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Fantasy football sleepers, keepers, busts

Courtesy of MCT

The NFL season is more than a week away, but fans across the country are already gearing up for fantasy football. Whether you are your league’s reigning champion or perennial laughingstock, here are a few tips that could help you take home a title this season.


In my opinion, you cannot win a fantasy league with your top picks. Generally, the difference in production between players drafted in the first round is fairly negligible. But for that very reason alone, you can definitely lose a fantasy league with your first few picks. Stay away from high-risk players early on, and then target low-risk, high-reward players later in the draft. If they turn out to be gems, their performance could propel you to a league title.

Jay Cutler (Quarterback, Chicago Bears)

In 2008, Jay Cutler threw for more than 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns in his last season with the Denver Broncos — his best statistical year to date. Now in Chicago, he has been reunited with quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates, and wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, both new additions to the Bears, that helped him reach those numbers. If you aren’t keen on spending a top pick on one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, Cutler could be a steal later in your draft.

Greg Little (Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns)

Little is the No. 1 wide receiver for a team that lacks exceptional playmakers. The Browns’ offense will almost certainly struggle again this season, but rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden will look Little’s way early and often. If you’re in a league that awards points per reception, Little is even more valuable.


If you’re in a keeper league, which allows you to retain up to two players the following year, then rookies will be in high demand. For that reason, the obvious first-year players such as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will likely be overvalued and picked too early. Don’t make that mistake: select veteran players that will contribute to your squad right away during the middle rounds, and then steal one of the following under-the-radar rookies late in your draft.

Coby Fleener (Tight End, Indianapolis Colts)

While your opponents reach on Luck, you should patiently wait for Fleener and select the first-year tight end toward the end of your draft. Fleener and Luck were teammates for three years at Stanford, so Fleener will likely be one of Luck’s top targets in Indianapolis. Their immediate chemistry should translate well on the field, and for your fantasy team. Fleener had 667 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns last season at Stanford.

Doug Martin (Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Martin flew under the radar while putting up impressive numbers during his collegiate career at Boise State, and will likely be undervalued in your fantasy draft. Starting as a rookie, Martin is Tampa Bay’s present and future. He is a perfect fantasy bench player that could evolve into your team’s future star.


Many people consider “busts” to be players that simply have terrible seasons, but I believe that a player can have a good season and still be considered a bust, as long as they were overvalued during a fantasy draft. Why spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver like Calvin Johnson, when you can receive similar production from a seventh-round pick?

Calvin Johnson (Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions)

One year after leading all wide receivers in yards and receiving touchdowns, expect a drop in production from Calvin Johnson. Johnson could very well be one of the top fantasy receivers again this year, but is he really worth a first-round pick? As I mentioned above, you can get similar production from receivers picked in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds. The same cannot be said for running backs. Use your first-round pick on one of them, and then worry about getting a top receiver. In the pass-happy NFL, there are plenty of them.

Michael Turner (Running Back, Atlanta Falcons)

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter favors a pass-heavy offensive attack, and the Falcons have a plethora of playmakers that will succeed in his system. Turner, however, is not one of them. The veteran running back has averaged just 10 receptions per season since 2008, and his backup, Jacquizz Rodgers, is a capable receiver out of the backfield. Turner will likely have a limited role in 2012. 

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