For the past few months I’ve been writing strictly about fantasy football for GMEN HQ and this week is no different. The only difference is that there are no rankings for me to share with you fellow GMEN HQ fantasy football fiends/enthusiasts, as I’ve gone over rankings for every relevant fantasy football position, which you can easily find on our site.
Luckily fantasy football rankings isn’t the only subject worth talking about in the world of fantasy football and every fantasy football prognosticator has much more to talk about when it comes to fantasy football such as busts, steals, sleepers, average draft position and value based drafting.
Today I’m going to spend my allotted time on the blog talking about my 2012 fantasy football sleeper picks. Before I do so I want to get something out the way: you’ve probably read about these sleepers somewhere else or they’ve been heavily touted as sleepers so much this off-season that they’re no longer sleepers and just nappers.
That’s the thing about fantasy football. There really are no more sleepers. Going into my draft last year the one player I truly thought I had as a sleeper and that nobody else in my league had on their radar was Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore.
I rejoiced when I drafted him in the 11th round of my draft, thinking that nobody was the wiser and I got myself a real steal. Turns out that even though I was the one to draft him many of my fellow league mates knew of him and congratulated me for taking him.
With so many resources at our dispersal such as fantasy football preview magazines, fantasy football websites, pre-season football games, and now Twitter, where we can follow beat writers and go-to fantasy football sources, sleepers can’t be slept on any more.
What it all boils down to is value and drafting a potential sleeper at the right time. For an example of this let’s look at Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith. At the beginning of the off-season Smith wasn’t been talked much about. There was still some hope in Detroit that Jahvid Best would be cleared to play and would resume his duties as the RB1 for the Lions. Even if Best wasn’t able to play right away the Lions still had Mikel Leshoure waiting in the wings to take over. Smith wasn’t seen as anything more than a third-string running back on his own team, which meant he wasn’t even on the radar of most fantasy football draftniks.
Well, fast forward ahead in the off-season and Best hasn’t been cleared yet, and he might never play a down of football again, while Leshoure was handed a two-game suspension. That led Smith to become the defacto #1 RB in Detroit and to shoot up the fantasy football running back rankings. Smith, who started out with a low ADP, practically being undrafted in most leagues, now routinely finds himself being taken anywhere from the 10h to 13th round of drafts. Smith fits the definition of sleeper but the more people talk about him and the longer he stays healthy this off-season the greater the likelihood he ends up shooting up even higher in terms of draft position. He was practically left for dead last season until the Lions’ running back situation become so dire that they had to sign him. In a game against the Carolina Panthers he totaled more than 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, yielding fantasy heaven points for anyone wise enough to start him. His numbers tapered off as the season wore on but the Lions play the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL Season and their defense is worse than the Panthers’ defense from last year.
Nobody knows if Smith will hold on long enough to matter in fantasy football this season or if Best will come back to reclaim his starting job or if Leshoure will take over in the backfield once his suspension is over but right now Smith is in line to start in the Lions’ backfield opening weekend and he can return high dividends to those willing to risk a late round pick flier on him, unless, of course his sleeper status starts to wear off due to his history of injuries and he becomes too much of a risk to draft.
As you can see by the Kevin Smith example a sleeper is only a sleeper if nobody knows about him and for most fantasy football players that put in the required pre-draft prep work there aren’t too many sleeper names that get by them.
Yet, that won’t stop me from listing players at each position that I feel are sleepers and that you might be able to draft in the last few rounds of your upcoming fantasy football draft.
It’s hard to pick a sleeper quarterback in fantasy football because this is the pre-eminent position in the game today. It’s all about the pass in the NFL and every quarterback has been scrutinized and picked apart this off-season by those that follow the NFL with and without an interest in the game of fake football. Guys like Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler and Matt Flynn are being thrown around as QB sleepers but you can’t really consider any of them as sleepers. Pretty much every QB battle has been decided and a name that could have been a sleeper a week ago, Jake Locker, looks poised to win the starting job in Tennessee. He’s probably not going to be drafted too high, if at all, especially in leagues that only start one quarterback but he’s a name to keep an eye on, as is the man listed below…
- Joe Webb. After watching him play last year I think he would make for an excellent fantasy quarterback, thanks in large part to his running skills. In real life he probably wouldn’t do much better than Christian Ponder but if for whatever reason Ponder doesn’t play and Webb is asked to step in I would grab him immediately as he has the potential to put up top 12 fantasy QB numbers because of his duel threat as a passer and runner.
- Kevin Smith (see above). To add, he’s a guy going as late as the 13th round that can be a RB1 and he plays for a high-octane offense that will possibly be in a lot of shootouts.
- Evan Royster. He’s almost in the same position that Smith finds himself. Buried behind two other running backs, in his case Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, but Royster all of a sudden sits atop the Washington Redskin’s running back depth chart. I strongly caution anybody considering drafting a Redskins running back seeing that any runner could be a starter at any given moment thanks to Shanahanigans but it looks like right now Royster is the man. He doesn’t wow you in any way but he did average 5.9 yards per carry last season and finished off the season with back-to-back 100 yard rushing games. If given the opportunity he can outplay his draft position, which isn’t that high.
- Lance Moore. Robert Meachem and his 2011 61 targets have moved on to San Diego and that leaves Moore to step up into the #2 WR role for the Saints. Sure, Moore was targeted 73 times last year and Drew Brees and the Saints have about 5,391 other receiving options to choose from, but that shouldn’t hurt Moore. He has actually led the team in receiving touchdowns the past two years and last season he and Marques Colston were each targeted the same amount in the red zone. The one drawback with Moore is that he’s a boom or bust type of player and if he isn’t catching touchdowns he’s not doing a whole lot more. Meachem only scored 6 touchdowns last year so that’s not a whole lot to go around in New Orleans where Jimmy Graham is expected to be the one to have the ball thrown a little more his way, especially in the red zone. However, Graham will probably see plenty of double teams this year, which could lead Moore to sneak in and grab a few extra touchdowns.
- Rod Streater. Yes, the Oakland Raiders are loaded at the wide receiver position with the likes of Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford. I don’t really expect Streater to make much of an impact this year but after watching him against the Dallas Cowboys in pre-season he has the tools and talent to play in the NFL after going undrafted. Jacoby Ford wasn’t impressive at all versus the Cowboys, DHB still can’t be relied on and Moore has lingering hamstring issues so you never know when Streater might get his chance to shine when the games really count. I wouldn’t draft him but you should keep an eye on him as the season progresses.
- Kyle Rudolph. This is the sleeper of all sleepers at the tight end position this year because most fantasy tight ends have already become household names like Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez or they’ve already been labeled as sleepers before such as Brandon Pettigrew or Jermaine Gresham, which means people are aware of them on draft day. Rudolph has become the trendy TE sleeper pick because Ponder isn’t that good and that means lots of check downs plus other than Percy Harvin there’s nobody else to throw the ball to in Minnesota. If you miss out on one of the top fantasy tight ends and wait it out in your draft you might get rewarded with taking Rudolph late, as he could easily become a top 10 fantasy tight end.
- Joel Dreessen. I just think he’s the better tight end option between him and Jacob Tamme, who’s getting all the pub because of his past playing relationship with Peyton Manning. In Houston Dreessen played well whenever Starter Owen Daniels was out with injuries and out of 64 total receptions over the course of the last two seasons 10 of them were for touchdowns.
- Seattle Seahawks. When you think of the Seahawks you immediately conjure up pictures of jail cells and skittles, which is fine with the Seahawk’s defensive unit, as that will allow them to fly under the radar. There was a tweet by Yahoo’s Doug Farrar, who runs their Shutdown Corner blog, regarding the Seahawks defense that really stood out to me and I haven’t been able to get out of my mind:
“Between Tuesday’s interceptions and Thursday’s SICK red zone defense, the Seahawks really have something going on that side of the ball.”
You can’t make a fantasy draft pick based on a tweet but you can on facts. Fact 1. The Seahawks play in the NFC West, which features starting quarterbacks the likes of Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and J.K. Skelolb. Fact 2. They allowed 332.2 yards per game last season, good enough for 9th in the league. Fact 3. They finished as the 7th best defense in terms of points allowed per game, giving up only 19.7 points per game.
The facts speak for themselves when talking about the Seahawks and their defense. You don’t have to draft them early and if you miss out on top projected fantasy defenses like the 49ers, Ravens, Eagles or Bears, you can take the Seahawks late and be pretty pumped about drafting a fantasy defense with top ten potential.
There are no fantasy football sleeper kickers. If you were expecting me to name one then you need to step away from the monitor and take a break from fantasy football for a little while.
Okay, so there you have it, my fantasy football sleeper picks for this season. Most of the names mentioned by me, probably all of them, should be pretty recognizable to you all, but I still had to name them, as I believe they’re players you can take late that will outperform their late draft positions. Let’s see how my picks do at the end of the season and whether or not I’m able to draft one or two of them in my draft that’s being held later today.
Let me know in the GMEN HQ comments section what you think of my sleeper picks and provide me with some of your own sleeper picks as well!