Sleeper lists are designed to provide insight on players you may not draft in the top half of your draft that may have an unexpectedly good season. The players listed below did not have high fantasy numbers in 2010, but have a great chance of making an impact on your team in 2011. For an all rookie list, please see:
Top 10 Rookies to Draft in 2011
#10. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Their remains questions at quarterback in Denver, but Thomas has a lot of talent and should improve greatly in his second year. If you believe in Tebow, then take Thomas for your third WR.
#9. Lance Kendricks, TE, St. Louis Rams
Kendricks will step in to become one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets in St. Louis. If you miss out on the top few Tight Ends, look in his direction.
#8. Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins
Torain had 742 yards in just 10 games last season while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Unlike many NFL experts, I am predicting that Torain will be the opening day starter and be able to keep his job as the primary running back option for the Redskins. Rookie Roy Helu has been very inconsistent while having one great game against Missouri when he racked up over 300 yards on 28 carries. Torain should be dirt cheap, and should turn in a solid season for your fantasy team.
#7. Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Transitioning to a new quarterback is not usually a good sign for an up and coming wide receiver. Thomas hauled in 66 catches after 48 the previous season. The reason I am still hopeful for a good fantasy season from Thomas relies on the numbers. Garrard thre for over 800 yards less than he did in 2010, but Thomas gained 370 more yards on 18 more receptions and added three touchdowns to his 2010 total of just one. Having increased numbers with the decline in performance from Garrard shows that Thomas will step up to the challenge. Look for a 1,000+ yard season and around 8 touchdowns.
#6. Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland Browns
This is a risky pick, but what is a sleeper list for if you don’t have a couple of longshots? In the time that he played in 2010, McCoy only had a slightly lower passer rating than Sam Bradford from St. Louis (74.5 to Bradford’s 76.5). The Browns finally have something going for them with a steady rushing attack in Peyton Hillis, and the receiving core may be able to step up to give McCoy a chance to succeed.
#5. LaGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount had good numbers for an undrafted rookie, but the expectations will rise this year. Blount put together a 1,000 yard season, but with only 6 touchdowns, his fantasy value was limited. Blount will get every opportunity to succeed and get carries early and often in the season. After week 7 in 2010, Blount had only 21 carries. Expect Blount to gain around 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
#4. Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Moeaki had a great rookie campaign with 47 receptions, 556 yards, but just three touchdowns in 2010. As Matt Cassel continues to build a relationship with Moeaki, expect these numbers to continue to inflate. Moeaki could be a top three tight end by 2012.
#3. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Bradford is a sleeper because of doubters of the Rams offense, not because of his potential. Bradford showed that he was a smart top pick by the Rams, but that by no means makes you a top ten fantasy quarterback. Bradford will enter the top ten this season and possibly rise higher if he gets some additional help at wide receiver. Even near the end of the season, Bradford was owned in only 38% of fantasy league teams on ESPN. Don’t let his low 76.5 passer rating fool you, he does have the talent and work ethic to put together a fantasy worthy 2011.
#2. Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins
Daniel Thomas has a good chance of starting for the Dolphins due to the lack of depth at the position for Miami. If the Lockout continues into August, the chances of Thomas starting and making an impact go down significantly. In just two years at Kansas State, Thomas gained 2,850 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. Thomas is not your typical scatback, but a powerful runner. The Dolphins selected Thomas to fit their system, and it looks like it could be a great match. Although Thomas will get plenty of fantasy looks because of the Dolphins depth chart, give Thomas an even harder look if the lockout ends soon. I do believe that if given enough time before the season starts to learn the system, Thomas will gain over 1,000 yards his rookie year.
#1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Stafford comes in as my number one sleeper for the 2011 NFL season. The once highly touted savior of the Lions is now being referred to as a china doll by teammates, and rightfully so after playing just 13 games out of 32 in his first two NFL seasons. The offensive weapons on the Lions makes this pick easy to make. The Lions have picked up two shiny new toys on offense in Titus Young and Mikel LeShoure, and have an improving offense to help Stafford have a breakout year. If he can stay on his feet, expect Stafford to have a huge year and to become a good fantasy prospect.