Ah yes—every savvy fantasy owner's dreamy 12th round pick with sixth round value that takes him to first round glory.
ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.—they all love to wear out the term "sleeper," don't they?
That's because they know that special noun will demand your attention and, later, your wallet as you delve into their text, not willing to pass up the next Marques Colston or Steve Slaton.
In fact, they'll slap just about anyone under the "sleeper" label—like they ordered too many sticky notes and are having a going-out-of-business sale.
Slaton no longer fits that bill—sorry, "generic website" looking for more traffic.
Everyone knows running backs, and when a guy is usually ranked inside the top 12, the label doesn't hold—the sticky note falls off.
Tony Gonzalez? Unless there's another Tony Gonzalez I'm not aware of (a quick ESPN search reveals that one does play for the Los Angeles Angels, so maybe it's that one they're referring to), a future Hall of Famer who put up 10 touchdowns last year doesn't fit the bill either.
Matt Hasselbeck? If he's on there, every player that sustained a lengthy injury in 2008 deserves to be on there too.
Matt Cassel? Sure, he may have been the biggest sleeper of 2008—but throwing for 3,600 yards, 21 touchdowns, and being probably the most-talked about (non-Brett Favre, of course) story in the NFL no longer abides by the "sleeper" rules.
Matt Leinart? Everyone and their brother knows Kurt Warner is one good hit from bagging your chips and salsa before next week's game. Not to mention Matt has been in the spotlight since his days at USC. Not a sleeper.
Yes, all of the above players may fit the bill of "Overachievers for Their Average Draft Positions."
You can get a lot of production from where they are usually taken in drafts—some others include Anthony Gonzalez, Trent Edwards, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Carson Palmer, Felix Jones, Donald Brown, and Brandon Pettigrew.
That list is crucial to all owners—but they're not sleepers.
Any player known in most households forfeits his sleeper status for "hey, he'd be a great pick for that round."
Also, any first round draft pick of 2009 is off that list too. Anyone selected first is most likely going to see substantial playing time in their rookie season, and everyone knows that.
The term "sleeper" coincides with only one word: opportunity.
A third string running back taken in the fifth round of the draft (the real one) who might be given a chance to start? That's a sleeper.
A lesser known wide receiver that plays on the same team as an injury prone starter with a strong-armed QB? Sleeper.
So, now that the rules are set in stone—the top 20 real sleepers of 2009.
Oh yes, "that" Mike Bell.
The Mike Bell who ran for eight touchdowns in 2006 with Denver. Why is he on here? A couple of reasons.
1. He's only scored one touchdown since 2006.
2. In his picture, he's carrying the ball, obviously. If you took one picture for each of his other carries, total, for the past two seasons—there would only be 18 pictures.
Two years, 18 total carries.
3. As it stands now, Bell is behind Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.
Thomas has never totaled more than 130 rush attempts in a season, and we all know Bush can't handle the rock as a RB, even part-time.
If something should happen to Thomas, Bell automatically takes the majority of the carries for a very potent Saints offense.
This one's easy—at the moment, Garcon is slated to act as the third wide receiver in Indy's high-octane offense.
He's good for 40 catches and three to four touchdowns if Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez stay healthy ahead of him. If one of them goes down, Garcon becomes a monster steal.
The Giants have groomed Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Grant, and Derrick Ward—Danny Ware could be next.
If the Giants choose, Ware could step in as the third running back, as their system worked beautifully in 2008—a system that Ware is familiar with.
Either way, Jacobs is very injury-prone, and behind that New York O-line, you or I could rush for 800 yards and a couple of scores.
A rookie out of N.C. State, Andre Brown, could fit into this spot as well—whoever wins that battle.
Okay, Wallace is known to the average fan.
But he's not getting drafted by any of them. However, Seneca does hold some value with an outside shot to run the Wildcat, and Matt Hasselbeck is obviously very injury-prone.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson, John Carlson, and Julius Jones all reside in Seattle—even Wallace would have fun with that bunch.
Derrick Mason nearly retired, which could have opened the door for a starting spot for Williams.
Either way, Mark Clayton isn't great, and Mason still has a long way to go before the season—his mind could be changed, and Williams' value goes up if it does.
Okay, the 49ers aren't the Colts when it comes to the passing game, but the two wideouts ahead of Morgan are Isaac Bruce—who must be entering his 50s soon—and Michael Crabtree, who is still holding out, and negotiations aren't even close.
Crabtree just might be full of himself enough to sit out of actual game play.
Morgan becomes the top receiving option, at worse the second.
Jones is currently winning the battle for the third wide receiver spot in Green Bay.
That bodes well for him, as QB Aaron Rodgers may be good for 4,000 yards, and his value will go up once Donald Driver wears down—unfortunately (for Jones), that may not be in 2009.
Yes, people know of McMichael.
But they forgot about him.
Want proof? That's literally the only picture that came up in a Getty Images search from this website of McMichael (he played for the Dolphins three years ago).
He's the second receiving option behind injury-prone WR Donnie Avery in St. Louis. That bodes very well for a late-pick TE.
Here's another picture-related argument: Washington hasn't carried the rock for USC in two years.
Updated picture or not, Washington is vying for the backup role behind Maurice Jones-Drew, who has never gone over 200 carries.
This entry is 12th because no one has any idea of who will win the job—Washington, fullback Greg Jones, or seventh-round pick Rashad Jennings.
Jamal Lewis is slowing down—fast.
Jerome Harrison is still somewhat of a project, and he has never carried the ball more than 40 times in a season.
Davis was a very strong runner at Clemson, with a similar style to Lewis'. With some teaching and a little help blocking, Davis could jump Harrison and steal a lot of carries. Not to mention Eric Mangini's new system will focus on the run.
Rice has never lived up to his potential, but he's still here.
Percy Harvin won't play exclusively as a wideout, so Rice will still see a ton of snaps.
Brett Favre recently said he's reconsidering coming back to the NFL (yes, he's reconsidering his reconsidering of NOT returning, by reconsidering and now saying he may want to play for the Vikes), and if he does indeed come back, Rice's stock skyrockets.
Coming into camp, it was said Austin would compete for a starting job, but it appears Austin has slipped to No. 3 on the depth chart.
If he stays there, he's still a solid sleeper with Tony Romo under center.
Patrick Crayton is not loved in Dallas, so if Austin shows any promise, he'll be propelled into a starting role.
The Lions are very quietly sprinkling that offense with playmakers, but Johnson will still have a great shot at starting from day one.
Teams will be triple-covering Megatron, so Johnson could be a sneaky surprise.
Ryan Grant is still the starter, but at times is very inconsistent and has trouble finding the end zone.
Jackson fared okay as a starter, added weight in the offseason, improved as a blocker, and showed decent hands in training camp—all nice traits for a possible goal-line and/or third down option.
Green Bay may be joining the trend with a dual-RB system.
Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both looking for new deals, which increases Greene's value in keeper leagues.
However, it's already been said Greene will see playing time as a goal-line back, and even as a rookie that holds his true value.
He may be third on the depth chart, but he'll see carries—very important carries.
Everyone seems to be picking up Chris Brown as a handcuff/possible goal-line back for Steve Slaton.
It's the usually undrafted Moats, however, that sits as the No. 2 back in Houston on the depth chart.
Moats has a very similar running style to Slaton and also should thrive in their zone-blocking scheme. If Slaton should go down, Houston will employ a dual-RB system, but Moats will see the majority of the carries.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has openly stated he likes Bradley to be the wide receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe, which means he becomes the second receiving option for a pass-happy coordinator and Matt Cassel.
If Cassel is as good as advertised, his value goes up that much more.
While Bowe gets double-teamed, Bradley is free to run wild.
If you watched last year's Monday Night game between Buffalo and Cleveland, and thus saw Harrison's speed on display, you know about him.
If you didn't watch, you probably don't.
It's amazing that even with all the quarterback troubles (even down to the third and fourth stringers) and how much Jamal Lewis has slowed down, Harrison only got 34 carries.
It's been openly stated the Browns will get the ball in Harrison's hands much more often in 2009. Harrison is vying to take over punt-return duties, may have a hand in flex packages, and will see a substantial increase in carries.
Celek's regular season stats aren't spectacular—27 catches and one score.
But during the Eagles' playoff run, Celek became Donovan McNabb's go-to guy with 19 catches and three touchdowns. And don't forget, L.J. Smith is now in Baltimore.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin bring the speed to Philly, but Celek is now the midrange option.
Is Devin Hester a viable WR option?
I have my doubts.
Bennett becomes one of the top receiving options with Greg Olsen, but the real potential lies with the acquisitions of Jay Cutler and Orlando Pace.
Cutler has talent, options, and a solid offensive line.
Bennett still remains an unknown, but that won't last for too long.
A fun fact worth noting—Cutler and Bennett were college teammates at Vanderbilt.