We all know about the guys that everybody wants to take in the first few rounds of their fantasy drafts, but leagues are won and lost with free-agent pickups, injury replacements and sleepers.
Here are 10 guys that might surprise in the 2011 season.
Now, Kolb has a new chance at success as the starter for the Arizona Cardinals. Kolb will get to team up with Larry Fitzgerald and could end up being a solid No. 2 quarterback in any 10-team league, or a starter in deeper leagues.
Shonn Green of the New York Jets could be poised for a big season. As LaDainian Tomlinson is another year older, Green will get more carries this year than last. The Jets always like to run the ball a lot under Rex Ryan, so I expect Green to be a top 20 fantasy back this season.
There are two rookie wide receivers I like as well. Denarius Moore and Julio Jones could be breakout players this fall. Both are said to be very impressive so far in training camp.
If Jacoby Ford struggles to bounce back from his broken thumb, expect Moore to break into the starting lineup.
Also, the Falcons have been high on Jones ever since trading up in the draft to get him. So far, he hasn’t disappointed in camp. With a lot of defenses fixated on Roddy White, Matt Ryan might be finding Julio Jones’s big frame in the red zone often. They might not be worth spending a draft pick on, but are definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season gets closer.
Sam Bradford is another name at quarterback to consider. Bradford threw for over 3,500 yards and 18 touchdowns as a rookie. With another year of experience and more weapons around him (like Mike Sims-Walker), Bradford could be a top 15 fantasy QB.
Mario Manningham finished his 2010 season with three-straight 100-yard games. With Steve Smith’s departure, Manningham is poised to have a feature role in the New York Giants offense this year.
Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints is the tight end expected to fill Jeremy Shockey’s role in the high powered Saints offense. Graham should be on the receiving end of some of Drew Brees's touchdown passes more than just a few times this year.
Roy Helu might be the latest running back discovered by Mike Shanahan to have a big season out of nowhere. The former Nebraska Cornhusker has good measurable talent, but has never lived up to it. However, combined with Shanahan’s run scheme, he could emerge out of a backfield where he is currently joined by an injured Ryan Torain and Tim Hightower.
C.J. Spiller struggled to have an impact as a rookie for the Buffalo Bills, but the former Clemson star still has the breakaway speed that caused the Bills to draft him. He could deliver in a big way for what figures to be an improved Bills team.
My last sleeper is none other than the No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton. Cam was impressive in his preseason debut and will be surrounded by some weapons in Carolina, like Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. While Jimmy Clausen is still technically the starter, everybody knows it’s a matter of time before the Heisman Trophy winner is given the title.