Fantasy Football Sleepers
I’m going to preface this by stating that in this day and age there really are no “sleepers” since there is so much coverage that a third string QB can’t make a nice pass in practice without the world knowing about it. That said, here is a list of players that I feel will exceed expectations this season.
Jake Delhomme – Delhomme was having an outstanding season before getting hurt last year. He should be good to go and ready to bounce back in a big way. There are around 15 QBs that are ranked higher or taken before him in mock drafts. He has one of the game’s elite WRs in Steve Smith. They added a pair of quality WRs in Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett. Assuming he and his weapons can stay healthy, there is no reason he can’t return to the land of Top Ten QBs.
Vince Young – Last year VY was one of the guys I thought were going to bust. This year I’m selecting him to pick himself up, dust himself off, and turn in a decent year. He finally has a go-to-guy in Alge Crumpler, who jived well with another athletic QB. I’d like to see him make some more plays with his feet.
Alex Smith – Fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I predicted good things from Alex Smith last year. To say he let me down is an understatement. Instead of avoiding him like the plague though, I’ll give him another shot to prove himself. Naturally, he’ll need to stay healthy and fend off Shaun Hill. If he manages to do both he could be in line for a sneaky season. Vernon Davis should be better in his third season. They added Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson so at least he has some weapons to work with. Throw Mike Martz into the mix and you see the stars beginning to align. If you want further proof, check out their last four games. In Week 13 when you’re looking to secure your playoff spot he faces Buffalo. In the fantasy playoffs he goes against the Jets, Miami, and St. Louis. Stop drooling.
JaMarcus Russell – He got a little taste of the NFL last year. He has the physical tools to be a good QB in the league. It will depend on how quickly he can pick up the mental aspect of the game. If Javon Walker can be a factor, his progression will be that much easier. That said, he still has Zach Miller, who he vibed well with last year. He can be Russell’s security blanket. I wouldn’t take Russell until deep in the draft, but he could be a pleasant surprise for whoever is willing to give him a chance.
Tarvaris Jackson – The acquisiton of Bernard Berrian gives T-Jack a deep threat. Sidney Rice looked decent at times last year. He is a big target and can be the red zone guy. Bobby Wade did well last year, and should be more comfortable sliding into the slot. T-Jack has a good line and a solid ground game. They will basically beg him to pass. If he can show any poise, he could have a nice, solid season.
Joe Flacco – If Baltimore’s season is in the tank, they could start developing Flacco.
Shaun Hill – If he can overcome Alex Smith’s contract and lofty expectations, he could be the SF slinger.
Brodie Croyle – WIth Gonzo and Dwayne Bowe he has options. If the ground game can return, he could be serviceable.
Justin Fargas – A lot of people assume that the addition of Darren McFadden means the end for Justin Fargas. I couldn’t disagree more. He was an 1000 yard back last year on a rotten team. He’ll likely be penciled in as the starter while Run DMC gets accustomed to the NFL, it’s speed, blocking assignments, etc. Plus, McFadden has had a great deal of success sharing the backfield. Why change that up? I don’t see another 1000 yard year from Fargas, but 800-1000 total yards isn’t without question. Neither will likely get the red zone carries as Michael Bush looks ready to contribute.
Steve Slaton – Right now he’s #3 in the depth chart behind Ahman Green and Chris Brown. Durability has been an issue for both of those RBs though, which could bode well for the rookie out of West Virginia. Even if just one of them go down, Slaton could stand to receive a fair amount of work. He has a lot to overcome, but Slaton is a decent risk to contribute down the stretch.
LaMont Jordan – Getting cut by the Raiders of all teams has to sting. However, LaMont couldn’t have landed in a better situation. New England almost always takes teams’ castoffs and turns them into serviceable players. He’ll be buried initially in the depth chart behind Maroney, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk, but his versatility could earn him some touches. He is a big, strong back (5′10, 230 lbs) who has exceptional hands out of the backfield. If Maroney and Morris struggle at the line, he could get a shot at that. If Faulk struggles or misses time, Jordan can fill that void. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Faulk and Jordan used together in third-down packages.
Darren Sproles – With Michael Turner moving on to greener pastures (at least according to his bank account), Sproles gets the envious task of backing up the best RB in the game. The recipe could be similar for Sproles. The Chargers light teams up early, and then run them into submission. Sproles is quick and could hit some Home Runs. He averaged 10.9 yards per carry last year, which is an indication of his big play ability. If something terrible were to happen to LT, he would be one of the most sought after pickups in the league.
Pierre Thomas – If Deuce McAllister’s health is an issue this year, Pierre Thomas suddenly has some fantasy merit again. He didn’t do much last year, but he finished the 2007 with a bang running for 105 yards on 20 carries and 12 receptions for 121 yards against the Chicago Bears. That could have been a fluke, especially when you consider it was the season’s final game, but it’s worth taking notice.
Jacob Hester – If Sproles gets hurt or is unable to handle to workload as LT’s backup, rookie Jacob Hester could be given a shot.
Jamaal Charles – If LJ struggles, the rookie out of Texas could be given a shot.
Brandon Jackson – He was supposed to win the job last year. If Grant continues to holdout or gets hurt, Jackson can get another chance.
DeAngelo Williams – Jonathan Stewart will be drafted ahead of him, but if he struggles to catch on, DeAngelo could surprise a lot of people.
Anthony Gonzalez – OK, he’s not a sleeper to most fantasy football fans, but I see Anthony Gonzalez leapfrogging a lot of WRs that will be picked in front of him. With Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Dallas Clark demanding attention, Gonzalez will be the posion most defenses will pick.
Nate Burleson – Nate had a rough start to his Seattle Seahawk career. He turned it on down the stretch last year though grabbing five TDs in the last five weeks. He meshed well with Hasselbeck, and should be his go-to-guy this year.
Sidney Rice – I thought Rice was decent at times last year. His numbers would have been even better if his QB (T-Jack) could have hit him when he was open. With Bernard Berrian working the deep routes and Bobby Wade working the slot, Rice could find himself with plenty of opportunities. I like his size (6′4″) in the red zone.
Bryant Johnson – Bryant is going from Third Fiddle to First Fiddle in San Francisco. He’s also moving to a Mike Martz offense. With Isaac Bruce taking some of the pressure off, he should have a solid year by the Bay.
Ted Ginn, Jr. – If his small frame can avoid big hits, he could be a nice surprise for fantasy owners. He’s super quick and has big game ability. He just needs to stay focused. He should be playing from behind quite a bit increasing his opportunties.
James Hardy – Dude is 6′7′. He should be money in the goal line for the Bills.
Devin Hester – Is this the year he does better at WR than KR since he’ll be avoided at all costs in the return game?
Jacoby Jones – Has the build (6′2″, 210 lbs). Does he have the game?
Troy Williamson – Will he finally produce or will he just produce more drops?
Devard Darling – Will the move from Baltimore pay off like Priest Holmes? Ha. Could be decent though.
Robert Meachem – Flopped as a Rookie. Will he show strides in Year 2?
Chad Jackson – Big and fast and plays for Tom Brady. Good combo.
DeSean Jackson – Rookie for Philly could have solid Freshman Year.
Limas Sweed – Big Red Zone target for Big Ben.
Devin Thomas/Malcolm Kelly – Washington’s Rookie Wideouts could be produce. Kelly bigger red zone threat.
Owen Daniels – Owen will likely be the 8th-10th Tight End taken in drafts, but could end up being a Top 5 TE. He’s got great hands and is the second best target on the Texans behind Andre Johnson.
Vernon Davis – Here’s another Top 5 candidate. He has the size and speed. Now if he can just stay healthy. Having pass-happy Mike Martz on board should help his progress.
Greg Olsen – With Benard Berrian gone, Olsen is probably the Bears best option in the air attack (I use that term loosely). If Orton wins the job, Olsen will probably be leaned on even more. He’s a sneaky good pickup.
Zach Miller – Zach is another second-year TE that intrigues me. He meshed well with JaMarcus Russell and could be in store for a solid fantasy season. He also may be his team’s best receiving target.
Kevin Boss – They got rid of Shockey because of his Super Bowl catch. Oh, and the whole attitude thing.
John Carlson – Rookie out of Notre Dame could win the starting job in Seattle.