Fantasy Football Sleepers 2011: 5 Rookies You Should Keep an Eye On
There's nothing more powerful than a fantasy football rookie.
Selecting the right fantasy football rookie has the potential to be that “X” factor for any one given team, and it is those rookies that are in a sleeper class all of their own.
Today, I would like to examine that class and five players whom I believe you should be keeping your eye on, and why.
I’ll be looking at three offensive positions (WR, RB and TE) as well as two defensive positions for all of you IDP fans out there.
The idea will be to cover a broad area of information in a short—to-the-point—approach that can easily be digested, written down and saved for your fantasy football draft day.
After reading, if you would like more in-depth advice, feel free to hop on over to my Top 50 WR Rankings and follow the links from there, OK?
Titus Young , WR, Detroit Lions
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For years, the Lions have been looking for that one receiver who could be deployed in a three-wide set as a way of taking coverage away from marquee receiver Calvin Johnson.
The Lions view Titus Young as that receiver.
Young is expected to start the season as the No. 3 receiver in Detroit, and that three-wide set is more valuable to this offensive attack than you might think, adding to Young’s potential fantasy value.
Young not only has the speed and size, but he also possesses the athleticism to be a legitimate downfield threat, and in the beginning, teams aren't likely to take him seriously until the burning commences.
This is a player that is likely to still be hanging around in the back-end of your draft, but paying attention to him during camp and preseason will afford you the proper read and final rank on draft day, while allowing you to pocket a solid sleeper candidate.
He’s a sleeping giant waiting to happen.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
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Mark Ingram may be an obvious mention due to the clout surrounding him, but there are other factors you might want to consider; factors that should force you to keep an eye on him this summer.
The Saints have been plagued with injured running backs for a few seasons now, so the sensationalism surrounding Ingram is also accompanied by the “risk factor” that he could be another injured back by opening day.
The Saints were expected to have a RBBC approach with such a crowded backfield as it is, but you can temporarily remove Chris Ivory who is still healing from Lisfranc surgery and dealing with a sports hernia, leaving the main competition between Ingram and veteran Pierre Thomas.
Still not enough?
New Orleans has not had a rusher go beyond 800 rushing yards since 2006, and the Saints intend to deploy another pass-heavy approach again this season which opens up the possibility of running more to preserve their leads.
The health factor, the competition factor and the fact that Ingram could legitimately become that 1,000-yard rusher the Saints have been missing since 2006 are all reasons you should be keeping a close eye on him during camp and preseason.
Jimmy Smith, DB, Baltimore Ravens
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In the IDP world, corners are often overlooked due to the fact that safeties basically rule IDP.
But corners are increasingly becoming more and more valuable, particularly rookie corners with talent, as the NFL evolves back to a pass-heavy league.
To make an IDP corner hold value, the player must not only possess talent, but must also have a surmountable amount of opportunities on the field which is where the points come from.
Enter in Jimmy Smith.
The Ravens have already said that Smith will start, play often and early, and with the AFC being hunkered down with pass heavy QBs like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and others, Smith is surely going to be the deer in the woods.
In other words, he’ll be picked on early by these veteran QBs, providing tons of opportunities.
Smith has the closing speed needed in a quality corner, the ability to play the open field as a defender, the know-how to become the team’s one-on-one cover answer on the outside and the physicality to even play up close against the run.
Keep an eye on this kid, draft later and reap the benefits.
Akeem Ayers, SLB, Tennessee Titans
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To the seasoned IDP fantasy owner, many of you probably cringed at the mention of a strong-side linebacker since they tend NOT to garner as many points as an inside linebacker or a middle linebacker.
But Ayers could redefine the position from a fantasy football stand point by year’s end, and here’s why.
Ayers has already taken over the first team snaps, outplaying Gerald McGrath who is running the second team at MLB behind Barrett Ruud (John Glennon on Twitter).
Ayers has been a nightmare on the outside, which bodes well for the Titans since they want to utilize Ayers as another primary pass rusher, which is his strong suit.
That in turn benefits IDP owners.
Again, in IDP, opportunities plus talent equals potential fantasy points.
But the real value will be the fact that many will overlook a linebacker playing on the strong side, giving you some real draft value, if you’re wise enough to keep an eye on him this August.
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
Thinking on waiting until the back-end of your draft for a substitute TE? Perhaps you have Broncos starter Daniel Fells inked in as a definite possibility?
Well, put a little dash next to his name, and in big bold letters write the name JULIUS THOMAS!
Thomas is a former basketball player listed at 6’5” 245 pounds and has gone above and beyond to impress at camp, displaying a freakish level of talent, an unusually rapid adaptation to the offense and he’s even earned the moniker “Mr. Red-Zone” from the Denver Post.
But what is really intriguing is the fact that Thomas went from expected fourth-round “project” to running nearly every snap with the first team, to drawing double-team coverage in one single week of camp.
You can easily go through your draft and build your main team as projected, and wait until the later rounds before scooping up Thomas at this point, but keeping an eye on him will allow you to adjust where you plan to grab him, since his rank is sure to climb if he continues to impress at this level.
I hope this bit of information helps, and if you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to fire away.