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. Keep in mind that with every sleeper, there is a bit of risk involved. We have often seen a tendency to draft over-hyped sleepers too early, which completely defeats the purpose. So with that being said, be sure to load up on proven players first, and then as the mid-to-late rounds approach you may want to take a gamble on some of the players on this list. If you have any fantasy football questions about a sleepers, busts, or who to draft, feel free to post them in our Fantasy Sports Forum.
The 225-pound Hardesty will be a nice compliment to the undersized Jerome Harrison. Harrison had a strong finish to the 2009 season and will be the starter entering the 2010 season, however Hardesty is a threat to his workload and could eventually take over as the Brown’s No. 1 back. It is worth mentioning that the Browns face a lot of tough run defenses and Hardesty does have a history of injuries, but if he holds up he’s got a decent chance of moving up the depth chart and having fantasy value as a rookie.
In his first two seasons, Bush averaged 4.6 yards per carry and has shown he deserves a shot at more touches. Darren McFadden will likely start the season as the Raider’s No. 1 back, but Bush will have less competition for carries with Justin Fargas gone. McFadden has more value in PPR leagues, but Bush will be used more in short-yardage situations and is better-suited for TD-only leagues. While both of these players have some fantasy value and should be drafted in all leagues, we think Bush is the better back and a great sleeper pick.
After seeing more than 300 carries in each of the previous two seasons, Portis only had 124 carries in 2009 after missing the final eight games with a concussion. Portis will be the No. 1 back to start the 2010 season despite the off-season additions of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. With his lingering injury concerns, combined with the crowded backfield, Portis will likely fall pretty deep on your draft board. We’re not saying he’ll return to fantasy glory because he is reunited with Mike Shanahan, but we are saying he could offer decent value for where you will be able to get him in the draft.
Jackson will likely be the No. 1 back to start the season, but he will be in a timeshare with the Bills first-round pick C.J. Spiller. Both of these players will have some fantasy value as they will be used in different situations. Jackson will likely be in first and second down formations, while Spiller will serve more in third down or passing situations. Marshawn Lynch will be in the mix as well, but he’s dropped to third on the depth chart and is not likely to be much of a factor. Spiller may be the back of the future for the Bills, but Jackson will have more fantasy value in 2010.
Houston has one of the best offenses in the league, but they are in desperate need of a rushing attack. The Texans drafted Tate in the second round, and although he’ll be competing for carries with Steve Slaton and Arian Foster, he should have a strong shot at moving up the depth chart and winning the primary running back duties. This is a great situation for Tate and we expect his name will be on the list for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Coming off a 2,000- yard college campaign in 2008 and first-round selection by the Colts, Brown was surrounded by a lot of hype entering his rookie season. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he never passed Joseph Addai on the depth chart and missed five games with a shoulder injury. While think Brown will be a bigger part of the Colt’s offense, it still might take an injury to Addai for Brown to get more than 200 carries. Either way, he’s a no-brainer handcuff with a lot of upside.
Maclin had a few good games in 2009, but also showed some inconsistency you’d expect from a rookie. Despite these inconsistencies and a nagging foot injury, he ended the season with 56 catches for 773 yards. Coming into his second year, there are a couple changes regarding the Eagles offense, mainly new starting QB Kevin Kolb. We like Kolb and we also like that defenses will need to focus on slowing down DeSean Jackson. Maclin is a great fit for the West Coast offense and is very attractive mid-round pick.
Aromashodu’s 2009 numbers as a whole are not that eye-popping, but in the final four games he was targeted 39 times, had 22 receptions for 282 yards, and four scores. His 6’2″ frame gives Jay Cutler another Brandon Marshall type target and with the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, there should be plenty of passes to go around. Aromashodu is a very intriguing pick this season with a huge upside.
Despite a stagnant Oakland offense, Miller still managed to haul in 66 catches for 805 yards last season. With an upgrade at quarterback in Jason Campbell, Miller is one of the handful of Raiders players worthy of fantasy consideration. Chris Cooley was Campbell’s best weapon in Washington and it’s likely Miller will be the top receiving option in Oakland. The tight end position is much deeper this year, but Miller could give you great fantasy value later in the draft.
Floyd’s fantasy stock will be high to start the season while Vincent Jackson serves a three-game suspension, but his value could extend much longer as Jackson has threatened to holdout for the first 10 games of the season. While a 10-game holdout is unlikely, this situation is still worth monitoring as it will have a big impact on their draft position. Floyd will be either the second or third receiving option for the Chargers, but his size makes him a capable red zone target.
If you have any fantasy football questions about a sleepers, busts, or who to draft, feel free to post them in our Fantasy Sports Forum.