Super-early 2010 fantasy football sleepers

Ask those who get their kicks off Christmas shopping.

The best time to stock up on Yuletide bargains is right after the holiday season.

Those in fantasy dynasty leagues should follow suit. Some of the best bargains for the 2010 season may be at their best value right now as the 2009 fantasy football season exits stage left.

It was around this time last year that I was tooting the Matt Schaub sleeper QB horn, and have a group of players that I feel fit into the same mold as guys who could provide some great value and should be considered buy-low, stash away sleeper options in dynasty leagues.

My super-early sleepers list for the 2010 fantasy football season (and beyond) includes:

QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta. There’s plenty of animosity among Ryan owners fresh off a sophomore slump for the Boston College product. Ryan earned a 100 or more QB rating in only three games all season, and tacked on a measly 22 TDs and a miserable 14 interceptions. What people don’t take into consideration is that this was just Ryan’s second season. We were all spoiled by Ryan’s early success as a rookie … but his second-year numbers are much more on par with typical QB learning curves. In fact, remember Peyton Manning’s second season? 15 interceptions. 25 TDs. Drew Brees’ second season with the Chargers? 16 INTs, 17 TDs. Ryan has plenty of reliable weapons in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Michael Turner is a hindrance in that he doesn’t give Ryan any real help in the passing game … but Turner does require defensive attention, which opens the passing lanes for Ryan. Many will be leary of Ryan after this season, and he’ll fall about as far as Matt Schaub did this past season. However, I fully expect Ryan to take a large step forward next season … following the typical timeline shared by current QB standouts like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

TE: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay. Finley did enough this season to warrant attention from fantasy owners, but his name continued to play second fiddle to what turned out to be a TE breakout fest in 2009. While Vernon Davis, Dallas Clark and Owen Daniels (before his injury) were stealing the headlines, Finley continue to develop more and more of a relationship with Aaron Rodgers. He quietly produce the third-highest totals among all TE during the last half of the fantasy regular season. The sky is the limit for Finley, and I would not be surprised to see him become a top-five tight end in 2010. In dynasty leagues, I would be shopping my Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and similar big-name tight ends for Finley in a deal that helps you improve at another position. You’ll thank me later.

RB: Felix Jones, Dallas. I hate how fantasy “experts” use “the next …” comparisons for players. However, if I had I to pick the next Ray Rice, Felix would be my choice. Sure, there are tons of young backs with the chance to really break out next season. Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno are prime candidates. However, Jones was just as highly touted when he entered the NFL. Like Rice, Felix Jones has been a fantasy sleeper candidate before, but was buried behind aging options. Two seasons ago, Rice was buried behind the combination of Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain. Together, the two accumulated 1573 yards and 17 TDs on the ground alone. It was no wonder that Rice fell in 2009 drafts. However, Rice in limited action during the 2008 fantasy season easily out-averaged both McGahee and McClain on the ground … going for 454 yards at 4.2 yards per clip. This past season, Felix Jones ran for 685 yards with an average of 5.9 yards per carry. As dominant as McClain and McGahee were in 2008, Rice zipped past them for the top spot in 2009. This past season, Marion Barber had much less impressive numbers, although he did miss some action. Felix Jones gives the Cowboys big-play ability and is the future of the running game in Dallas, regardless of some nice runs by Tashard Choice this year. When Jones gets the lions share of the carries is anyone’s guess … but I’m putting my money on Felix for a breakout campaign in 2010.

WR: Julian Edelman, New England. After a big week two performance against the jets (eight catches, 98 yards), this rookie wideout never got enough opportunities the rest of the way to really come into his own. However, things have changed with Wes Welker going down to a double-whammy ACL-MCL tear. Add in some growing concerns about Randy Moss and alleged discontent with the Patriots, and there seems to be some possible openings for Edelman to poke his head through. Watch him closely this postseason and if he rises to the challenge in replacing Wes Welker, make an early snag for him via trade or with a rookie draft pick in the middle to late rounds. Who knows how Welker’s injury will affect him long-term. Who knows how Moss will cope if the Patriots are ousted from the playoffs and he doesn’t get as many looks as he would like.

WR: Kenny Britt, Tennessee. When given the opportunity, Britt produced nice numbers. In the absense of Justin Gage, Britt had several 100-yard-plus outings. Vince Young has no problem throwing Britt the ball, it is just a matter of rookie inconsistencies and a logjam ahead of him. This offseason, I fully expect some moves in the Tennessee receiving corps. If Britt can land a true starting spot, he could become a very solid WR2 option in most league formats.

14 Responses to “Super-early 2010 fantasy football sleepers”


  1. Sockonfl

    After meeting with you the other night I was looking forward to reading this article and you didn’t disappoint. I like all of the picks that you made here. Julian Edelman I think will be a 2010 PPR stud. Matt Ryan will also be helped in 2010 by a healthy Harry Douglas in the receiving corp(he could be another 2010 sleeper too). I have always liked Felix Jones’ yards per carry. Give him 200 rushes and he could be a 1000 yard rusher with plenty of TD’s. He just needs to stay away from the injury bug that has plagued him his first 2 years. I really wish I would not have handed you Finley in the G & G league.

  2. jzak

    Thanks for the feedback. There are plenty of players that could really break out next season … much more than I could guess at here. However, much like my strong hunch and feelings that Schaub would be a solid under-the-radar this past year, and that Aaron Rodgers would be the year before.

    A lot may change depending on how things are played during the upcoming NFL playoffs. However, I think it is safe to stash away all of these players.

  3. ep

    Another great list. I like all the players on here.
    But, speaking of playoff happenings, Shonn Greene is good.
    But could he be overvalued in 2010 based on his postseason performance?

  4. Jay-Mo

    I was glad, well excited, to see EP bring up the tendency to over-evaluate a player based on a great postseason performance when mentioning Shonn Greene. It’s just like college pundits raving about a college team or conference because of its bowl performance(s). You have no idea how much an opponent takes their bowl bid seriously (i.e. Alabama losing to Utah last year) or how much effort a NFL draft pick plays in what is essentially an exhibition not to get hurt (i.e. Brandon LeFell, LSU, on a muddy, sloppy field this bowl season).

    However, I do feel Greene will get more touches next season as the Jets phase out Thomas Jones – who proved me wrong with another strong season. I will also mention Jones got new life when Leon Washington got hurt for the season early in the schedule.

    My take:
    QB: I also really like Matt Ryan making a solid return to be a top QB fantasy option. Atlanta suffered a lot of key injuries and played a tougher schedule based on their 2008 playoff season. A weaker schedule should help Ryan’s return, along with another year of experience.
    Also: Chad Henne, especially if Miami can land a potential game-breaker in the draft (insert C.J. Spiller or Dez Bryant). Henne showed a lot of promise in taking over for an injured-Chad Pennington in Week 3. Remember Miami’s top receiving option was Davon Bess, who would probably a WR3 on most NFL teams, and Henne was rarely given a chance to stay in rhythm due to the Dolphins’ silly insistence to run the Wildcat.

    RB: Felix Jones is an excellent pick, especially after his Wild Card game performance. I’m sure Dallas fans will warn you about how many touches can be spread amongst Jones’ backfield mates Marion Barbour and Tashard Choice.
    Also: Whoever Washington identifies as their RB1. We all know how effective Shannahan’s run offense can be for a runner. Doubt Portis will be healthy enough to secure the top spot and not sure if Ladell Betts fits Shannahan’s zone-blocking scheme, so watch the Redskins’ draft choice (Jahvid Best?)

    TE: Jermichael Finley is right on. With the wifey being a big Packers fan, I was roped into watching plenty of Green Bay games. Aaron Rodgers looked to Finley a lot. Plus, the Packers play Detroit and Chicago twice every year and have Miami next season, who can’t guard a TE even if they were allowed 14 defenders on the field.
    Also: Greg Olsen. Chicago will do everything in its power to hire an OC who will work to Cutler’s strengths (Jeremy Bates, USC?). With no clear WR1, who else will Cutler throw to outside of Matt Forte.

    WR: Kenny Britt is a nice choice. I’m just not sure how well Vince Young will progress with the spotlight back on him. He was playing with house money this year and benefitted from Chris Johnson’s dynmamic season. Although great, I doubt Johnson will have the same season in 2010.
    Also: Steve Breaston. If Curt Warner doesn’t retire, Breaston should take flight with Anquan Boldin leaving town and really improve on his 50-712-3 season. If we’re left with Matt “loose arm” Leinhart, then look to Hakeem Nicks, who had a solid rookie year and heads into what will surely be an improved season for the Giants in a new stadium better suited for passing (less wind effect).

  5. jzak

    Jay-Mo,

    Great suggestions on super-sleepers for next year. I especially like your mentions of Chad Henne and Steve Breaston. Both are primed to take the next step in their careers in 2010.

  6. Guest

    Early doucet will have a better 2010 than Steve breaston!

  7. jzak

    Welcome guest … You may be onto something with Early Doucet. He’s impressed me lately and someone has to be the torchbearer in that offense after Anquan Boldin leaves town. Boldin will not be a Cardinal next season … I’d bet at least a wooden nickel and two pieces of used gum on that. Fitzgerald will get his, but the key to the Cardinals’ success may come down to Breaston or Doucet. Breaston may be leading in overall experience at the position, but Doucet has plenty of talent and potential of his own. Should be a strong grab in most all dynasty league formats.

  8. ep

    @Guest:
    Thanks for the comment. I’ll second the Doucet over Breaston vote.

  9. Guest

    I’m thinking Joe flacco! It’s a fact harbaughs going to bring in a top tier wideout like Brandon Marshall or anquan boldin to help the pass game. Don’t be surprised to see flacco breakout next year. Plus he played hurt most all season with hip and ankle injuries.

  10. ep

    @Guest:
    Flacco showed flashes of potential this year despite throwing to an aged Derrick Mason, Ray Rice and random scrubinee behind door No. 2. If they get an upgrade, it hurts Rice’s value some but it helps Flacco considerably.

  11. jzak

    I have to agree. Flacco could be a nice sleeper pick to target in dynasty leagues. However, I wonder what price owners would ask for in a potential trade for Flacco? As ep said, Flacco was fantasy worthy with mediocre/aging talent at wideout. There are many strong rumors that Boldin is a top priority for the Ravens. Good suggestion in Flacco as a sleeper candidate. I’m hoping Flacco is able to rehab his hip injury over the postseason. He looked like he was in a lot of pain most of the time.

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