As you get primed and ready for the 2011 fantasy football season, it goes without saying that the most vital pre-draft preparation is spent attempting to unearth the year's ever-enigmatic fantasy sleepers. These are the men that can take you to the promise land. Receiving first-round value from a seventh-round pick is how legends are made and championships are won.
Yet, that's the thing. Each and every year we venture out into this world blind because no one can truly anticipate a sleeper. Hindsight is 20-20 -- of course Arian Foster was supposed to lead the league in points last year -- but to see it before it happens, that is the true test of a fantasy owner's mettle.
But to uncover this issue, we must challenge the true nature of the term. Inherently, fantasy sleepers are individuals that outperform expectations to a level that is beyond all anticipation. This usually happens in one of three ways.
- A) A player that is unknown to a large portion of the consuming fantasy football public has a breakout year, generally because of an unexpected opportunity. (Ex: Peyton Hillis, BenJarvus Green-Ellis).
- B) A player thought to be over-the-hill and/or washed-up has a sudden career revival. (Ex: Michael Vick, LaDainian Tomlinson).
- C) A player lands a primary role on the year's surprise team. (Ex: Josh Freeman, Dwayne Bowe).
Well that's all well and good, but what does it really mean?
Enter your 2011 Arizona Cardinals. The Redbirds are littered with potential sleepers, running across the full gamut of opportunity. Let's take a look.
- Beanie Wells (type C): The lone backfield option on a team slowly indoctrinating a new quarterback. Click here for further analysis.
- Kevin Kolb (type C): A competent leader in a quarterback-friendly system with a legitimate top-5 receiver. Click here for further analysis.
- Andre Roberts (type A & C): The number-two receiver in a pass-heavy offense, opposite a player guaranteed to leech 99.9% of safety attention.
- Todd Heap (type B & C): A proven receiving threat in a offensive system lacking an experienced second-option.
- Rob Housler (type A & C): An athletic, new-generation tight end with the playmaking potential of a wide receiver.
Hell, even the Cardinals' team defense might be worth a look. Take a gander at the schedule. Within the first five weeks the team gets: Cam Newton's first NFL start, the combined efforts of John Beck and Rex Grossman, the Tarvaris Jackson experiment, and the last legs of Donovan McNabb. Not exactly a murderers' row there.
So when the time comes, and you reach the rounds in your fantasy draft where value and potential trump middling talent, consider the Arizona Cardinals. Who knows, it could take you to the promise land.