Top 25 Fantasy Football Sleepers for the 2010 NFL Season
As you begin slaving over fantasy football mock drafts, trying to configure a formula that will allow you to draft Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, take a minute and dive deep into the NFL depth charts.
That is where you will find real value.
Sure, your first few picks might win you a few games, but finding the right sleeper will win you a championship. Think Antonio Gates in 2004, Marques Colston and Maurice Jones-Drew in 2006, Shaun Alexander in 2001, and Larry Johnson in 2005.
If you do your homework, you may very well find the next superstar in the deep end of your fantasy football draft this year, and hoist your coveted fantasy championship trophy.
Here are 25 players who are poised to become stars in 2010, but buyers beware: Not all sleepers wake up.
No. 25: Laurent Robinson
Somebody has to win the Rams starting wide receiver job, so why not Laurent Robinson?
Before breaking his fibula in Week Three last season, Robinson had emerged as the Rams' number one receiver. He compiled 11 receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown in the first two weeks of 2009.
Although much of Robinson's value hinges on Sam Bradford's play, somebody will have to catch passes for this team, and Robinson is the likeliest candidate.
No. 24: Mike Williams
The Tampa Bay Bucs gave sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman an early Christmas present by drafting wide receiver Mike Williams in the fourth round of April's draft.
Williams was pinned by many as the second best wide receiver in the 2010 class behind Dez Bryant, but character concerns knocked him back to the fourth round. Reports out of Bucs camp have raved over Williams' skill, and there appears to be a significant chance he will be the team's number one receiver come September.
He is worth picking up in the later rounds of your draft, especially in keeper leagues. Williams could easily end 2010 as the most productive rookie wide receiver.
No. 23: Devin Thomas
Rumors around the web have speculated that the Redskins might soon part ways with third year wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. But considering both are competing for the starting spot opposite Santana Moss and both are entering only their third years in the league it's an illogical move, no?
Chances are it won't happen. Especially because Washington is very thin at wide receiver.
Anyway, Donovan McNabb has a history of making sub-par receivers look very good, and Thomas might be more than sub-par. He has shown flashes of his great athleticism in the past, and McNabb will allow him to fully utilize it. His numbers will go up with Donovan, making Devin Thomas worth a late-round flier.
No. 22: Zach Miller
All you need to know about Raiders tight end Zach Miller is that he produced at a fairly high level with Jamarcus Russell as his quarterback. That is truly an amazing feat.
Miller posted career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns, catching 66 passes for 805 yards and three touchdowns in 2009.
With Jason Campbell taking over at quarterback for Oakland, however, Miller could have a huge year ahead of him. Campbell's favorite target in Washington was tight end Chris Cooley, so he may look for Miller to play a similar role.
Miller has the potential to post top-end numbers this season, so don't be afraid to use him as your number one tight end.
No. 21: Davone Bess
Davone Bess will compete with Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartline to start opposite Brandon Marshall during training camp; however, whether or not he wins that battle won't damage his fantasy stock.
Bess belongs in the slot where he can utilize his speed, and the presence of Brandon Marshall will grant him favorable match-ups against defenses. Bess quietly caught 76 passes last season, and there's a chance those numbers will improve.
No. 20: Golden Tate
When he's not out stealing donuts, Golden Tate is a pretty good wide receiver.
Tate enters training camp with a golden (pun intended) opportunity to start right away for the Seahawks. His blend of speed and soft hands could allow him to start either as a flanker or in the slot. Either way, Tate has the potential to become a big time target for Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst, especially considering T.J. Housmanzadeh's decline.
Consider Tate a solid number four receiver, and if he does in fact start, a low-end number three.
No. 19: Chaz Schilens / Darrius Heyward-Bey
Chaz Schilens and Darrius Heyward-Bey come from opposite sides of the NFL spectrum. Schilens was a seventh round pick, and Heyward-Bey a top 10 pick. Both, however, possess lethal speed that makes them appealing options for both the Raiders and your fantasy team.
These two will compete with Louis Murphy for the number one receiving spot in Oakland. That might not sound like much, but with Jason Campbell at the helm, both of their stocks are already up.
Schilens has a favorable blend of size and speed, but early reports out of Raiders camp indicate that Heyward-Bey has made big strides from '09. Whoever wins the number one spot on the depth chart will produce this season, and is worth a spot on your fantasy roster.
No. 18: Charlie Whitehurst
The Seahawks are not paying Charlie Whitehurst $4 million a year to keep him waiting in the wings behind Matt Hasselbeck. Although Whitehurst has never taken an NFL regular season snap, he will compete with Hasselbeck for the starting quarterback spot in Seattle.
Nobody knows what Whitehurst is capable of, but if he earns the starting job, he will play in an offense with a slew of weapons including Leon Washington, John Carlson, T.J. Housmanzadeh, Justin Forsett and Golden Tate. If Whitehurst wins the job, he might be worth a spot on your team as a reserve quarterback with big time upside.
No. 17: Donald Brown
Donald Brown didn't do much his rookie year, mainly because he never had the opportunities. Josesph Addai managed to resurrect his pre-2008 self, leaving Brown with just 78 carries for his rookie campaign.
But with a full year to shore up his pass-blocking skill and accumulate himself to the Colts' offense, Brown will start to eat into Addai's carries, and there's a good chance he could dethrone him.
Every player on the Colts offense is a valuable one, and although Indy airs it out more than almost any team in the league, Brown is worth watching this summer and into the regular season.
No. 16: Jacoby Jones
Similar to the Colts, every player on the Texan offense is worth a look for your fantasy squad. And Jacoby Jones is no exception.
Although he caught only 27 passes in 2009, he turned six of them in touchdowns, showing a knack for the endzone as well as deadly speed. Jones will likely start the season third on the depth chart behind Kevin Walter and Andre Johnson, but if he can stay healthy and limit his drops, Jones could find his way to a starting spot opposite Johnson, and a spot on your fantasy roster.
No. 15: Montario Hardesty
Although he will have to compete with incumbent starter James Harrison for carries, Browns second-round pick Montario Hardesty will see the field this year. And, based on Mike Holmgren's running back track record (drafted Shaun Alexander and Dorsey Levens), Hardesty is one of fantasy football's biggest sleepers.
Hardesty will play in a run-first offense behind a great fullback in Lawrence Vickers as well as a young, improving offensive line. If you're looking for depth at running back, Hardesty is definitely worth a look.
No. 14: Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks burst onto the NFL scene last year as one of the league's deadliest rookie wide receivers. Nicks caught 47 passes for 790 yards and six touchdowns, giving him roughly 17 yards per reception.
Nicks was never featured in the Giants passing game last season, but managed to make his presence felt.
Although Steve Smith will be the clear-cut number one receiver for New York, Nicks could battle with Mario Manningham for the number two spot on the depth chart. Regardless of where he ends up on the depth chart, Nicks will find a way to produce.
No. 13: Matt Moore
Nobody will blame the Carolina Panthers for drafting Jimmy Clausen, but it's a move that might soon prove to have been an unnecessary one.
Last season, the Panthers handed the starting quarterback job to Matt Moore in Week 13. Moore led Carolina to a 4-1 record, defeating the Vikings, Giants and Saints in the team's last three games.
The 25-year-old quarterback was no fantasy superstar last year. He threw for an average of just 198 yards during his five starts, but he managed to throw eight touchdowns and just one interception. With a whole offseason as the team's starter, however, Moore could begin to morph into a very solid fantasy option.
If the Panthers struggle the least bit, expect the team to push Clausen into the starting role. But if Moore replicates his play from last season, he will be a very viable fantasy option for your team. Consider him a solid number two quarterback, and if you're desperate, you could do worse than Moore as a starter.
No. 12: Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace has great size and blazing speed, and in 2009, he showed his ability to put it all together.
The Steelers needed to replace deep threat Nate Washington, and Wallace stepped up to the plate, catching 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns, giving him almost 20 yards per catch.
Wallace will likely start opposite Hines Ward for Pittsburgh, but the absence of Ben Roethlisberger for the team's first four to six games will temporarily hurt his value. Also, Wallace's deep threat nature may make him a boom or bust player on a week by week basis. Still, he can find the endzone, and may turn into a must-start.
No. 11: Michael Bush
(There are three Oakland Raiders on this list! Three, I tell you!)
As talk over Darren McFadden's bust status begins heating up, another Raiders running back who was once slated as a top five pick is quietly becoming a great player. Michael Bush was heralded as a top prospect before breaking his leg during his senior season at Louisville, allowing the Raiders to scoop him up in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Four years later, Bush is making a great case to take over the feature running back role in Oakland. While spelling Justin Fargas last season, Bush racked up 589 yards on 123 carries, giving him a very respectable 4.8 yards per carry, far more impressive than Darren McFadden's 3.4.
Bush is a monster, and although the Raiders will try to give McFadden as many touches as possible, the inevitable will set in sooner than later, and Bush will become the focal point of the Raiders offense in 2010. Draft him.
No. 10: Malcolm Floyd / Legedu Naanee
Vincent Jackson's three-game suspension was a blessing for Chargers wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee. And with intensifying rumors that the Chargers may trade Jackson, Floyd and Naanee may finally get chances to breakout.
Naanee, 6'2", 220 lb, and Floyd, 6'5", 225 lb, are freakishly big athletes who have made small impacts throughout their young careers in San Diego.
Floyd started opposite Vincent Jackson last season and posted a respectable 45 catch, 776 yard, one touchdown season. Naanee, on the other hand, caught just 24 passes as the team's third receiver.
Floyd will more than likely take over in Jackson's extended or permanent absence, making him a very, very valuable fantasy player. If Jackson is traded, don't be afraid to reach for Floyd. He will produce. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Naanee, and think about picking him up if Jackson is shipped off.
No. 9: Chad Henne
In just 13 starts for the Dolphins in 2009, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne threw for just under 3,000 yards. And that was without Brandon Marshall.
Now with Brandon Marshall in his arsenal, the sky is the limit for Henne. He throws a rocket ball and showed some serious poise last season.
Assuming he clicks with Marshall and progresses from his first year as a starter, Henne could serve as a number one fantasy quarterback for your team. Don't be afraid to reach for him, he will pay the dividends.
No. 8: Kenny Britt
Kenny Britt showed some serious potential during his 2009 rookie campaign. Despite standing by and watching the Titans run the ball more times than they threw it, Britt amassed 42 receptions for 701 yards and 3 touchdowns.
If Britt can properly utilize his dominating size and speed, he could grow into a Randy Moss-type player by simply dominating smaller defensive backs. Britt still needs to work on limiting his dropped passes, but Vince Young's playmaking ability could allow for some big-time plays to Britt.
He will become a star at some point, and this year could be Kenny Britt's time.
No. 7: Arian Foster / Ben Tate
Chances are Steve Slaton will go way too high in your fantasy draft. And that's a good thing because the Texans running backs you want are Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Slaton slammed into the sophomore wall last year, paving the way for Arian Foster to emerge as a trendy pickup late in the season. Foster was featured heavily in Houston's final two games last year, racking up a combined 216 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Texans spent a second round draft pick on Auburn running back Ben Tate. Tate had a superhuman combine, posting great 40 and bench press numbers, all after a career year at Auburn.
There's a good chance the Texans use fantasy owners' worst nightmare: a running back by committee. But all three of their backs still have tremendous value. Ben Tate has the most upside because he has the size and skill-set to become a workhorse and carry the team for a game, which Foster and Slaton may not be able to do.
Early indications out of Texans camp are that Tate is living up the hype, but Foster has received plenty of praise as well. If you have to choose, take a chance with Tate. He could very well be the most valuable fantasy rookie from the class of 2010.
No. 6: Bernard Scott
Cedric Benson carried the ball 301 times for the Bengals in 2009, and while he finally showed the skill many suspected he had coming out of Texas in 2005, that is a demanding workload. As Benson approaches 28, the Bengals may look to backup Bernard Scott to relieve, and possibly split carries with Benson in 2010.
Scott burst onto the fantasy scene last year after Benson suffered an injury in Week 13. In Benson's absence, Scott compiled 206 rushing yards on 39 carries in two starts.
Scott has a unique blend of power and speed, and his game-breaking ability contrasts nicely with Benson's power-oriented running style. He has a great chance of becoming a role player in the Bengals offense, and if he can live up to his potential, become a viable fantasy option week in and week out.
No. 5: Devin Aromashodu
Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Aromashodu has become the poster child for fantasy football sleepers this year, and deservedly so.
Over the last four games of the 2009 season, Aromashodu became Jay Cutler's favorite target, catching 22 passes for for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Those might not sound like breathtaking numbers, but considering Aromashodu might emerge as the Bears number one receiver for 2010, he carries significant fantasy value.
Don't reach too high for Aromashodu. After all, he had just four noteworthy games last season, but if he maintains that level of play over training camp, definitely take a chance with him in your draft.
No. 4: Justin Forsett
The only way to describe Justin Forsett's play would be to compare him to a bolt of electricity. Forsett is a speedy, shifty player, who still has the ability to run between the tackles.
In 2009, Forsett was given double digit carries in just four games. In those four games, he carried the ball a combined 63 times for 397 yards, giving him a 6.4 yards per carry average. Forsett also caught 41 passes for 350 yards in '09.
Forsett has proven that he has game-breaking ability, but a new regime might favor newly acquired Leon Washington. Washington and Forsett are very similar players, but Washington is recovering from a broken leg, and has made a living in the NFL as a change-of-pace back.
Justin Forsett could very well be the Seahawks starting running back for the 2010 season, and there's no telling just how good he might be, given ample carries every game. Forsett has huge potential, and you will want him on your roster in 2010.
No. 3: Ahmad Bradshaw
Brandon Jacobs' production cut almost in half from 2008 to 2009, paving the way for Ahmad Bradshaw to post the best numbers of his career. Bradshaw rushed for 778 yards on 163 attempts, scoring seven touchdowns while Jacobs rushed for 835 yards on 224 attempts.
Bradshaw is a homerun threat on every play, and the Giants will be inclined to multiply his carries in 2010. Even if Jacobs rebounds, Bradshaw has great fantasy value.
If Jacobs continues to struggle, however, Bradshaw could have a breakout fantasy season. Either way, he is startable every week, and if he takes over the feature role, he will produce like a star.
No. 2: LeSean McCoy
Unlike most players on this list, LeSean McCoy doesn't have to worry about dethroning an incumbent starter in order to show his skill. Instead, McCoy will walk in the 2010 season with an opportunity to establish himself as an elite fantasy player.
No Brian Westbrook means more touches for McCoy, and no Donovan McNabb means (probably) more reliance on the running game. McCoy still needs to improve on his pass-blocking skill if he wants to get those extra touches, but the potential for a huge year is there for McCoy.
He also brings extra value due to his role in the passing game, and he may benefit from that much like Westbrook once did.
No. 1: Beanie Wells
With Kurt Warner gone and Matt Leinart at the helm, there's no telling what will happen to a once prolific Cardinals offense. One safe bet, however, is that Beanie Wells will go bonkers this year.
Wells, Arizona's 2009 first-round pick, rushed for 793 yards on 176 carries while finding the endzone seven times.
The Cards gave Wells an increased workload down the stretch last season, and he inflicted some serious damage on opposing defenders with his 230 lb frame. With a full year as the team's feature back, Wells could easily finish the year with double digit scores.
The only knock on Wells is the presence of short yardage specialist Tim Hightower, however, if Beanie can carry this offense like he is capable of, Hightower won't prove to be a valid concern.