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Sleeper: A player who an owner believes is going to have a breakout season. These are usually players who are not rookies, but they can be. For the most part they are not well-known NFL players. These players are usually drafted in the mid to late rounds.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis
It became clear over the past couple seasons that the only thing keeping Gonzalez from breaking out was the coaching staff. Tony Dungy and offensive coordinator Tom Moore were loyal to Marvin Harrison, and rightfully so. You can’t expect a rookie to waltz in and take the reins.
However, now that the future Hall of Fame wideout has moved on, Gonzalez can at least share the reins. He’s in his third year (typical jump year for WR production) and will get at least 70 receptions.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati
Remember the years when everybody just drooled over Carson Palmer? He was one of those hyped-up USC super-studs who people would fight to lay their hands on.
The long-forgotten QB may not become the John Elway everyone was hoping for, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see his 2006-07 form make an appearance. His elbow is 100 percent, as he was able to avoid Tommy John surgery.
If you are scared by the departure of T.J. Whosyourmomma, don’t fret. His wide receiving crew may just be one of the best. Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, and Chris Henry will soak up the rejuvenated Carson Palmer.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
If I remember correctly, didn’t Jerry Jones say Miles Austin was the reason he was comfortable with letting T.O. go? If I remember correctly, didn’t Jerry Jones say Miles Austin was the reason he was comfortable with passing up on a WR in the draft?
My mind could be playing with me, but I think that was the case. He is the third option—behind Roy Williams and Jason Witten—but will be a popular option. With his ungodly speed, he’ll be a deep threat on every play. While the safeties are concentrating on Williams and Witten, Austin is gonna run. If you’ve already drafted and are looking for a WR pickup, look no further.
Kevin Walter, WR, Houston
According to Sports Illustrated, he is “The Robin to Andre Johnson’s Batman.” Believe it or not, they hit it right on the head.
If you thought YOU were crazy over Johnson, just think what opposing defenses are thinking.
Just picture it: the opponent is watching tape. Who are they looking at? Matt Shaub, Steve Slaton and Johnson.
For some reason, nobody (teams, fans, fantasy owners) pays much attention to Walter. He is finally starting to get some love, but not before averaging six touchdowns per season.
The Houston offense is a real threat this year, and Walter will—without a question—be part of the equation.
Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona
Wasn’t I just talking about "hyped-up USC super studs?" Well here is one gone bad.
But face the facts: Kurt Warner is hella-old.
I watched as Warner was the QB of my Rams...and time after time after time I watched him go down with an injury.
My point: Leinart is the guy who gets the call when Warner goes down.
With that receiving corps, Randall Cunningham could have a decent season. Leinart has shown a lot of progress over the past year or so (after losing the job) and is bound and determined to either make a good injury fill-in or start for another team. Either is possible, and, quite frankly, I think one will happen.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina
That damn DeAngelo Williams. If it wasn’t for him, Stewart would be a first-rounder. He’s a starter on most teams, but Williams' emergence in 2008 makes it tough. However, most would agree with me in saying Stewart may just be more talented.
Williams will be leaving for free agency after the season, so I would expect Carolina to give Stewart a substantial amount of carries to get him used to the grind. Even the second option in a time-share running game, I will predict a 1,000-yard, 11-touchdown season from Stewart.
Until next time, take it easy.
- Jay -