Fantasy Football Sleepers 2011: 5 Names To Know Before Draft Day
The average fantasy football owner knows all about the top 10 or 20 players that includes Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson, yet many of these same participants arrive on draft day with zero knowledge on some important lesser-known names.
Whether it's a rookie like running back Daniel Thomas, or a third-year wide receiver ready to explode like Chicago Bears wideout Johnny Knox, it's crucial for owners to have knowledge of every player they select.
That is why there is "power in knowledge" in fantasy football. Some owners will miss out on high-potential players in favor of washed-up veterans attached to a big name.
Let's take a look at five names you should know about going into your draft.
5. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Most people know who LeGarrette Blount is for the right jab he threw as part of the Oregon Ducks, but he should be able to make a new name for himself this season as a fantasy star.
The occasional sports fan has probably not heard his name since Blount's punch was one of the leading stories in sports a few years ago.
This year, new fantasy owners and those that have not done their homework will be surprised to see Blount ranked as one of the top 25 running backs available.
Nonetheless, Blount is a prime breakout candidate in 2011.
His numbers last season appear ordinary: 1,007 rushing yards and six TDs on a five yards per carry average.
The amazing thing is, he only had 10 rushes, 30 yards and one TD entering Week 7.
That was when he took over as the featured back, storming through defenses and establishing himself as a starting running back option.
This year, fantasy owners must have their eye on LeGarrette Blount.
4. Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders
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Jacoby Ford of the Oakland Raiders could turn into the AFC's poor-man version of DeSean Jackson in 2011.
Now, this isn't likely. In fact, it's actually a pretty deep long shot.
Still, he has all the physical tools get over the top on any defense in the NFL.
His disadvantage is fairly large, however.
First, he plays for the Raiders, who have had trouble establishing offensive consistency in recent years.
Second, his quarterback is Jason Campbell, not Michael Vick.
Third, his team lost their leading receiver from 2010, tight end Zach Miller, to the Seattle Seahawks. Miller would have helped take attention off Ford as a deep threat.
So, maybe Ford will not be Jackson this year.
Still, he is a high-risk, high-reward pick that can be made late on draft night.
Plus, a poor man's DeSean Jackson is better than a lot of receivers in the NFL.
3. Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans
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Every year, fantasy experts seem to search for the next Antonio Gates, and although these selections never seem to pan out, the Tennessee Titans' Jared Cook could be the next breakout tight end.
Cook is basically a receiver in a tight end's body, similar to Gates.
Entering last season, he was not a part of the offense's plans in Tennessee.
However, after the bye week, Cook found a small role on the team, catching at least three balls in all but two games to close out the season.
In the last two games of the year, caught 12 balls for 154 yards and a TD. Maybe the Titans staff finally realized the talent they had in Cook.
For the 2011 season, Cook is definitely not a sure thing.
Nonetheless, he can be selected in the tail end of fantasy drafts, or even in free agency after the draft, making him a great value.
He could break out and be the next great receiving tight end in the NFL. Tight ends, after the top five, are a dime a dozen, so a high-risk pick on Cook that could pay back huge dividends is well worth it.
This makes Cook a name for new fantasy players to watch during draft night and during the early weeks of the season.
2. Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals
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When Ken Whisenhunt left the Pittsburgh Steelers to become the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, everyone in their right mind expected him to bring the hard-nosed running game he established in Pittsburgh to Arizona.
He has tried, but the front office has failed to find the proper running back for his system.
The team has finally cut ties with running back Tim Hightower, trading him to Washington, and added a promising young back in the draft from Virginia Tech named Ryan Williams.
Williams was a sensation at Virginia Tech as freshman, rushing for 21 TDs, but struggled with injuries last year.
He enters the NFL with high expectations that may or may not be warranted.
Clearly, Beanie Wells has proven that he likes to give his running back competition all the chances in the world to take his playing time.
With that, Williams has a chance to grab the bull by the horns and help Coach Whisenhunt establish a true power running game in the desert.
He can be drafted in the middle rounds, making him worth the risk, and he is definitely a new name that fantasy owners need to keep track of.
1. Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins have had a somewhat disappointing offseason, but rookie Daniel Thomas could be a bright spot for this team in 2011.
Both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are no longer in Miami. These two have been the face of the Dolphins running game since Brown was drafted and Williams returned to Miami.
Now, the Dolphins are building around a new two-headed monster in rookie Thomas and speedster Reggie Bush, whom they acquired from the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
Thomas appears primed to be a featured NFL running back.
He played two full years at Kansas State, improving significantly from his first year as a starter to his second.
Now, he makes the jump to the NFL, where rookie backs have found it tough sledding to succeed in their first year.
Miami may not be the perfect situation for him. He will likely be the starter Week 1, but the offense is led by a quarterback that the entire community seems to want out, and only one legitimate receiving option to help out the passing game.
Still, with the addition of Marc Colombo, the offensive line will be as solid as ever and Thomas has a chance to shine as a rookie.
Thus, he should be near the top of your sleeper list on draft night.