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Best 2011 Fantasy Players from Last 5 Drafts

by Jared Belson on Aug. 31, 2011

Now that my drafts are over, I could finally put up this article. Here's a list of the 2 two best players plus a sleeper player for this upcoming 2011 NFL season at each fantasy position (excluding kickers and defense) from each of the last 5 NFL Drafts :

 

Quarterback:

2011: Cam Newton-Should at least be able to put up some fantasy numbers with just his legs alone

Honorable Mention: Andy Dalton-He's only here because he is starting this year and no one else is sure to do so

Sleeper: Jake Locker-There's a good chance Hasselbeck goes out, and if so Locker has the athletic ability to potentially provide some fantasy points at qb.

2010: Sam Bradford-This next decade's Peyton Manning. He makes cast-off receivers look like Pro Bowlers

Honorable Mention: Colt McCoy-This next decade's Drew Brees. Might take a few seasons and a new team before we start seeing the comparisons

Sleeper: Jimmy Clausen-Clausen was put into a tough situation last year that very few could have survived. While he may not have proven that he is a superstar, he was still a rookie and if Newton starts getting shaky, Clausen is feeling confident again and might be able to right the ship

2009: Josh Freeman-His numbers last year were very underrated (3,451 yards, 25 tds to 6 ints), and with some more comfort in his offense and with his personnel, he's got a chance to improve

Honorable Mention: Matt Stafford-He's bound to stay healthy one year right? Would love to see what he could do with a full seasons of Calvin and Pettigrew

Sleeper: Mark Sanchez-Tough to call him a sleeper, but considering his numbers last year, it would be scary to touch him. Yet this is his third year, and he's more comfortable with his receivers and offensive line, so he is in a situation where he could truly start to put up good numbers if he indeed does have the ability that people believe.

2008: Matt Ryan-He just keeps getting better with time, and this year with a new weapon in Julio Jones, he should not disappoint

Honorable Mention: Joe Flacco-He's fired up this year to prove doubters wrong. He's got some young players to work in and is losing his security blanket in Derrick Mason, but Lee Evans could be a similar player

Sleeper: Chad Henne-There's not a lot of faith in Henne right now by NFL fans, but by the Dolphins there is, and he's got any chance to prove it, it will be this year.

2007: Kevin Kolb-At this point, he's the only definite starter left from this draft

Honorable Mention: John Beck-Was debating JaMarcus Russell, but then I woke up from my dream. Barring injuries, John Beck is the only other potential starter this year left, and Shanahan has created miracles before.

Sleeper: If Drew Stanton makes it to the roster again, he'll have survived 5 seasons worth of cuts. By keeping him around the organization clearly sees something in him and has faith in him that he can back up and potentially aptly replace Stafford if he goes down. He has the legs to put up some fantasy numbers if he goes in, so he'd just have to work on his accuracy.

 

Running Backs:

2011: Mark Ingram-Possibility New Orleans uses him in every goal-line running situation. Possibility he blows out his knee in the first game.

Honorable Mention: Daniel Thomas-He'll have the best opportunity out of any of the other rookie running backs to state his case as a potential starter. Miami needs a starting running back, and with Reggie Bush never having should he could fully carry the load, there's a chance he could become the lead guy.

Sleeper: Stevan Ridley-New England used him a lot in preseason and he responded well. They might use him more as a full-back, but also as a goal-line back, and for a guy who had 15 tds last year at LSU, his success rate could be pretty good.

2010: Jahvid Best-He's the pick because he will have the best opportunity to make something happen. Whether or not his frail body can handle it, will be the question.

Honorable Mention: LeGarrette Blount-Despite their mileage potentially running out early, big bruising backs are the theme in the NFL, and Blount proved to be no exception last year. He's in a great position to succeed again, and as long as his body doesn't wear down he should break the 1,000 yard barrier again, and maybe even get into double digit touchdowns.

Sleeper: C.J. Spiller-You might ask, how can the number 9 pick in this draft be a sleeper. Because he only had 283 yards last year. Yet his performance can't be that bad again this year, right? He's got too much potential and Buffalo will figure him out this year.

2009: LeSean McCoy-He's only two years into his quest on becoming the next Brian Westbrook, but with over 1,000 yards rushing and close to 600 yards receiving last year, this could be the year that catapults him.

Honorable Mention: Beanie Wells-Only got it over Knowshon Moreno, because Arizona doesn't have a choice but to see him succeed in a big way this year. I think he'll be up to the challenge.

Sleeper: Javon Ringer-This is definitely the choice if Chris Johnson continues to hold out. If he comes back, Tennessee will still want to see what they have in Ringer, and will want to show Johnson that he's not the only capable running back on the team

2008: Rashard Mendenhall-13 touchdowns last year and people in Pittsburgh think he's just getting started. So do I.

Honorable Mention: Jamaal Charles. It's really too unfair to pick someone here, but I'm going with Charles just because KC is going to continue running like crazy, and he'll have Thomas Jones wearing down the defenses all game for him to sneak through on a regular basis. Look at this draft class! 4 of the Top 10 picks in most drafts are all from this draft class: Mendenhall, Charles, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson.  Add in likely 2nd and 3rd rounders Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis, and Matt Forte, potential break-out players Felix JonesTim Hightower, Jonathan Stewart, and likely contributors BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Mike Tolbert, and it doesn't get much better. To think that early on it looked like Kevin Smith and Steve Slaton would be the stars of this class, is almost laughable at this point.

SleeperFelix Jones-Dallas got rid of Marion Barber for a reason, and not because they had Tashard Choice. They want to give Felix Jones every opportunity possible to show what he is capable of and maximize his potential and their offense.

2007: Adrian Peterson-There's really not much stopping AP except himself. His combination of speed and strength is unstoppable for defenses.

Honorable Mention: Ahmad Bradshaw-Looking at the rest of this class, he doesn't have much competition. This draft class was probably the opposite of 2008. Do the names of these 2nd and 3rd round picks Kenny Irons, Chris Henry, Lorenzo Booker, Tony Hunt, Garrett Wolfe ring a bell? Anyone?

 

Wide Receiver:

2011: A.J. Green-While Andy Dalton and Cincinnati might not have the greatest hope this year, Dalton is going to be tossing the ball up for grabs often crossing his fingers that Green will come down with it just as often. With a decent running game, and other outlets at wide receiver and tight end, it'll be tough for defenses to double cover him each week.

Honorable MentionJulio Jones-It's almost impossible not to pick Jones here because he is in the best position to succeed. He's got a pro-bowl caliber quarterback, and he doesn't have to worry about being the number one guy since they already have Roddy White.

Sleeper: Greg Little-Cleveland needs someone to step up as their number 1 receiver and Little has the potential to do so. Colt McCoy is going to throw it, so Little will have his chances.

2010: Mike Williams-He's built a great rapport with Josh Freeman and if he could be a little more consistent he could build on his 11 TD's and break the 1000 yard barrier.

Honorable Mention: Dez Bryant-With Roy Williams gone, this is Dez Bryant's year. Dallas isn't going to stop throwing the ball and Bryant will be the benefactor.

Sleeper: Antonio Brown-It would be easy to pick him after his huge preseason game, but Hines Ward is on his last legs and Pittsburgh wants to see what they have in him and another potential sleeper Emmanuel Sanders. Big Ben is not shy to throw the ball, so if Brown could get open, he'll be found.

2009: Hakeem Nicks-He's proven fast to be Eli Manning's favorite target, and that shouldn't change this year.

Honorable Mention: Michael Crabtree-His potential never went anywhere, so if Jim Harbaugh can turn Alex Smith into something salvageable, then Crabtree will be much improved

Sleeper: Percy Harvin-He tends to get overlooked a little since he did hit expectations last year, but after Minnesota got rid of Sidney Rice, he became the man. With Donovan McNabb now there, Harvin will have plenty of chances to get some serious yardage.

2008: DeSean Jackson-His stats might have dropped off a little last year, but another year with Vick should boost him back up

Honorable Mention: Mario Manningham-Eli is not going to stop throwing, and teams are going to have to spend a lot of attention on Nicks, giving Manningham a lot of looks that Steve Smith might have gotten in the past.

Sleeper: Jerome Simpson: Simpson ended the last season on a tear catching 18 balls in the last two games for 150+ yards and 3 touchdowns. It was because of his emergence that Cincinnati felt comfortable getting rid of Ocho Cinco, not just A.J. Green. The only problem might be getting him the ball.

2007: Calvin Johnson-With Stafford back, this guy is going to be a monster this year. At 6'5" how do teams even stop him, especially in the red-zone. Too bad Oakland didn't take him over JaMarcus.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Bowe-As long as he can stay out of his coaches' doghouse, he should be able to continue his upward progress after a 15 td season.

Sleeper: Robert Meachem-When Meachem was drafted in the 1st round in 2007, the Saints had great expectations for him. But injuries and inconsistency never allowed him to reach those heights. Yet there are some games where he shows glimpses, and in an offense that loves to throw the ball, he can be as good as he wants to be.

 

Tight End:

2011: Lance Kendricks-Sam Bradford is going to love the man who was the best pass-catching tight end in college football last year, and find him often.

Honorable Mention: Rob Housler-Arizona has needed a tight end for a while, and with an able-bodied quarterback this year, he'll likely get some good looks.

Sleeper: Julius Thomas-So far this preseason, Julius Thomas has caught every ball that was thrown to him, and might continue to do so into the season.

2010: Jimmy Graham-The basketball player from Miami finally started making the jump towards the end of last year, and with Brees as his quarterback, it'll likely increase.

Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez-When you consider them one tight end, they are among the best. Who will be on top though each game is anyone's guess. Hernandez will probably have more yards, but Gronkowski will get the TD's.

Sleeper: Jermaine Gresham-There was a reason Gresham was a first round pick, and he could show us that reason in his second year. He's the complete package at tight end and when he comes off the blocks to catch a pass he will be hard to bring down. You would think Cincinnati would have the most prolific offense in the NFL based on how many Bengals are on this list, but it just shows how many dangerous weapons they have stockpiled.

2009: Brandon Pettigrew

Honorable Mention: Travis Beckum-He'll be the 2nd Wisconsin tight end to try to make his mark this year as a starter. While he might not be as good of a blocker as Kevin Boss was, he has much more potential as a pass-catcher, making him a player to keep an eye on this year.

Sleeper: Jared Cook was a player that had loads of potential coming into the draft, and Tennessee has stuck to the belief that he still has that. By getting rid of Bo Scaife, they are turning off the pass-catching responsibilities to Cook and he has the athletic ability to turn those passes into opportunities. 

2008: Jermichael Finley-He was really starting to heat up last year before he got hurt. Fortunately it's a new season, and he'll likely pick up where he left off in game 4.

Honorable Mention: Dustin Keller-You could probably convince someone he's a wide receiver, and his numbers won't dissuade someone either.

Sleeper: Kellen Davis-While Chicago will not utilize a pass-catching tight end often, when they do, they have a guy who could prove to catch ones with the best of the tight ends if given the opportunity.

2007: Zach Miller-The guy can catch the ball, and Seattle paid him big bucks to do so. John Carlson's out for the year, although he could still see some competition from an old favorite of Carroll's Dominique Byrd

Honorable Mention: Greg Olsen-He was stuck in Martz's offense last year, where tight ends tend to disappear. Now that he's back in a traditional offense, even though he might not have a traditional quarterback, Olsen has a chance to reach his potential. At the very least he'll learn from another Miami alum in Jeremy Shockey.

Sleeper: Kevin Boss-He may not be the great pass-catcher, but Oakland is going to try to use him as such as they replace Zach Miller. With a number of young wide receivers likely being used this year, Jason Campbell might use his security blanket more than normal.