Ask those who get their kicks off Christmas shopping.
The best time to stock up on Yuletide bargains is right after the holiday season.
Those in fantasy dynasty leagues should follow suit. Some of the best bargains for the 2010 season may be at their best value right now as the 2009 fantasy football season exits stage left.
It was around this time last year that I was tooting the Matt Schaub sleeper QB horn, and have a group of players that I feel fit into the same mold as guys who could provide some great value and should be considered buy-low, stash away sleeper options in dynasty leagues.
My super-early sleepers list for the 2010 fantasy football season (and beyond) includes:
QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta. There’s plenty of animosity among Ryan owners fresh off a sophomore slump for the Boston College product.
Ryan earned a 100 or more QB rating in only three games all season, and tacked on a measly 22 TDs and a miserable 14 interceptions. What people don’t take into consideration is that this was just Ryan’s second season. We were all spoiled by Ryan’s early success as a rookie, but his second-year numbers are much more on par with typical QB learning curves.
In fact, remember Peyton Manning’s second season? He threw 15 interceptions and 25 TDs. Drew Brees’ second season with the Chargers: 16 INTs, 17 TDs.
Ryan has plenty of reliable weapons in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Michael Turner is a hindrance in that he doesn’t give Ryan any real help in the passing game, but Turner does require defensive attention, which opens the passing lanes for Ryan.
Many will be leery of Ryan after this season, and he’ll fall about as far as Matt Schaub did this past season. However, I fully expect Ryan to take a large step forward next season, following the typical timeline shared by current QB standouts like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
TE: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay. Finley did enough this season to warrant attention from fantasy owners, but he continued to play second fiddle to what turned out to be a TE breakout fest in 2009.
While Vernon Davis, Dallas Clark and Owen Daniels (before his injury) were stealing the headlines, Finley continued to develop more and more of a relationship with Aaron Rodgers. He quietly produce the third-highest totals among all TE during the last half of the fantasy regular season. The sky is the limit for Finley, and I would not be surprised to see him become a top-five tight end in 2010.
In dynasty leagues, I would be shopping my Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and similar big-name tight ends for Finley in a deal that helps you improve at another position. You’ll thank me later.
RB: Felix Jones, Dallas. I hate how fantasy “experts” use “the next..." comparisons for players. However, if I had I to pick the next Ray Rice, Jones would be my choice.
Sure, there are tons of young backs with the chance to really break out next season. Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno are prime candidates. However, Jones was just as highly touted when he entered the NFL. Like Rice, Felix Jones has been a fantasy sleeper candidate before, but was buried behind aging options.
Two seasons ago, Rice was buried behind the combination of Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain. Together, the two accumulated 1573 yards and 17 TDs on the ground alone. It was no wonder that Rice fell in 2009 drafts. However, Rice in limited action during the 2008 fantasy season easily out-averaged both McGahee and McClain on the ground, going for 454 yards at 4.2 yards per clip.
This past season, Jones ran for 685 yards with an average of 5.9 yards per carry. As dominant as McClain and McGahee were in 2008, Rice zipped past them for the top spot in 2009. This past season, Marion Barber had much less impressive numbers, although he did miss some action.
Jones gives the Cowboys big-play ability and is the future of the running game in Dallas, regardless of some nice runs by Tashard Choice this year. When Jones gets the lion's share of the carries is anyone’s guess, but I’m putting my money on Felix for a breakout campaign in 2010.
WR: Julian Edelman, New England. After a big Week Two performance against the Jets (eight catches, 98 yards), this rookie wideout never got enough opportunities the rest of the way to really come into his own. However, things have changed with Wes Welker going down to a double-whammy ACL-MCL tear.
Add in some growing concerns about Randy Moss and alleged discontent with the Patriots, and there seems to be some possible openings for Edelman to poke his head through. Watch him closely this postseason and if he rises to the challenge in replacing Welker, make an early move for him via trade or with a rookie draft pick in the middle to late rounds.
Who knows how Welker’s injury will affect him longterm. Who knows how Moss will cope if the Patriots are ousted from the playoffs and he doesn’t get as many looks as he would like.
WR: Kenny Britt, Tennessee. When given the opportunity, Britt produced nice numbers. In the absence of Justin Gage, Britt had several 100-yard-plus outings. Vince Young has no problem throwing Britt the ball, it is just a matter of rookie inconsistencies and a logjam ahead of him.
This offseason, I fully expect some moves in the Tennessee receiving corps. If Britt can land a true starting spot, he could become a very solid WR2 option in most league formats.