There are always one or two players that come out of nowhere in the IDP world, but it’s incredibly tough to figure out who, and you can hurt your brain if you try to find out why. I think each of these guys have potential to be top 15 players at their positions. You can get them much cheaper than that.
Desmond Bishop, ILB, GBP – (Current averaged rank – LB21). Bishop was a surprise to me in the 2010 season as he was totally off my radar until it was too late and other owners nabbed him. After a few years of essentially no production from him, he was thrown into the mix in Week 5 as a starter, hitting for 64 points in his first five games. If you take his average PPG as a starter, he hits at a 9.6 average, which would put him as the seventh best LB for 2010. Not too bad for a complete unknown in Week 1 of 2010. I think he is smart enough to add a few more points to his 2010 total and cement himself as a borderline LB1/LB2 start for you.
James Harrison, OLB, PIT – (Current averaged rank – LB24). The guy with the big mouth that gets very little respect in fantasy football, Harrison has been the No. 2, No. 1, No. 12 and No. 3 best linebacker in fantasy from 2007 to 2010, yet he gets absolutely hammered in the start of year rankings. You may not like him or respect him but he is a special player who makes plays. He isn’t the ILB who will get you 100 tackles but year in and year out he will force fumbles, crunch QBs and even score the occasional TD. I have him as a top-12 LB but the average from three other sites dropped him massively in an averaged rankings published here at the Cafe. Draft him with confidence.
Rolando McClain, ILB, OAK – (Current averaged rank – LB35). Everyone was a year early with their predictions for McClain to be a star, including myself; I thought he would have put up better numbers than last year. This kid has the skill set to be a top-five LB, not only in fantasy terms but at the NFL level. With Nnamdi Asomugha departing for Philly, the Raiders will need more out of their linebackers and McClain stands to benefit the most. I still think he is 1-2 years away from possible dominance, but I think he has a shot at being a solid LB2 play for you this year and a ton of potential as an elite LB in the long term.
Matt Shaughnessy, DE, OAK – (Current averaged rank – DL24). Shaughnessy ended up as the DL18 for the 2010 season and could have been much higher. Of all the sleepers listed here Shaugnhessy is my longest shot, as the Raiders are just unpredictable. My thoughts for the last couple of years are that the Oakland Raiders are making the right moves, building their defense into a contender and allowing their playmakers to do just that, make plays. Shaughnessy only started eight games last year and still put up 43 tackles to go along with his seven sacks. I can see a stat line of 45 and 10 with a couple of PDs and a couple of FFs.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NYG -(Current averaged rank – DL33). Pierre-Paul and his odd name are only an injury away from DL stardom. He has all the tools to be an every down end, but his problem is that he has superstars ahead of him in Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka. The rumors going are that Kiwanuka will be moved officially to LB and that Umenyiora, the perpetually grumpy DE, will get platooned until he is fully healthy. This is the perfect opportunity for JPP to move in as the starting RE and not look back. Purely as a platoon player in 2010, he had 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks; under the right circumstances, I can see 45 tackles and 11 sacks for him in 2011.
Quintin Mikell, S, STL - (Current averaged rank – DB14). Mikell has been an undervalued DB for a couple of years now and his move to St. Louis is in my mind a perfect scenario to vault him into the top 10 for 2011. St. Louis has a porous defense that Mikell was brought into help fix. He has averaged over 110 points per season over his last three years and should see increased numbers in tackles this year, boosting his numbers into a top 10 finish.
Terrell Thomas, CB, NYG – (Current averaged rank – DB24). The biggest IDP surprise of 2010, Thomas ranked as the No. 1 DB in 2010 in many formats as a cornerback in a roster spot usually dominated with safeties. He is a risk because drafting a safety is the safe route to go. This is the CB to take that risk on. He has back-to-back years of over 125 points and has the consistency in tackles of a safety with 70 and 81, respectively, over the last two years. I had him as a fluke going into 2010; I won’t be fooled again. Draft him and you should be rewarded with a top-five DB for 2011.
Michael Hawes is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. Nearly 20 years of FF, had to have learned something in that time. You can catch up with Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bungle613.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!