FANTASY PLAYS: Sleepers who should outperform draft position
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
Uncovering sleepers in fantasy football isn't easy with so many players seeking and finding much of the same information.
So it's an advantage to consider sleepers not just hidden stars but as players who should outperform their projected fantasy draft positions.
Be bold and take a chance, and you could find yourself with true difference-makers who can propel your fantasy team to greater heights in 2016.
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WENDELL SMALLWOOD (RB, Eagles)
Ryan Mathews has played 16 games just once in six seasons, and current backup Kenjon Barner is too small to take over as a featured runner if Mathews gets hurt again. Smallwood has been slowed by a preseason injury in his rookie year, but he is versatile and will be ready to contribute when called on during the regular season.
CHRIS THOMPSON (RB, Redskins)
He is the team's best pass-catching running back, and the Redskins will be throwing often this year. Matt Jones is already having preseason performance and injury issues, and Thompson could end up being the only trustworthy running back on the roster, especially in point-per-reception formats.
JAY AJAYI (RB, Dolphins)
Miami added Arian Foster, but he is a definite health risk. Ajayi's preseason stock is falling because of the Foster addition, but at some point he will be back as a starter for the Dolphins and he should get a lot of work as a primary ball carrier.
SPENCER WARE (RB, Chiefs)
He scored six times last year after Jamaal Charles went down with a knee injury, and could be in line to vulture some touchdowns this season as the Chiefs manage their true No. 1 running back. Should Charles go down again, Ware should be the preferred top option over Charcandrick West.
ELI ROGERS (WR, Steelers)
Rogers is back after his 2015 season was ruined by a foot injury. An undrafted free agent, Rogers is pushing the struggling and more-ballyhooed Sammie Coates for his spot on the depth chart. Rogers is looking good in the preseason and has the promise to contribute in a potent passing game.
BRUCE ELLINGTON (WR, 49ers)
Someone has to step forward to catch passes for the Niners, and that may not be Torrey Smith often enough. He is miscast as a top wide receiver on an NFL team and will frequently be matched up against a top cover cornerback or extra defensive attention. If Ellington can finally avoid injuries this year, he could emerge as a needed playmaker for San Francisco.
MIKE WALLACE (WR, Ravens)
Wallace has been seemingly lost ever since he left Pittsburgh, but Wallace could be reborn in Baltimore. Joe Flacco throws very well downfield, a skill that seemed to be lacking for Wallace's past QBs, Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater. The Ravens desperately need quality performers at WR, and Wallace has a great opportunity to seize here.
CHRIS HOGAN (WR, Patriots)
As he did with Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker, Bill Belichick (or someone close to him) has raided the roster of a divisional opponent to pluck a player who can fit perfectly into the New England offense. Hogan is a big, nifty target who can vault quickly up the Patriots' WR depth chart and become a quality statistical producer.
TYROD TAYLOR (QB, Bills)
Taylor threw for just 20 TDs last year, but he also rushed for 598 yards and four scores. ''T-Mobile'' has the coolest nickname in the NFL and the potential to be a top 10 Fantasy quarterback. He should throw more TD passes this year with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods healthy along with a rebound season from TE Charles Clay. Taylor should improve as a pocket passer and he is a dual threat with some true fantasy upside.
TYLER HIGBEE (TE, Rams)
Most veteran Fantasy analysts never recommend rookie tight ends, but Higbee can be a notable exception. He is a converted wide receiver and he may have quite an opportunity to contribute in a Los Angeles passing game that seems to be devoid of quality targets. Higbee has already showed off the skills to be an effective possession receiver on key downs in the preseason. He'll go undrafted in many leagues, but consider taking him in the final round as a flier.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .