Perhaps the most un-sleeperish word in fantasy football is the term sleeper. Everyone seems to be a sleeper.
Peyton Manning gets a hangnail on the opening drive, and people are calling him a sleeper to turn it around and produce great numbers. Anyone can tell you that Adrian Peterson or Roddy White are going to have a great second half, and you likely wouldn’t bat an eye.
But if someone were to say, perhaps, that Johnny Knox will break out moving forward and be a reliable WR2 (borderline WR1) in most fantasy formats, you’d probably think they had spent too much time playing near power lines.
But that is the true feel of a sleeper. A player you wouldn’t expect breaking out does just that. We highlighted our biggest value breakouts so far (first-half MVPs) earlier this week. Now come the second-half sleepers at each position. Mine are first, then I polled a number of our writers, visitors and fans for their second-half sleepers. Enjoy!
First things first, let’s talk about Knox…my second-half “sleeper” at receiver. He was a sleeper by many heading into the season, but he never emerged thanks to inconsistent play, a slipshot O-line and an erratic Jay Cutler with a goal to spread the ball further than a jar of Jiffy at Ralphie May’s house.
So why Knox now? Because he’s finally become a true No. 1 target for Jay Cutler. Before the Week 8 bye, Knox turned in a 5-for-120 performance against Seattle in Week 6 and an 8-for-86 and a TD day against Washington in Week 7. He’s been finally seeing the lion’s share of targets from Cutler and the schedule moving forward is decent for fantasy receivers.
Deeper WR sleeper: Mike Thomas, Jacksonville. In PPR leagues, Thomas has been quietly effective every week and finally found paydirt last week. The Jags will be airing it out early and often coming off their Week 9 bye thanks to being deficient in so many facets, and Thomas will continue to excel. The icing on the cake? He’s available in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Running back sleeper: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay. Didn’t want to pick Blount. He felt too easy for this slot, but it is hard to argue that he has plenty of potential to climb the RB rankings moving forward. He’s running with a passion right now, running through and even hurdling defenders and will continue to get the rock plenty moving forward. The fact that he plays against Washingon, Detroit and Seattle in the final three weeks of the season is pretty nice, too.
Deeper RB sleeper: Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, MIA. The two have been ineffective at best in terms of running the pigskin, but have you seen the schedule they’ve faced so far? Minnesota, New York Jets, Patriots, Packers and the underrated Bengals. That’s a murderous slate of rush defenses. Things start to get easier moving forward. Much easier heading into the fantasy playoff schedule, when they have arguably the most favorable back-to-back matchup for any fantasy RB in Buffalo and Detroit.
Quarterback sleeper: Sam Bradford, STL. Bradford has thrown a TD pass in seven of eight games he’s played in 2010 so far. Two TDs in four of those games. Even without Mark Clayton, Bradford has found ways to get the ball downfield and accrue some stats, and a schedule that includes the Niners (twice), Cardinals, Saints and other questionable pass defenses favors more of the same breakout stats from the rookie signal caller.
Deeper QB sleeper: David Garrard, JAX. Go ahead and laugh all you want. Garrard is coming off a five-TD game and has plenty of need to air things out as the Jags try to keep up with more powerful offenses. The key reason I have Garrard so high, though, is because of a great slate of matchups after this weekend’s bye. Week 10 he has the Texans, which make mediocre QBs look like Hall-of-Famers. He also has the Browns, Raiders, Colts and Redskins, among others, on tap—with both the Colt and Redskins coming in Weeks 15 and 16 during most leagues’ fantasy playoffs.
Tight end sleeper: Jacob Tamme, IND. Just like Blount, I didn’t want to take the obvious player here, but it is just too hard not to. Tamme showed in the Monday Night game that he’s able to handle a Dallas Clark-like role for the Colts, and Peyton Manning is used to checking down over the middle to a big, physical tight end. Tamme should be owned in all leagues at this point, but at last check, he’s still available in nearly 50 percent of leagues.
Deeper TE sleeper: Ben Watson, CLE. Wanted to put Owen Daniels here, but just couldn’t drink that Kool Aid yet with new hamstring woes and a pitiful 1-for-8 performance against the Colts last week. Watson hasn’t been a flashy play this season but is the most dependable receiver at the moment in Cleveland and a good safety valve for young Colt McCoy. Watson’s biggest value is in PPR formats, where he has quietly outproduced players ranked much higher than him before the season. He may not blow opponents away, but consistent production is a rare commodity these days in the NFL.