When most people here say the word "sleeper", I usually shudder. The reason being that most people don't truly understand the idea of a sleeper -- they overplug someone to a point where their draft position doesn't justify true "value", and yet the player goes early and doesn't live up to their billing. This annual letdown was evident last year especially.
I was one of the main people telling others to stay away from Kevan Barlow last year, for instance. My reasoning, which became the issue, was that people were taking him much too high for a guy who hadn't shouldered the load for a full season yet and had a miserable supporting cast. Another big "sleeper" last year was Thomas Jones. We know that overall, he disappointed, too. Not because he and Barlow were total bums last year, but because preseason hype made "sleepers" overvalued and set themselves up for disappointment.
So when I list my true sleepers for 2005 below, don't expect a Kerry Collins or LaMont Jordan. While I expect them to do OK this year, I don't see Jordan being that great of an upgrade over other late-second round players (like Steven Jackson).
QB: Again, no Collins here. I'll stay away from Carson Palmer here, too, for similar reasons (although I do believe he will have a solid season). My QB sleeper is none other than Byron Leftwich. He's falling further this season in drafts than he did last year, and he is coming off a pretty promising 2004 campaign to boot. I think the addition of Matt Jones will help him out well at WR and that Reggie Williams will become more reliable this year, as well. Regardless of what goes on at RB, I think Leftwich will be the centerpiece of the offense, and with Jacksonville's defense going slightly downhill from last year, the passing game will be more important in "catching up". While Leftwich may not finish the season as a top-5 or even a top-8 QB, I think he's definitely a value where he's going in drafts. Honorable Mention: Eli Manning.
RB: While I ranted and raved AGAINST this guy last year, I'm targeting him this year. Yes, I mean Kevan Barlow. Let's face it, the guy isn't going to be worse than last year, and considering how low he is going in many drafts, he is a great value addition for any team as a third RB. He will bounce back some this year with defenses unsure of what to expect from rookie QB Alex Smith, and I also expect Barlow to get a lot of dump-off passes when defenses come in for the blitz. Mark my words, the team that gets Barlow in your league in the fifth or sixth round third-RB option will be an early contender for your playoffs. Having a legitimate starting RB as your backup is a huge addition -- not only to cover for injuries and bye weeks, but also because of trade value. Targeting Barlow in the middle rounds could also be a strategy for some of the league all-or-bust daredevils who want to take players such as Randy Moss, Tony G, Antonio Gates, etc. early. RB depth is solid enough this year to allow this in some cases.
TE: I've seen some pretty scary TE runs in recent drafts, and wince considering how ugly it could get when some of the early-drafted TEs flop or even somewhat disappoint this year. People will be kicking themselves when they select a Todd Heap (who gets injured yet again) ahead of an Andre Johnson or other fairly reliable option. My gut here is to let my leaguemates squabble over the top half TEs early and I'll wait for Heath Miller. He is huge, has great pass-catching ability and will buck the first-year TE trend when he becomes the main endzone toy of Big Ben in Burress' absence.
WR: Last position for my little article here is WR, where I think there's a solid sleeper in Steve Smith. I've seen him fall to round four and even five in most drafts, despite his great exploits two years ago. His injury last year has scared away many owners, but looking at what a player like Muhsin could do last year in that offense, I'm drooling to land the speedy Smith (who's recovery is going ahead of schedule) as my second starting WR.
I enjoyed reading your opinions about the sleepers. I agree that Barlow will slide big time in most drafts and could prove to be a key pickup in the fifth or sixth round. There are also a couple of other backs whom I am targeting in the fifth round. J.J. Arrington and Tatum Bell. Would you still select Barlow ahead of these two?
I also agree that Steve Smith will also be a good value pick, available in the 6th or 7th round.
I don't agree with you, however, on Leftwich. The whole team just seems to be sinking. Taylor will probably bounce in and out the lineup all year. Toefield holds little value even if he ends up playing full time. Jimmy Smith is ancient, and the rest of the receivers are unproven.
I am not certain what to make of Miller. The Steelers haven't had a reliable TE since Mark Bruener left town, and the Steelers are still a running team. Whenever they get within spitting distance of the endzone The Bus gets reved up. Cowher will probably take the chains off Rothelesberger a little, but he sure ain't gonna make anyone forget Terry Bradshaw.
JJ Arrington and Tatum Bell go mostly in the third round...
And Leftwich should be good. With the absence of a running game, they should throw more. And geez... Jimmy Smith always produces very well for where he goes. 1100+ yards and 6 TDs last year, and I believe he was going in the ninth or so round.
I completely agree with the Barlow and Steve Smith picks here. I think Barlow will be a real nice #3 running back possibly a decent #2. He is falling way to far in drafts. Steve Smith was my #1 WR last year and despite the injury which really hurt my team, i wouldn't be afraid to draft him again especially as a #2. Having a memory that spans longer than a year is very fruitful in fantasy sports, you can get quality players real cheap.
In what round do you guys expect Leftwich to go? I assume your thinking of him as a QB2. I am thinking of round 13 or 14 or maybe even later. I just think there are several other backups with more upside that will be available after round 10. David Carr comes to mind. He has improved his completition percentage three straight years, he has one of the most under used yet talented wideouts in Andre Johnson, he has DD in the backfield to keep defenses honest, and he is one of the better running QBs around. If Dom Capers would open up the offense, even just a little, Carr should have his best season ever.
Kurt Warner is another QB with better upside than Leftwich. Just look at his surrounding cast: a potentially explosive RB in Arrington, two great WRs in Fitzgerald and Boldin, and an O-line that blew open enough holes for the Cards to ring up 15 rushing TDs. Warner can still pick apart a defense if he has the time.
And how about Joey Harrington? If the guy can't get it done with the cache of weapons at his disposal, he never will. I think that barring injury he will hold off Garcia for at least half the season.
Azrael wrote:Good picks. Heath Miller could turn out to be a TE of starting fantasy caliber this year. Great value for a pick that can be had in the last couple rounds.
I would rather try my hand with a vet in a new situation like Marcus Pollard or Doug Jolley. Rookie TEs are worse than rookie WRs when you're trying to predict fantasy value.
Shockey is the only guy who rings a bell for a really successful rookie. I can't think of another example of a rookie TE being an impact player. And there is several "servicable" non-rookie TEs that can be had in the last round as well.