By today's standard, sleepers aren't necessarily guys that are drafted in the late rounds who have little value at the time, I would consider them players who will significantly outperform their value or draft position.
Every year there are guys you can get in the mid rounds that end up being top fantasy options. For example, in a 10 team league last season I used back-to-back seventh and eighth round picks on Hakeem Nicks and Arian Foster. The bad news is that I took Shonn Greene in the early third round.
I didn't do the best job I could have in the first three rounds, but my mid round drafting ended up winning me that particular league. This year there are a few guys I'm targeting in those important middle rounds that have a chance to put up big numbers and ultimately win you your league.
I think Brandon Marshall has the potential to have a solid fantasy season. I don't think he has top-10 potential, but I think he might be top-15. He is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL and I think people forget that when considering his fantasy value.
Marshall didn't have a bad year last season. He almost got to 90 catches and notched another 1,000 season. The problem was the lack of touchdowns. I don't expect the Dolphins to be all that much better, but I think the 6'4 receiver might be their best red-zone option at this point.
With Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas getting most of the work at running back they are going to need someone else to step up at the goal line. Thomas is a bigger back but it's unclear if he will be consistent inside the 10. Marshall is a huge target and can win a lot of jump balls if given the opportunity.
I'm not saying Marshall is definitely going to dominate this year, but in his second year with the Dolphins I expect him to be better. He isn't going to be drafted as anything more than a flex, so the risk is minimal.
Mike Tolbert is being drafted way too low right now. At this point it looks like he's either a late ninth or tenth round pick.
While Ryan Mathews is back, Norv Turner insists it will be a two-back system in San Diego. Mathews may be the more talented player, but Tolbert is a bruiser that will likely get most of the goal line work.
At the end of the season, Mathews may very well end up with more points, but I don't think the margin will be as big as people think. For where they are being drafted, Tolbert is a much better bet. There is no risk associated with picking him.
Knowing Mathews injury history, it's a good bet Tolbert will get at least a few starts, and in that offense, I'd say he's worth a ninth round pick.
Mark Ingram is a guy that a lot of people think is going to have a big year, but everyone is afraid to take as a starter. There is no doubting his talent, but that backfield is extremely crowded. Between Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and even Chris Ivory, it's hard to imagine he gets a huge workload.
With that said, the Saints used a first round pick on him and he figures to get the red-zone touches. They wouldn't use a first rounder on a guy they didn't expect to get a lot of carries this year.
Nagging injuries bothered Ingram last season, but if he can return to Heisman form, he should get a lot of work this year in a high-powered offense.
Mark Ingram is a guy that actually has the potential to finish as a top-10 running back this year. I'm not saying he will, but if that backfield is once again plagued by injuries and he gets a full workload it's not out of the question. It's possible.
With Ingram currently going around the seventh round, I think he's the perfect sleeper candidate.
Austin Collie averaged almost 14 fantasy points a game over the first six games of last season. I bet you didn't know that.
Everyone overlooks Collie because there are so many receivers in Indianapolis, but besides Reggie Wayne, he is clearly the best. When healthy, Collie can dominate. Peyton Manning trusts him to make plays.
The issue is, Collie hasn't been able to stay healthy. He had multiple concussions last season, and is at risk to suffer from more in the future. If Collie can play 16 games he has the potential to easily be a top-10 guy. With Reggie Wayne on the downside of his career, Collie could be the one that steps up into that No. 1 role. It may not be this year, but it could certainly start this year.
He is the clear No. 2 in a very pass heavy offense. I really like his chances to outperform his seventh round status. Since you would likely draft him as one of your first bench players, he's a medium risk-high reward player.
Some people never learn. Like I wrote earlier, I drafted Shonn Greene in the early third round in one of my league's last season. I liked him to have a good year, and I like him this year as well.
Before week 12 last year, I made a bet with one of my friends (an LT owner) five dollars that Greene would have more fantasy points over the rest of the season than LT. It wasn't pretty, but I won the bet 35-27.
LT was coming off four straight weeks with eight points or more. In that same time period Greene had scored more than four points just once. So why did I make this bet? The answer is simple. Old running backs wear down, and are usually rested at the end of the season.
LT was one of, if not the most dominant running back of the last decade, but at 32, he's just not the same player he once was. He really wore down last season, and I think this year he's going to take on more of a third down back role. He's easily going to be the best receiving back on the Jets, but I think we'll see his carries decrease substantially.
As a team, the Jets rushed for nearly 2,400 yards last season, yet in ESPN's rankings, Shonn Greene is the No. 27 running back, and LT is the No. 44 rusher. The league's fourth-best running offense only has one top-40 running back? How does this make sense.
If they think LT is going to have a largely reduced role to the point that he's not as valuable as Willis McGahee, someone is going to have to step up and fill the void. My guess is that player will be none other than Shonn Greene. For a seventh round pick, I think Greene provides unbelievable value.