Fantasy Football: Forecasting Sleepers and Surprise Players for 2011
Every fantasy owner is looking for that one player who can bring them the element of surprise.
We always look, deep in the late rounds of our drafts, for those players that no one wants to draft, no one wants to take a chance with—the ones that seem to never produce.
Last year one of the most surprising finds was Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Players like him, rarely thought of as viable picks, are the types of fantasy sleepers and surprises that should be focused on in order to gain the upper hand in your league.
This year there are some interesting options available if you see the value. Depending on your league scoring settings, these players are the ones that only the bold will select.
The difference between a league championship isn't measured in the amount of studs you can accumulate, it depends on how well you manage your roster.
Here's a look inside the league at 10 of the league's sleepers and surprises for 2011.
Bernard Berrian: Minnesota Vikings WR
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Bernard Berrian had a career year in 2008, racking up 964 yards and seven touchdowns. He looked to be coming into his own as a viable fantasy option.
He followed with a respectable season in 2009 when catching passes from Brett Favre, but seemed to drop off the face of the earth in 2010, having the worst performance of his career since his rookie season.
Berrian failed to score a single touchdown in 2010 and was abandoned by fantasy faithful across the nation.
It should be the dawn of a new day now that Donovan McNabb is throwing passes in Minnesota.
Berrian will be targeted and heavily relied upon since Percy Harvin is fragile and there is still uncertainty as to whether he can be a reliable No. 1 option.
Look for Berrian to rebound and post numbers close to his 2008 and 2009 seasons. He's worth the gamble if you're looking for that late-round draft choice that will round out your roster.
Roscoe Parish: Buffalo Bills WR
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
With the departure of Lee Evans to Baltimore, the Bills are left with Stevie Johnson as their main weapon in the passing game.
Although Parrish has not been an attractive addition to anyone's roster in past seasons, with teams dedicating most of their coverage to Johnson and to the running game, look for Parrish to finally break out of his shell.
We're not talking drastic numbers, but Roscoe can provide around 500 yards and has the potential to score five touchdowns.
He's a sleeper candidate to the highest degree, as well as a tremendous gamble, but if you are in desperate need of a receiver that is going to see a decent amount of playing time, he is an option.
Andre Roberts: Arizona Cardinals WR
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Andre Roberts is going to be a big part of the Arizona Cardinal's offense. They actually have a quarterback that can throw the ball to the receivers and not just Larry Fitzgerald.
Andre Roberts should have a bigger impact for the Cardinals than Early Doucet, who has not had an ideal training camp.
Look for Roberts to be used in a multitude of different ways in Arizona; he has good hands, good speed and is more versatile than most of his fellow receivers.
Defenses will double team Larry Fitzgerald and give most of the attention to him, which will allow Roberts to make his mark.
Roberts is a good flex option for deeper leagues and a good addition to balance a roster out. He should benefit you when your main receivers are on bye weeks as well.
Sleeper and surprise all wrapped up in one!
Tim Hightower: Washington Redskins RB
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Nobody saw this one coming.
Sure, people knew about Tim Hightower and his abilities, but the fumbles also scared people away.
After the training camp Hightower has had, it is easy to see why Washington grabbed him.
Hightower has shown that in Washington's zone blocking offense, he can flourish. He has been able to hold on to the ball, which has always been a concern with this running back.
The danger here is the mentality of Mike Shannahan. Although the Redskins coach likes his veterans, if Hightower struggles in the regular season, has a fumbling issue or Ryan Torrain starts to outplay him, his days will be numbered—there is no loyalty in Washington.
Draft him with confidence, but beware. If you play with snakes, sometimes you get bit.
Mohamed Massaqoui: Cleveland Browns WR
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Mohamed Massaqoui is a player that has so much potential, but was buried in a system that didn't work in Cleveland. Enter Coach Shurmur.
With the West Coast offense and Colt McCoy's ability to run it, this team might not just be about Peyton Hillis and Benjamin Watson anymore.
Despite not playing the preseason due to a foot injury, Massaquoi has a huge potential to be a breakout player of the season. Despite Cleveland not having a legitimate No. 1 receiver, I think "Massi" will establish himself in that role.
I don't see huge numbers, but he should have a marked improvement overall, giving him value as a flex start or to let simmer on the bench until you see what he can do.
It's worth a gamble here.
Nate Washington: Tennessee Titans WR
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Not that Matt Hasselback is such a great upgrade (he's not), but he is better suited to getting the Titans receivers the football.
Mired with controversy this summer over Chris Johnson, Nate Washington was having his usual non-eventful camp.
Washington has always been one of those receivers that is always overlooked despite having acceptable fantasy years for the past four or five seasons.
Although Washington is not an overly exciting player, he can average you around 600 yards receiving and haul in around six touchdowns for your team.
With Hasselback throwing the ball, I would expect the same, if not slightly more, from Mr. Washington. He offers a good option to pick up late in the draft or on the waiver wire.
He could be a valuable third receiver on your team. Washington definitely has sleeper appeal.
Kevin Boss: Oakland Raiders TE
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Let's face it. Tight ends are not an easy pick in the draft; once the top five are gone, you're left with the scraps.
I know a lot of fantasy players that stop looking at anyone besides Darren McFadden when scouting the Raiders. If you are one of them, you're very unfortunate.
Although Kevin Boss isn't considered a stud tight end as far as yardage is concerned, the man scores touchdowns!
Over a four-year career he has scored 18 times. For a tight end to give you an average of five touchdowns per year, you should jump on him. Once the elite are gone, this is the second tier.
Grab him if you can. Due to the inconsistent play of Oakland's receivers, Boss will be a major factor and will pay off for you.
Earl Bennett: Chicago Bears WR
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Alright, you find yourself in a situation where Johnny Knox and Devin Hester are taken, and you are not willing to chance Roy Williams taking a spot on your team for nothing.
By drafting Earl Bennett you will be stealing a prime candidate for the sleeper, surprise player from the Bears in 2011.
Devin Hester, no matter how they try, will never be a main receiver. I don't care what depth charts say, Devin Hester is not going to be what they want him to be.
Roy Williams is a waste and dangerously close to being out of the NFL due to his poor work ethic, and Johnny Knox is the only other receiver that is a pure receiver.
Bennett is capable of producing 600 to 800 yards per year and will be a good option for Jay Cutler this year. Look for him to snag close to seven touchdowns this year.
If you need depth and there is no other choices that attracts you, Bennett might be the right man for the job.
Colt McCoy: Cleveland Browns QB
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
If your league is a deep league or you have the room to have options at quarterback, consider Colt McCoy.
McCoy has shown remarkable strides in the preseason in his accuracy and decision-making, which is paramount to the Cleveland Browns' success this season.
Although they are not a playoff team, I would consider McCoy a prime candidate for the surprise player of the year.
McCoy has the ability to have a 2,500-yard season and while he might be at the 15-mark on interceptions, expect him to throw for over 20 touchdowns this year.
He is a great start in those weeks he has a favorable matchup and if your starting quarterback is on a bye week.
Take the risk, it may make you look like the football god you think you are to the rest of the league.
Jabar Gaffney: Washington Redskins WR
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Coming to Washington by way of Denver, Jabar Gaffney gives the Redskins another option at receiver that complements the talents of Santana Moss.
Gaffney's last two seasons in Denver were great years for those fantasy players that had a heavy emphasis on yardage; he accumulated 1,607 receiving yards in two seasons, but his touchdowns totals suffered.
Expect that to change in Washington as starting opposite of Moss will afford him more of an opportunity to be targeted by John Beck or Rex Grossman, who have both shown trust in the receiver.
I would count on the usual achievements regarding his yardage and a slight increase in touchdowns. Gaffney should be a five- to seven-touchdown player if he has another good year.