I've been tracking sleepers and busts in a variety of ways over the past month, but with the final round of drafts upon us, here's a look at under-valued players based on what you can expect from them, where you can find them, and what kind of use they might have. Remember: the point of identifying sleepers isn't that you strike it rich (although that does happen); it's really that you're getting equivalent production at one position that allows you to draft a difference-maker at another position earlier.
I entered the 2007 MFL Draft with the idea that I wasn't going to draft a quarterback until the eighth round (that's the fifth round in our draft, since our 12 teams protect a total of 36 players) and that I wasn't going to pussyfoot around with a bunch of "next-year" theorizing. I wanted players who could contribute, now, and that includes kickers and defenses.
This week I finally give the Colts some love, and there's some grudging acknowledgment that I've been too critical of the Giants, who still suck, but not as badly as I thought. Meanwhile, the Panthers and Jets keep falling. This is the last ranking before my final, for-the-books, 2007 preseason power ranking, and things are firming up.
By the way, the record in parentheses after the team name is what I originally predicted for the team before the preseason started. I'll be adjusting that in next week's rankings.
OK, so fanatics play in multiple leagues. But there's something about your home league. It's the one where you got started. It's the one with your old friends. You've got rivals, allies, trading partners, the occasional blood feud, and always history.
I have the good fortune of playing in The Manly Football League, formed in the newsroom of The Mountaineer triweekly in Waynesville, NC, in the summer of 1991. Neal Anderson was on the cover of the magazine we bought that explained how to play. We didn't include yardage in the scoring because the Web didn't exist yet, and who had time to manually add up a bunch of stats? And the first pick, ever, was Randall Cunningham (who blew out his knee in Week 1).
There are only two of us left from that original eight-team league, but most of the guys have been around for a decade. And here's the thing: This is the only league that matters to me. Everything else is just... numbers. Winning here feels great. Losing sucks. And if desire counted in fantasy football, my team would always be great on the 2-yard-line.
In honor of our 12-team league, I'm putting up one of Janet's 12-team draft sheets for you to download. No fancy crap, nobody else's logos and ads: Just an organized way for you to keep track of up to 16 rounds of draft day progress.
Wide receivers are plentiful, which means there's always SOMEONE on the waiver wire with a decent matchup. Of course, spotting that free agent player each week is a bit of a psychic trick.
My approach this year? I'm focusing on the receivers that are available in the first four rounds, and I want at least two of them. A nice third receiver would be a bonus, but beyond that? They're mostly roster fillers, to be swapped out with waiver-wire pickups as the season progresses.
Running backs are generally considered the Kings of Fantasy Football, which is nice for them, since with the pounding they take, your average fruit fly has a longer career. But there's a flip side: With the emphasis on acquiring RBs, their draft price stays extremely high in most leagues. Which means you'll be tempted to over-pay for them, and a flop can be extremely costly.
One thing we've learned about drafting: There are always going to be guys on your board that you wouldn't mind drafting, and if they fall into a value spot, maybe you'll take 'em.
But want really counts -- if you've been keeping up with your off-season homework -- are the guys who have a nice aura around them whenever your thoughts turn their way. The guys you like, not only to be OK, but to really help your team.
Here's my list of the guys I feel good about this offseason, along with a list of guys who I'd like to feel good about (my "Want To Like," or WTL, players), only my head keeps intervening...
(Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Rex Grossman, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Matt Schaub, WTL: Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck, Philip Rivers, JP Losman, Daunte Culpepper)