Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: Trying Too Hard to Find Sleepers Is Draft Killer

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates after he scored on a 24-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on November 20, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

In preparation for my fantasy football draft last year, I did an insane amount of research heading in. I bought magazines, scoured the Internet for fantasy advice, did countless mock drafts online to test out various strategies and searched high, low and wide for the sleepers I was convinced would win me my league.

I finished third to last. It wasn't pretty.

I didn't see Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski or Victor Cruz coming. I was ready for Jimmy Graham to put up nice numbers, but waited a round too long to nab him. Meanwhile, I wasted middle-round picks hoping that players like Shonn Greene would have breakout seasons.

Sure, I had a good feeling about A.J. Green and got lucky by keeping Marshawn Lynch on my team until he exploded in the second half of the season. However, in general, I thought too hard and too long about what I was going to do. I got cute instead of playing smart.

Not this year.

This year, I won't obsess. I won't look endlessly for obscure players who might become studs. I won't clutter my mind with useless names and odd drafting strategies.

For lack of a better term, this year I'm just going to wing it.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still do preparation (I kind of have to—I write about fantasy football a lot). I'll know who is hurt and who is losing touches on the day of my draft. I'll identify bounce-back candidates and players who look like they could regress from big 2011 seasons. I'll be prepared.

However, am I going to obsess over what round I target Titus Young? No. Am I going to try to predict which Oakland Raiders receiver is most likely to have a big year? I don't think so. Will I try to impress my league-mates by reciting the life story of Doug Martin? No thanks.

This year, I'm going to take the draft as it comes, play it safe early by selecting players I know will perform and take my chances in the later rounds once I know the foundation of my team is set.

For the past two years in fantasy baseball, I've won my league, and I've done so without becoming John Nash in my preparation. I had a general idea of guys I liked heading in, and I had a distinct strategy. I found it important to get great value by taking big performers from traditionally weak offensive positions early, and to find pitching gems after drafting four or five solid offensive players.

Most importantly, I trusted my instincts on draft day.

No poring over five different pages of player rankings for different scenarios. No alphabetized list of deep sleepers that included each player's dental records. No giggling at the idea that "this year is going to be the season that Felix Jones is finally a stud, I just know it."

I used common sense. And you know what? Common sense works.

Sure, I can't rely on my old fantasy strategy of stockpiling runners early and platooning two underrated quarterbacks with mid-round draft picks. Fantasy football has become too much about the passing game for that to work. 

Instead, I'm going to do what always seems to work each season.

I'm going to focus on players from traditionally good offenses, avoid players with red flags and try to maximize value with each pick. 

So that's my advice to you, oh seeker of the next great sleeper. Don't waste your time trying to pinpoint the next Cruz. Don't go crazy Gronk-hunting. Don't obsess over whether Robert Griffin III is the next Newton. Chances are, he isn't.

The chances are, while you're lost in the land of fantasy potential, you're spending too much time ignoring the players who are safe bets to help you win your league. Free your mind from the overload of information that surrounds fantasy football.

Don't lose sleep over sleepers. Trust me—all you'll end up doing is losing your league.


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