Fantasy Football Sleepers: Using Depth Charts Effectively

Cameron WardContributor IIIAugust 26, 2011

Don't fall victim to injuries.
Don't fall victim to injuries.

Fantasy football sleepers—we're all looking for them. They can make or break your season. Finding one late-round gem can be the difference between missing or making the playoffs in your league. Though often underutilized by fantasy football owners, depth charts are an easy way to identify sleepers in your draft that no one else knows about.

People tend to dismiss depth charts as obvious because they feel No. 1 RBs and No. 1/No. 2 WRs are the only relevant players to draft. If they do go for No. 2 RBs or No. 3 WRs, it is because they had a few breakout games during the previous season, which serves as an outlier, pumping up the players' stats at the end of the season and subsequently firing them up many draft boards.

Depth charts should instead be looked at for their potential. Picking out injury-prone players and selecting their backups is one effective way to beef up your bench for later on in the season (if your league allows for large benches).

Many players this year are going into the season either coming off season-ending surgery or injury-plagued seasons. Many times these are reoccurring injuries that will be nagging the player for the rest of his career. Having depth charts handy can help you pick back ups to players that you really want to protect.

Here are a few examples:

- Antonio Gates (Foot): Hands down the best TE in fantasy football. I know it. You know it. Unfortunately, he has been plagued by an ailing foot for the last three seasons, ultimately limiting his work. Who is his backup you ask? Randy McMichael (he had some big seasons in Miami), a seasoned vet who is showing up big in preseason (he had a big TD catch against the Cowboys— With Philip Rivers throwing to him, he can still be very relevant in various fantasy formats.

- Maurice Jones-Drew (Knee): A first-round pick in virtually every league, MJD has proven to be a steady source of points over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, nagging knee injuries slowed him down last year and kept him from being an elite RB. Although it is reported that he is completely healthy, don’t forget the way MJD runs for his size. He is constantly taking a beating on a team that has a poor passing game. Look for Rashard Jennings to get more carries this year and to take over if MJD goes down; he had monster games last year when MJD went down.

Basically, what I am trying to say is do not be the one that has a first-round pick go down to injury and have no backup plan. Always expect the worst. Especially when it comes to players that have an injury-prone past.