Now that we are officially in off-season football, its time for a way too early list of fantasy football sleepers to mull over while we wait hungrily till the draft for the 2012 NFL season.
-Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans. Last year he had a decent campaign with 49 receptions, 759 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Even if Jake Locker usurps Matt Hasselbeck as the teams QB there will still be a lot of value in the 4thyear tight end. Look for him in the way later rounds, possibly even free agency.
-Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I think Josh Freeman could write a book about the sophomore slump after last year, but don’t worry about it. This former Kansas State Wildcat has put the past behind him and is looking for a repeat of his 10-6 freshman season not his painful 4-12 season. Freeman will be available in later rounds, allowing you to focus on running backs and wide receivers during the first couple rounds. -C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills. Fred Jackson was an absolute beast last year and was a steal for me in the third round of one of my championship teams, but Jackson’s broken leg could be cause for concern in the upcoming season. For that reason I say go for C.J. Spiller next year. He’s fast, quick, and anyone who has ever played NCAA Football 2008 knows that Clemson was unstoppable with C.J. Spiller. Snag him in the middle to later rounds as a back up or trade bait if Fred Jackson goes down again.
-Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants. Aside from New York Giants fans fantasy leagues, Eli usually hangs around for a while in the draft, which is exactly why he is listed in my sleeper category. Last year his fantasy numbers were pretty solid and while I don’t think they repeat the Super Bowl victory, I think Eli truly is ELIte and will continue to be next year.
-Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers. I heard more than a few complaints last year from drafters of Philip Rivers in the early rounds and rightfully so. Rivers was not playing his best football last year and everyone knows it, which is why he’ll likely fall to the early-middle rounds of the draft. Grab him and remember his 2008 34 touchdowns, it will happen again.
-Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints. I went against my better judgement last year and drafted Ingram way too early. Lo and behold he didn’t live up to my expectations as a rookie. Good news! There can’t be a sophomore slump if the player didn’t have a good rookie campaign. Unless you’ve got a ‘Bama or Saints fan in your league, he should be available late this year so snag him.
-Mike Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles. Last year I made the mistake of drafting him with the 3rd pick overall (Thank you Mathew Berry). You can imagine how that turned out for me. But the steep decline of Mike Vick last year makes this a no brainer late round pick. He has so much potential that if he was available with the 3rd or 4th pick I wouldn’t think twice about drafting him. Make sure you pick up a strong back up QB as well since Vick is prone to injuries.
-Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets. With the legendary LaDainian Tomlinson probably done in New York, the Jets will give Greene a ton of carries as they try to get back to their ground and pound mentality (Gee whiz, they finally figured out that Mark Sanchez isn’t good enough to carry the team). Although the former Iowa Hawkeye doesn’t inspire much confidence he would be a great bench player if for no other reason than he could get hot and throw up some fantasy points.
-Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots. Although not really a sleeper since he played great last year, I just have this gut feeling that he is going to out perform Rob Gronkowski in the upcoming season. After Gronk’s success last year, defenses will be keying in on him to make sure he doesn’t set any records again. Use your best judgement when the tight ends start getting picked.
-Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders. Is there anyone out there besides me who doesn’t blame Palmer for his horrible season last year? I sure hope not in any of my leagues. Palmer was traded from the Bengals mid season to the Oakland Raiders and his quarterback play reflects that. He wasn’t familiar with the offense and didn’t have great rapport with any one receiver. This year will be different and the return of Darren McFadden will have Palmer throwing up big numbers in no time.
-Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders. My one major regret last year was not having Michael Bush as a handcuff to Run DMC (Darren McFadden). I mean you could almost play McFadden and Bush at the same time and see results. Great flex option or a bye week number 2.
-Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers. Yes, I had him on my personal sleepers list last year and he won me some games. I also had a feeling that Mike Tolbert would drop down on the depth chart once Mathews started producing. While Tolbert will still be the bruiser in the offense, I’ll take finesse any day of the week and that’s what you get with Mathews.
-Justin Blackmon, WR, TBD. Wherever this guys ends up he is going to make an immediate impact at the WR position and due to his rookie status he should be available in the later rounds. If you’re like me and focus heavily on running backs in the first couple rounds, then this pick should work out for you. Think Dez Bryant with out any drama.
-Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions. I sure hope that last year didn’t ruin him as a sleeper because this guy is the next big thing at quarterback (I tip my hat to Detroit for finally drafting like professionals and not 15 year olds playing Madden). What round he goes depends on your league so always keep an eye out for Stafford.
-Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys. I had him in my sleeper category last year and needless to say that didn’t work out. Jones knows that it’s going to take a legendary 2012 season to pass up DeMarco Murray as the starting running back and I think Felix is up to the task. Although I don’t like more than one Cowboy on each of my fantasy teams, if I have Murray I’ll own Felix as well.
So there it is, the way too early list of fantasy sleepers. I’ll update and change this list throughout the off-season accordingly. I know that there are going to be a ton more sleepers to surface this year so if you have any questions or have some players you think should be sleepers on this list, tweet me @Mike_TLH. Sound off with your comments and thanks for reading y’all.