First, I greatly prefer not to get too carried away in finding sleepers, values, breakout players, etc. Its too risky to build your team on this philosophy and often leads people to reach too high in the draft to take their latest man crush. Rule 1) Draft quality, reliable players with a predictable track record with high picks. Rule 2) Don’t take any big chances until late in the draft, after you have a consistent lineup in place.
If you meet Rules 1 and 2, there is some room to look for bargain picks in between. When I say a bargain pick, I mean a pick that could be worth more than the position where they are likely to be drafted. Going out and drafting these guys a round or two too high robs them of all value and turns a value into a risk. These are not the sexy breakout “sleeper picks” that most websites try to tout. These are players that I believe are being drafted below their value based on what they have already shown.
With all those caveats, here are some players that could be value picks in standard format leagues (ADP from www.fantasyfootballcalculator.com):
Peyton Hillis ADP 27: See our article here for a full discussion. He is currently being taken very low based on last year’s production… but even I cannot deny that he is a possible candidate for a bit of a dropoff. Accordingly, I would be particularly careful not to reach too much to get him.
Miles Austin ADP 29: With a healthy Tony Romo in 2009 he ranked fourth (and very close to second) among WR’s in standard league scoring. He is currently going tenth among WR. He will be sharing the ball with Dez Bryant… but that also means he will be sharing extra defenders with Dez Bryant.
Eli Manning ADP 96: I know, I know.. I can’t even believe I am saying this, but don’t laugh too loudly before you hear me out. First, I’m not generally a fan of taking a QB early and there is not much dropoff between the QB’s taken in middle rounds and those taken through round 10, so its not urgent to grab someone in the middle rounds. Eli only averaged about 2 PPG less than top tier QB Philip Rivers.. who is being taken 70 slots higher in the draft. He is being taken behind Matthew Stafford who can’t stay healthy to save himself. He is a reliable starter (not missed a game since he was a rookie) and has played reasonably well in December over the last few years. He has some solid and improving WR’s and could pick up 0.5 PPG by simply shaving off some interceptions. He is certainly not a great QB, but think how much you could load your team at RB/WR/TE by waiting to take a QB until the 8th round vs. Rivers in Round 3.
Kevin Kolb ADP 114: If you really want to hold out on taking a QB… why not take a shot in Round 10 on a seemingly talented guy that gets to throw to Larry Fitzgerald. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career and finally gets a chance to lead a team with no one staring over his shoulder.
Brandon Pettigrew ADP 151: Pettigrew is talented and looked promising as a rookie. Now, a over a year removed from his torn ACL with the chance of playing for a healthy Matthew Stafford, he could have a solid year.