The most overused word in all of fantasy sports is probably “sleeper.” When everyone is calling Knowshon Moreno a sleeper, he can’t be a sleeper, because everyone knows about him! I’m here to tell you who the true sleepers are, the players that will really catch your league-mates off guard at the draft. A real sleeper is someone that your league-mates don’t know about, or have much lower expectations for. And that’s who I’ve sought out here. My favorite part of the draft is calling out someone’s name, and everyone looking at you asking “WHO!?” Or when you call out a player who’s name isn’t even on everyone’s cheat sheet. Then you just nonchalantly repeat yourself, and wait until December to throw it back in their faces while you’re holding up the trophy. Without further ado…
Bernard Scott (RB, Cincinnati Bengals)
Bernard Scott already has the body and athletic ability of an NFL veteran, as he’s already 25-years-old as a rookie. If he can stay out of trouble and on the field during camp, his talent will speak for itself. Cedric Benson is going into camp as the clear favorite to be the Bengals feature back; however, if you take out the last 2 games of 2008 against the Browns and Chiefs 28th and 30th ranked run defenses, Benson had 151 carries for 465 yards and 1 touchdown. Scott shouldn’t have much of a problem finding carries in Cincinnati.
Glen Coffee (RB, San Francisco 49ers)
Yes sir boss, like the drink. Coffee likely won’t get more than 75-100 carries if all goes well for Frank Gore and the 49ers running game. Gore has racked up 969 touches since 2006. This load has really been taking a toll on his body as his games and yardage totals have been decreasing on a yearly basis, and questions have been arising about his durability. If Gore continues to wear down, or the coaching staff wants to lessen the wear, 125+ carries isn’t out of the question. Coffee was the workhorse back at Alabama as a junior last year, running for 1,085 yards and 9 TDs in 9 games against SEC defenses which compare favorably to the defenses he’ll be seeing in the NFC West.
Greg Jones (RB, Jacksonville Jaguars)
In 2005, when he was spelling Fred Taylor, Jones tallied 151 carries, 575 yards, 4 touchdowns, and hit the 100-yard mark in 2 games when Taylor was injured. Greg Jones certainly won’t be challenging Mo-Jo’s role as the every down back. But Greg’s much bigger and could take away some short yardage carries, making him a good bet for 100+ carries and 5+ touchdowns, possibly more if Mo-Jo misses any time.
Joe Flacco (QB, Baltimore Ravens)
After a slow start, Flacco played the last 11 games extremely well. While going 9-2, he threw 13 TDs and only 5 INTs and had a passer rating under 80 only 3 times. Flacco is being drafted as a low end QB2 in most leagues, if at all. If he can improve just a little on those numbers, he’ll easily outperform his draft position and will be a borderline starting QB in most leagues.
Seneca Wallace (QB, Seattle Seahawks)
Now, I’m not telling you to put all your eggs in the Seneca Wallace basket and expect him to be your starter. Matt Hasselbeck looks like he’s running on empty. In his eight starts, he had an 11:3 TD:INT ratio, and a passer rating of 87. Jim Mora could use his experience working with Michael Vick to help Wallace improve even more on those numbers. He’s worth keeping an eye on in most leagues, and could even be worth drafting as QB3 in deeper leagues.
Percy Harvin (WR, Minnesota Vikings)
Harvin will likely enter the season as the #3 WR on the Vikings unless he gets hurt or smokes too much reefer. He is easily the Vikings most explosive playmaker on the outside, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. His junior year at Florida he not only led the team in receptions but ran the ball 70 times for 659 yards. There’s no doubt that the Vikings will want to get the ball in his hands on a regular basis. 40 receptions and 40 rushes seems very attainable to me. That would lead to about 750 total yards and 5 TDs. That would put him right around Santonio Holmes, Torry Holt, and Chad Ochocinco last season.
Kevin Walter (WR, Houston Texans)
He’s coming off a couple very respectable seasons with at least 60 receptions and 800 yards in each, and a combined 12 TDs. He very quietly finished last year a #2 WR option in most leagues. As Andre Johnson is drawing more attention, and Matt Schaub develops into a better passer, he could easily improve on the career highs he set last year in yards (899) and TD (8). I would be very comfortable drafting him as a top 15-20 WR.
Brent Celek (TE, Philadelphia Eagles)
You don’t have to look much farther than the Eagles run in the playoffs last year to see how effective Celek can be when given a chance. His 19 receptions were 2nd only to Larry Fitzgerald. In the NFC Championship game, he actually led all pass catchers with 10. And week 9 at Seattle he caught 6 passes for 131 yards. He could easily be the next in line of #1 fantasy tight ends produced by McNabb that includes Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith. He’s being drafted as a #2 TE, if at all, but could easily be among the top 8-12 by season’s end.
Garrett Hartley (K, New Orleans Saints)
I still wouldn’t draft a kicker before the 15th round or so, but a lot of people are overlooking Hartley. He was third in points per game among kickers last year, and should easily end up in the top five this year.
Hank Baskett (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)
He’s sleeping with everyone’s favorite girl next door, Kendra Wilkinson. How can he not be a top sleeper pick?!