Are you ready for some (fantasy) football?
Strategy, determination, and a cold pint of beer are all that's required to stay competitive within your fantasy football league.
Whether that be researching for the draft, keeping up to date with injuries throughout the season, or merely fighting for that last spot in the playoffs, no one said managing a fantasy football team was easy.
Although the 2009 season doesn't officially start until September, sign-ups have begun and mock drafts are popping up all over the internet. Unless you're playing with a group of amateurs, there shouldn't be any major surprises in your first two or three rounds of drafting.
As many of us may attest to, the most pressing component of a fantasy football draft is finding that sleeper!
There wasn't any greater feeling last year than to brag to all my friends how I managed to draft Michael Turner in the third round or how I passed up on six rounds of quarterbacks to draft Phillip Rivers in the seventh.
So to kick start the fantasy football season, I'm here to take a premature look into this year's free agent pool of rookies and veterans to determine who will have the highest possibility in becoming this year's sleepers.
Here are my June picks for this year's 2009 fantasy football sleepers.
Note: All selections are based on a 12-team league.
Beanie Wells, RB Cardinals
You may think this is a long shot since the Cardinals are primarily a team who likes to throw the ball more than they run it. This is true, but it doesn't necessarily mean that their running game will become obsolete.
Wells had excelled during his years in Ohio State, and if it wasn't for the injury that sidelined him during his 2008 season, he would've made more of a splash during the draft.
He has explosive strength and great acceleration when healthy. With Edgerrin James off the team, that leaves Wells to compete with Tim Hightower for the majority of the touches for 2009.
Because of all these factors, I don't expect him to be drafted anytime before the fifth or sixth round. If available later in the draft, you might look to gamble with Wells. At this point, I would have him at 50/50 with Hightower on the team's depth chart.
Roy Williams, WR Cowboys
Life without Terrell Owens may or may not become a blessing for the Cowboys. One thing's for sure, Williams will finally have his opportunity to show why Jerry Jones traded for him last year.
Although he hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2006, Williams had shown promise that year with 1,310 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. With Owens out of the picture, look for Williams to become the team's top receiver.
I expect Williams to go no higher than the fifth round.
Matt Ryan, QB Falcons
For those who drafted him last year, Ryan became a solid back up during the bye weeks, if not an above average starter for some us in 12 to 16 team leagues.
Ryan has been named the starting quarterback for the second straight season. He threw for 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions during his rookie season with the Falcons.
The difference this year?
Besides having Michael Turner and Roddy White as his top running back and wide receiver, respectively, Ryan will also have Pro-Bowl tight end, Tony Gonzalez as one of his many aerial targets down field.
Although his rating of 87.7 wasn't necessarily amazing, he did finish in the top ten in quarterbacks who played in all sixteen games. I expect his numbers to improve in all categories. Look for him to be drafted as early as the third round.
Devin Hester, WR Chicago
Hester will become Jay Cutler's primary target for the 2009 season. Although his hands have not been great in the past, he does have excellent off the line speed and should be a great compliment to Cutler.
In 2008, he had 665 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Hester's statistics are a bit deceiving considering he wasn't an every down receiver nor was he a regular target of Kyle Orton, who preferred throwing to his tight-ends.
Hester is a risky pick anytime before the eighth round. His upside is that he doubles as a kick returner with scoring potential. Hester is an ideal pick if you can snag him up in the last couple of rounds of your draft.
Darren Sproles, RB Chargers
Earlier this year, the Chargers had placed a franchise tag on Sproles.
Sproles had phenomenal games during the last weeks of the Chargers 2008 season, before losing in the second round of the playoffs. During Week 17 of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, he rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
With LaDainian Tomlinson's health and age becoming an issue, look for Sproles to become more prominent in the Chargers offense as the season progresses. He's a great pick in the 11th or 12th round.
In smaller leagues, look for him in the free agency pool, and in larger leagues, he'll be gone before the draft is over.
Michael Crabtree, WR 49ers
The 49ers are in desperate need of help, and this was why Crabtree was drafted in the first round.
We'll know more about his status on the team's depth chart in the upcoming months, but I expect him to play opposite of Isaac Bruce at the second receiver spot or possibly at the slot position.
The bigger question for this team is their dilemma at the quarterback position, but this should be discussed in a different article.
Depending on Bruce's status and Crabtree's performance during training camp, I'll look to draft him somewhere between the seventh and ninth round.