It just occurred to me that I don't have a page for my mid-round sleepers.
Anyone can take a stud player in the first three rounds of a fantasy football draft, but leagues are won in the middle and latter rounds. Did you draft Wes Welker, Adrian Peterson and Tony Romo last year, or did you go with fantasy duds like Hines Ward, Drew Bennett and Ahman Green?
Here's a list of 12 players (by position) who could be poised for breakout seasons and aren't going as high as they should.
Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos
At first, I was really high on Jay Cutler; despite his battle with Diabetes last year, he performed considerably well. In the wake of Brandon Marshall's suspension, however, I downgraded Cutler a bit. But then I watched him play both preseason games. Cutler is ready to enter the second tier of quarterbacks in this league, and it looks like he's far and away the best quarterback from the 2006 NFL Draft class (Matt Leinart and Vince Young.)
Cutler is the No. 7 quarterback in fantasy football and could challenge Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer for the five-spot, yet he's going behind guys like Donovan McNabb, and in some instances, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Eli Manning.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans
Don't be fooled by Matt Schaub's mug shot. Though he looks like a drunk frat brother who sleeps with five different women every night, Schaub is the real deal. If he and Andre Johnson stay healthy, Schaub could throw for 3,800 yards and 23 touchdowns. In his second preseason game, Schaub abused the Saints, going 14-of-16 for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Sure, he continuously torched the beleaguered Jason David, but Schaub didn't have Johnson's services.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins
Make all the jokes you want. I've gone with the South Park reference of Ricky Williams chasing after a pink dragon whilst running the football. But he looks almost as good as the old Ricky Williams - the one projected to break every single NFL record when he came out of Texas.
Williams has been the best Dolphin back in training camp and preseason, and he'll receive the majority of the carries in Miami this year. The oft-injured Ronnie Brown is coming off a torn ACL and won't be much of a factor.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall is a solid mid-round sleeper in traditional and PPR leagues and a great mid-round sleeper in touchdown leagues. Mike Tomlin wouldn't let Willie Parker carry the ball inside the 20 with Najeh Davenport last year. The first-round pick he used on Mendenhall ensures that trend will continue. Mendenhall could score as many as 10 touchdowns this year.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
If you look closely, you can see LenDale White's belly jiggle when he runs the ball. It's pretty disturbing, actually. There are a few reasons the Titans spent a first-round pick on Chris Johnson, two of which are White's physique and lethargy. Others include Johnson's sick breakaway speed. Johnson won't get 250 carries or anything, but he could total about 1,000 to 1,200 total yards and a handful of touchdowns, with increased touches later in the year.
Chris Perry, RB, Bengals
Chris Perry is Cincinnati's most talented running back. The problem with Perry is his vast injury history. But Perry appears to be healthy for the first time in years and is looking great in preseason action, so combined with Rudi Johnson's lingering bum hamstring, Perry looks like a solid, mid-to-late-round sleeper.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
You may be ridiculed if you take Calvin Johnson before Roy Williams, but you'll be the one laughing last when Johnson leads your fantasy squad to the Promised Land. Because I've preached about Johnson's greatness to everyone the past two weeks, I'm running out of stuff to say. So, I'm copy-pasting from my Fantasy PPR League Draft Results:
Johnson's the next guy to enter the Randy Moss-Terrell Owens-Marvin Harrison echelon. He was easily the best receiving prospect in the NFL Draft since Moss (and without the character concerns to boot). Johnson is ready to take over the league. In two quarters of preseason play against starting cornerbacks, Johnson has seven receptions, 154 yards and a touchdown. Multiply those numbers by two (for a full game) and then by 16 (for a whole season), and you have 224 catches, 4,928 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets
With Laveranues Coles spending tons of time in his hotel room with his beloved Chad Pennington blow up doll, Jerricho Cotchery and Brett Favre have already developed a rapport. It's not crazy to expect Cotchery, the more talented of the two Jet wideouts, to eclipse the 100-reception mark this season.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons
Everyone knows about Roddy White, but I get the feeling that most people perceive him to be "that guy on the Falcons who's kind of good, but the Falcons suck, so who cares?" White is really talented. It's amazing he put up 83 receptions, 1,202 yards and six touchdowns with the garbage Atlanta had at quarterback last season. The Falcons haven't made any immediate upgrades at that position, but White should be able to come close to matching his 2007 production.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers
I like Vincent Jackson as a WR3, but I love him as a WR4. Jackson's getting drafted as a WR4. Jackson lit up the Titans, Chargers and Patriots this postseason for 18 catches, 300 yards and two touchdowns in three games. If you stretch that production over a 16-week span, Jackson's numbers become: 96 receptions, 1,600 yards and 11 touchdowns. Pretty sick. And to top it off, Jackson has had an incredible training camp.
I have some concern with Philip Rivers coming off an ACL tear, but if Roddy White can notch 1,200 yards with Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Byron Sandwich, Jackson should be able to break the 1,000-yard barrier with ease.
Tony Scheffler and Owen Daniels, TEs, Broncos and Texans
Unless you can land one of the top guys at the position, I really see no need to take a tight end in the first eight or nine rounds of your draft, unless you're in a league with 14 or 16 teams. Think about it this way:
Say you're in a league with 12 teams. The following tight ends will be chosen: Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow Jr., Tony Gonzalez, Chris Cooley, Dallas Clark, Heath Miller, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey and Vernon Davis. That's 10 tight ends. That means you'll have the choice of one of the two guys pictured above. If you look at my rankings, the lowest of the two, Daniels, will garner just six points less than Heap and Shockey. That's less than half a point each week.
I messed up the 2nd round order, so I'm gonna try this again. Same deal as last time, no trades this time around like I did in my first mock even though projecting them can be fun. I'll do another one in about a month or so after the Super Bowl, Senior Bowl, combine and all that other good stuff.