Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the ExpertsFantasy Football Picks: 2006 'Sleeper' Quarterbacks -- By Russ Bliss
Every year during our fantasy football drafts, there are those players we feel we know we can count on to produce big numbers for our fantasy football leagues. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say in 2006 that Peyton Manning will be a top fantasy quarterback. Or that LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, and Shaun Alexander are top fantasy football running backs. And I could go on and list all the top WR’s and TE’s and other player’s at these positions that are going to be selected in the first few rounds of your fantasy football drafts, but you get the point. They are the players we expect to produce big numbers at their position. And while these stud players at the top of the fantasy football rankings definitely help you win, it’s the guys you get in the middle to late rounds who play a pivotal role in winning a fantasy football championship. They are the guys who slide down through the rounds of your fantasy football draft, but who will likely exceed the expectations placed upon them by others in your league. These players are called “sleepers”, and being right about which ones to draft, and when, is the fantasy football equivalent to finding gold.
While there is still a lot of time before we get to most fantasy football drafts, it’s never too early to start identifying “sleeper” candidates and to this end I focus here on five at the QB position.
Eli Manning: It’s hard to believe that Eli doesn’t get the consideration many other QB’s do. All he did in 2005 (his second year in the league) is have 3,762 passing yards and 24 TD’s. Only 4 QB’s threw for more yards, and only 3 for more TD’s. Yet nobody seems to be talking about him. This is ridiculous. He is only going to get better as he continues to get more experience, and more comfortable with Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey, and Tiki Barber. If you’re one of those types who wait to take your fantasy football starter at QB until rounds 5, 6, or 7, and you see Eli Manning sitting there? TAKE HIM. And laugh.
David Carr: When Gary Kubiak took over the Houston Texans, the first thing he did was identify if Carr was the right QB for this team. He could have had his choice of QB’s in the NFL draft, and then gone out and picked up a veteran to play until the draft pick was ready, but he didn’t. What Kubiak saw was that Carr isn’t the problem on the offense. The lack of weapons and poor offensive line play was. So the Texans picked up an 8 million dollar option to keep Carr on the team through 2008 and then brought in a legitimate #2 WR in Eric Moulds, and a pass catching TE in Jeb Putzier (who also knows Kubiak’s style of offense). Carr disappointed in 2005 after showing signs of breaking out at the conclusion of the 2004 season. With the added weapons, and new offensive philosophy, Carr is an excellent backup fantasy QB you can likely get in the mid-late rounds of your fantasy drafts who possesses the upside to be a very good starter.
Drew Bledsoe: Bledsoe was looking great early in 2005, but then tailed off in the middle part of the season, eventually ending up with respectable, but hardly career numbers by the end of the season. Bledsoe is erratic, but the addition of Terrell Owens should provide a huge boom in his consistency, and overall numbers. Owens is a head case, but like his first year in Philadelphia, I expect him to be awesome for Dallas in 2006. And just like it meant for Donovan McNabb in 2004, it will mean great numbers for Bledsoe this season. Bledsoe is likely to not be one of the first 8 QB’s taken in fantasy football drafts, and that means he can be a bargain for you in the middle rounds.
Brad Johnson: While a good rule of thumb is to be cautious of QB’s in a new offensive system, Johnson is a 15 year veteran who can handle such changes. New coach Brad Childress has run a predominantly pass first offense in Philadelphia and since the RB’s he has in Minnesota are very similar to what he had in Philly, there’s little reason to believe he’s going to change that. Johnson produced 5 multiple TD pass games in 9 starts in 2005. With the exception of Nate Burleson (who was largely ineffective because of injury last year anyway), the WR corps returns intact, and possibly better with last year’s 1st round pick Troy Williamson now having a year under his belt. Johnson isn’t garnering the attention many other QB’s get, but if you like to wait till round 8 or later to get your QB’s Johnson is a guy who probably will be low on most fantasy football rankings, but an effective starter.
Phillip Rivers: While many were complaining about how the Chargers could turn away from Drew Brees, I applauded the move. Has everyone forgotten that Rivers was the 4th pick in the 2004 draft? That Rivers was highly touted as the QB of the future for San Diego because they didn’t believe Brees was the answer? Regardless, Brees is gone and Rivers is now in control of an offense that boasts an elite RB and an elite TE. Rivers has been given what every team wishes they could do with a rookie QB: two years of sitting and assimilating an offense before being handed the reigns. Rivers has strong leadership qualities that his teammates have acknowledged during mini-camps and a stronger arm than Brees. While he would be very risky as a fantasy football starter in 2006, he’s definitely a guy with a lot of upside as a backup QB who likely can be had in the later rounds. If he puts in the performance I think he’s capable of, he’ll make a good backup fantasy QB who probably can start more often than expected throughout the 2006 season.
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