What do two second-year wide receivers, two guys coming off ACL tears and a return man have in common? You got it: Their stock is rising. And they should all make for great late-round sleepers.
Smart fantasy owners realize that leagues can be won by making the right moves at the end of drafts. Picking the right breakout performers as deep sleepers in the later rounds is something you should be striving for heading into 2010.
Here’s a look at this week’s risers and fallers…
Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars
After drawing comparisons to Eddie Royal heading into last season, the 5-8 rookie hauled in 13 passes for 122 yards in his final two games of 2009, giving him 48 catches for 453 yards and a score as the Jags’ third and sometimes fourth wide receiver. Word coming out of Jacksonville camp is that Thomas has stood out big-time thus far in camp and has become David Garrard’s favorite receiver at times. Teammate Maurice Jones-Drew, who now has his own fantasy football talk show on Sirius/XM Radio, has predicted that Thomas will be the Jags’ breakout player of 2010. The second-year man certainly has a lock on the starting WR job opposite Mike Sims-Walker, and he should be a very solid WR4 in all formats. To dynasty leaguers who listened to me last year at this time and took a flier on him, you’re welcome.
Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons
Douglas showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie year of 2008 before tearing his ACL during the 2009 preseason. Douglas has come back strong this offseason and should be ready for Week 1. He is currently listed as the Falcons’ WR3 on the depth chart, but with Michael Jenkins’ recent shoulder injury, look for Douglas to work to earn the starting spot opposite Roddy White at some point this season. Unlike Jenkins, Douglas is a dynamic playmaker along the lines of a poor man’s Percy Harvin.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans
Through seven games last year, Daniels was on pace for 89 catches and 1,136 yards. He also had five TDs already and was targeted seven or more times each week prior to tearing his ACL in Week 8. It appears his surgically repaired knee is progressing well, even though he remains on the PUP list. Don’t be surprised if he starts in Week 1, making him a great value in all drafts right now.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans
The fourth-year man from Lane College scored six times on 27 catches last year, flashing the big-play ability at the WR position that he showed in college. Many predicted Jones to be the next Marques Colston in 2007, a title he has less than lived up to, but don’t forget about him in 2010. Texans coach Gary Kubiak has stated that Jones will compete with Kevin Walter for the starting gig opposite Andre Johnson — a job that will result in solid digits for whoever wins it. Jones is a lightning-fast playmaker who has a legit chance to win the battle. Monitor this closely and consider Jones, who is also a very good return man, a great late-round flier.
Deon Butler, WR, Seahawks
The second-year man from Penn State has caught the attention of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who has called him the team’s most improved wideout. Butler has made some spectacular catches in training camp and has a serious shot to start opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He is competing with a rookie (Golden Tate), an injury-prone veteran (Deion Branch) and a first-round Lions draft bust from five years ago who was last seen in the league in 2007 (Mike Williams).
Jordan Babineaux, SS, Seahawks
Be sure not to fall asleep at the wheel here. After a career year in which he finished as a top-10 fantasy DB in most IDP formats last season, Babineaux has reportedly lost his starting strong safety job to veteran Lawyer Milloy. We will monitor this situation closely and make sure to steer you in the right direction.
Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website NoOffseason.com, a 365-day resource for obsessive fantasy owners who eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. While the site appeals to all fantasy heads, there is a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.