Fantasy Football is upon us again – and that means it’s time for you to assemble your list of football studs, get your best trash talk lines ready and prepare to begin another season.
The majority of fantasy leagues are won on draft day – where one can outsmart other owners by not overvaluing some players, while also drafting the right sleepers at the right time.
Take the following players that I consider to be the seven best Fantasy Football sleepers of 2011:
Sexy Seven: Top Fantasy Football Sleepers for the 2011 NFL Season
Mario Manningham (WR – New York Giants) – Steve Smith is now in Philadelphia, leaving Manningham as Eli Manning’s clear #2 option behind Hakeem Nicks. It also shouldn’t be ignored just how strongly Manningham finished the 2010 season, posting 16 catches, three consecutive 100-yard games and 4 TD’s over the final three contests combined.
Matthew Stafford (QB – Detroit Lions) – Everyone knows the injury history, but we all know the potential, too. In two games during the middle of last season, Stafford threw for 450+ yards and had 6 passing TD’s. The Lions are clearly a team on the rise and Stafford could be a solid backup QB addition to your fantasy team and if healthy, he may wind up as quality trade bait, or even your team’s starter.
Mike Sims-Walker (WR – St. Louis Rams) – With an average drafting position of 131.4 in ESPN Fantasy Football leagues, Sims-Walker is clearly a man flying under the radar. It’s understandable considering how he plummeted down the depth chart in Jacksonville last season. But St. Louis has a quality passing quarterback in Sam Bradford, they play in a weaker division and the Rams clearly needed a top wide receiver target for Bradford to throw to. Sims-Walker could be that guy in 2011.
Plaxico Burress (WR – New York Jets) – Michael Vick was a redemption story seeking to prove he’s still got it after being away from the game due to jail time. One hundred million dollars later, you know the drill. Plaxico Burress is the latest edition of that story, and while it’s been a few years since he played in a regular season game, Burress clearly has the talent. Four years ago, he had a 1,000-yard season with 12 TD’s. His 2011 campaign is a question mark, but he would be a worthwhile gamble later in your draft.
Ryan Mathews (RB – San Diego Chargers) – Many team owners will be gunshy when it comes to Mathews, the rookie who was drafted early in 2010 and became somewhat of a bust (678 yards and 7 TD’s). It’s important to note that Mathews scored five TD’s over the last four weeks of last season, and while Mike Tolbert will likely still take away some goal line carries, it’s clear that Mathews is still the primary back on a team that’s loaded. Expect bigger things from him in 2011.
Jimmy Graham (TE – New Orleans Saints) – It’s no secret that the Saints have one of the more potent offenses in the NFL. With Jeremy Shockey out the door, Jimmy Graham steps in as the primary tight end target for Drew Brees in 2011. Better yet, Brees already knows that Graham is a reliable target, as he hit him for four touchdowns over the last three weeks of the 2010 season.
Ben Tate (RB – Houston Texans) – Tate’s average selection in ESPN Fantasy drafts is 130.9, clearly far down the list, and rightfully so, considering he’s currently a backup. But that’s the key, as Tate is a solid runner that is backing up Arian Foster, who is currently dealing with a hamstring injury. If Foster’s injury lingers or possibly gets worse, the doorway opens for Tate, who would be a solid late round add to either use as trade bait, or as insurance to those Foster owners.