” and 265 pounds, Bennett never lived up to his potential during four seasons in Dallas. But the former basketball player has a chance to break out and dunk over a few goal posts in New York.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
Christian Ponder may not be able to get the ball downfield vertically. But he will be able to go down the middle to his safety net Rudolph.
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