Perhaps the most un-sleeperish word in fantasy football is the term sleeper. Everyone seems to be a sleeper.
Peyton Manning gets a hangnail on the opening drive, and people are calling him a sleeper to turn it around and produce great numbers. Anyone can tell you that Adrian Peterson or Roddy White are going to have a great second half, and you likely wouldn’t bat an eye.
But if someone were to say, perhaps, that Johnny Knox will break out moving forward and be a reliable WR2 (borderline WR1) in most fantasy formats, you’d probably think they had spent too much time playing near power lines.
But that is the true feel of a sleeper. A player you wouldn’t expect breaking out does just that. We highlighted our biggest value breakouts so far (first-half MVPs) earlier this week. Now come the second-half sleepers at each position. Mine are first, then I polled a number of our writers, visitors and fans for their second-half sleepers. Enjoy!
First things first, let’s talk about Knox … my second-half “sleeper” at receiver. He was a sleeper by many heading into the season, but he never emerged thanks to inconsistent play, a slipshot O-line and an erratic Jay Cutler with a goal to spread the ball further than a jar of Jiffy at Ralphie May’s house.
So why Knox now? Because he’s finally become a true No. 1 target for Jay Cutler. Before the Week 8 bye, Knox turned in a 5-for-120 performance against Seattle in Week 6 and an 8-for-86 and a TD day against Washington in Week 7. He’s been finally seeing the lion’s share of targets from Cutler and the schedule moving forward is decent for fantasy receivers.
Deeper WR sleeper: Mike Thomas, Jacksonville. In PPR leagues, Thomas has been quietly effective every week and finally found paydirt last week. The Jags will be airing it out early and often coming off their Week 9 bye thanks to being deficient in so many facets, and Thomas will continue to excel. The icing on the cake? He’s available in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Running back sleeper: LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay. Didn’t want to pick Blount. He felt too easy for this slot, but it is hard to argue that he has plenty of potential to climb the RB rankings moving forward. He’s running with a passion right now, running through and even hurdling defenders and will continue to get the rock plenty moving forward. The fact that he plays against Washingon, Detroit and Seattle in the final three weeks of the season is pretty nice, too.
Deeper RB sleeper: Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, MIA. The two have been ineffective at best in terms of running the pigskin, but have you seen the schedule they’ve faced so far? Minnesota, New York Jets, Patriots, Packers and the under-rated Bengals. That’s a murderous slate of rush defenses. Things start to get easier moving forward. Much easier heading into the fantasy playoff schedule, when they have arguably the most favorable back-to-back matchup for any fantasy RB in Buffalo and Detroit.
Quarterback sleeper: Sam Bradford, STL. Bradford has thrown a TD pass in seven of eight games he’s played in 2010 so far. Two TDs in four of those games. Even without Mark Clayton, Bradford has found ways to get the ball downfield and accrue some stats, and a schedule the includes the Niners (twice), Cardinals, Saints and other questionable pass defenses favors more of the same breakout stats from the rookie signal caller.
Deeper QB sleeper: David Garrard, JAX. Go ahead and laugh all you want. Garrard is coming off a five-TD game and has plenty of need to air things out as the Jags try to keep up with more powerful offenses. The key reason I have Garrard so high, though, is because of a great slate of matchups after this weekend’s bye. Week 10 he has the Texans, which make mediocre QBs look like Hall-of-Famers. He also has the Browns, Raiders, Colts and Redskins, among others, on tap – with both the Colt and Redskins coming in Weeks 15 and 16 during most leagues’ fantasy playoffs.
Tight end sleeper: Jacob Tamme, IND. Just like Blount, I didn’t want to take the obvious player here, but it is just too hard not to. Tamme showed in the Monday Night game that he’s able to handle a Dallas Clark-like role for the Colts and Peyton Manning is used to checking down over the middle to a big, physical tight end. Tamme should be owned in all leagues at this point, but at last check, he’s still available in nearly 50 percent of leagues.
Deeper TE sleeper: Ben Watson, CLE. Wanted to put Owen Daniels here, but just couldn’t drink that Kool Aid yet with new hamstring woes and a pitiful 1-for-8 performance against the Colts last week. Watson hasn’t been a flashy play this season, but is the most dependable receiver at the moment in Cleveland and a good safety valve for young Colt McCoy. Watson’s biggest value is in PPR formats, where he has quietly outproduced players ranked much higher than him before the season. He may not blow opponents away, but consistent production is a rare commodity these days in the NFL.
Second-half sleepers from other chinstrapninjas writers, regulars and fans
QB- Josh Freeman – Freeman has averaged over 240 yards passing in the last 3 weeks along with 20 some yards per game rushing. He normally adds at least 1 TD a game and has not turned the ball over much the entire season (only 3 INT’s).
RB – LaGarrette Blount – Interestingly enough I stay with the Bucs and Blount. He established himself as a full time runner last week. He looks to be a nice option at running back going down the stretch of the season.
WR – James Jones – I look for Donald Driver’s injuries to continue to linger and James Jones stepping up to take his place in the offense for 2010 and beyond with the Pack.
TE- Jacob Tamme – Are we sure that wasn’t Dallas Clark in Jacob Tamme’s uniform on MNF. Tamme certainly played much like Clark and made some key receptions in the game. I would look for him to continue to be an integral part of the Colts offense for the rest of 2010.
QB: Matthew Stafford—After his showing verse the Redskins and the rust being knocked off Stafford is looking to take control on one of the top offenses in the NFL.
RB: LeGarrette Blount—With the inspired play of Josh Freeman and the play of Mike Williams running lanes are opening up and Blount is running with force and a huge chip on his shoulder… look for him to knock out the competition.
WR: Vincent Jackson—he will hit his stride just as the fantasy playoffs roll around and well that’s fine by me, expect him to regain the top spot at WR and help Rivers reach new career highs.
TE: Jacob Tamme—He has caught the ball well in his one game and he is a converted WR so you know he has good hands. Peyton trusted him in the first game so there is a good chance he can pick up the slack left by Dallas Clark.
QB- Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF, Fitzpatrick has done well since regaining the starting job. However, they are the Bills and will be playing from behind. That’s not always a bad thing for a fantasy QB to have to throw the ball.
RB- Legarrett Blount TBB, Seems to get more playing time every week. Hes the best runner on the team but if he can’t learn how to block it will all be for not.
WR- Kenny Britt TEN, The last two years he’s shown flashes of brilliance and definitely has the talent. Theres a few problems though, Lack of effort, off field issues, and possible suspension. When Britt finally decides to grow up, I want him on my team based on pure talent alone. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This was written before Britt’s injury status was determined)
TE- Andrew Quarless GBP, Jermicheal Finley was supposed to be the main target in the Packers offense. Did I forget to mention he’s out for the rest of the season? One mans loss is another mans gain. Welcome Andrew Quarless! Quarless is a younger, less NFL ready clone to Finley. If he can adapt to the faster paced NFL, he’ll be an excellent pick up for a late season playoff run.
QB – Kyle Orton. Just a shade over 2500yds passing and 12TDs vs. 5Ints make Orton my pick. He’s a “must start” quarterback that you could’ve landed in round seven. Need proof? Brady: 1602yds, 12TD, 4INT. Rodgers 2011yds, 12TD, 9INT. Runner-up: Sam Bradford
RB – Darren McFadden. I know.. “but how can you NOT pick Adrian Foster?” Foster isn’t a sleeper, that’s why. Foster was drafted in the top four rounds in many leagues, therefore, he is not a sleeper candidate. McFadden could’ve been had in the double-digit rounds. His 113yds. per game average leads the league and seven rushes of over 20yds is not to shabby. 20 receptions and the fact that he is no longer going down on first contact make McFadden a nice find. Runner-up: Peyton Hillis
WR – Brandon Lloyd. Undrafted in the majority of leagues. Five 100yd. games, leads all WR’s with 878yds., 42 receptions and 4TDs. This is a “one horse race,” so there’s not much more to add. Runner-up: Steve Johnson
TE – Tony Moeaki. Another undrafted player in the majority of leagues. It’s hard to rave about tight end numbers when Antonio Gates is setting the benchmark by such a clear margin. Moeaki gets the nod over my runner-up for two reasons, even though his yardage is 60yds. less. 1) 72.7% catch rate vs. 67.3% 2) 18.2% deep pass rate vs. 11.5%. That means that the potential is there for bigger plays. Runner-up: Brandon Pettigrew
QB: Matthew Stafford – Offense too young and full of incredible talent.
RB: Darren McFadden – He’s missed 2 games due to injury and he still is ranked the #5 overall RB (non-ppr). The offense is a ground attack in Oakland.
WR: Vincent Jackson – Off many radars, VJax returns after a 3-week suspension. Rivers loves to throw the ball often.
TE: Aaron Hernandez – Although Brady loves to throw to many different targets, Hernandez is a beast in the red zone.
QB: Michael Vick – Coming into the season he was the #2 and expected to be used in situational/package plays only. He has been outstanding as a pocket QB in his starts thus far and shown he can be more than a running QB (but those legs are still dangerous).
RB: Arian Foster – He has made Steve Slaton disappear from the Texan’s backfield. He has put up the rushing yards, touchdowns, and shown that he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
WR: Brandon Lloyd – Maybe the Broncos knew what they were doing in letting Marshall go. Lloyd has come out of nowhere to lead the NFL in receiving and to being a FF stud WR.
TE: Mercedes Lewis – He has put up Antonio Gates numbers this year and has been especially dangerous in the red zone. He was always talented athletically and now it is showing on the stat sheet.