Everyone knows who the top-10, top-20, maybe even top-30 fantasy football players are, and there will be enough analysis on them in the coming month that you won’t have all that much homework to do come draft day. Finding that fantasy football sleeper in 2011 is usually what makes a bad team good, and a good team great.
A fantasy football sleeper is a player that you will find later in the draft, but will give you a much higher return on your investment. For this article, we are going to focus on the sleepers you can find much deeper in your draft.
How deep are we talking? We imagine that you are drafting in a standard ten team, 16 round draft so we call a deep sleeper someone drafted in the second half of your draft.
It may still be too soon to classify anyone as a sleeper, as the ADP of fantasy players will surely change in the upcoming month. Free Agency has yet to end, and the inevitable training camp injuries and cuts will change the landscape of the NFL and your draft. As of now we will focus on the player who, on average, is drafted in the eighth round or later in drafts across the Internet.
Steve Smith, CAR, WR
Smith is a sleeper here because he has fallen from grace very quickly in a short time frame. We’re a bit surprised at the influx of talent in Carolina and how many players want to stick around. It may be too soon to speculate, but we think it is all Cam Newton’s doing. If the team can rally around Newton we could see some surprising stat lines in Carolina. Few receivers are more dangerous than Steve Smith, even at this point in his career. If Smith can get back to his usual motor and the Panthers can finally get the ball back in his hands, he will far exceed the value of someone drafted, on average, in the eighth round.
Mercedes Lewis, JAX, TE
Lewis is currently being drafted around the ninth round, but more importantly is usually the ninth tight end drafted. This has something to do with the overall depth at tight end this season, but he is a great pickup as a sleeper. Think of how many quality role players you could pick before the ninth round in place of one of the more popular tight ends. Lewis was tied for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end last season with 10, but has increased all of his stats in each of his five seasons. Before 2010, Lewis had never had more than two touchdown catches but he should post a big number again this season. The Jaguars will likely lose Mike Sims-Walker in free agency, meaning Lewis is the team’s best receiving target.
Danny Amendola, STL, WR
Amendola is a fantastic pickup in PPR leagues. He was the most consistent receiver in St. Louis last year, which really only means he was the healthiest in the group. His extra time on the field was big for his rapport with Sam Bradford however, and new Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels has likened Amendola’s abilities to that of his former Patriot receiver Wes Welker. Amendola is knocked on his ability to pick up yards after the catch, but the Rams will utilize him as an underneath, short-yardage guy capable of garnering close to 100 catches. Amendola posted 85 receptions last season.
Kendall Hunter, SF, RB
It seems that the only rookie running backs you read about in fantasy are Mark Ingram, Daniel Thomas and Mikel Leshoure. Take advantage of that fact and take a low risk guy like Hunter. Rookies rarely live up their massive fantasy hype, and since Hunter seemingly has no hype you are in a pretty good boat. Hunter is essentially the 49ers No. 2 back since Anthony Dixon looks to be more of a fullback this season. Hunter has been called a three-down back by 49ers GM Trent Baalke, but that may be a bargaining chip in their contract negotiations with Frank Gore. The longer Gore holds out though, the more time Hunter will get to practice with the top line and the sooner he will be ready to take over. You can draft hunter, on average, around the 13th round. That is great value for a guy that could be the starter day one, but also is playing behind the most injury-prone running back in football.
Matt Cassel, KC, QB
The Chiefs were a surprising division winner in 2010, but they have made enough strides in the offseason to where if they do win the AFC West again it won’t be a surprise. The addition of Steve Breaston and rookie Jonathan Baldwin hurt Dwayne Bowe’s value, but Cassel will now have three talented receivers to choose from. Originally we weren’t completely sold on Cassel and figured that the running game led to some inflated stat lines for the KC QB. This year we think the running game should again bail out Cassel, but the added weapons on offense will be what really improves his stat lines. Cassel is a very good backup quarterback that can be had around the 13th round. Meaning if you take a quarterback early, you can sit back and draft best available for quite some time before worrying about your backup. In a two QB league we like Cassel as a capable starter, if the rest of your lineup is right.
See all of our fantasy football sleepers here.