View Full Version : Fantasy Footbal Sleepers by NFL.COM

07-24-2005, 08:07 PM
(July 7, 2005) -- Every year, there are some players that emerge in a season that are either under publicized or not thought of as highly as they should be. Maybe it's because they weren't a starter last season, they shared playing time with another player, they were injured most of the season, or they underperformed for whatever reason. These types of players fit the updated definition of a "sleeper."

The definition of the term "sleeper" has certainly changed over the years. Before the explosion of the Internet, you could say a sleeper was a player that no one heard of that had a chance to be productive. Now it's really about a player who exceeds expectations since everyone should know about any player that you would consider drafting, and we're basing our sleeper players for 2005 as a derivative of what we've written here.

1) Carson Palmer/Cincinnati: While his numbers weren't great, Palmer started to really emerge over his final four games (11 TDs) before a knee injury ended his first year as a starter (was on pace for 22 TDs for the season). What really impressed us was that he started to play with more consistency without veteran WR Peter Warrick in the lineup. He started to develop good chemistry with No. 1 WR Chad Johnson and Warrick's replacement, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With Palmer totally healed, he'll continue to get more work with all three receivers and looks to be well on his way to putting together a big season barring injury.

2) Joey Harrington/Detroit: Here we are again. Harrington was on this list last year and didn't get the job done. This year, he'll have a lot of help. The addition of veteran offensive coordinator Ted Tollner should help Harrington raise his level of play. Tollner is known as one of the better quarterback teachers. The addition of rookie WR Mike Williams and veteran WR Kevin Johnson will give Harrington the added weapons he needs. And just think if third-year WR Charles Rogers stays healthy this season. The bottom line is the team has given Harrington all the talent and help he needs to succeed. At worst, Harrington should be a pretty solid backup fantasy quarterback.

3) Byron Leftwich/Jacksonville: The Jaguars will be changing the offensive game plan this season, and Carl Smith has replaced Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator. Musgrave ran strictly a West Coast system that was very restrictive. Smith will run more of a power rushing attack with a deep passing game. This plays right to the strength of Leftwich, who has a cannon of an arm. Leftwich could easily break the 20-touchdown barrier this season in the new offense, and he makes an excellent backup fantasy signal-caller.

Running Back
1) J.J. Arrington/Arizona: While Arrington didn't stand out during Senior Bowl practices, he did have a terrific combine workout and that got him noticed by the Cardinals -- specifically head coach Dennis Green. Arrington put up big numbers in college and is a pretty good fit for their scheme run by new offensive coordinator Keith Rowan. Arrington will not only be asked to handle a lot of carries as a rookie, he'll have to catch the ball as Rowan's offense calls for backs to become receivers. Arrington should be good enough for you to draft as your third back this season, and he could outplay that role.

2) Brandon Jacobs/New York Giants: The team has been looking for a second back with size to complement starting RB Tiki Barber for years but struck out with Ron Dayne. In comes the bigger, yet more nimble, rookie in Jacobs. At the very least, Jacobs will get goal-line carries and he could score 7-10 times. That's at least good enough for you to select him for depth late.

3) Correll Buckhalter/Philadelphia: He was on this list last offseason before suffering another season-ending knee injury. Buckhalter was set to handle the short-yardage role for the team and is set to do so again. The team felt so good about his rehab that they re-signed him to a two-year deal. Buckhalter gives fantasy owners pretty good value in the second half of their drafts, as well as solid depth for their roster.

4) Eric Shelton/Carolina: This sleeper selection will need some help to come to fruition. However, consider that veteran RB Stephen Davis is still coming back from knee surgery and is far from a lock to remain on the team through training camp. Should Davis be jettisoned, Shelton then could take over the short-yardage role for the team and be the main backup to RB DeShaun Foster, who is expected to be the starter this season. Shelton's the kind of late-round selection that provides some upside.

5) LaMont Jordan/Oakland: He's gone from almost total obscurity to a major role with his new team. Jordan now gets the starting job which he's wanted ever since the Jets selected him in the second round in the 2001 draft. What's great about Jordan's situation is the Raiders will be able to stretch the field because of the addition of WR Randy Moss. This will make it very hard to key on one part of their offense. Last season, teams loaded up with a lot of eight-man fronts, which explains why the Raiders were the worst rushing team in the NFL. Jordan isn't exactly undervalued, but he's ready for a big season and is a perfect fit as your second RB.