CSN's 2014 fantasy football draft preview: Sleepers and busts

CSN's 2014 fantasy football draft preview: Sleepers and busts
August 25, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Congratulations, reader. You've finally made it through a grueling offseason, watched the San Antonio Spurs send LeBron James home (literally), waded through the murky waters that is fantasy baseball and made your way back to fantasy football.

The season is almost upon us, which means you've got a draft (or five) coming up very shortly. Over the course of the year the four of us (Mark Strotman, Scott Krinch, Tony Andracki and John Paschall) will be supplying you with fantasy football advice.

Do we know everything? No, but that's the beauty of fantasy sports. It can change on a dime, but seeing as the four of us are around sports for a living chances are we've researched a little bit more than you.

[FANTASY FOOTBALL: Making the most of your first-round pick]

So come along for the beautiful ride that is fantasy football. We're glad to have you.

First up is our picks as the top sleepers and biggest potential busts in this year's draft class: 

Sleepers

Everyone's got an average draft position (ADP), which you'll read about on just about every legitimate fantasy football website. So sleepers, then, aren't simply relegated to fantasy players going late in drafts. True, if you can grab that rookie wide receiver no one's talking about and he turns out to be a PPR stud, you've done it. Hit on a defense in the last round and all of a sudden they're a top-3 fantasy unit and you're in great shape the rest of the year.

At the same time, looking at players who should be better than their respective ADPs means that stealing a player in the third round who most owners have going in the fourth is just as valuable. Here's a list of our top four sleepers to target a round higher than where they're going in drafts right now:

Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants (ADP: 7th round)

Jennings showed what he could do last year when he got an opportunity with the Oakland Raiders. In a six-game stretch from Week 9 to Week 15 (he did miss a game in Week 14), Jennings put up 101 points in standard scoring leagues, 120 points in PPR leagues.

This year, he's got that same opportunity, but in New York. With David Wilson's career sadly over, there is no true threat to steal touches from Jennings. As the 25th running back coming off the board right now, there may be no better value in Fantasy Football.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 8th round)

The Vikings might have been on to something when they immediately signed Rudolph to an extension this offseason. Rudolph reportedly shed 15 pounds this offseason in anticipation for a bigger role on offense. He’s probably right considering Norv Turner is the new offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Not a lot of people knew who Jordan Cameron was before last season when Turner transformed him into a household name in Fantasy Football leagues. While the quarterback situation might be a little shaky with the Vikings, I still expect Rudolph to be the main target in the Vikings offense.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 2nd round)

You can't win your fantasy league in the first round, but you can lose it. That old adage is a true one, but for some reason I'm really feeling the love with Murray as a first-rounder this year. He averaged 19.5 fantasy points in the final five fantasy weeks last year, is running behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and is playing under an offensive coordinator who loves to throw the ball to his running backs.

[ROTOWORLD: Top fantasy football injury risks]

Of course, the question is always about health, and Murray hasn't been a model of it. He's missed 11 games in his first three fantasy years, but if he can manage to play 13 or 14 games he's absolutely a better option than some of the other running backs going in Round 2 (think Gio Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Arian Foster and Doug Martin). If you believe you can get him early second round then wait, but I wouldn't blame you at all if you took him in the 9-12 range. He's that talented and in that good an offense in Dallas.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (ADP: 11th round)

Jay Cutler will have a breakout season. Stop if you've heard that before. The 31-year-old Cutler is entering his sixth season with the Bears and still hasn't lived up to the hype that's surrounded him since he was selected out of Vanderbilt in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. However, Cutler has never been in a better position to succeed than he is right now. 

The Bears offense features arguably the NFL's best wide receiver tandem in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Also in Cutler's arsenal is Matt Forte, who is the No. 4 ranked fantasy running back, and a Top 10 tight end in Martellus Bennett. If that wasn't enough, Cutler finally has a formidable offensive line to throw behind.

The only knock on Cutler is his health, but you can say that about nearly every player in the league. In six of his 10 games last season, Cutler eclipsed at least 20 fantasy points. Not bad for somebody that could be had in the ninth round.

Shore up your roster and snag Cutler this year. Your opponents may laugh at you, but you'll be the one laughing when your crowned league champion in December.

Busts

Look, every year you come across guys that you've had at one point or another over the last 10 fantasy seasons. Remember when Steven Jackson won you your league during his dynamite 2006 season? Tom Brady used to be in the discussion as the top pick in ever fantasy draft. Ray Rice was a borderline first-round pick as early as a year ago. But you've got to know when to cut bait. You've got to know when to understand that a player's name isn't worth his on-field production. We're labeling these guys below as busts, but do realize that there's some value in these players....just not where they're being selected in fantasy drafts.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 4th round)

Jackson is too inconsistent to be worthy of a high draft pick. Right now, he's being taken as the No. 13 WR, just behind Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, and just ahead of Pierre Garcon, Keenan Allen and Wes Welker.

[ROTOWORLD: Top 150 players]

Jackson is a good talent and he'll make you happy when he posts 25-point weeks. But what about when he nets you just 3 points? Five times last year, Jackson scored three points or less. That's not a No. 1 receiver. With TB in a state of flux with a new QB (Josh McCown) and a new coaching staff led by Lovie Smith, I just don't trust Jackson this year.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions (ADP: 7th round)

I've never bought into the Reggie Bush hype and there's no way I'm buying into it this season. Bush has shown glimpses of his Heisman days, but he hasn't been able to do it on a consistent basis. Last season was only the second time that he's reached the 1000-yard rushing mark during his nine-year career. And the emergence of his backfield running mate is why I'm not reaching on Bush this year.

Enter Joique Bell. Bell had a breakout season with the Lions last year with 650 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 53 receptions for 547 yards. He can be had in the fifth/sixth round and does everything Bush does, plus he gets the goal line carries.

New Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell had made it no secret that he will employ a running back-by-committee approach, which just means even more bad news for Bush's owners.

Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (ADP: 3rd round)

After a disappointing sophomore season with the Redskins, Alfred Morris is considered by some to be a potential bounce-back candidate.

Eh, I’m not buying it.

[ROTOWORLD: Fantasy Football mock draft]

The offensive line didn’t exactly get a much-needed makeover in the offseason and could have problems opening up holes for him. The schedule also doesn’t play out in his or the Redskins' favor. The NFC East matches up with the NFC West and AFC South this year, so that means they’ll be facing teams such as the Seahawks, 49ers, Rams and an improved Texans defense. Not only will there not be a lot of room to run, but the Redskins might be playing from behind a lot, which would eliminate carries for Morris. And if you think you’re going to get some production from Morris in the receiving game, think again. He’s caught a grand total of 20 passes over his first two years.

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants (ADP: 4th round)

Victor Cruz exploded in Week 1, going for 118 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys. From Weeks 2 to 17, Cruz had one, count them one, touchdown, coming in Week 4 against the Chiefs. Some guys have bad years and bounce back, and maybe a new offensive coordinator will help Cruz like I think it will Murray. But I'm just not buying it; Eli Manning has looked horrendous in preseason, the Giants are more talented at wide receiver with Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. in the fold, leaving fewer targets for Cruz.

I don't actually think Cruz will have a horrible year. This is more about his ADP and other wide receivers you can target in the same round. Think about a guy like Randall Cobb who you KNOW is going to have a giant year. There's Keenan Allen, who could be a top-5 wide receiver this year (no, really) and even old guys Wes Welker and Larry Fitzgerald are more reliable than Cruz. Keep it simple and go with what you know, especially early in the draft. If Cruz somehow falls to the fifth round then maybe go get him, but other than that I'm staying away from the tango.