Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Draft Prep: Sleepers

Your sleeper picks. They can make or break your team. Instead of taking a more common name like John Kuhn, Matt Cassell, or Nate Burleson, take someone like Isaiah Pead, Antonio Brown, or Jared Cook. People who took a chance on Aaron Rodgers in his first season as a starter had to be pretty darn happy. And people who took Rob Gronkowski or Cam Newton last year, well, they likely earned themselves a playoff spot. And I won't be making any JaMarcus Russell jokes in this because after all, he has been in a deep sleep, or maybe a hibernation since 2009. Heck, he probably slept from 2007 to 2009 too. That would explain a lot.

But anyways, do your research. Target your guys who will be late rounders. Find those backups to the often injured players and take a chance on them. It will be the difference between a five win season and a eight win season. Here are my sleepers for the 2012 season.

Doug Martin (RB, TB, 78.8): Martin represents a great value pick with an opportunity to shatter expectations. It looks like he is winning the running back battle over LeGarrette Blount and his explosiveness is killer. At this point, he should be receiving the majority of carries as Blount slowly disappears. Blount will most likely get goaline carries, but that doesn't detract from Martin's potential to be one the better rookie running backs in recent years. He is definitely worth a pick after the 6th round.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis (RB, CIN, 59.1): Goodbye Cedric Benson. Hello Cedric Benson 2.0. Green-Ellis, who has scored 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons, is the man I want in all my leagues. Now as the featured back in Cincinnati, you can expect numbers on par with Benson, but hopefully more similar to those of former Rudi Johnson. BGE has yet to fumble in his NFL career and he has a knack for the endzone. According to Matthew Berry, since Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003, the Bengals running backs have averaged 1,124 yards and 8 touchdowns a season. BGE fits the mold of a Lewis running back and if he puts up those average numbers, well you got yourself a very solid, high-end number 2 running back.

Donald Brown (RB, IND, 100.8): He will get carries. He should be the starter. He just plays on last years most abysmal offense. He also is far from proven but now is his shot. He showed off his explosiveness toward the end of last season and is in a position where he can succeed. If Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense puts it together, Brown will be a major component of it.

Mikel Leshoure (RB, DET, 145.2): Injured his entire rookie season, Leshoure can make a splash if often injured Jahvid Best or Kevin Smith go down. And if, or when they do, Leshore may live up to his high potential out of the University of Illinois.

Isaiah Pead (RB, STL, 166.8): Steven Jackson is slowing down and Pead is coming up. While I think Jackson will still be the man all season, Pead will get some carries and spell Jackson. He also has great hands and will be involved with their passing game.

Evan Royster (RB, WSH, Not Drafted): Like I've said before, I don't want to touch the Washington running backs. Royster ended last year with two stellar 100 yard games but still has Roy Helu ahead of him. Probably. Maybe. Who knows? Only Mike Shanahan. If anything happens to Helu, then it will be time to jump on the Royster train.

Eric Decker (WR, DEN, 72.1): I love this guy just a little bit more than Demaryius Thomas. For one, he is more accustomed to an NFL style offense than Thomas and he runs much better, crisper routes. In an offense with Peyton Manning, that means a lot. Decker has HUGE upside with Manning throwing and he could be a monster in PPR leagues. I'd take Decker over Thomas, and other iffy receivers like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, and DeSean Jackson.

Antonio Brown (WR, PIT, 70.4): Also being drafted around Decker, Brown had a superb, under the radar season. He had the second most third down catches last year which means Big Ben looked to him regularly in the clutch. He also had 69 catches and 1,108 yards. Talk about a season no one talked about. With Mike Wallace looking iffier, Brown could actually end up being Roethlisberger's top target (In fact, he had more targets than Wallace last season.) For his draft position, Brown will be a steal and a very solid number 2 receiver.

Reggie Wayne (WR, IND, 105.6): Reggie Wayne is no longer the top-10 Wayne we've seen for years. But with Andrew Luck throwing his way, Wayne can hopefully still produce. Even if Luck doesn't meet expectations, he cannot be much worse than Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky. Right? Wayne has lost a step but do not count him out yet. For the record, I'd much rather have him then Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon, or Randy Moss. Which also isn't saying much...

Greg Little (WR, CLE, 148.8): Little had over 60 catches for 700 yards last year but only found the endzone twice. With "rookie" Brandon Weeden throwing his way, his numbers should improve slightly. He is the most NFL-looking receiver on their team and could quietly produce a solid season. And if Weeden blows people out of the water, then Little will have lots to do with it.

Randall Cobb (WR, GB, 154.5): Cobb is buried in the depth chart of the most fearsome wide receiver corps of the NFL. But he is expected to have an expanded role as Donald Driver's role diminishes. Cobb shows every sign of an elite playmaker and could find himself as the undisputed number three receiver in Green Bay. And with Aaron Rodgers throwing, that makes for a still pretty solid fantasy receiver.

Vincent Brown (WR, SD, Not Drafted): In his four starts last year, Brown showed flashes of potential and great route running. Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd are by no means durable players and Brown could find himself as one of Rivers' steady targets. You won't likely have to use a draft pick on him so monitor him early and jump on him.

Jacob Tamme (TE, DEN, 114.3): While cleaning my room, I stumbled upon a Jacob Tamme game worn jersey card from Kentucky. Thrilled at my find, I remember how enamored I was with a tight end no kid in Illinois should have ever heard about. But with Tamme teaming up with Manning in Denver, there is great potential for a solid season. Remember when Dallas Clark got injured and Tamme took over? Now Tamme and Manning have time to gel and work together all season. I expect a top 8 season this year.

Fred Davis (TE, WSH, 103.9): With RGIII throwing his way, Davis might finally break out. Chris Cooley is almost completely out of the mix and it is Davis' time to shine. He started to have a breakout season last year till he was suspended the remainder of the season for marijuana charges. This year, take a shot on him as he may even outproduce Jermichael Finley.

Jared Cook (TE, TEN, 127.3): You know how Finley is supposed to be some freak athlete? Well, let's compare his combine numbers to Cook. Finley had a 4.82 40 time and a 27.5 vertical. Cook had a 4.49 time and a 41.0 vertical! Finley looks like a child compared to Cook. If either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker produce, Cook will be in for a stellar season.

Jermaine Gresham (TE, CIN, 144.7): This is a surprisingly deep year for tight ends eh? Last year, Gresham had 56 catches for nearly 600 yards and 6 touchdowns. As he continues to click with Dalton, Gresham should only get better.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB, PIT, ADP 81.2): Not that Big Ben is unknown to many, but this could be a year we he solidly plays himself into the top 10. Last year he was 13th among quarterbacks and this year he is a borderline 12 team league starter. But with Rashard Mendenhall expected to miss most, if not all of the season, expect Ben to passing more. Assuming Mike Wallace mans up and comes back, Ben will have him, emerging Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to. Expect Big Ben to sneak into the top 10 this year for quarterbacks.

Michael Vick (QB, PHI, 31.9): Is he really even a sleeper? Well, kind of. After last years fall from fantasy domination, Vick is being a bit undervalued this year. Despite missing three whole games last year, Vick still finished 11th among quarterbacks and had seven 20 point games. And while no one expected him to replicate his 9 rushing touchdowns of 2010, no one expected him to have just 1 either. So expect an increase of rushing touchdowns and hopefully and injury free season. Last year, I said Vick was not worthy of the number one pick Matthew Berry hyped him to be, but this year, he is clearly worth his draft value.

Tim Tebow (QB, NYJ, 137.6): Not too many backup quarterbacks are the 22nd quarterback taken in drafts. But Tebow does have a real shot at eventually taking the starting job in New York. And that's not a credit to Tebow's passing skills, but his running ability, and Mark Sanchez's mediocrity. Tebow is the only NFL quarterback to run for 6 touchdowns in consecutive seasons and has no reason not to do it again. We saw Tebow be a productive fantasy player last year with 15 points or more in 8 of his 12 games. Will we see some more Tebow time this year?

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