For all you fantasy owners out there, it is important to understand how to get the most out of your draft/free agent picks. Obviously, everybody knows to draft your LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Tom Brady, but what will give you an edge over the competition is the so called “sleepers” that emerge during the season. Picking out the sleepers requires some skill, luck, and taking chances. Being a good fantasy owner is similar to being good in the stock market. You want to pick up a player before he becomes too well known in order to insure that you get the most points out of him.
Last year, one of my biggest “sleepers” was drafting Derek Anderson (CLE) in the 6th round. By the second week of the season Anderson proved his worth and thanks to him I was able to make it to the playoffs in my league. Heading into this year Derek Anderson is no longer a sleeper now that he threw for 3787 yards and 29 touchdowns (4th most) last season.
A stereotype to avoid is that just because a team is a good passing team does not necessarily translate to great fantasy numbers for the receivers. For example, the Green Bay Packers last season had the 2nd best passing team in the NFL, but the ball was distributed evenly among the top four receivers, which did not give the packers receivers’ good fantasy numbers.
In some cases it may be better to pick up a number one receiver on a bad passing team than the number two or three receiver on a good passing team because the number one receiver will get the majority of the receiving yards for his team, unlike the better passing teams that distribute the ball more evenly.
Now, here is a quick list of players that I have my eye on going into this year that are good mid to late round picks in your fantasy draft or possible free agent pickups during the year.
Justin Fargas- (OAK) RB- Despite the much publicized drafting of Darren McFadden, I feel that Fargas will still receive the majority of the carries throughout the season, and at the very least will be the starter for the first half of the year. Last season, Fargas was able to rush for 1009 yards and 4 TD’s and he was only the starter for half of the season. Justin Fargas is a good mid to late round pick up in leagues where multiple RB’s are needed.
Earnest Graham- (TAM) RB- Earnest Graham is by no means a well known running back, but last season he was able to come in and replace Cadillac Williams better than anybody would have expected. Graham ended the season with 898 rushing yards an impressive 10 TDs. With “Cadillac” struggling to get all his tires replaced, Earnest Graham will most likely be the starter for the first half the season and is a steal in the middle of any leagues draft.
Michael Turner- (ATL) RB- One of the biggest moves at the start of free agency was the Atlanta Falcons acquisition of Michael Turner, the former back up for LaDainian Tomlinson. Despite the Falcons weak running game last year, ranked 26th, Turner will be able to put up a lot of points for any fantasy owner lucky enough to acquire him. The departure of Warrick Dunn only helps Turner’s fantasy value because he will receive the bulk of the carries which will translate to good fantasy numbers even if the Falcons are still one of the worst rushing teams in the league.
Dwayne Bowe- (KC) WR- Last season Dwayne Bowe was by far the best free agent pickup that I had. In his rookie season he emerged as a superstar on sub par passing team, that ranked 20th in the league. Bowe caught 70 passes for 995 yards and 5 TDs last seasons and I expect him to improve upon these numbers in his second season. On a team where the only player with better fantasy numbers is TE Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe would be a great mid round pick if he is not already on somebody else’s team. I suggest picking him up a round earlier than you think in order to secure a great player on a bad team.
Kevin Curtis- (PHI)- WR- I know that Kevin just underwent surgery for a sports hernia on Thursday and that he most likely won’t be able to play again until the end of October. This makes Curtis one of the biggest sleepers of the seasons and by mid October you should be looking at his recovery very closely and be ready to give him a spot on your roster. Last season Curtis had 77 catches for 1110 yards with 6 TDs and quickly became Donovan McNabb’s favorite targets. I can only assume that on a team with a average bunch or receivers that once Kevin Curtis is healthy he will once again be the go to guy for McNabb and the Eagles passing game.
Remember to keep an eye on players that are under the radar and to become a top fantasy owner you have to take chances on players. A good rule of thumb is that if a player is being talked about on ESPN, it’s probably too late and somebody else in your league has already pick him up. Good Luck…