Sleepers and Poopers Part One

Editors Note: Apologies to anyone offended/annoyed by the word poop. For me, it has never stopped being funny, so I continue to use it at least once a day. Moreover, after finishing my ALL-SLEEPERS team and looking at the word count, I figured I didn’t want to give you guys more than you could digest in one day (because I have NEVER done that before. Ever.). Which is why you will be finding just sleepers in today’s column, while the excrementary players will have their very own column tomorrow. That is all.

Now down to business.

2011-12 ALL SLEEPER TEAM (Same format as yesterday)

QB: Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns. This pick could be a bit of a stretch, but as far as rookie campaigns go, what Doc McCoy did last year was as impressive as I ever could have expected. A half decent QB Rating and a 60% completion is no small feat for an NFL first timer. Obviously, the expectations are tempered. If he continues to improve, and some skill guys on that offense step up this season, there’s a chance he could be a solid QB2 in most leagues (at the very least a spot starter when he has a juicy matchup…again I’m hedging here). It also helps that he’ll heap on 2-3 points per game from his rushing alone. I wanted to choose Mark Sanchez very badly. Third year guy, improved rating, improved TD-INT Ratio, but the completion percentage was still well below average and his December (read: fantasy playoff time) splits are just plain awful. And Matt Stafford isn’t really much of a sleeper, as the amount of hype he’s received this off-season has left him just a tad over-priced. Plus even a tight bearhug has a minor chance of reinjuring that shoulder. Sanchez and Stafford are high profile guys, and McCoy fits the definition of a true sleeper.

Team Reserves: Kyle Orton (who is being drafted WAYYYYYY too low)

RB: Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins. No matter what kind of list you’re putting a Mike Shanahan coached running back on, its a huge risk. But for the purposes of this blog, thats a risk I’m willing to take. With Roy Helu slowly slipping out of fantasy relevance (never say never though), Tim Hightower has secured the drivers seat to take the lions share of carries in this backfield. He is averaging over 6.5 yards per carry this preseason and is playing for a coach who’s zone-blocking scheme breeds successful running backs like clockwork (for how long they are successful is a different story entirely). Hightower proved during his time in Arizona that he can be useful catching balls out of the backfield (always a handy skill) and is quite the bargain (Low 100’s ADP) for the kind of return you could be getting. Again this is classic case of huge risk/huge reward, but thats what sleepers are usually all about anyways. CAUTION: This is still Mike Shanahan we are talking about here. If I were you, I would keep an eye on the entire Redskins’ stable of backs throughout the year, just to be safe.

RB: Delone Carter, Indianapolis Colts. On one hand this guy is third on the running back depth chart. On the other hand, the two backs in front of him are the underwhelming/injury prone Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. There is the chance that those two guys stay healthy and are productive albeit in a time share. There is also a pretty decent chance that they both get hurt (I’m not kidding), and Carter takes the reins as the lead back. Addai and Brown will both be drafted relatively low because they are splitting carries, but what I can also tell you is that if either one of them would be getting 70-80% of the workload, that player would be a top 40 draft pick (the kind of value Carter may very well have at some point this season). Moreover, Carter is tough, durable, and an excellent between the tackles runner (read: goal line carries). So if you can get that kind of potential value from a guy who will likely go undrafted in most leagues, why not nab him and stash him? If things work out, you are a genius and will ride him into the fantasy playoffs. If not, its only a late round pick. For me it boils down to a crapload of things going in the pro column, and Joseph Addai and Donald Brown in the con column. Thats about it.

Team Reserves: Beanie Wells, James Starks

WR: Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams. Not too many people know this guy’s name, but he had 85 receptions last year. 85! Thats a lot. Unfortunately, 689 yards and 3 touchdowns is not. But in a PPR league (and especially one that includes return yards like mine, despite the new crappy rule) there is still some value to be had from those numbers. He has exceptional hands, and has a year under his belt building a great rapport with Sam Bradford. On the other hand, a lot of people said that the addition of Josh McDaniels to the Broncos a few years ago (McDaniels is now in St. Louis, which is why I’m throwing this tidbit out there) would make Eddie Royal a beast out of the slot (like what he did with Wes Welker in New England), and that didn’t exactly work out. But for a guy that is going behind Randy Moss in most drafts (he is retired people), I think he is certainly worth taking a later round flier on. Again, the yardage and touchdowns marks are ugly considering all of those receptions. But if you can get a guy who had 85 catches (85!!) this late in a draft, I think its absolutely worth the risk. Hey maybe, some of those receptions start turning into touchdowns or he makes a few guys miss in the open field throughout the course of the season. Furthermore, the improvements Sam Bradford will have made in his game this offseason should only have a postive impact on the numbers for Danny Boy. I think this is a low risk, high upside pick. And those are a rare thing in this game.

WR: James Jones, Green Bay Packers. I’ve been keeping an eye on this guy for awhile now (he’s the most exciting big play guy in the game that nobody knows about), and with the diminshing skills/production of an aging Donald Driver, I think Jones will be the one to benefit from the increased role in this vaunted offense.* Jones has seen an improvement in his numbers between the last 3 seasons, can take the top off of a defense (big play waiting to happen), and is now entering the magical age 27 year for wide receivers. Great value too (currently ranked 59th on Yahoo! among WR’s). A lot of things seem to be adding up here. The hands have been an issue, and have been the biggest road block for playing time, so hopefully he can correct that problem. Assuming he can supplant Driver on the depth chart, Jones could be a very interesting late round pick/waiver wire addition for any team in need of receiving help.

*To be honest, it could just as easily be Jordy Nelson, but I just think James Jones brings a little more to the table. Regardless, keep an eye on both.

Team Reserves: Earl Bennett, Andre Roberts, Mike Thomas (not an overwhelming offense in Jacksonville, but a No. 1 receiver is a No. 1 receiver)

TE: Dustin Keller, New York Jets. Just another one of the tight end combine freaks coming out of college. this dude has been putting up some sneaky solid numbers in his first 3 seasons as a pro. I am expecting a bit of a progression this season. Being a young quarterback’s safety blanket over the middle is always a bonus, and if Mark Sanchez can improve on his numbers at all (year 3 for a quarterback, I’m banking on him doing just that), Keller should see a spike in his own. The exit of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery (and the addition of the less superior Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason), should also have a positive impact on the number of targets Keller receives throughout the season. He is currently being drafted 19th among tight ends, and I am expecting  him to be a borderline weekly starter at the very least. If things go according to plan? He will be entrenched as a legit TE1 option in all 10-12 team leagues. Two last tidbits. Of all the WR/TE options on the New York Jets entire team, he has easily the most seasons of experience with his quarterback. Second, he is entering the magical age 27 year for a receiver folks! If that doesn’t send you over the edge, I’m not sure what will.

Team Reserves: Greg Olsen, Brandon Pettigrew (who I also love this year if Stafford can stay healthy).

DEF: Atlanta Falcons. This category was a little harder to figure out, as I’m judging an entire side of the ball, rather than just a player. Despite these massive difficulties, I came out on the other side with the Atlanta Falcons. For a team that finished 9th overall in fantasy scoring (this could differ a little from league to league, considering the subtle nuances each commissioner may like to employ) and actually got better this offseason,* it is a little puzzling to understand why Yahoo! has them projected to finish 14th overall among defenses and why they have the fifth worst ADP in fantasy leagues (that makes literally no sense at all). This just doesn’t add up for me. At the very worst case, this is a defense that can be employed when they are going against a poor offense. If they live up to its billing of talent (and there is plenty), they could easily become a weekly starter in all leagues. Name brand defenses (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and the like) are always nice stalwarts to have on a fantasy squad. But that can be a dangerous game to play when a teams reputation exceeds its prowess on the field. In my league last year, Atlanta actually scored 5 more points throughout the season than the fantasy legend Raven defense. And yet the Ravens are being drafted MUCH higher than the Falcons. All I’m saying is that judging a defense on name alone doesn’t work (Pittsburgh is probably the only exception), and is probably why this defense has slid so undeservingly far down the rankings.

Team Reserve: Dallas Cowboys

*With the addition of Ray Edwards on the defensive line and the development of key young players like Brent Grimes, Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon, and William Moore.

2 days in a row with a column. I’m coming for you DiMaggio. Anyways, thanks again for stopping by, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow with my fecal All-Americans.

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