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Staff Picks: Sleepers & Busts - With Video

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.


Chris Liss

SLEEPER Alex Smith
QB - Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid is a quarterback guru, getting good production out of a 36-year-old Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb (who fetched a former Pro Bowl cornerback and a second-round pick in trade) and even A.J. Feeley for a couple games. He resurrected Mike Vick's career as a passer and got Donovan McNabb to excel from the pocket for more than half a decade. Now he has Smith who was already competent in San Francisco and whose short and intermediate accuracy, above-average running ability and sound decision making fit both the West Coast offense and the Pistol, the formation Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick ran last year and that was popularized by new Chiefs adviser Chris Ault when he was head coach at the University of Nevada. Smith should pick up extra rushing yards in that formation (and maybe a few scores as well) while improving his passing numbers in a more pass-friendly offense than the one he ran in San Francisco.

SLEEPER Josh Gordon
WR - Cleveland Browns

Gordon profiles as your typical modern-day No. 1 with excellent size, good speed and strong per-play numbers (15.6 YPC, 8.5 YPT) as a rookie. A two-game suspension should reduce his cost, but from Weeks 3-17, he has the upside to be a top-10 receiver if Brandon Weeden improves in Year 2.

BUST Arian Foster
RB - Houston Texans

When Foster broke out in 2010, he averaged 4.9 YPC and caught 66 balls for 604 yards. Last year, he averaged 4.1 YPC and caught 40 balls for just 217 yards. He's also dealing with an irregular heartbeat, a condition of which he's been aware since age 12 and that flared up last last season. Foster is a fluid and versatile runner that fits the Texans system to a tee, but he's not a back like Adrian Peterson who can transcend his environment, so his upside is only as high as Houston's line (which declined in effectiveness last year) permits. He's also coming off a heavy workload for the third year in a row - 405 carries including the playoffs.

BUST Percy Harvin
WR - Seattle Seahawks

He's a dynamic talent, to be sure, but if he doesn't score on the ground or take a kick or two to the house, it's hard to see the upside here. Harvin doesn't have red-zone size, he's in an offense that likes to the run the ball both with its running backs and quarterback, and Sidney Rice and Golden Tate will still merit looks. Harvin's also injury prone, and his moving to a west-coast team will mean if he's banged up you usually won't know whether he's playing when it's time to set your early lineups.

Luke Hoover

SLEEPER Michael Floyd
WR - Arizona Cardinals

At the end of a rookie season as quiet as a church mouse Floyd made a loud statement with 166 yards and a score against the 49ers, displaying the size, athleticism and acrobatics it takes to win one-on-one battles downfield. The previous 15 games, though, are almost sure to leave Floyd a bit forgotten in drafts since his totals are far from eye-catching, but the 6-3, 225-pounder is an ideal fit opposite Larry Fitzgerald, particularly in an Bruce Arians offense that loves to attack defenses vertically. Carson Palmer has the big arm and take-a-shot mentality to give Floyd numerous opportunities to burn his one-on-one coverage, and on a team that likely will see its share of deficits, Floyd's output should more closely match his skills this year.

SLEEPER Mohamed Sanu
WR - Cincinnati Bengals

Prior to suffering a stress fracture in his foot, Sanu snagged four touchdowns on only 16 catches last year. He doesn't offer special speed but has strong hands and is a crisp and savvy route runner. At 6-2, 210, Sanu has the body to outmuscle defensive backs - think a leaner Anquan Boldin. The Bengals will move the ball, and with A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and now Tyler Eifert, Sanu will find himself one-on-one all day for Andy Dalton. Sanu can work in the slot or split wide and become a mismatch for Cincinnati. He's not likely to get more than 800 yards, but Sanu should be a sneaky source of touchdowns.

BUST Tom Brady
QB - New England Patriots

Brady will not be a bust in the conventional sense. He proved early in his career he can still post good totals and be a productive player regardless of who's on the other end of his passes. But Brady doesn't figure to turn in the top-five QB numbers to which we've become accustomed with his rag-tag group of wide receivers and the dicey health of Rob Gronkowski.

BUST Colin Kaepernick
QB - San Francisco 49ers

Kaepernick should suffer from the loss of Michael Crabtree, likely sidelined until at least late November with a torn Achilles' tendon. In his 10 starts, including the playoffs, Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 93 times, resulting in 61 catches, 880 yards and eight touchdowns. Now Kaepernick's options behind an aging Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis include Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams coming off ACL tears and the young and vastly unproven A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette. Playing in the league's toughest defensive division, Kaepernick isn't likely to put up consistent numbers through the air this year.

Kevin Payne

SLEEPER Denarius Moore
WR - Oakland Raiders

Moore had a nice midseason stretch last year, scoring five touchdowns in seven games. He is the clear No.1 wide receiver for the Raiders with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brandon Myers taking their almost 200 targets to other teams. Matt Flynn in extremely limited exposure has looked serviceable and should quickly develop a good rapport with Moore.

SLEEPER Sam Bradford
QB - St. Louis Rams

Bradford showed progress across the board last season and should take another step in his fourth year. He has been given the best group of receivers he's had since coming into the league. The Rams acquired Jared Cook in the offseason and traded up to get Tavon Austin. Chris Givens and Brian Quick both enter their sophomore seasons with a lot of promise, and Austin Pettis had a knack for the end zone in limited play. Look for Bradford to take another step this season.

BUST Reggie Bush
RB - Detroit Lions

While Bush has stayed healthy the last two seasons, injuries have plagued him in the past, and he's starting to have a good amount of mileage on him. I can't see Detroit turning into a run-first team given their personnel, and at the goal line Bush might be the third or fourth option behind Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell and/or Mikel Leshoure. Bush has only surpassed 1,000 rushing yards once and never has had more than 227 carries in a season.

BUST Percy Harvin
WR - Seattle Seahawks

You'll get little argument from me if you think that Harvin is the most explosive player in the league when he touches the football. However, there are a few red flags with Harvin for the upcoming season. He is coming off a pretty bad ankle injury and dealt with migraines in 2011 that could recur at some point this season. Seattle should remain a run-first team with Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson has three other solid receiving options in Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller. Harvin has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season and has averaged only six touchdowns (from scrimmage) per season.

Sean Raposa

SLEEPER Eddie Lacy
RB - Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's high-powered passing attack creates the perception this is a pass-happy team. The fact is they ranked 16th in both pass and rush attempts in 2012, and coach Mike McCarthy strives for balance on offense. They just haven't had the talent at running back to take advantage of the available carries. Lacy will be that guy. He'll see plenty of work on first and second down, and his size and shiftiness in tight quarters is a good fit for the runs Green Bay likes to call between the tackles. Johnathan Franklin actually has the more dynamic skill set of the two running backs they selected in this year's draft, but the easiest road to fantasy value is scoring touchdowns, and that job will be Lacy's.

SLEEPER Kenny Britt
WR - Tennessee Titans

So many, including me, have been burned by Britt. Combine that with his off-the-field issues, his struggles to stay healthy and the selections of Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter with high picks in each of the last two drafts, and you can be certain Britt will slip in drafts this season. There's obvious risk, and he's yet to put together a full campaign, but even with the newest additions to the receiving corps he remains the most physically gifted of the group - a top-10 season is a possibility.

BUST Stevan Ridley
RB - New England Patriots

Ridley was a popular sleeper pick a year ago, and boy did he pan out. He finished tied for third in rushing touchdowns (12), seventh in yards (1,263) and sixth in carries (290). He averaged a solid 4.4 yards-per-carry, but it was the volume of work that was most surprising and the key to his fantasy breakout. It won't be repeated in 2013 as it’s highly unlikely the Patriots finish second in rush attempts again, and Shane Vereen, who had a strong showing in last year's playoffs, is going to be a bigger contributor.

BUST A.J. Green
WR - Cincinnati Bengals

If Green's the second or third player drafted at his position, disappointment could follow. Although he's done his damage through his first two seasons without a stud quarterback, Green still works with that disadvantage, and it limits his upside. The Bengals also drafted two viable receiving options, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Some might think this will ease the defensive attention on Green, but the double-teams aren't going away. Essentially, their presence gives Andy Dalton more alternatives and should lead to fewer forced throws to Green. Green will still be good, maybe even great, but there are less-expensive receivers who'll equal his production in 2013.

Jonathan Bales

SLEEPER Le’Veon Bell
RB - Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell has a chance to see a massive workload as the featured back in Pittsburgh's offense. His primary competition is merely Jonathan Dwyer, so it would be surprising if the Steelers’ second-round selection didn't see the bulk of the carries in his rookie year. Bell, who caught 67 passes the last two seasons at Michigan State, can also add value as a receiver.

SLEEPER Justin Blackmon
WR - Jacksonville Jaguars

Yes, Blackmon will start the 2013 season with a four-game suspension. But since that announcement was made, Blackmon's ADP has plummeted more than four rounds. That's way too far for a player who caught 64 passes for 865 yards as a rookie despite very shaky quarterback play. Blackmon's suspension hurts, but it's not a death blow to his stock; remember, you don't lose all of Blackmon’s points for the first four games of the season, but rather his points minus the points for a replacement receiver. Despite his knuckle-headedness, he's a top-25 WR at the cost of a top-50 one.

BUST Marshawn Lynch
RB - Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks offense has revolved around Lynch, but that might change in the near future. For starters, the team will rely more heavily on second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, especially with his new weapon in Percy Harvin. On top of that, Seattle has two really talented backs on the bench in Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, ages 23 and 22, respectively. Compare that with Lynch, whose best days are probably behind him as he enters his age 27 season.

BUST Alfred Morris
RB - Washington Redskins

A lot of Morris' success last year came at the hands of Robert Griffin, however, whose rushing prowess opened up running room for Morris on read-option plays. In reality, Morris is a below-average running back with sub-par speed who is extremely dependent on his offensive coordinator and quarterback for his numbers. That's not the kind of running back I typically target, nor is it one you should seek at his current inflated cost.

Mark Stopa

SLEEPER Philip Rivers
QB - San Diego Chargers

From 2008-2010, Rivers was a real-life and fantasy stud, averaging 4,300 yards, 30 TD, 11 INT and 8.6 YPA. Yes, his last two seasons have been disappointing, but I refuse to believe Rivers has fallen off a cliff at age 31. Norv Turner is gone, but that’s a good thing - addition by subtraction. Danario Alexander emerged last year, Vincent Brown will be back and Keenan Allen has first-round talent, so the pieces are in place for a bounce-back.

SLEEPER Ben Tate
RB - Houston Texans

Tate was everyone's sleeper going into 2012. He couldn't stay healthy, though, and Arian Foster was cash money inside the goal line, so the hype will be much less heading into this year. That's good - I consider it a buying opportunity. Foster is overrated - his 4.1 YPC from 2012 is about a yard less than Tate’s career YPC and more closely resembles that of a plodder than a star. A Foster injury or Tate emerging as the better player - a true possibility - would put Tate in a terrific position on a good team that loves to run near the goal line.

BUST Steven Jackson
RB - Atlanta Falcons

I understand the Falcons are a high-scoring offense and Jackson, in theory, has potential for a big season as their feature back. But Jackson has a lot of mileage on his legs - at least 237 carries every year since 2006, with three seasons above 320 - and he'll be 30 before the season starts. We all know that's a bad age for running backs, but it's particularly troubling for a back with Jackson's body type and running style. I'd say there's about a 30 percent chance Jacquizz Rodgers finishes 2013 with better fantasy stats than Jackson.

BUST Tom Brady
QB - New England Patriots

Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are gone, Danny Amendola is fragile, and Rob Gronkowski's health is a significant question at the time of this publication. It's not hard to envision a scenario where Brady has nobody to throw to except Aaron Hernandez, and even Hernandez seems to have a way of getting hurt every year. The Patriots seemed intent on running more last year, too, and at some point Brady, age 36, will fall off. The QB pool is deep this year as well.

Jeff Erickson

SLEEPER Michael Vick
QB - Philadelphia Eagles

Vick fits the classic “Last Year's Bum” profile – wasn't it just two years ago we were discussing whether he was worthy of a first-round pick? After two seasons marred by a decline in performance and injury, he has a fresh chance with a new head coach and offensive system that by many accounts would seem to fit his particular strengths. If the Eagles can emulate the tempo Chip Kelly installed at Oregon, and Vick is capable of running that style of offense, you could see an explosion of running stats. This appears to be a great season to wait on quarterbacks, and Vick won’t cost you a pick in the top-10 rounds. Pair him with another late quarterback like Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger and reap the upside.

SLEEPER LaMichael James
RB - San Francisco 49ers

An underplayed aspect of mobile quarterbacks is their ability to help the running game as well. You could see that at work in the playoffs for the 49ers, especially against the Packers and the Falcons. James was used sparingly early in the season, but he saw 27 carries in the last four regular season games, as the team became more confident he could handle their running scheme and the rigors of the NFL. While rumors of Frank Gore's demise have once again been overstated, he's also 30 years old with an extensive injury history.

BUST David Wilson
RB - New York Giants

With Amhad Bradshaw gone, there's a presumption Wilson will take over as an every-down back. And surely there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic - he has the pedigree, the raw speed and 5.0 yards per carry in limited action as a rookie last year. But remember all that limited him last season - the early-season fumble (that mimicked his college fumbling issues), the presence of Andre Brown (especially at the goal line) and the lack of action in the passing game.

BUST Torrey Smith
WR - Baltimore Ravens

Anquan Boldin's absence will hurt Smith, in part because Boldin drew attention away on all types of patterns, including downfield throws. Smith might end up with more targets than he did in 2012, but with less mileage per attempt. Meanwhile, his price will likely be inflated due to the increase in opportunity.

Mike Doria

SLEEPER Shane Vereen
RB - New England Patriots

Vereen was on the field for just 12 percent of the Pats' snaps in 2012, but he is now the leading candidate to fill the change-of-pace void created by the departure of Danny Woodhead. Assuming Vereen stays healthy, expect a major boost in that department in 2013. Although the bruising Stevan Ridley will lead the team's rushing charge, Vereen has an opportunity to carve out value, especially in PPR formats.

SLEEPER Le'Veon Bell
RB - Pittsburgh Steelers

Given that Bell has good enough hands to stay on the field on passing downs, the bruising rookie has a chance to emerge as a starter and every-down back for the Steelers, who weren't happy with what they got from their backfield last season.

BUST Rob Gronkowski
TE - New England Patriots

While Gronkowski finally appears on track to put his forearm woes behind him, his balky back - an issue that caused his draft stock to tumble - has cropped up again. June back surgery puts his Week 1 status in peril. And even if he returns on time, his back could still flare up at any time.

BUST Chris Johnson
RB - Tennessee Titans

The Titans bolstered their offensive line this offseason, which is good news for the team's ground attack after Johnson endured an up-and-down 2012 campaign. However, the addition of former Jet Shonn Greene is a legitimate threat to cut into Johnson's workload, especially in short-yardage situations.