Drafting solid core players in the early rounds paired with the ability to pick players that will outperform their draft position in the later rounds is the formula for any successful fantasy football draft. While the definition of a sleeper is open to debate and opinion, for the sake of this article we’ll define a sleeper simply as a player that will outperform their draft position.
Grant had a nasty injury in the first game of the 2010 season that held him out for the entire year. The Packers did win a Super Bowl but won with a running back by committee approach and relied almost completely on Aaron Rodgers’ arm to win. Prior to the 2010 season, Grant was being drafted as early as a second round pick, this year, early mocks have him going around pick 92. Of course injuries are a concern but we believe Grant will take back his starting spot and if he even comes close to his 2009 number (1253 rush yards / 11 TDs) you just found yourself a steal.
Rookie running backs always have the potential to have fantasy relevant seasons and we love the upside of Williams. The Virginia Tech grad is coming off of leg injury but is healthy and primed to go for the 2011 season. He is a bigger back that has modeled his running style off Walter Peyton and he does have some similarities. Williams will certainly get all the goal line touches and we feel he has a great chance to be the featured back. Sure, the Cards have Wells and Hightower but neither really stepped up last season to be considered an every down back. We always talk about getting young with upside late in the draft and Williams fits that mold perfectly.
Mike Shanahan has always had a knack for finding running backs to be productive in his system and the Skins moved up in this year’s draft to grab Helu. The Nebraska grad had a solid year averaging 6.6 yards a carry and Shanahan has compared him to a young Clinton Portis. We have seen Ryan Torain consistently go ahead of Helu in early mock drafts which we feel is a big mistake. Not only do we believe Helu will get the starting job but Torain is always a huge injury risk as well. If you are drafting early target Helu because if he is announced the starter his ADP will greatly increase.
We think what happened with Big Ben in Pittsburgh is happening in New York with Sanchez. When Roethlisberger first came up they asked him to do very little, but year after year they asked him to do more. The same seems to be happing with Sanchez. The Jets have a ton of weapons and he should have no problem improving his numbers across the board.
With Romo coming off of an injury that cost him most of the 2010 season, he is going to slip a bit on most peoples draft board. He had a career year in 2009, and with all the weapons out in Dallas we would be shocked if he doesn’t have a great bounce back year. If Romo can stay healthy he should easily be a top 10 quarterback, but he could even crack the top 5.
Tebow is a high-risk, high-reward type player, but we think he is a great QB2 to target in the later rounds. He finished last year on fire, and if he picks up where he left off he could end up being a steal in the later rounds. Tebow can hurt teams with his arm, but his legs are the real story. He should easily be in the top 3 for quarterbacks in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
We thought the arrival of Julio Jones would send Ryan shooting up preseason expert rankings, but we were shocked to see where he is being ranked. We have Ryan as our 11th quarterback, but most other experts have him in the low teens. He is coming off of a career year and we think he should have no problem matching or surpassing his numbers from a year ago.
Holmes is scary talented – anyone that watched NFL Hard Knocks a season ago saw how highly the Jets coaching staff spoke about him and after his 4 game suspension was up he played great. He will test the market this off season but he has stated he wants to play for the Jets. If he does return we really think the progress of Mark Sanchez is one of the biggest reasons he is undervalued. We feel that the Jets will let Sanchez throw a little more and he certainly looks for Holmes more than any other receiving option.
Collie was on pace to end the year a top ten wideout but then all of the concussions started happening. We feel that Collie is a lock to start the season as the number 2 wideout for the Colts and as long as he stays healthy he could post huge numbers. Collie was a favorite target for Manning and we see no reason why that will not continue in 2011.
Ford is lighting fast and showed flashes of being a great fantasy receiver during the 2011 season. The Raiders coaching staff said they will get him more involved this season as they feel he can really open up things by taking a corner and a safety over the top when he is running deep routes. If you are in a league that count points for return yards move Ford even higher up your list as he was one of the best last year.
Man, we love this guy. Mike Thomas might be small but he emerged as the top options for the Jags as far as wide receivers go. It is his third year which is typically when we see that big breakout season. He is not just a deep threat either, he will certainly go over the middle when asked to do so. Between 75-80 catches is not completely out of the question.
Most of the other fantasy experts have Cooley outside of their top 10 for tight ends. We understand that the Redskins probably aren’t going to have a solid QB, and they don’t like using Cooley in the red zone, but he still needs to be in the top ten. Cooley is the Redskins most consistent and best offensive weapon, and he should be targeted a lot again this year. We doubt he will finish 3rd in receiving yards for tight ends like he did in 2010, but we expect another solid year out of Cooley.
When you double what Graham did in his last 8 games last year, you get 52 receptions for 614 yards and 10 TD’s. This 24 year old 6′ 6″ tight end is in line for a big season. Like every other offensive weapon on the Saints we expect him to be inconsistent, but look for him to crack the top 10 for tight ends this year.