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Fantasy Football Sleepers For The 2011 Season

Sam Bradford and Josh McDanielsWhile so much of an emphasis is placed on your first couple of fantasy football draft picks, it is the later draft picks that will make the difference between winning or losing your league. You all have elite players with your first two picks, but can you sniff out the sleepers to give you the edge?

One of the most difficult decisions to make is what to do with those late round fantasy football draft picks. You already drafted your starters so you are now looking for depth and steals. This is where you make or break your draft. Picking up a sleeper, maybe two is generally the difference maker here. Every year there are a handful of steals but do you have enough information to so find those diamonds in the ruff and become the smartest player in the room?

Like many of you, I am swallowed up in the world of fantasy football by reading daily blogs, news reports, listening to podcasts, and sifting through stats. Instead of keeping a few steals to myself, I thought I’d pass them along to you here with a little reasoning behind why I love these guys that you can get later in your draft.

Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers – Running backs are in my opinion the most important position in fantasy football. We all have the usual suspects we target in the early rounds, but the backs you pick up later can sometimes wind up becoming more valuable than the runner you picked up first. Mike Tolbert is that guy!

[adinserter block=”2″]I love Mike Tolbert. He was a waiver wire gem last year and I don’t see any reason he won’t do it again. Darren Sproles is gone and Ryan Matthews is so focused on taking the starting job, that he showed up to camp out of shape. The Chargers have one of the best offenses in the NFL and they will go up and down the field several times during a game. Who are they going to give it to at the goalline? Tolbert.

He had 11 touchdowns in 2010. I think he can rush for 15 in 2011. I love him and you can probably get him late. A lot of people assume that Matthews will cut into his workload. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos – If you can’t beat them join them right? This guy vulture me for two years as a Ray Rice owner so believe me when I tell you, this guy will get his goalline carries in Denver. He is in a John Fox system, you know the coach that loves the two-back system. Knowshown Moreno will get the carries but McGaghee will get it in crunch time.

Moreno has a history with injuries so I wouldn’t be shocked to see McGahee become the starter briefly at some point during the season. The Broncos are in a great division for running backs and will be highly underrated coming into the season. McGahee has the potential to do some real damage here and may wind up finishing the season with double digit scores.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – I love Bradford this year and the reason is his new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Did you see what McDaniels did with Kyle Orton last year? Do you think that Bradford has more talent than Orton? I do and I can’t see why he won’t flourish in McDaniels’ offense.

The one thing I wanted to see out of Bradford last season was health. Could he stay healthy after such an injury-ridden college career? He did and he played the entire season. He has arguably better receivers this year and will be much more comfortable in the pocket. He has a great schedule and a lot of potential to give you some great weeks if you pick him up later in the draft.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – I loved Stafford coming into last season. I took him in the later rounds of all of my drafts. If he would have stayed healthy, he had the potential to be a top ten, maybe even top five fantasy quarterback. Unfortunately he didn’t.

That is the biggest question mark with this guy. The Detroit Lions offense is fantastic for fantasy players. Stafford is a scoring machine when he is on the field, but the injuries are a huge concern. The good news is that you can get him late and if he stays healthy, you’ll have one of the best QBs in the league all season. The bad news is that you better have a good backup because he cannot be trusted.

19 TDs in 13 career starts and over 2,809 yards for the young lad. Can you imagine the numbers he will put up in sixteen games? I can and I will take him again with a late pick. So should you.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons – The Atlanta Falcons surprised everyone last year when their offense became one of the most prolific in the NFL. Roddy White had a monster year along with quarterback Matt Ryan. Julio Jones now joins the receiving corps and early buzz on Jones is that he has been a beast in training camp and in preseason play.

The Falcons G.M. recently proclaimed Jones the “1-A” receiver to Roddy White. Jones was taken number six overall in the draft and will likely be expected to produce going so high. At 6’3, 223 he is going to do some damage and can be had very late in the draft. I’d grab him late because he not only has sleeper potential, he could also wind up being your keeper for next year.

Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins – I am going to go out on a huge limb here because I haven’t seen him talked up anywhere. As of today, Tim Hightower is practically a sure bet for the starting running back spot with the Redskins. However, with Hightower’s propensity to fumble and Shanahan’s no tolerance policy for fumble-happy running backs, I would be shocked if Torain isn’t the starter by mid-season.

[adinserter block=”1″]I picked up Torain on the waiver wire last year and he was a beast. He has a career average of 4.5 yards per carry and just blasted through defense after defense as the starter. The downside with Torain is his history of injuries which is a very real issue. I’d still take a late round flyer on him. He had double digit numbers all throughout the fantasy playoffs last season. He will get his opportunity and when he does, he needs to be in your starting lineup immediately.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans – Technically he is number three on the depth chart but a quick glance at Houston papers will tell you different. The kid is explosive and he will be running behind one of the best lines in the NFL. Arian Foster has been bothered by hamstring injuries all preseason and those things just don’t go away. Mark my words, he will be starting for the Texans this season.

Tate is a real bargain right now on draft boards. He is generally going in the last rounds or not at all. The Texans drafted this guy in the second round for a reason. He has looked great in preseason thus far and I have a strong feeling that he will turn into either the sleeper or waiver wire pickup of the year for a lot of lucky fantasy players.

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