It’s 1 a.m. in the morning, and all I can think about is sleep.
Not sleeping, mind you, but sleepers.
For those who lack the lingo of fantasy sports, sleepers are players who you feel will greatly outproduce projections heading into the season. They are players that you can acquire at a solid value. Identify and draft (or trade for) several sleeper players, and you’ll have plenty of ammo to survive your fantasy football season and make some noise in the postseason.
Every fantasy site — and every fantasy manager — has his own list of sleepers. Check out as many as you can, compare notes and watch for trends. Usually, the best sleepers are players who find themselves in the right place at the right time. They can be rookies who excel in a new system, a player who is traded into the right situation or an aging player that other fantasy owners have written off.
Now, I’m the type of guy who likes to go against the grain at times. You can read all about “sleepers” like Steve Slaton (who I expect good things from this season), Fred Taylor and Anthony Gonzalez in a different post at a different time.
Instead, I present to you three of my “off-the-beaten-path” sleeper picks:
QB: Matt Schaub, Houston
Those who know me know that I’m obsessed with Schaub as a super QB value. I posted an indepth column about him here. What’s not to like about Schaub? He’s got a young, yet steadily improving defense to help keep games in hand. He’s got a young, yet steadily improving running back who loves to catch the ball out of the backfield and make some noise in the trenches (Steve Slaton, for those who didn’t already know). He’s got arguably the best receiver in the game to throw to (Andre Johnson) and many people seriously undervalue both WR Kevin Walter and TE Owen Daniels. Schaub was fantasy gold last season when he played. In those games, he ranked sixth in overall fantasy performance, was fourth in yards per game and was in the top eight in TDs per game played. The only thing standing between Schaub and fantasy stardom is a tendency to get banged up. However, the Texans O-line is an under-rated group that continues to improve. If Schaub can stay healthy all season, I will put my reputation (what little I have) on the line in saying that Schaub performs as a top-five fantasy QB. Now imagine getting that late in your draft, after filling your roster with studs at other positions.
RB: Chester Taylor, Minnesota
Again, I could have rattled off a number of value picks here, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. Chester Taylor is currently backing up Adrian Peterson with the Vikings. On the surface, there may not seem to be much point in drafting Taylor onto your fantasy team. Except that Taylor, when getting his share of carries, can still produce. He finished last season with just a hair under 400 yards rushing — and another 400 yards receiving — with a total of six TDs in spot duty. Adrian Peterson is a stud back, but many wonder about his long-term durability, especially when considering how hard he runs each time he touches the ball. I am predicting that he will be hampered by some sort of injury this season at some point. Many feel that Peterson will see a reduction in carries this season as the Vikings attempt to keep him fresh for a possible playoff run. Odds are also lining up that Brett Favre will be QBing the Vikings this year, which will open lanes for the running game. Also, the Vikings have a cupcake schedule — especially for the first third of the season. Lastly, many don’t realize that Taylor, this year, is an unrestricted free agent. His 2010 payday — and where he plays next season — will depend solely on how well he performs this year. You would be very wise to snag Taylor late in your respective drafts and stash him away for a rainy day.
WR: Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh
Again, there are a lot of potential options here, but Holmes has all the makings of finally taking his game to the next level. Reports from the Steel City relay that Holmes has bulked up in the offseason in preparation to be a more physical presence on the field. Nate Washington has left Dodge, and Holmes will see even more targets as a result. Overall, I would not be surprised to see Holmes double his TD total from last year (5) and finish the season as an elite option.