Sleeper articles are probably the most popular pre-draft articles around. Itís the article that gives us the edge on the competition, the article that will make Fantasy GM's of the world look like football Guru's, the one piece of information that will take us from mediocrity to playoff berths and ultimately fantasy football immortality. Nothing feels better than selecting the unknown backup running back, or the young wide receiver in the 10th round and watching them vault into the limelight of the fantasy world, not to mention a championship victory for the savvy fantasy GM. The unfortunate truth is that this glorified fantasy story is not always the case, many fantasy GMs end up looking foolish, dumb, moronic, silly, douche baggy or toolish and end up the laughing stock of their league. Whether itís selecting players 2-3 rounds too early, or having unrealistic expectations for those particular players, this happens to these poor saps because they never stop to understand the rules of properly drafting sleepers. Well folks, the days of blunderous fantasy picks, last place finishes, lost bets, basement dwelling, and nicknames such as the "The Fantasy Goat" are over.
Rule # 1: Don't Blow Your Wad Too Early
Sleepers are sleepers for a reason, and should be selected in the latter rounds of drafts! Sleepers are players that could possibly help your team during the season, players that may step in and become statistical wonders; players you draft after and only after you've drafted a solid foundation of proven talent. This may seem like an easy enough concept, but too many times I've watched fantasy GMs draft sleepers several rounds too early, overlooking players that have been consistently good for the past few seasons. The early parts of your draft (rounds 1-4) should focus on collecting proven talent, players that you can rely on throughout the season, players that have consistently put up solid numbers year in and year out. By collecting certified talent you will now have the freedom and flexibility to gamble on the risky or flashy talent you've been eying all off season.
Worried that by the 5th round you would have missed the boat on your young stud? That's ok for numerous reasons! First of all, if other GM's are "reaching" on the young talent, it will allow you to draft more of that consistent talent we've been talking about, which will only help your team in the long run. Secondly, there are plenty of sleepers every year, just cause a few get drafted doesn't mean you've missed the ship. The key is to be aware of all possible sleepers you do in fact like to draft handy, that way you are not left scrambling to draft players that everybody else is targeting as well.
Rule # 2: Running Backs Make the World Go Round!
Running backs in general are my favorite type of sleeper. It's definitely the most injury prone position which makes late round back-ups low risk, high reward type players. (Take Rashard Mendenhal last year, a 10th rounder whom now finds himself a 1st round pick this year.) It's the easiest position for rookies to learn due to the fact the system doesn't vary much from their high school and college playing days. It's also a position that can remain productive if the individual is drafted or signed to a team that would require him to play in a committee. (A committee basically means the RB shares the carries with another back) This happens because even if a RB is forced to split time with another, he'll still see at least 8-12 guaranteed touches. Those 8-12 touches are more per game than any wide receiver will ever see and touching the football is the key for fantasy production. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there are no risks in drafting sleeper running backs. I just believe itís the lowest risk position to gamble on.
Rule # 3: Do Not Fall in Love With Rookie Wide Receivers!
It seems like every year there is some rookie wide receiver that is projected to be the reincarnation of Art Monk and Lynn Swan! The reality of these over hyped rookies is that they just don't produce on a championship level. Take Calvin Johnson for example, probably one of the most hyped, sought after rookies in recent memory. The player they call "Megatron" had all the physical tools to be an effective rookie, I mean if any rookie wide out was gonna produce it would surely be the 6'4", 235 pound, 4.35 speed man-monster right!?! Wrong, Megatron could only muster up 48 catches, 756 yards, and 4 TD's respectfully in his rookie campaign. Don't get me wrong, these are great rookie numbers, but the horrifying thing that stands out to me is that his ADP was 62.4 that year! 62.4! An incredible number for a player who has yet to prove himself in the NFL. His ADP means he was most GM's 3rd or even 2nd wide receiver; you can't win leagues with his rookie year production. Not to mention that he was drafted over many viable WR's that year who are consist 1,000 yard receivers, guys like Hines Ward and Donald Driver just to mention a few. Still think rookie wide receivers are good investments? Letís take Jerry Rice for example, probably one of the greatest players, not to mention statistical WRs to ever play the game could only manage 49 receptions, 927 yards and 3 TD's in his rookie year. * If you are looking for sleepers at the Wide Receiver Position the key is to target 2nd and primarily 3rd year players who have had a few training camps and have been allowed the time to fully understand an NFL Offense.
Rule # 4: Steer Clear of Rookie Quarterbacks!
Rookie Quarterbacks are essentially in the same boat as their Wide Receiver counterparts. They simply lack the experience needed to fully contribute on a fantasy level and require 2-3 seasons before they can fully reach their true potential. My advice is to avoid all rookie Quarterbacks and point your focus to players that have had a few years to learn an NFL system.
Rule # 5: Don't Get Caught Up!
Don't let youíre Man-Crush, Lust, Passion, or your Ragging Hard-On completely overshadow your draft! For those of you, whom are unaware of what a Man-Crush is, please allow me to explain. A Man-Crush is a special kind of love for a specific player in the draft that you feel will become the next big thing in the NFL. You see special qualities in this player which will allow him to grab the NFL by the balls and punish opposing defenses as if he were a wolf among sheep. These fantasies and delusions generate a passion, or a lust that may dilute even the greatest fantasy minds during a draft and force him into making mistakes that will render his team incapable of making a playoff push. I'm not saying I don't get Man-Crushes, because I do all the time, however, one must learn to control these feelings of passion to think clearly and objectively when making decisions for this team. Too many times I see fantasy GM's reach, or draft an unnecessary positional need, which can hurt a team down the road. The trick is to allow the draft to flow freely when picking your sleeper Man-Crush, don't force the issue, don't draft ahead of his ADP. Don't commit a rookie move by allowing one individual player dictate your draft outcome. One must remain flexible during a draft; adjust with the flow of how the draft is unraveling, because no one can predict the minds of your fellow GM's. By allowing yourself flexibility you'll be able to accurately determine which players are best suited for your team.
Well, those are my rules for drafting sleepers. Hopefully these ideals will help you for the upcoming season and seasons to come. Remember, a smart fantasy GM is always well prepared. I can only give you guidelines on how to properly draft sleepers; the responsibility of being well informed relating to injuries, player news, and having your cheat sheets handy during a draft rests on you.
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