I've never been a big fan of the term "sleeper" in fantasy football. Sleepers tend to be guys you target later in drafts and have very little impact on your team? Last year, The Bleacher Report produced a top 25 sleepers list, their #1 sleeper in 2010: Arizona RB Beanie Wells. 397 yards and 2 TDs later, Wells wasn't such a great pick afterall. Also on that list: Charlie Whitehurst, Golden Tate, Devin Aromashodu. While some of The Bleacher Report's top 25 sleepers did have a big impact last season, it was hard to label some of them sleepers (LeSean McCoy, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw).
Instead of focusing on sleepers, The Source has compiled a list of undervalued players who might actually help your team. These are players who I believe are being drafted lower than they should be. If you want to label them sleepers go ahead, I'll call them "value picks." The website, FantasyFootballCalculator.com does a great job of taking the data from hundreds of mock drafts and determining each player's Average Draft Position (ADP). For this article, I took the ADP data from a 12-team, standard league and looked for players who I think are being drafted too low.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount's ADP is #25, that ranks him behind Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Peyton Hillis and Matt Forte. I believe is better than all of those players for two specific reasons: Blount is the only RB option in Tampa Bay and the Bucs offense is better than the Niners, Rams, Browns and Bears. Blount rushed for more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns last season -- and that was just in ten games. Blount is currently ranked #17 on The Source's TOP 200.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Bradshaw's ADP is #33, which ranks him just below Jets RB Shonn Greene. Bradshaw is a dual threat RB, who was just paid a lot of money to stay in New York. The Giants are going to use him more this season than they did last year. Bradshaw will still likely lose out on some goalline carries to Brandon Jacobs, but he'll make up for lost TDs with yards. Bradshaw has a shot at 1,700 total yards this season (projected: 1,295 rushings/405 receiving) and 9-10 touchdowns. Bradshaw is currently ranked #18 on The Source's Top 200.
Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego Chargers
Tolbert's ADP is #82, mostly because fantasy owners have high expectations for Tolbert's teammate Ryan Mathews. If this scenario sounds familiar, it should because it played out last season. As a rookie, Mathews was touted as the next LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego - instead he spent most of last season on the bench with various injuries. While Mathews sat, Tolbert excelled, scoring 11 touchdowns and totaling nearly 1,000 yards (735 rushing, 216 receiving). The Chargers appear ready for a dual backfield that features both Tolbert and Mathews, with Tolbert getting most of the red zone touches. It wouldn't surprise if Tolbert again out scored Mathews this fantasy season. Tolbert is currently ranked #63 on The Source's Top 200.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego ChargersRivers' ADP is #29, not too far below where we have him ranked, but it's still to low. Why? Because at #29, he is being drafted after Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The statistical season Rivers had last year was amazing - 4,710 yards passing and 30 touchdowns - and he achieved those numbers with his best two receivers on the bench most of the season (Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson). With both of those players ready to start week one, Rivers should be even better this season. Rivers is currently ranked #21 on The Source's Top 200.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta FalconsRyan's ADP is #63 and that number baffles me. He finished last season with 28 touchdown passes and close to 4,000 yards, what's not to love? Plus, the Falcons added rookie WR Julio Jones in the draft, their offense is loaded. Ryan is entering his third season and has complete control of Atlanta's offense. With a steady running game courtesy of Michael Turner and two exceptionally talented WRs on the outside in Jones and Roddy White, Ryan will be a 30 touchdown QB this season. He's more reliable than Tony Romo and Matt Schuab, yet he's being draft after both players. Ryan is currently ranked #42 on The Source's Top 200.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans SaintsMoore's ADP is #133, which is low for a player who might be QB Drew Brees' top target this season. Drafting Saints receivers is always tricky, but Moore appears to be the least risky of the bunch - and the healthiest. Moore is being drafted 88 positions after teammate WR Marques Colston, which is crazy when look at both players' 2010 stats. Colston led the Saints with 1,023 yards receiving (Moore had 763 yards), while Moore led the team with eight TDs (Colston had 7 TDs). Another concern with Colston is his achy knees. He had surgery again this offseason and has been forced to miss practices because of knee swelling. Moore is currently ranked #89 on The Source's Top 200, Colston is #88.
Burleson's ADP is #169, which is extremely low for a WR2 on a offense that's expected to be very good. As a starter opposite superstar WR Calvin Johnson, Burleson can expect a ton of single coverage this season. In 14 games last season, Burleson caught 61 balls for 785 yards and 6 TDs. If QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for an entire season, Burleson's value improves. Plus, with the running game taking a hit with the loss of rookie RB Mikel Leshoure to a season-ending injury, look for the Lions to pass more often this year. Burleson is currently ranked #109 on The Source's Top 200.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions