Fantasy football is a beautiful thing. Just like real sports not everything happens like you think it will. There will be injuries, surprises, and disappointments. Here is a list of 10 NFL underdogs who will be pleasant surprises for fantasy team owners. The rankings are based on projected value – projected draft position. (Ex. Dwayne Bowe and D.J. Hackett score the same amount of fantasy points in a season. Hackett was picked in the 8th round while Bowe was selected in the 4th round. Hacketts’ value would be greater because of the lower pick that was used.)
Without further ado here are the top 10 sleepers for the 2008 NFL fantasy season:
#10. D.J. Hackett, WR-Carolina Panthers
While playing only 6 games during the regular season due to an ankle sprain. In the NFC Wild Card game against the Redskins Hackett had 6 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks did not resign the talented receiver and now Hackett looks to be the #2 in Carolina behind Steve Smith. Hackett should get a lot of single coverage and a lot of great opportunities. Hackett will most likely be drafted in all leagues and will cost you a mid-draft pick. If Hackett is healthy going into the preseason you might want to use a mid-late round pick to grab him.
#9. Sidney Rice, WR- Minnesota Vikings
Rice has added 8 pounds of muscle to his 6’4 frame in the offseason. His potential is just plain scary. Rice led the run happy Vikings with 4 TD receptions. Tavaris Jackson should continue to improve and there is no doubt that Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor will draw attention and leave the middle of the field wide open for receivers such as Rice.
#8. Rashied Davis, WR-Chicago Bears
39 receptions over the last two seasons will not impress anyone. But according to receivers coach Darryl Drake, Davis has been the Bears best WR during offseason workouts. After gaining 165 yards on 17 receptions and 0 touchdowns in ’07, Davis looks to be the Bears top receiver for 2008. Davis stands at only 5’9 but does have speed and decent hands. Devin Hester and Davis may be the top options for the Bears at wideout, both are worthy of a bench spot on your fantasy team.
#7. Bryant Johnson, WR-San Francisco 49ers
Bryant Johnson contributed for the Arizona Cardinals with 46 catches even though he was playing behind both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Bryant will start at split end for the 49ers and should be a consistent target for Alex Smith. Grab Johnson for your 3rd or 4th option at wide receiver.
#6. Kevin Smith, RB- Detroit Lions
If the Detroit Lions could run the ball Kevin Smith could be the top sleeper of them all. But unfortunately for the Lions they cannot run the ball whatsoever and have little help to block for Smith if he does get the starting position. Smith is a very smart, consistent back who could be the Lions franchise RB for years to come if he is provided with help at the line. Brian Calhoun and Tatum Bell may get some carries but if niether are productive Smith could start a couple games into the season. Smith is worth a very late round pick.
#5. Michael Turner, RB-Atlanta Falcons
Turner will finally get the starting job he deserves. Unfortunately his starting job will be with the rebuilding Falcons. Turner should get the bulk of the carries with Jerious Norwood backing him up like Julius Jones and Marion Barber did last year in Dallas. In his limited carries Turner has averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Expect around 950 yards and 7 TD’s.
#4. Tony Scheffler, TE- Denver Broncos
Scheffler is starting to shine but is still practically unknown in the fantasy world. In his second year this tight end out of Western Michigan University caught 49 balls for 549 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jay Cutler is establishing himself as one of the best up and comming quarterbacks in the league and should find Scheffler in the endzone about 9 times in 2008.
#3. Dwayne Bowe, WR- Kansas City Cheifs
Bowe proved himself worthy of the 1st round pick Kansas City used to grab him in the 2007 NFL Draft. Bowe showed flashes of brilliance while having a very solid season with having 70 catches, 995 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns. Bowe will continue to carry the receiving load for the Cheifs in 2008 and should break the 1,000 yard receiving mark with ease.
#2. Matt Forte, RB-Chicago Bears
Matt Forte was a 2nd round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. With the 44th overall pick the Bears were hoping to secure a backup for the 4th overall pick in the 2005 draft Cedric Benson. Going into training camp, rumors had Forte possibly contending with Benson for the starting job and at least getting some snaps. After the release of Cedric Benson, Forte should beat out Adrian Peterson to become the #1 man in Chicago. The Bears still without a consistent QB, and a depleted WR core, will be forced to run the ball often in 2008. Expect huge results from Forte in 2008. By August when the majority of fantasy leagues draft, Forte may no longer be a sleeper but a top 100 pick. Keep your guard up and snag up Forte if he slips past the 4th/5th round.
#1. Aaron Rodgers, QB-Green Bay Packers
You know who he is but you don’t know what he can do. Here are the facts: In his limited action in 2007 Rodgers was 20 out of 28, 218 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int., and a QB rating of 106. A report you can find here states that Rodgers no longer has a weird delivery from near his ear, footwork has improved, and is throwing routes very well. Also we do know that the Packers had a Super Bowl quality team and besides #4 being gone not much else has changed. Expect Rodgers to overachieve in his first year. Rodgers should be near the end of the QB’s picked in your league, shock everybody when you pick him up late and your team coasts into victory.
Honorable Mention: QB’s: Trent Edwards RB’s: Ahmad Bradshaw, Kenny Watson WR’s: Patrick Crayton, Devin Hester TE’s: Leonard Pope, Vernon Davis