Trainig Camp is about to start and that means that Fantasy Football drafts all around the world are going on. We all pretty much know how the first bunch of picks are going to go (Tomlinson, Jackson, Johnson, Gore, Alexander, Manningâ€¦) but whatâ€™s left after those guys? Who can be had later that can produce high round talent? Iâ€™ll clue you in to some of my sleeper picks this season. This doesnâ€™t mean you should go out and draft these guys right away or try to get each one but these are guys you should keep on your radar.
QB – Matt Leinart (ARI) – After putting up decent numbers as a rookie, especially with the bad line in front of him, he should rise up as one of the best young QBs in the NFL. His stats last year (2547yds, 11/12 TD/INT ratio, 2 rushing TDs, and 2 fumbles lost) werenâ€™t anything to write home about but he was a rookie. He has talented recievers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and a RB that can make grabs out of the backfield in Edgerrin James. The Cardinals will be a surprise team and the improved defense will give the offense enough clock to make plays. Look for Leinart to be a top 10 QB this season. Also, take a long look at Jay Cutler (DEN). Donâ€™t be surprised if Jon Kitna (DET), J.P. Losman (BUF), and Matt Schaub (HOU) have good years as well. Keep a late pick eye on those guys.
RB – Laurence Maroney (NE) – Now that Cory Dillon is out of the picture Maroney is the starter every week for the Pats. He is also a high reward/high risk guy. He wore down late in the year and had offseason shoulder surgery. Donâ€™t let that scare you. He wants to be great and he should be nothing less. The Pats offense is going to flourish this year and Maroney will be a big part of it. He is #1 RB that you might be able to get as your #2.
RB – Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Brown is often overlooked because he barely cracked 1,000 yards (1,008 to be exact) but he did it by only starting 12 games and missing 3 games. Trent Green is the new QB in Miami and loves to dump the ball of to the RB and Brown has the hands to be a 40-50 reception back. He has added bulk to go along with his outside speed. Just be careful of injuries. This could be the year he breaks out as a top-10 back. Also keep an eye on Brandon Jacobs (NYG) and rookies Marshawn Lynch (BUF) and Green Bay RB Brandon Jackson.
WR – Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis (PHI) – Donte Stallworth is now in New England and the Eagles will have a healthy Donovan McNabb. That formula paves the way for breakout seasons from both Brown and Curtis. I wouldnâ€™t fo so far as to say that either will become #1 fantasy options because McNabb ill spread the ball well between those two plus RB Brian Westbrook and TE L.J. Smith. They should both top 60 receptions and grab atleast 14yds/rec with enough TDs to make them viable options at #2 and #3 on your team. I would also take a good look at Brandon Marshall (DEN), Drew Bennett (STL), Santonio Holmes (PIT), and Brandon Jones (TEN).
TE – Vernon Davis (SF) – Davis is a beast! He is so athletic. He has the speed of some recievers, the hands of the top TEs, and the power to lay out defenders. He could end up being Alex Smithâ€™s numero uno target. He is a, dare I say it, more athletic version of Antonio Gates. If Davis doesnâ€™t have a break-out season then I will be incredibly surprised. These TEs should provide good value late in the draft: Marcus Pollard (SEA) and Tony Scheffier (DEN).
Again, donâ€™t reach too far for these guys. Let them fall to you at a good spot and grab them then. Try to keep to your own plan and if one of these guys falls in your lap then jump at the opportunity, thatâ€™s what fantasy sports is all about, getting value with each pick. Thatâ€™s how Iâ€™ve won the trophy each of the last 2 years in my league!
-Jonathan C. Mitchell
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