Fantasy football sleepers: Quarterbacks

by Cory J. Bonini and Tim Heaney on September 9, 2010 @ 10:16:28 PDT's analysis of fantasy football sleepers for the 2010 season will be updated weekly throughout the offseason. We have separated our sleepers and undervalued players this year, so be sure not to confuse the two.

Sleepers are also undervalued players in some cases. Yet, you can still have a hidden gem on your hands, even if appropriately drafted, as long as you identify the right characteristics that go into making up a sleeper. No one likes doing the dirty work, so let do it for you! Be sure to check for weekly updates.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) figures are based on 12-team, non-PPR leagues unless specified otherwise.


Kevin Kolb | Philadelphia Eagles | ADP: 8th round

The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder enters his fourth year in Philly's system. He had plenty of time to learn behind an established veteran, and when Kolb was given the chance last year he surely didn't disappoint. His 2009 performances were a far cry from his abysmal 2008 relief appearances (four interceptions in 34 attempts in '08). Kolb completed 70.6 percent of his passes (24-for-34) in a 34-14 trashing of the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3 last year on his way to a 327-yard, two-TD day. A week earlier, against the New Orleans Saints, the Victoria, Texas native chucked the ball 51 times (60.8 percent) for 391 yards and two scores in a failed comeback bid. Needless to say, he can put the ball downfield.

Kolb has weapons at his disposal ... a lot of them! Wideouts DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Hank Baskett all offer varying attributes that will be key to his success. Kolb showed a rapport with tight end Brent Celek, who broke out in a big way, last season. Running back LeSean McCoy should provide a stable ground game to fall back on for balance purposes. Speaking of which, we all know how much Andy Reid likes to see the ball travel through the air, so don't expect him to hold back with Kolb under center.

Fantasy value: While the eighth-round ADP suggests we're not the only people expecting big things from Kolb, it may be a bit rich for some owners' blood. He is still a relatively unproven commodity, which can be a tough pill to swallow when it comes to drafting your top quarterback. If you play in leagues that deduct a lot for interceptions, you may want to pass on him. Much like the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco, add a starter-worthy backup within a few rounds of drafting this intriguing first-year starter.

Joe Flacco | Baltimore Ravens | ADP: 8th round

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
This bird will soar high in '10

Entering his third campaign, Flacco made significant progress last year from his rookie season. His completion percentage increased from 60.0 to 63.1 with 71 more attempts, and the Delaware product upped his yards-per-attempt average from 6.9 to 7.2 in 2009. Flacco threw a touchdown every 15 completions last year (18.4 in '08) and an interception every 41.6 attempts (35.7 two years ago).

Now, let's look to the future. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin gives Flacco his most talented target to date, and the third-year passer's favorite target, Derrick Mason, returns in a complementary role. The Ravens added T.J. Houshmandzadeh for another pair of reliable hands. Upon his return in October, speedy Donte' Stallworth (foot) should be used in the deep game. The Ravens have a strong offensive line and a fantastic running game to deflect some of the attention from Flacco. Finally, don't discount 10-year veteran tight end Todd Heap, who the coaching staff wants to involve more in the passing game this season. 

Fantasy value: It's tough not to like Flacco. While other owners are gobbling up the top quarterbacks in the first four rounds or so, sit back for Flacco. If you feel you must secure him, don't be afraid to take an early seventh-round gamble on him, but he is more safely selected in the early eighth stanza. Be certain to back him up with a viable starting quarterback as your No. 2, though.

Matthew Stafford | Detroit Lions | ADP: 11th round

The big-armed second-year passer is looking to rebound from a disappointing, injury-shortened rookie season. Detroit brought in wide receiver Nate Burleson, who is experienced in coordinator Scott Linehan's offense. The Lions also traded with the Denver Broncos for pass-receiving tight end Tony Scheffler. Most importantly, the organization drafted running back Jahvid Best, who is a capable receiver and should give this offense a dynamic boost.

Turning over the ball may be Stafford's biggest problem (two picks per game last year), but he should settle down as the game slows around him. Detroit upgraded their offensive line, and it never hurts to have a talent like wide receiver Calvin Johnson to rely on.

Fantasy value: Fantasy owners are taking notice of Stafford's potential, and he has been going in the 11th round, on average. This may be a tad optimistic, but if he pans out you're in good shape. The problem is you're probably not going to be able to play him often unless your starter goes down with an injury. He'll make for a few quality spot starts, but he should remain a fantasy backup and be drafted as one in all fantasy configurations.

Chad Henne | Miami Dolphins | ADP: 13th round

Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne
Henne surrounded by plenty of help

Starting 13 games last year, Henne was just OK, but he has enough going on around him to suggest a significant improvement in his third season. In 2009, the former Michigan Wolverine threw 12 touchdowns against 14 picks. His 60.8 percent completion rate was respectable, and he broke the 300-yard barrier three times in his final five games. His completion percentage never dipped below 63.0 in his final four games.

Insert star wideout Brandon Marshall. He is expected to be ready for Week 1 after hip surgery. Before the 2009 season, he underwent a similar procedure on his other hip and turned in his third straight 100-catch season with the Denver Broncos. Complementary receiver Davone Bess, who is coming off a 76-reception season in only his second year, should provide quality checkdown targets.

The Dolphins have a decent offense line and a capable running game to rely on, so Henne won't be forced to do too much on his own most games. 

Fantasy value: Fantasy owners are choosing Henne in the 13th round, on average, which is fair considering the quarterbacks that are generally selected ahead of him. He makes for a No. 2 fantasy passer, but Henne's upside may not be as great as some of the other backup options. He is best viewed as the occasional spot starter or injury fill-in, but relying on him for sustained periods of time may be treacherous.

Matt Cassel | Kansas City Chiefs | ADP: 19th round

Entering his second year as the Chiefs' full-time starter, Cassel is a little more seasoned and should have a better grasp of what goes into being at the helm of an NFL team. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis plans on working closely with Cassel to improve his throwing motion and decision-making.

Weis' system is ideal for the average-armed Cassel. Look for a lot of underneath passing. He doesn't have a lot of talented weapons around him, but Cassel's targets are capable. Dwayne Bowe, showing signs of maturity, returns as the top target and should play 16 games (11 last year, suspension, injury); KC drafted slot receiver Dexter McCluster to present Cassel a Wes Welker-like element in this offense.

The addition of running back Thomas Jones (New York Jets) should go a long way in helping stabilize the offense. A tandem approach with Jones and Jamaal Charles (shoulder) should relieve some pressure on Cassel. Additionally, offensive line continuity should improve in 2010.

Fantasy value: Even though we consider him a mild sleeper, Cassel shouldn't experience a massive increase in statistical output this season. He should be drafted as a low-end No. 2 fantasy quarterback, but we think he can put up the numbers of a high-end backup if all goes well. You don't have to invest much in him, and if you draft Cassel to back up a stud QB, consider the six-year pro potential trade bait in the season.

Matt Moore | Carolina Panthers | ADP: 24th round

Moore started the final five games of the 2009 season for the Panthers, compiling a 4-1 record. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes over this time, throwing eight touchdowns against one interception. In all but one of his starts he averaged at least 7.0 yards per attempt, which shows his willingness to push the ball downfield.

No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith (arm) is expected to be ready for Week 1. Carolina's offensive line is respectable, and Moore does a good job at avoiding sacks despite not being known as a mobile quarterback. Having a quality running game means Moore won't have all of the pressure on him and can rely on play-action passing.

We've seen this system produce fantasy-worthy stats from the position, and Moore's late-season efforts lend credence to a potential breakout season.

Fantasy value: Fantasy owners are largely ignoring Moore this draft season. He should be selected as a last-resort No. 2 with mild upside. He is more safely drafted as a No. 3 in very deep leagues, but we like his potential as a backup if you have a secure No. 1.

Jason Campbell | Oakland Raiders | ADP: 25th round

The former Washington Redskins slinger showed improvements in passing yards (3,618), completion percentage (64.5), touchdown tosses (20) and yards-per-attempt average (7.1) in his third extensive season as starter. Campbell tallied multi-touchdown affairs in four of his final six games last year. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson emphasizes the vertical game, which could bump Campbell's big arm to another production level. Jackson helped groom the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco the past two seasons and the Cincinnati Bengals' Carson Palmer while at Southern California.

Bad news: Campbell will have another new system and another shaky O-line; sacks will probably still haunt him. However, he enters a potentially easier division and inherits weapons wasted by JaMarcus Russell: running back Darren McFadden, raw but promising wideouts Chaz Schilens (knee) and Louis Murphy and tight end Zach Miller. Oakland is desperate for some aerial competency, and they'll do their best to justify Campbell's acquisition.

Fantasy value: Are fantasy owners really drafting Trent Edwards (Buffalo Bills) and Byron Leftwich (Pittsburgh Steelers) ahead of a low-end No. 2 with bigger upside? Anything labeled "Raiders" is typically fantasy poison, but there's legit growth potential for both Campbell's skill and this offense. Campbell's team can probably allow you to net him on the cheap, too, if you decide to wait on a backup.

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Also See:
Sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Busts: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Undervalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Overvalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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