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The biggest fantasy football sleeper in free agency

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NFL free agency opens for business on March 11. Scores of players will change uniforms, including some big-name fantasy football assets such as Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks and Knowshon Moreno. You’ll read plenty about those guys in the coming weeks. But there’s a lesser-known pending free agent who will make a major fantasy impact in 2014 and beyond. His name is Golden Tate.

Tate was just 1 small part of Seattle’s Super Bowl machine this past year. He led the team with 64 catches and 898 receiving yards. But both of those marks ranked outside the top 30 WRs league-wide. Tate finished 30th at the position in fantasy points.

He simply wasn’t in a great spot for fantasy success. Seattle deploys a run-first offense. Only the 49ers attempted fewer passes in 2013. And when the Seahawks do take to the air, it’s a spread-the-wealth attack. Six different Seahawks saw at least 35 targets. Tate led the team with 98, but that ranked just 49th among all WRs.

Tate’s advanced statistics show a player who is capable of doing much more, though. The guy has incredibly reliable hands. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) charged Tate with just 3 drops this past season. His 4.5% drop rate was 5th best among WRs.

Tate is also extremely dangerous in the open field. He forced 21 missed tackles in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus, which led all WRs. And Tate’s 7.9 yards-after-the-catch average was tops among all WRs with at least 15 receptions.

All this guy needs to emerge as a strong fantasy football starter is the opportunity. And he figures to get it when he hits the free-agent market. Detroit looks like an ideal landing spot. Tate would see plenty of single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson. And the Lions have finished as a top 6 passing offense each of the past 3 seasons.

The Panthers and Chiefs are 2 other teams that would give Tate a chance to raise his fantasy stock.

Keep an eye on Tate when free agency opens on March 11. And keep his name in mind when you’re drafting your fantasy football team this summer.

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