Fantasy Football "Sleepers" Definition
Sleeper is a term used mostly during the draft to refer to NFL players that a fantasy manager believes is set to have a breakout season. The word "sleeper" comes from the idea that most fantasy football guys will "sleep" on this player or overlook their potential.
The whole point of looking for and drafting sleepers is to get your hands on some uncontested players that will give you the competitive edge. Sure, everyone knows Adrian Peterson is going to go high in the draft -- but do you really think a lot of guys had Jacoby Jones on their draft radar? Now that Jacoby is taking the starting position over from his teammate Kevin Walter, expect that sleeper pick to toss some serious points your way.
Sometimes the designation "sleeper" is given to players on the waiver wire. In this case, these are guys who weren't even expected to be good at the time of this year's draft, but for whatever reason have stumbled into serious numbers. Another sleeper trend -- they are usually not rookie players. Of course, rules were made to be broken. Think of Kurt Warner in 1999 -- sure, it wasn't his "rookie season" as he was signed in 1998, but his first starts in the NFL were in 99, and no one thought he'd have such a stunning season that year at draft time. He earns the "sleeper in retrospect" award.
Usually sleepers are drafted in the middle to late rounds of a draft. Got a great sleeper pick in mind? Don't waste one of your high drafts by picking a guy you expect no one else to care about. Save those middle round picks for the guys that'll drop the jaws of the other guys in your league.
When looking for potential sleepers, try to go a bit deeper than the "Sleepers" article at your local fantasy football emporium. Everyone will be reading who Roto thinks is a sleeper -- cut out the laziness and find your own sleepers. Look for guys with some talent who have just been traded into a target friendly offense, or rookies playing in a similar offense as their college years.
There's an old dictum of fantasy football that says that your star players won't win fantasy games -- only a squad with solid middle and late round picks has the staying power to win fantasy championships. The only way to really develop your team in the middle and late rounds is to research sleepers and build them into your fantasy strategy.