Fantasy Football sleepers to pick while your buddy is wiping buffalo sauce off his shirt.
The term “sleeper” in fantasy football is just a tad overused. See, the fantasy football culture has changed. Gone are the days where you had a leg up on your competition by simply sitting down and watching NFL Football. Now, there are hundreds of sites and hundreds of experts out there to tell you exactly who to draft/who not to draft. But, let’s be honest, draft night is like Christmas for a lot of people. And there is no better feeling than stealing a guy in round 12, who performs like a 2nd round pick, while your buddies are wiping buffalo sauce off their shirts, or drafting their kicker. Folks, leagues are won and lost in the late rounds of drafts. But, we need to dig a bit deeper here. You won’t see Beanie Wells, Kevin Kolb or Hakeem Nicks on this list. What you will see is the proverbial “Hail Mary” picks. Guys that are under drafted, under the radar, and set to win you some bragging rights. I present to you 10 guys who you can steal late in drafts.
1.) Eddie Royal (WR, Denver Broncos) After a very impressive rookie campaign in which he posted 91 catches and just short of 1000 yds receiving, Royal was routinely being drafted in 4th or 5th rounds of drafts. At the time, I thought he was way overvalued. I looked at the Cutler trade and knew there was no way he would repeat his rookie numbers. Royal quickly found himself on the waiver wire throughout the fantasy world last year, after not even being in the Bronco’s starting lineup most weeks. So, what has changed to find him on this list? A few things; Orton has another year of familiarity running McDaniel’s offense, Brandon Marshall is gone, opening up more targets, and finally I think the coaches realize this offense is in desperate need of play makers. Royal is just that. Add in the fact he’s entering that magical 3rd season in which we see so many Wr’s breakout, his current ranking in the late 60’s for Wr’s, and opportunity for some real value is sitting there at the end of most drafts. Overvalued last year, has led to him being undervalued in drafts this year.
2.) Matt Cassel (QB, KC Chiefs) 2 years ago, Tom Brady suffers a horrific knee injury, and its Cassel to the rescue. He leads NE to an 11-5 record, narrowly misses the playoffs and puts up Brady-like numbers of almost 3700 yds and 21 tds. He gets traded to the Chiefs the following year and suffers in QB purgatory. Fast forward to 2010. QB guru Charlie Weiss is on board to run the offense, a well conditioned and re-focused Dwayne Bowe is ready to contribute, and last I checked the Chiefs defense is still a sieve. That means a lot of shootouts. You don’t want to draft Cassel as your starter, but as a backup or bye week filler, he could provide great value.
3.) Mike Williams (WR, Tampa Bay Bucs) A checkered college career, with maturity issues caused this physical freak to slip in the NFL draft. The Bucs weren’t sleeping though and probably couldn’t get to the podium fast enough to announce the pick. Starting position locked up? Check. Young, strong armed Qb? Check. Chip on shoulder? Check. Terrible team, with a bad defense? Check. This has all the makings of a standout rookie year. Let your buddies tell you rookie WR’s don’t make an impact (think back to Anquan Boldin’s rookie year). I see a lot of similarities here. Mark my words, this guy will be a star. Why not roll the dice that it happens this year?
4.) Devin Thomas (WR, Washington Redskins) You just know McNabb has something to prove this year. There’s no way he’s not a lock for 3500+ yards and 20+ Td passes. So, the question is, given that production, how will the stats be portioned out in the Skin’s passing game? I think Santana Moss probably has a solid year, but he’ll go about 10 rounds earlier than Thomas. After being buried on the Skin’s depth chart, and catching passes from the erratic Jason Campbell, now is Thomas’s time to shine. Take Thomas late, hope for that “3rd year breakout” that is so popular in fantasy football, and watch McNabb turn him into a solid fantasy contributor. His long TD over the weekend is only a glimpse of what could happen this year.
5.) Derrick Ward (RB, Tampa Bay Bucs) Extremely popular sleeper last year, drafted in rounds 3-4 , as he was handed a huge free agent contract. Things were lining up for fantasy success. Out of the blue, Cadillac Williams decided to become healthy and productive again. Count me in the camp that suggests lighting will not strike twice for Cadillac. Ward is the more talented back, and though William’s story still oozes feel good moments, talent wins out in the NFL. The Bucs won’t be able to keep him on the sidelines as much this year. Now routinely rated in the mid to late 50’s for Rb’s, this dude is a steal.
6.) Tashard Choice (RB, Dallas Cowboys) The forgotten man in the Cowboy’s backfield rotation. He doesn’t have the draft day status of either of his backfield mates. But, the truth is, he might be the Cowboy’s best all around RB. And they know that. Both Marion Barber and Felix Jones (the more popular Cowboy RB sleeper) have shown a disturbing knack for being injured. I’m betting that one of the Barber/Jones combo is hurt again at some point this year, potentially logging serious time on the injury report. If so, you have yourself a RB that will play like a #2 in fantasy. Most sites have him rated in the 60’s for backs, that my friends is the definition of value.
7.) Rob Gronkowski (TE, New England Patriots) The TE position is deep in fantasy this year, so I’m guessing he will go undrafted in most shallower fantasy leagues. I envision him being picked up after the first couple of weeks, after a bigger name TE gets injured. And I envision him staying in your lineup the rest of the year. Nobody throws to the TE around the goal line more than Brady & the Pats. Dude is über talented, on a Pats team that is dying for some youthful athleticism. If Welker is hampered by the knee injury or suffers a setback, he’s even more valuable. Probably not a big yardage guy, but 8-9 tds could be within reach. That’s worth having on your team
8.) Anthony Dixon (RB, SF 49ers) Breaking news last week, was the sudden and shocking retirement of 49ers backup RB Glenn Coffee. Just a few things in life that we accept as sure things; death, taxes, and current starter Frank Gore is going to miss 3-4 games, at some point every year. Dixon is a must have at this point for any Gore owner, and a more severe injury to Gore could open the door to fantasy stardom. Dude’s a behemoth at 6-1, 245 pounds, and led the SEC in yards/game last year. The 49er’s have a mauling, up and coming offensive line and just enough talent in the passing game to keep defenses honest. My guess is the 49ers will bring in a veteran back to compete with the kid for backup duties, but this guy could pay huge dividends, as soon as Gore twists that ankle or pulls that hammy. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 100+ yards rushing in Preseason Week 1 is a step in that direction.
9.) Early Doucet (WR, Arizona Cardinals) In the desert, out of the Anquan Boldin ashes, something rose up, and his name was Early Doucet. He even looks a little like Boldin. Strong dude, great route runner, exceptional hands, un-afraid to go over the middle and make the tough catch. Sure, Warner is gone, retired. Fitzgerald is going to be forced the ball by Leinart. He’s also going to be double and triple teamed on most plays. Doucet will routinely be matched up against a #3 or #4 corner type, and defenses will be more than willing to let a guy named Early beat them, rather than Fitz. Routinely rated in the 50’s-60’s of the WR rankings, I think he plays a lot better than that. A Fitz or Breaston injury and you could be looking at an every week play.
10.) Bernard Scott (RB, Cincinnati Bengals) Count me in the camp that doesn’t believe Cedric Benson can duplicate last year’s monster season. He had an extra burst last year, one that I didn’t see his first 4 years in the league. My guess is, after logging all those carries last year, dude is going to fall back down to earth. I don’t think he loses his job, but I don’t see him being as effective as he was last year either. Scott has the talent, burst, and receiving skills to be an every down back for the Bengals. Also, keep in mind Benson’s history of injuries, and lack of moral character, and the opportunity for Scott is within reach. A very impressive game in Preseason Week 1, only re-affirms this belief.
What do you have to say? Who did I miss?
WHO WILL YOU DRAFT?