Which team or player will have the "surprise" fantasy year?
This is the question I ask myself before I go to sleep at night (not making that up). The thought of making sure no one player, or team of players has been overlooked.
They are the sleeper picks.
The picks that make fantasy football owners so passionate, confident, and downright obnoxious. These picks can make us look like geniuses and at the same time can make us look like morons.
They are what separates the great owners from the owners who think this is just a hobby (they are sadly mistaken).
It's easy to pick one player that you think will have a breakout season. It's more difficult however to pick out teams that will have breakout "fantasy" seasons. Drafting a team full of just sleeper picks takes courage and quite frankly you would have to be somewhat insane.
Though if you were to try and draft this way these are the teams that you may think about.
Here are the top five fantasy sleeper teams of 2009.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
All the injuries and off-the-field issues have plagued this team in the past, but not this year.
Carson Palmer is 100-percent heading into camp and looking to reestablish himself as an elite QB in the league. When Palmer is healthy he is as good as anybody, and being surrounded with good talent should help him achieve this feat.
Palmer will be drafted late at about the eighth or ninth round making him a great pick at this point.
Chad Ocho Cinco plans to rebound this year after an average season for him. Ocho Cinco undertook a new offseason workout that has him feeling good and ready this season.
TJ's departure makes Ocho Cinco the undisputed No. 1 target for Palmer. The increase in opportunities should make him motivated and dangerous.
Ocho Cinco is expected to go around the sixth round maybe later this year. A possible elite talent available that late should not be passed up.
Laveranues Coles should not be forgotten either. Coles has been a primary target for most of his career. Since better days are behind Coles his value drops a little, but should not drop much this season.
Now having the benefit of being on a pass first team, and not having the full attention of the opponents' defenses should help Coles. Coles will make his living in Cincinnati by running underneath routes, where at his age is the best fit for him.
Coles, projected at the ninth round, is a gem at the bottom of the barrel.
Let's not forget Chris Henry and his ability to stretch the field. As long as this guy can stay out of trouble he can become the big play guy on the team making it easier on everyone else.
Those long touchdowns for extra points could have Henry becoming a fantasy prospect sooner than most expected.
Though not known for their rushing ability, Cedric Benson could prove beneficial in certain matchups. Benson is the teams primary back, who does not split carries with another back.
If the Bengals produce any kind of rushing numbers it would be through Benson.
The biggest thing I see at the possibility of drafting this team is how late everybody will go. You could draft two elite RBs in the first two rounds before even considering to draft someone from the Bengals.
This offense, no joke, could very well prove to become the best in "reality" and "fantasy."
Fun to think about, isn't it?
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs could prove to be the surprise team of the year, not just in fantasy but in reality as well.
Matt Cassel is coming off a season in which he started for the first time since his high school days. He finished with almost 3,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. Expect the Chiefs to use more of a spread type offense this year as well, making it comfortable for Cassel.
Cassel has young rising stars around him to help the new adjustment as well. Projected to be a seventh round pick, Cassel will prove last year was no fluke.
Dwayne Bowe will be a big part in the "fantasy" success the Chiefs will have this season. A rising star, with a new QB, and offensive scheme will look to assert himself among the top in the NFL.
The potential is there for Bowe to be unleashed at any moment. This year should be the year.
Bowe is projected at the third round the highest for anyone on the team.
The absence of Tony Gonzalez could prove to make Larry Johnson a dynamic weapon. Johnson, who will look to prove his worth again this season will now be the main underneath option for Cassel.
Johnson, though not as durable as he used to be, still has the skill set to be an effective back in the league. The indicator being the fact that he had a 4.5 yards per carry average last season.
If Larry can stay healthy while getting the bulk of the workload then it could be a return to fantasy greatness.
Johnson is projected at about the fifth round.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Arizona dethroned the Seahawks last season. Seattle is usually the team to beat in the NFC West, but because of key injuries the Seahawks could not continue to dominate the division.
Matt Hasselbeck was injured, missing half the season. Now he has been in camp and, according to reports, has been looking sharp.
Hasselbeck should be thrilled that he will have Deion Branch and TJ Houshmandzadeh to throw the ball to. The West Coast Offense will still be in place even under the new coaching staff.
Hasselbeck has an opportunity to the surprise fantasy player of the year since he is projected to only the 11th round.
Houshmandzadeh will now be the No. 1 target with his new team and not have to be in the shadow of Ocho Cinco.
It can be argued that he was the primary target anyway, since he led in yards and receptions last year. Though the general consensus was that Ocho Cinco was the go-to man.
Houshmandzadeh was never a huge red zone threat, having said that if Hasselbeck stays healthy you can look for an increase in this category. Accompanied with Hasselbeck the Seahawks have three teams in their division with mediocre secondaries. This should give TJ six games that he should have very good numbers.
Houshmandzadeh is projected at the fourth round.
Branch will fly under the radar with TJ on the other side of the field. Branch will be expected to stretch the field in this offense, giving him the opportunities to make the big play.
Injuries, Wallace as the starting QB, and not having another weapon around him all contributed to a dismal season for Branch. Hopefully with all those wrongs corrected, Branch will show why Seattle brought him over from New England.
Branch is great value being taken off waivers since he is not even projected to be drafted.
Julius Jones isn't looked upon as being a top fantasy running back, however he is the sole running back in Seattle. By not splitting carries, Jones will have any run production that Seattle produces.
Jones could also prove to be dynamic since he will be expected to catch out of the backfield in this offense as well. Jones is projected in the tenth round.
Seahawks have a rising star in Carlson, who as a tight end was the leading receiver on the Seahawks team. Hasselbeck will find his new target delightful especially in the red zone.
When drafting this team you could have your first three picks to try and draft those elite players along with a team poised to breakout.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is not known for its offense, but could be on the verge of changing that memo.
Joe Flacco is coming in with another season under his belt and he has built chemistry with his team. For the most part, he is surrounded by the same personnel. He will still have the benefit of a good offensive line and running game, which helps any young QB.
Flacco is projected at the 14th round or to not being drafted at all.
Derrick Mason has been the solid veteran starter for the Ravens for years. He has always proven to have some sort of fantasy value to his game depending on matchups.
Once again, he will be expected to lead the way for the receiving core on this team.
Mason is to be taken off the board at about the10th round, giving his consistent performance some real value.
Todd Heap has to step up and reassert himself as one of the top tight ends in the league. Young QBs love their big tight ends. If Heap can stay healthy, Flacco could be better than people think.
Whether it's McGahee or Rice, when have the Ravens ever had a bad run game? This makes both these backs wild cards in the fantasy draft as well as in reality.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
All of these teams are very hit or miss, but Tampa could be the most hit or miss team.
Byron Leftwich, with the label of bust will get his chance to start. Leftwich still has the cannon the question is can he succeed when needed to be accurate.
Two credentials struggling quarterbacks really need surrounding them is a good run game and a good tight end. Tampa Bay has both a run game and a tight end. Leftwich won't be expected to do to much so he may be able to thrive under less pressure.
Antonio Bryant is a very underrated wide receiver in the NFL who hasn't had the chance to play on a very good team. Though Bryant's last season was good for over 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns with Garcia at the helm.
Not to mention Bryant was being double-covered most of the time because he was the only real aerial threat. Now that wont be able to happen because Winslow will draw the attention of opponent's safeties.
Bryant is projected at the fifth round and is really a third round talent to have.
Winslow receives a new change in scenery. Leaving the Browns may have been the best thing for his career. Though not to say Tampa is really on the high rise or anything, but better there than Cleveland.
What makes Winslow so dangerous is the fact that he has the ability to be a wide receiver yet gets the match up of a tight end. As long as he stays healthy, Winslow is an elite tight end in the league.
Tampa's running game looks to improve this year with the addition of Ward. Earnest Graham will be the the touchdown specialist. While Ward has the ability to break big runs chalking up those extra points for fantasy owners.
All of these teams, though real stretches to draft from, can prove their worth. These teams wouldn't have to be drafted from until the third or fourth rounds.
This gives you the beginning of the draft to build the core of your team and then try and maximize your points with these teams' rosters taken later.
Just a thought, not a suggestion.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!