2009 Fantasy Football's Sleeping Giants

Ed SheahinCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2009

IRVING - AUGUST 28:  Running back Felix Jones #28 steps out of the grasp of cornerback Marcus McCauley #21 of the Minnesota Vikings on a screen play in the first quarter on August 28, 2008 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

As follow-up to my recently published article entitled, “The Fantasy Football Equivalent To The Secret", where I basically stated the key to running a successful fantasy team was luck, this article is designed to help owners improve their luck.

In “The Secret” article, I provided an example of the 10 most popular picks for the first round of 2008 and how seven of them failed to come close in achieving success as a first round pick.

The owners who can find the “diamonds in the rough” picks late in the fantasy draft are the ones more likely to achieve success in fantasy football.

I will provide you with a list of players at various positions who are more than likely to be available beyond the 10th round of most fantasy football league drafts—excluding those leagues where certain owners feel the need to draft every player from their favorite team.

The players on this list will be overlooked for various reasons ranging from an injury riddled 2008 to rumors they will see limited playing time in 2009.  Believe in the player, not the rumors. 

If you like him, draft him earlier then most owners would expect.   Sure, you’ll get a few who’ll shout, “Reach” or giggle like a school girl on the playground.  Let them have their laugh!  You will laugh all the way to the bank by season’s end!

Here are the candidates primed for breakout seasons that you may or may not already have on your watch list:

1)      Felix Jones (RB), Dallas Cowboys – His 2008 season was cut short with a pulled hamstring, but prior to the injury he averaged a mere 8.9 yards per carry.  Now that is the definition of a home-run hitter.   He will be the man in Dallas and Barber will be relegated to short yardage and fourth-quarter duties once again.  Expectations: 1,200 yards rushing, 400 receiving, and 10 TD’s.


2)      Darren McFadden (RB), Oakland Raiders – Another who suffered through injuries in 2008 but showed flashes of his abilities.  The Raiders will be a better team in 2009 and Coach Cable will make sure his stud gets more touches this year.  Expectations: 1,000 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving, and 9 TD’s.


3)      Cedric Benson (RB), Cincinnati Bengals – What a roller-coaster ride year Benson had in 2008.  Was slated to be the Bears starter, got arrested, released by the Bears, went without pay for half the season, signed with Cincy, and became a starter once again.  He will be the Bengals main man this year and unless he gets cocky once again.  He will be a solid No. 2 RB on your FFL team.  Expectations: 1,100 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving, and 10 TD’s.


4)      Ahmad Bradshaw (RB), NY Giants – Another jail bird who lost most of his 2008 season as punishment for his behavior.  When he did play he averaged 5.1 yards per carry as the third RB in the Giants backfield.  With Ward out of the way, Bradshaw is now the second back behind Jacobs.  He should put up Ward like numbers assuming he stays out of trouble and he doesn’t lose time to talented rookie Andre Brown (NC State).  Expectations: 900 yards rushing, 400 yards receiving, and 8 TD’s.


5)      Trent Edwards (QB), Buffalo Bills – Sure, this is somewhat obvious with the addition of TO, but Edwards was having a great 2008 season until the Cardinals’ Wilson buried his head in the Arizona turf in week five.  He tried to “Man-up” but he and the Bills were never the same after that hit.  Edwards will be more valuable earlier in the year as the Bills will have to throw the ball more without suspended RB Marshawn Lynch (four games) and prior to the Buffalo winter settling in.  Get what you can out of him and trade Edwards prior to your league’s trading deadline.  Expectations: 3,200 yards passing and 22 TD’s.


6)      Carson Palmer (QB), Cincinnati Bengals – Yes, Palmer is a sleeper!  As you know, half your league’s owners probably go right down the list of the previous year’s leading scorers when selecting who to draft.  With only four passing TD’s last season, Palmer will be overlooked.  From what I am seeing in various publications, he is rated anywhere from 10 -14 as far as QB’s are concerned.  That spells back-up in my book and Palmer is not a backup.  He and Johnson will be in sync once again.  Expectations: 3,600 yards passing and 25 TD’s.


7)      Donnie Avery (WR), St. Louis Rams – Some will argue that this is not a sleeper pick, but owners will shy away from Avery because the Rams suck, he only had 3 TD’s last year, and the Rams suck!  He is the No. 1 man now for a team that will find themselves down in games early, often, and by a lot.  This guy is the fastest receiver I have seen in a very long time.  He blows by defenders as if they were standing still.  Expectations: 1,200 yards receiving and 10 TD’s.


8)      Lance Moore (WR), New Orleans – Plain and simple, Moore is a winner!  He gives you every bit of effort and produces as a result.  He may not be considered a sleeper or last until the 10th round as a result of his 10 TD receptions last year, but he is basically a number two receiver on his team (a No. 3 if you include Bush).  Moore may not repeat last season’s performance, but he will come close.  Expectations: 800 yards receiving and 7 TD’s.


9)      Miles Austin (WR), Dallas Cowboys – With really no stats to base this prediction on, all I can go by is what I have seen when Austin plays.  This guy has the ability to be a star.  He has speed, smarts, and improving hands (I say that cautiously as he has dropped a few over the years).  Jerry Jones would not have released TO unless he had a viable replacement for him and the Cowboys feel they have that in Austin.  Expectations: 1,000 yards receiving and 7 TD’s.


10)   Visanthe Shiancoe (TE) Minnesota Vikings – A tremendous athlete who is improving every year.  If Farve becomes a Viking as expected, Shiancoe will be the steal of the draft and will put up Tony Gonzalez like numbers.  Expectations (w/Farve): 900 yards receiving and 10 TD’s.


11)   Brent Celek (TE) Philadelphia Eagles – With LJ Smith gone, Celek is now McNabb’s go to man on short yardage and end zone situations.  Tall and fast with decent hands, Celek should shine in 2009!  Expectations: 700 yards receiving and 8 TD’s.


12)   Devin Thomas (WR), Washington Redskins – Sleeper pick, this more like a coma pick.  Year two is when receivers show their stuff in the NFL.  Thomas has a TO type body and more speed.  If Jason Campbell and the Redskins are going to be successful in 2009, it will be as a result of improved downfield play by Thomas.  If Zorn uses him the way I think he will, look for big things from Thomas.  Expectations: 900 yards receiving and 9 TD’s.


13)   Fred Jackson (RB), Buffalo Bills – Worst case scenario, you’ll have a starter for the first four weeks of the season that you drafted late.  Best case, Jackson does well enough early in the year to split carries with Lynch upon his return and with injuries you never know.  He is not flashy or bruising, he just runs hard to daylight.  Expectations: 800 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving, and 7 TD’s.       


14)   John Carlson (TE), Seattle Seahawks – Not really a sleeper because he has the ability and showed it during his rookie campaign, but he will be available in the later rounds as TE’s tend to slide after the studs are picked.  If you have Hasselbeck as your back-up QB, take Carlson as a package deal!  Expectations: 700 yards receiving and 9 TD’s.


15)   Jason Campbell (QB), Washington Redskins – Well, they couldn’t get a replacement for him and they couldn’t unload him, so the Skins’ are stuck with him.  At least that is how the Redskins brass would like it to appear.  Honestly, I think the front office had no intention of getting rid of Campbell, plain and simple they tried to light a fire under their talented but laid back QB.  If Snyder wanted Cutler or Sanchez, you know he would have got them even if he had to over pay.  Not only is Campbell’s season and tenure with the Redskins on the line in 2009 his career as a starting NFL quarterback could be as well.  I expect him to improve having the same offensive coordinator (Zorn) for consecutive seasons for the first time in his career.  Expectations: 3,500 yards passing, 300 yards rushing, and 23 TD’s.

Well there you have it, my main sleepers for 2009!  Of course this will all change with injuries during the preseason, but for now it will have to do.  There are others I would add to this list and probably will do so in late August prior to FFL drafts. 

Let me know who some of your sleepers are for 2009 and why you think they are primed for a breakout season.