Ok for all you Fantasy Football junkies out there, "this Bud's for you." I have been painstakingly combing over most of the NFL camp sites as well as college film in order to get a bead on possible hidden gems for the upcoming NFL season and boy do I think I have found some! This is edition will be a combo of my own personal FF rankings as well as teams I believe will surprise many this year. In other words, this year's "Dark horses." I will start with the NFC West.
This by far will be the toughest division in football, boasting 4 teams that all could make the playoffs. The 49ers are the perennial favorites with the Seahawks a mere nano inch behind. This division however contains not one but two "dark horses." The first one being the Rams. Last year the Rams defensive unit was largely overlooked due to the offensive woes of the team. Still, this unit had a league leading 52 sacks last year (tied with Denver); most of the work coming from what is shaping up to be one the best D lines in the league. Chris Long, Robert Quin, Kendall Langford, and standout rookie Michael Brockers are the cornerstones of a Jeff Fisher defense that promises to be even better this year with more help coming from last April's draft. From top to bottom the Rams will be one of the fastest teams in the NFL. On offense this team will boast quite a few FF studs. Besides rising young star QB Sam Bradford, rookie Wr Tavon Austin is going to be an absolute beast this year. If any of you have seen this kid play, you know the 1st thing you notice about him is his speed and quickness. Many believe he might be the fastest player in the league. Watching this guy run reminds me of Barry Sanders. For a wr that's pretty scary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH0FGpQZZnw TE Jarred Cook is another addition to this offense that according to coach Fisher "will be a huge part of this offense." Cook has the same type of speed and athleticism as Niners standout TE Vernon Davis.
The 2nd "dark horse" in this division is well, the only team left in the Cardinals. Last year Arizona had one of the top ten defenses in the league early on before injuries set in. One could accredit that to being worn down from long periods of time on the field due to the lack of offensive production (primarily at the QB position). Enter Carson Palmer and coach Bruce Arians. in spite of what the critics are saying about Palmer being "done," I have a different spin on the former Bengal. Carson may not be the Carson of old from the glory days in Cincy, but he is significantly better than what the Cardinals have had at QB since Kurt Warner retired. His addition increases the value of Larry Fitzgerald and virtually every other WR on the Cardinals.
To round out the rest of the hidden gems here is my FF list of players and defenses I feel are destined to break out in the 2013 season:
1. Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
2. Jared Cook, TE, Rams
3. Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons
9. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Bengals