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2013 Fantasy Football: Every Team’s Unsung Hero

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2013 Fantasy Football: Every Team's Unsung Hero

Richard Barnes- USA Today Sports

Fantasy football season.

The time of year when I'm at my happiest and my girlfriend is the most miserable.

The time of year where I feel like I always have to explain myself (not that I mind).

Some people don't understand. Yes, I am scouting the third-string running back for the New York Jets in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game. What if the first and second string running backs go down and this guy becomes an automatic flex play? Yes, I know that that practice squad wide receiver will most likely amount to nothing. But what happens if he's the next Victor Cruz? I don't care if it's early August.

I don't care if he could get cut in a week.

He could be the difference in a tight fantasy playoff race in December. He could be fantasy gold.

He could be an unsung hero.

Every team has one. Yes, even the aforementioned Jets and the Cleveland Browns.

Not that they're easy to find. If I was here to tell you that Adrian Peterson was a good running back and that Peyton Manning guy can throw a little bit, then what would the point be? Sometimes you can tell early in the preseason, like last year when Russell Wilson took Matt Flynn's job and then finished as a top-10 QB, other times it takes a little more time before someone steps up, a la Danario Alexander.

These are my candidates for the 2013 fantasy football season.

Shawn Ferris is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @RealShawnFerris, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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Arizona Cardinals RB Ryan Williams

ryan williams
Jennifer Stewart- USA Today Sports

The Cardinals' second-round pick in 2011 out of Virginia Tech, Williams was regarded as an every down back and an explosive playmaker before succumbing to injury each of his first two seasons. Williams missed all of 2011 with a torn patellar tendon and 11 games in 2012 with a shoulder injury. The Cardinals signed Rashard Mendenhall to lead their backfield this season, but after a few weeks of plodding around and a couple big plays by Williams, new head coach Bruce Arians might deem the 23-year-old worthy of a second chance at a starting role.

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Atlanta Falcons WR Harry Douglas

harry douglas
Derick E. Hingle- USA Today Sports

This one might be a little out there for a guy who never caught more than four passes in a game last year manning the slot for the Falcons. The talent is evident, and if something happens to Roddy White or Julio Jones, I believe Douglas will rise to the occasion.

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Baltimore Ravens WR Jacoby Jones

Kirby Lee- USA Today Sports

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Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson

fred jackson
Timothy T. Ludwig- USA Today Sports

I get it, C.J. Spiller is good. But Spiller also has never had a starting job for a whole season, and is one juke move away from the IR on any given scamper. Jackson has had plenty of value over the last three seasons, and will most likely be given plenty of goal-line work regardless of Spiller's health.

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Carolina Panthers WR David Gettis

david gettis
Joe Camporeale- USA Today Sports

I've been screaming for this guy to break out for years now. Steve Smith will be another year older and Cam Newton is trending upward; what more could you ask for if your David Gettis?

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Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett

Jerry Lai- USA Today Sports

A matchup nightmare and red zone asset, the 6-foot-6' Bennett will give defenses even more problems to go along with Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall in 2013.

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Cincinnati Bengals RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis

Eric Hartline- USA Today Sports

It seems like people have already written off the Law Firm, letting him drop in drafts and expecting rookie Giovani Bernard to just take the job away. I don't see it. What wrong with 8-10 touchdowns for a bench RB?

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Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron

Andrew Weber- USA Today Sports

A physical freak that caught two touchdown passes in the Browns' last preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, Cameron's improved rapport with Brandon Weeden could lead to a whole lot of value in 2013. Tight end is a crapshoot anyway, so why not go with the athleticism?

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Dallas Cowboys RB Phillip Tanner

Ron Schwane- USA Today Sports

Honestly, this could easily be Lance Dunbar or whoever wins the no. 2 spot on the depth chart behind the brittle Demarco Murray, who I think just sneezed and threw his back out Sammy Sosa-style.

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Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman

Ed Szczepanski- USA Today Sports

I go with the guy who knows Peyton Manning's eccentric offense over the inexperienced, but talented rookie. Hillman is an asset in the passing game as well for you PPR fans out there.

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Detroit Lions WR Ryan Broyles

Andrew Weber- USA Today Sports

You thought I was going to say Titus Young, didn't you? If Broyles can avoid the dreaded ACL tear that's derailed two seasons of his football career, he'll be a solid fantasy value with Matthew Stafford winging the ball around the field 50-plus times a game.

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Green Bay Packers WR James Jones

james jones
Kirby Lee- USA Today Sports

They say touchdowns are unpredictable — well I say I'll take the guy who gets open in the red zone with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. Case closed.

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Houston Texans RB Ben Tate

ben tate
Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

With each passing day, Arian Foster's injury status becomes more muddled. If he misses any time, Tate is more than capable of putting up huge fantasy numbers behind one of the league's best zone-blocking schemes.

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Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton

ty hilton
Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

This obviously has a lot to do with who wins the battle for the no. 2 receiver on the Colts' depth chart, but I'll take the consistency of Hilton over Darrius "I can't catch a cold" Heyward-Bey.

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Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon

justin blackmon
Don McPeak- USA Today Sports

Good thing you don't actually have to deal with disciplinary issues on your fantasy team, because chances are Blackmon would drive you insane. If you can do without him in the season's first four games, do it, because Blackmon's upside is huge.

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Kansas City Chiefs TE Anthony Fasano

anthony fasano
Denny Medley- USA Today Sports

Alex Smith and Fasano could make sweet music together in 2013. Fasano isn't explosive by any means, but he's reliable, and a perfect fit as Smith's security blanket. PPR owners should take notice in the late rounds if you're looking for flyers at tight end.

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Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline

brian hartline
Melina Vastola- USA Today Sports

Owner of the quietest 1000-yard season east of the Mississippi in 2012, Hartline was a frustrating player to own, going off when you benched him and putting up stinkers in games he was started. Another year of experience for quarterback Ryan Tannehill makes me a lot more optimistic about the whole Dolphins' offense, Hartline included.

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Minnesota Vikings WR Jarius Wright

jarius wright
Jeff Hanisch- USA Today Sports

Percy Harvin's replacement in 2013, the speedy receiver could eat up plenty of targets in the slot, making him an asset in deeper PPR leagues.

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New England Patriots RB Shane Vereen

shane vereen
Howard Smith- USA Today Sports

Someone has to clean up the convicted felon's mess. Vareen is versatile enough to line up all over the field, and Tom Brady knows Vereen is a dangerous weapon. 800 rushing and 500 receiving yards aren't out of the question.

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New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram

mark ingram
Derick E. Hingle- USA Today Sports

Ingram showed flashes of brilliance in 2012, but the Saints' running back rotation is a headache for fantasy owners as they will be cycling Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Ingram. Maybe this is the year Ingram breaks away from Thomas as the between-the-tackles runner and goal-line specialist. On a high-powered offense, the touchdown upside is immense.

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New York Jets QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith
Andrew Weber- USA Today Sports

Every time there is a fantasy QB that is able to use his legs to make plays and produce fantasy points, owners should take notice, as evidenced by RG3, Colin Kaepernick and Russel Wilson last season. If Smith is on the field and Mark Sanchez is the only thing standing in his way, he'll have upside.

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Oakland Raiders WR Denarius Moore

denarius moore
Kelley L. Cox- USA Today Sports

Moore looked like he was finally putting it all together in 2012 before faltering down the stretch to the tune of 27.4 yards per game in the season's final five weeks. If he can develop a rapport with new QB Matt Flynn, the numbers should be there.

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Philadelphia Eagles WR Riley Cooper

John Geliebter- USA Today Sports

I guess by process of elimination?

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Pittsburgh Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders

emmanuel sanders
Charles LeClaire- USA Today Sports

No Mike Wallace? No problem. Sanders has been toeing the line of potential fantasy breakout candidate for a couple of years, and now being thrust into a starting role should help the speedy young receive reach that potential.

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San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Brown

vincent brown
Andrew Weber- USA Today Sports

Can you say post-hype sleeper? Brown was set up for fantasy stardom before suffering an ankle injury prior to the start of the 2012 season. Now fully healthy, Brown will have no choice but to step up with a depleted Chargers receiving core.

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San Francisco 49ers RB Kendall Hunter

kendall hunter
Ed Szczepanski- USA Today Sports

Frank Gore's handcuff over the last couple of seasons, Hunter suffered an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the rest of the 2012 season. He showed up healthy to training camp, and if Gore goes down (and one of these seasons he will), the explosiveness Hunter provides could be good enough to be a top-15 RB.

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Seattle Seahawks WR Golden Tate

golden tate
Joe Nicholson- USA Today Sports

He may be most famously known for stealing a victory away from the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, but the former Notre Dame product could end up providing plenty of value with his physical skill set and another year of chemistry with Russel Wilson.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman

josh freeman
Kim Klement- USA Today Sports

After putting together a top-10 fantasy season in 2011, Freeman fell back to earth in 2012 after becoming entirely too turnover-prone. The talent and the weapons are there, so I don't see any reason why we won't see a more consistent Freeman in 2013.

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Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright

kendall wright
Jim Brown- USA Today Sports

A pleasant surprise out of Baylor, the rookie WR had a very productive season and provided decent value of the bench with his 64 receptions. If Jake Locker can put it together, maybe Wright can cash in on more than 64 of the 104 targets that came his way in 2012.

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Washington Redskins RB Roy Helu

roy helu
Brad Mills- USA Today Sports

Everyone is all aboard the Alfred Morris train, but I have to admit I'm still a little skeptical. He was a sixth-round pick for a reason, and I've seen this story before. If Morris struggles in 2013, Helu should provide plenty of value in the second half of the season.