Fantasy football 2011 sleepers: Five reasons you don’t need to draft Vick, Rodgers or Brady

The draft-day elation is short-lived. You started the big event with visions of Michael Vick or Aaron Rodgers or even Tom Brady dancing in your head.

Except they’re now all gone. You missed out on the elite fantasy QBs you had been so craving.

So now what? Time to pack it in? Give up on your draft before it really begins?

Not hardly. There are numerous later-round QB options worth snagging.

In fact, I’ve found myself purposely avoiding the major QBs in most league formats while filling up on quality RB and WR depth, knowing I could get one or two of the following and had a good chance of competing for the league hardware.

Tony Romo, DAL. OK … Romo isn’t exactly a sleeper. We all know he has big upside, right? An impressive stable of young targets (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Felix Jones), an offense able to provide some balance and a schedule that isn’t too overbearing.

At fantasyfootballcalculator.com, Romo is going on average, in the fourth round of fantasy drafts. That means you can snag the best of the best talent at RB or WR or both and still settle in for Romo while others are zeroed in on the big-time signal callers.

I knew Romo could be a good value, but didn’t realize just how good he could be until last night while drafting a 12-team “expert” redraft league with big shots from sites such as rotoexpert, KFFL, RapidDraft, DraftSharks and others.

The auction included a $200 salary cap. Big-name quarterbacks, as usual, went for a premium. Aaron Rodgers went for $51. Michael Vick for $41. Drew Brees for $32.

Romo? A measly $15. It was a draft-day steal if I ever saw one. And considering the knowledge brought to the table by the various owners, it was worth noting here. If Romo could go for a dirt-cheap $15 in a 12-team expert league, just imagine how cheaply he’s going in other leagues.

 

Matt Ryan, ATL. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get in fast enough for the Romo $15 bargain basement bidding. I think I was too in shock at the time. I also had my eye on a number of other QBs that I figured would be good values.

One of which was Ryan, who I bought at $12.

Sure, it isn’t as epic as Romo at $15, but Ryan has similar upside. We all know that Roddy White is a true beast as a receiver. Julio Jones is projected to be just as nasty. While Michael Turner doesn’t offer many check-down opportunities out of the backfield, both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers will. Both are expected to be a bigger part of the offense this year.

And don’t forget about Tony Gonzalez, who enters 2011 in his swan song, knowing that this is his final hurrah before walking away from the game.

Some are nervous about Ryan’s abilities to throw the ball deep, but with more quality options and defenses needing to play more honestly, it will be hard for Ryan not to see a solid uptick in production.

 

Matthew Stafford, DET. There isn’t an NFL fan in the game that questions whether or not Stafford can be successful when healthy. Calvin Johnson has proven to be one of the most reliable targets in the game and Jahvid Best provides a great out-of-the-backfield toy for Stafford.

Brandon Pettigrew provides a good target at tight end and many are underplaying just how explosive the Lions could be on offense if all the cylinders are firing together.

One of these years, Stafford is going to stay healthy. I’m willing to gamble that year will be 2011, especially when Stafford goes in the seventh round or later or draws just $12 or less at an auction such as last night’s expert draft.

 

Josh Freeman, TB. Some players are hyped enough as sleepers or values that they lose that luster. People want to downplay their upside or question whether or not they are primed for a backslide in value.

Freeman is one of those guys. It is easy to worry that Freeman’s breakout party in 2010 will lead to a disappointing 2011 backslide.

But why would it? Mike Williams is still there and a security blanket for Freeman. LeGarrette Blount is also young and proving to be a force worth attention of opposing defenses. Kellen Winslow will still get a fair share of passes his way and young Dezmon Briscoe has emerged as a unique new talent opposite Williams … and Arrelious Benn is still a Buccaneer, too.

And Freeman is going, on average, in the eighth round of most serpentine drafts. He was a cool $12 last night.

 

Sam Bradford, STL. The rookie sensation of 2010, Bradford did well with the situation he inherited at the time.

Since then, his situation only got better. Josh McDaniels has become the offensive coordinator. If he can make guys like Matt Cassell and Kyle Orton into fantasy stars, just imagine what he can do with Bradford.

Also improved for Sam’s 2011 campaign is the receiving corps. Injuries decimated the Rams receivers in 2010. This year, there are 11 different guys fighting for three starting positions. Mike Sims-Walker always had good talent. Donnie Avery has plenty of upside. So do many of the other young receivers in town.

Rookie tight end Lance Kendricks is turning heads so far this summer, too. They plan to make him a playmaker all over the field, and he will be a star in the league by many accounts.

And don’t forget the tried-and-true Steven Jackson out of the backfield. No defense can forget about him in its game planning. Add in a fairly easy NFC-West schedule, and Bradford stands to be a major fantasy cog for any team looking to get great value on draft day. Especially at his current ninth round ADP.

 

Honorable Mention: Colt McCoy, CLE. Don’t take him thinking he’ll be your Week 1 starter, but McCoy is going dirt cheap in leagues and is more than worthy of a late-round flier in deeper leagues – especially dynasties.

McCoy has definitely exhibited a number of growing pains and his numbers are fairly inconsistent so far in his young career. Then again, a number of great quarterbacks start their careers on the slow side.

The Browns may not have a ton of big time weapons, but they do have enough talent to make McCoy fantasy viable. The Browns will be behind enough this season to require McCoy to air it out early and often.

Call it more of a gut reaction, but I believe McCoy will see a decent increase in value as the season wears on.







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