Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sleepers, or Creepers?

I know I've already talked about 2010's Fantasy Sleepers a million times, but it's such an ever-changing landscape that I felt this was necessary. Fantasy football is everywhere this time of year; somebody goes from an unknown to a sleeper to a household name to overrated in just weeks. A perfect example is Ryan Matthews.

Two seconds after the Chargers drafted him in the first round, I thought "Hey, he's got the starting job on a great offense, sounds like a fantasy sleeper to me." I was very excited to display my brilliance by picking him in the fourth round. I stashed his name in my head as a top secret. But slowly but surely everybody came to the same realization. He suddenly became a top 20 running back on everybody's list, and just recently I saw him go thirteenth overall in a mock draft. Really, THIRTEENTH overall?? That's absurd. How does a rookie, on a pass-first offense, who won't play on third downs, and might not even be any good, warrant the second pick in the second round???? Suddenly, all the reasons I liked Matthews as a sleeper were gone and I could only see the negatives. In the fourth round, he's brilliant. In the second round, he's awful. From sleeper to overrated, just like that.

It's such a volatile industry and it's hard to keep up. I called Chad Henne and Marc Sanchez sleepers weeks ago, but that's like calling LeBron James a jackass. It's too easy, too obvious. There are obvious sleepers, and then there are the ones that everyone misses. Guys who have been around the league for a while. Like last year, with Brett Favre. And for that matter, Sidney Rice. No one expected monster numbers from them, but maybe we should have. After all, they were great players on a great offense. We should have seen it coming, but we were so focused on the guys we thought were sleepers last season (the cute, idiotic picks like Trent Edwards and Kyle Orton) that we missed the obvious.

I decided to break out my dusty 2009 fantasy magazine and take a look at the choice of projected sleepers. You're not gonna believe this...

Besides Orton and Edwards, we've got LaDanian Tomlinson, Michael Crabtree, Lee Evans, Dwayne Bowe, Derrick Ward, Laveranues Coles, LenDale White, and check this one out - Daunte Culpepper! You call those sleepers?? I call those cadavers.

What do all of these "sleepers" have in common? Well, aside from all being extremly wrong, they are each prime examples of the rampant over-thinking that takes place in fantasy preparation. People try so hard to outsmart their foes that they overthink their foes, and the guy with the best team ends up being the guy who was stuck on auto-draft. Maybe instead of passing on Cedric Benson last year because the magazine told you to, you should have grabbed him in the third round. The smartest move would have been the least daring.

Sometimes the obvious sleepers are true. Last year a lot of people pegged Ray Rice as a bonafide sleeper stud and we're dead on. But it doesn't usually happen. A good rule is that if everybody agrees someone is a sleeper, they're probably being drafted two rounds too early. I love Matthews and Shonn Greene and Rashard Mendenhall as "sleepers" this season, but as third-round sleepers. Not 13th overall picks.

Incidentally, the same 2009 magazine has a list of players who are overrated, overvalued and will underdeliver. Let's see: Thomas Jones (1,400 yards and 14 TDs), Donald Driver (1,000 yards and 6 TDs), Tony Romo (26 TDs, 4,400 yards), Brandon Marshall (1,100 yards, 10 TDs), and look at that - the best player in 2009 fantasy football - Chris Johnson (2,500 total yards and 16 TDs). Wow. And these are the so-called "experts."

So let me get this straight. Daunte Culpepper is a sleeper, and Chris Johnson is a bust? Yes? Okay, just wanted to clarify that. I mean, they could have literally swapped the sleeper list for the dud list and looked like pure geniuses. This was only one year ago. It's amazing these guys have jobs. I think the only reason is because people rarely look back at last year's fantasy magazine.

So how is it that a guy like Marshall or Romo or Chris Johnson comes to be perceived as "overrated" when they are such immense and obvious talents? How could anyone have ever typed the following sentence: "Johnson may have rushed for over 1,200 yards as a rookie, but don't expect him to continue that kind of success. He lacks the power to be an every-down back and will lose touches at the goal-line." Hmmm... really? Have the people who write our fantasy magazines ever actually watched football? Or do they just look at box scores? Because Chris Johnson may be small, but he has no lack in power, and can definitely be an every-down back. And he was, leading the NFL with 358 carries.

The point is, my friends, don't trust the experts. They don't know anything. They're idiots but because their words are written on glossy pages with pretty HD pictures we believe every word they say. No matter who they tell you the sleepers are, just ignore them and decide for yourself. Think outside the box, and only then can you truly be free.


  1. I do want to point out that I did in fact pick Sidney Rice in both my leagues last year, simply because I saw him play college ball and knew that he would be the kind of target that Favre would like. I also picked Shiancoe as my tight end in both leagues, which was a modestly successful sleeper tight end pick.

    This year, I think Massaquoi in Cleveland will be a sleeper to watch (maybe he's not really a sleeper, I don't have any cool fantasy magazines).

    My strategy for sleepers is to look for new young wide receivers who are third or fourth on their team and matched with an elite throwing quarterback.

    I don't really have a strategy for runningbacks...

  2. good work with Rice last year and Shiancoe. impressive.

    good strategy. im excited