This is the 15th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
The NFC East stands as one of the toughest divisions, top to bottom. You could make a case for each team having a chance to make the playoffs, even the 4-12 Redskins, who have undergone a major overhaul with the additions of QB Donovan McNabb and head coach Mike Shanahan.
In surveying the teams’ rosters, it’s clear that from a fantasy perspective, we’re not talking about a division replete with great below-the-radar options. Sure, there are some gems to be found, players who might end up surprising. But don’t go mining too deeply here. Most of the teams feature stars who are already in place.
With that in mind, here are a few potential sleepers to consider, listed by team.
It’s hard to call too many Cowboys sleepers. Tony Romo and Miles Austin are cats long out of the bag now. Jason Witten is a fantasy star. RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones are well-known commodities among savvy fantasy footballers, and even No. 3 RB Tashard Choice will be drafted in many leagues. Dez Bryant, the hyped first-round pick, is already being hailed for greatness by some.
So might we say that — gasp — Roy Williams is a sleeper? Bear with me. Is he ever going to reach his 2006 production again? (Shaking Magic-8 ball …) Signs point to "no." Can he resurrect his career in Dallas? Perhaps. Right now Williams is considered a fantasy reserve, no more than a No. 4 receiver, and nearly every Cowboys fan has Bryant passing him in short order.
It could happen, but don’t be surprised if Williams, who scored a respectable seven TDs last season, has one last gasp as a fantasy producer and outperforms his low expectations.
Like the Cowboys, the Giants have a lot of established producers. Hakeem Nicks has all but passed Mario Manningham on the depth chart and should be ready for a fine second season. Steve Smith will have a hard time matching his ’09 figures but remains a strong option.
I can’t endorse fourth-year TE Kevin Boss for this category, because I think we have seen the best of what he can offer in the passing game. And second-year TE Travis Beckum has some work to do to enter the sleeper territory.
At running back, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are the top two backs, and you could make a case for Bradshaw being the more attractive option. But again, I hesitate to call him a sleeper, given what he has done to date. I’ll throw Andre Brown’s name out there as a possibility, but I don’t see him being draft-worthy — not until he has made progress coming back from injury. Head coach Tom Coughlin said in June that Brown, a Derrick Ward-type of runner, is “way behind” in his rehab. Brown might be more of a waiver-wire option to consider during the season.
I suppose you could consider Kevin Kolb a sleeper among quarterbacks in that most people are debating whether he can join the starter-caliber ranks this season. I think he can, and when this season is said and done, I believe Kolb will be a top-10 fantasy QB.
WR Jason Avant is a good sleeper candidate, but he won’t be on the field more than 60 percent of the time. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are emerging as stars, but Avant has shown that knack to make the big play. On a team that can throw for 4,000 or more yards this season, I expect Avant to earn a place on many fantasy teams’ rosters this season.
RB LeSean McCoy might not be ready to be among the fantasy elite, but I don’t necessarily think Mike Bell or Charles Scott can do enough to earn sleeper rights. And forget about FB Leonard Weaver, a very good player nonetheless. Philly's coaches have made it clear his offensive touches should decrease after a fine season filling in for the Eagles’ injured backs.
You might be able to pluck a decent sleeper or two here, but they have some obstacles to overcome.
The RB position is loaded with big-name talents such as Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis and Willie Parker, but each of the three appeared to peak a few years ago. Keep the name Ryan Torain in the back of your minds. Although he has a few players to pass on the depth chart, Torain might be able to take advantage of some injuries to the top three, who are all capable of getting hurt at this stage of their careers. Remember, Torain was set to start in Denver for Shanahan a few years ago before suffering a torn ACL.
People are ready to promote WRs Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and TE Fred Davis ahead of mainstays Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, respectively. But I am not sold this is going to happen the way people think. Thomas could start, and receivers often break out in their third seasons, but the Redskins’ interest in Chargers WR Vincent Jackson and the team bringing in a slew of veteran wideouts — Bobby Wade, Joey Galloway, et al — has me thinking it is not sold on either Thomas or Kelly.
Davis was superproductive in replacing Cooley, but I am not sure he’s ready to be an every-week fantasy starter.
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