1. Joe Flacco (BAL) – It is difficult to classify Flacco as a sleeper considering he was already a very good QB, but we think 2010 will be the year he makes the transition from good to great. The addition of Pro Bowl WR Anquan Boldin should go a long way in making that happen.
2. Kevin Kolb (PHI) – Drafting a first year starter at QB is always a scary proposition for fantasy owners, but Kolb isn’t exactly your average first year starter. He has all the tools at his disposal to develop into a top tier fantasy QB in 2010. In fact, he reminds us a lot of Aaron Rodgers (both in situation and ability) and we all know how Rodgers turned out.
3. Alex Smith (SF) – It wasn’t long ago that Smith was considered one of the bigger busts in NFL history, but the former #1 overall draft pick appears to have turned the corner showing great promise in 2009. He should be even better in 2010 as Smith has a much improved offensive line, a loaded receiving corps and a soft schedule at his disposal.
4. Matthew Stafford (DET) – Stafford endured more than his fair share of growing pains as a rookie in 2009, but year two should bring bigger and better things for the former top draft pick. The Lions made improvements up front and added high profile targets in Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler to go along with super stud WR Calvin Johnson. As far as fantasy football is concerned, Stafford is still QB2 material, but his star is definitely on the rise.
5. Beanie Wells (ARI) – He displayed tremendous promise down the stretch in his rookie season rushing for nearly 800 yards and 7 TDs in a complimentary role with Tim Hightower. While Hightower remains prominently in the picture, Wells will likely take on a much bigger role in 2010. In addition, the Cardinals will be forced to transition into a more balanced offensive attack now that Kurt Warner is out of the picture which will further benefit Wells and fantasy owners alike.
6. Jahvid Best (DET) – This rookie is the complete package. He has the speed, power and the hands to develop into one of the NFL’s better all purpose backs. Best will have some competition from incumbent Kevin Smith, but Smith is still recovering from a torn ACL from last season and the Lions coaching staff, which prefers to feature one RB, appears to be enamored with Best. Detroit’s offense should be much improved as a whole in 2010 and we speculate that Best will be a big reason why.
7. C.J. Spiller (BUF) – Spiller has the potential to be the second coming of Chris Johnson. The only thing that was holding him back is the prospect of having to share touches in a crowded backfield with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Considering Fred Jackson broke his hand in the Bills first pre-season game and Lynch remains in Coach Chan Gailey’s doghouse, Spiller appears to be in for a more prominent role this season than previously expected. We also like the fact that the Bills plan on using the multi-dimensional rookie as a WR and a QB in the wildcat package.
8. Arian Foster (HOU) – This spot had originally been reserved for rookie Ben Tate, but given Tate’s potentially season ending ankle injury, Foster appears to be on track to reap the spoils. Foster has already proven that he is more than capable of handling the starting duties in Houston as he rushed for 217 yards and 3 TDs in the Texans final two games of 2009. He will still have to contend with Steve Slaton for touches, but that is a battle Foster should easily win. In our opinion, he will turn out to be one of the bigger steals in 2010 fantasy football drafts when all is said and done.
9. Ricky Williams (MIA) – He was written off in fantasy football circles heading into the 2009 season, but Williams proved the naysayers wrong combining for close to 1,400 yards and 13 TDs. Granted, Williams benefited greatly from the Ronnie Brown injury, but even when Brown was healthy, Williams was putting up respectable numbers. While Brown will return in 2010, Williams will still be a staple in the run heavy Dolphins offense and given Brown’s track record of staying healthy in recent years, there is a decent chance Williams could once again be in for a feature role before season’s end. Much like 2009, Williams is being overlooked in most fantasy drafts.
10. Michael Bush (OAK) - With Justin Fargas out of the picture, it is now a two horse race in Oakland for the starting RB job between Bush and Darren McFadden. Despite all the hype that has surrounded McFadden, Bush has actually been the more productive back and our guess is that is unlikely to change. Not only has McFadden failed to meet expectations, he has also proven to be quite injury prone and based on season’s past, we would be shocked if McFadden makes it through 2010 with a clean bill of health. You can probably see where we are going with this and while Bush may not be a clear cut stud in the making, he could do some damage in what will likely be a much improved Raiders offense.
11. Mike Wallace (PIT) – The speedy second year man will make the transition into the starting line up this season for Pittsburgh with Santonio Holmes now with the Jets. Wallace exploded onto the scene in his rookie year hauling in 6 TD receptions and averaging close to 20 yards per reception. While the transition from the slot to split end will bring new challenges for Wallace, he should see a drastic increase in targets and we expect a breakout season. Patience will be required in drafting Wallace, as he is unlikely to flourish until Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension.
12. Malcolm Floyd (SD) – He is kind of a hit or miss fantasy prospect heading into 2010, but drafting Floyd has the potential to pay huge dividends. With Vincent Jackson not expected to return until week 11 (if at all) with his holdout, Floyd will likely be the biggest beneficiary of his absence. He displays a nice blend of size and speed that makes him the ideal candidate to become the new big play target for Phillip Rivers in San Diego. With the exception of TE Antonio Gates, Floyd is now the best receiver on the Chargers roster.
13. Johnny Knox (CHI) – The Bears may be loaded with potential playmakers in the receiving corps for 2010, but in our opinion, none are better than Johnny Knox. He showed plenty of promise in 2009 and while consistency may be an issue in 2010, we fully expect some monster games from Knox in 2010. With Mike Martz now in control of the Chicago offense, the Bears will be putting the ball in the air early and often.
14. Dez Bryant (DAL) – He is expected to return from his ankle injury sooner than expected and while the injury may have set the rookie back to some degree, Bryant still has the potential to be a big time player in the Cowboys high powered offense. He will likely be a work in progress, so do not go too far out of your way to get him in fantasy drafts, but he should make for a solid WR3 or better before season’s end.
15. Jabar Gaffney (DEN) – Gaffney is the very definition of a fantasy sleeper for 2010. He has big play ability as he displayed with 2 monster games to finish up the 2009 season and as of now, it appears he will take over for departed stud Brandon Marshall. Many have suspected that rookie Demaryius Thomas would fill the void left by Marshall, but Thomas continues to deal with complications from a broken ankle. Thomas may eat into Gaffney’s production a bit as the season progresses, but Gaffney has a big lead at present time. He has a much better grasp of the offense and is extremely underrated. In our opinion, the veteran wide out will be the go to guy for the Broncos in the passing game this season. Gaffney isn’t even on the radar in most fantasy drafts and should prove to be a steal with a very late draft pick.
16. Mike Williams (TB) – He should be classified in the deep sleeper category due to the Bucs shaky QB situation, but Williams has the ability to be one of the bigger surprises of 2010. He is penciled in as a starter and big plays have already become a common occurrence for the rookie in training camp and pre-season action. Williams is definitely worth keeping tabs on and a late round draft pick will likely pay off.
17. Devin Thomas (WAS) – For the most part, Thomas has been an underachiever in the Redskins offense since arriving 3 years ago. We feel that could all change in 2010. He has a new QB in Donovan McNabb with whom Thomas is said to be developing a nice rapport and a couple of very solid performances last season showed that he is indeed capable of making big plays. This should be the year Thomas finally lives up to his billing.
18. Chaz Schilens (OAK) – Schilens has long been considered a fantasy sleeper and why shouldn’t he be? The guy is 6’4 225 pounds with soft hands and world class speed. He is every defensive back’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, various injuries and poor QB play have prevented Schilens from displaying his vast talents over the last couple of seasons. The QB situation has been resolved to some degree and if Schilens can finally stay healthy, big things can be expected in 2010. We like his chances.
19. Zach Miller (OAK) – He has long been considered one of the better pass catching TEs in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has never had a QB that could get him the ball on a consistent basis. That will change in 2010 as Miller finally has a competent QB under center in Jason Campbell, and not only that, a QB that loves to throw to TEs. We expect Miller to finally have the big season that he should have been having all along. Talent wise, Miller is as good as any TE in the league.
20. David Buehler (DAL) – Before training camp, Buehler was far from a safe bet to even make the team, but after hitting 6 of his first 7 FGs in pre-season action, he is starting to look like the real deal. If Buehler can continue to impress, fantasy owners stand to benefit greatly as the Cowboys will be kicking plenty of FGs and extra points in 2010.