Fantasy Sports R Us

2010 FANTASY FOOTBALL SLEEPERS by Ryan Hallam

Jason Campbell, QB, Oakland Raiders
This will be just another in a long line of new systems that Campbell needs to learn as he has never had the same offensive coordinators for two consecutive seasons since high school, but this could be a solid landing place for the former Redskins’ QB. The Raiders have a lot of unproven players on their offense, but they also haven’t had a competent quarterback in many years. Between Darrius Heyward-Bey, Darren McFadden, Zach Miller, Chaz Schilenz, and Michael Bush, there are players in Oakland who can help Campbell succeed. His passing yards, passer rating, and most importantly touchdowns have increased each year in the NFL and while I am not saying that you should draft Campbell as your starting QB in the 4th round in 2010, he definitely surprise you and possibly end up throwing 25 touchdowns on the season. Take him as a backup and there is the chance that he could outperform your starter.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

With every offseason move comes opportunity for someone else and when the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb that handed the keys to the car to Kolb. A former second round pick from the University of Houston, Kolb showed the Eagles enough in his few starts in 2009 that they felt that they were ready for the changing of the guard. He started two games in the month of September and threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of those contests. McNabb stayed healthy for the rest of the year and Kolb held the clipboard. The reason I like him in 2010 entirely rests on the talent around him. LeSean McCoy will be a legit running back in his second season. I absolutely love DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as two incredibly fast, exciting young receivers. He also has a great tight end in Brent Celek that can serve as a security blanket when plays break down or as a great hands guy on third down. Kolb shouldn’t be drafted as your QB1, but could end up being that by season’s end.

LenDale White, RB, Seattle Seahawks
They often say that a change of scenery is the best thing for some guys and there might not be a better example of that right now then for LenDale White. A season after scoring 15 touchdowns for the Titans, White fell out of favor with his poor conditioning, attitude, and work ethic. He now goes and reunites with his college coach Pete Carroll in Seattle and has a chance to reinvigorate his career. I don’t think that it was White all of a sudden forgot how to run the ball, he just didn’t get the touches in Tennessee, as he went from 303 carries in 2007 to just 64 in 2009. He is a big bruising back who is dynamite around the goal line, and while he might not even rush for 600 yards on the season he has the ability to break double digits in touchdowns again and that would make him a starter on your fantasy team. The good news is after the season he had last year, you should be able to grab him towards the end of the draft.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
It appears that the Chargers found their replacement for LaDanian Tomlinson right away in the form of rookie running back Ryan Mathews. The former Fresno State star led the nation in yards per game with 150.7 and he also scored 19 times. Mathews is a patient runner who also seems to be a complete back right out of college and should fit nicely in the scheme like that they run in San Diego. Unlike many young running backs, Mathews doesn’t dance in the backfield, when he sees a hole he hits it with authority and he reads the open lanes well. Sure Darren Sproles is still there, but he was cut at one point by the Bolts before they resigned him, so let’s not think that they hold him in the highest regard. Mathews should be the Chargers’ starting running back when the season opens, and if all goes well for him he should be able to top 1,200 yards and could get double digits in touchdowns in his rookie season. This is perhaps the most pro ready runner in the draft and he couldn’t have landed in a better situation. You likely won’t have to draft Mathews until the middle of your draft, but he could end up giving you production similar to that of a fifth round pick.

Laurent Robinson, WR, St. Louis Rams
He earned his way into the Rams rotation early in 2009 before a fractured fibula ended his season almost before it even started. Robinson was leading the team with 13 receptions and a touchdown through three weeks when he went down with the injury and showed some great hands and the ability to get open. He isn’t a speed demon by any stretch, but Robinson showed enough in the early part of last season to think that if he stays healthy this year you can expect much more. The Rams definitely upgraded their quarterback position the second that they drafted Sam Bradford and hopefully he will provide some consistency at the position that the Rams have lacked over the past few years. He will hold extra value in PPR leagues, but Robinson is a guy that you can target towards the end of your draft and might turn into an actual starter on your team depending on how many wide receivers your league requires.

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
There are two reasons that I like Wallace coming into the 2010 fantasy football season. The first is even with Ben Roethlisberger out for nearly the whole first half of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have officially transformed from a hard nosed running team to a team that likes to throw the football. Second, with the abrupt departure of Santonio Holmes out of town with some legal trouble, there seems to be an opening in Pittsburgh. At 6’0” Wallace isn’t the biggest guy on the field but there is no denying his speed. To further prove his big play ability, Wallace averaged nearly 20 yards a catch in 2009, and has a chance to improve that further this coming season. I believe that he will be a guy who is drafted in your league, so you might want to make the move a couple of rounds earlier than you think he might go.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
Keller has made it on this list of mine for a couple of seasons now, but I really think that 2010 will be his official coming out party. He has already had a few really good games, but has lacked the consistency to be an impact fantasy player at a position that is rapidly improving by the year. Keller has sweet hands and can run routes like a wide receiver and they always say that a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend. With Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards at wide receiver and LaDainian Tomlinson coming out of the backfield, the defense will have a bunch of weapons to have to keep in check for the Jets next season which only bodes well for Keller that he could be one on one with a linebacker over the middle, a matchup that he is going to win most of the time.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
He had a rough knee injury at the end of the season which makes him a little questionable to be ready to start 2010, but Pettigrew has all of the tools to be a top notch fantasy tight end in the very near future. At 6’5” and 265 pounds the guy is an absolute load to bring to the ground once he catches the ball, and he runs smooth routes. He is very fast for a guy his size and the Lions thought very highly of him when they used a first round pick on him. He was very inconsistent in his rookie season, but Pettigrew showed some flashes of what he is capable of as he had four games of at least four catches. With another year of maturity and chemistry with both Pettigrew and quarterback Matthew Stafford, he could be a nice surprise towards the second half of the fantasy season. He is capable of 50 catches and at least six touchdowns and while you shouldn not draft him as your starter, he could very well be by the end of the year.