Commentary

2010 sleepers, busts, rookie breakouts

Updated: August 25, 2010, 1:40 AM ET
By Fantasy Staff | ESPN.com

Fantasy owners can never get enough of sleepers and busts, so we asked ESPN.com's fantasy experts to get in on the fun.

We polled Stephania Bell, Matthew Berry, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Ken Daube, Christopher Harris, Eric Karabell, Keith Lipscomb, AJ Mass, James Quintong, Nate Ravitz and Brendan Roberts for a sleeper, bust and rookie breakout pick at each position.

Here's what they had to say. We've provided the sleepers, busts and rookie breakouts in a handy chart form, plus comments from our experts on some of their picks.

Sleepers

Quarterbacks

David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (Mass)
Top QB rusher in 2009. He could throw for 4,000 yards this season with Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Sims-Walker catching tons of passes.

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins (Berry)
Double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games to end 2009, 300-plus yards passing in three of his last five and he just added Brandon Marshall.

Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles (Karabell)
With the same weapons Donovan McNabb had and a more accurate arm, Kolb benefits from leading this pass-happy offense.

Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers (Daube)
Anyone throwing to the original Steve Smith has a solid chance to finish the season as a top-10 QB.

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals (Lipscomb)
I'm not saying he returns to top-10 QB status, but the additional weapons he's been given make him a nice bounce-back candidate.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (Ravitz)
Clearly raised his game in the playoffs and now has Santonio Holmes (albeit after four games) plus Braylon Edwards for the whole season.

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (Bell)
The Niners' entire draft was designed to protect him and enhance the run game.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Cockcroft)
Has an elite receiver (Calvin Johnson) and a defense sure to force him to throw, and he did make some flashy throws as a rookie.

Running backs

Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys (Ravitz)
Not being the No. 1 back might actually be a good thing. He scored 16 touchdowns in 2006 averaging fewer than 10 touches per game.

Michael Bush
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireHow long before Michael Bush becomes the Raiders' top running back option?

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders (Lipscomb)
In five career games in which he has received more than 15 touches, Bush has averaged 134.8 yards from scrimmage. Less Darren McFadden, more Bush, please.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Harris)
Charles isn't a traditional sleeper, but I have him as my No. 9 RB. If you can get him late in the second or the third, I think you're getting an RB1 on the cheap.

Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks (Karabell)
Now that LenDale White has quickly come and gone, diminutive Forsett keeps the job he deserved with his 2009 play all along.

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (Berry)
He averaged 5.9 yards per carry last year, and early word is he's going to get more than 200 touches this year. Felix can take it to the house at any time.

Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins (Daube)
Portis has proved to be effective in Mike Shanahan's system, and his competition for the starting job defines the term "has-beens."

LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets (Roberts)
Wha? LDT a sleeper? Considering how many people have written him off, yes. But the Jets haven't; they'll find a use for him.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals (Mass)
Tim Hightower could vulture away the touchdowns, but in a year with so many running-back-by-committee setups, we're not that scared.

Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins (Bell)
Ronnie Brown's recovery from foot surgery might increase Williams' work -- and scores -- early.

Wide receivers

Devin Aromashodu, Chicago Bears (Berry)
In last season's final four games, only four players in the NFL got more targets. He's a physical stud, and having Mike Martz in Chicago certainly doesn't mean fewer passes.

Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams (Ravitz)
It won't be fully apparent until the season starts just how terrible the Rams' QB play was last year. Even a green rookie will be a huge upgrade.

Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals (Roberts)
Early Doucet or Breaston? To me, it's not even close. Breaston best replaces Anquan Boldin's talents, and he'll make Cards fans forget about 'Quan.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans (Cockcroft)
He and Vince Young flashed good chemistry late last year; Britt averaged 6.6 fantasy points in the season's final eight weeks.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers (Bell)
Many forget he joined the team in 2009 with no training camp yet still showed flashes of brilliance.

Braylon Edwards, New York Jets (Mass)
With suspended Santonio Holmes in town, Edwards has extra motivation to showcase himself for his looming free agency.

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears (Daube)
When Hester was healthy, Jay Cutler threw to him almost as frequently as any other receiver in the NFL. Now add Martz.

Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears (Harris)
A 4.34 blazer, Knox fits Mike Martz's downfield system better than any other Bears wideout. He's the biggest big-play threat Chicago has.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (Lipscomb)
You know the Eagles will sling it, and Maclin's big-play ability will mean more TDs added to his already consistent game (at least four catches and 58 yards in six of final seven games).

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers (Quintong)
No matter the quarterback, he is ready to take the No. 2 wideout spot in Pittsburgh and run with it.

Tight ends

John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks (Mass)
With actual RBs and injured WRs, Carlson could well compile 1,000 yards and 10 TDs for Pete Carroll and Seattle.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (Karabell)
Houston's No. 2 receiving option until he tore his ACL, Daniels should be healthy and productive as he seeks a new contract.

Fred Davis, Washington Redskins (Roberts)
Chris Cooley has served me well. But at this point in their careers, I think Davis is the better pass-catching tight end and offensive force.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (Daube)
He was invisible in the regular season but an offensive focal point in their playoff run. That run will continue.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders (Cockcroft)
Jason Campbell loves throwing to his tight ends; they've caught 170 of his 642 passes in the past two seasons combined.

Tony Scheffler, Detroit Lions (Bell)
He'll have a resurgence in Detroit as the complement to Calvin Johnson while Brandon Pettigrew takes a back seat after ACL surgery.

Busts

Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (Harris)
Our consensus ranks have Cutler as a top-10 QB, but he would scare me way too much to be my starter. His big problem in '09 was the O-line, which doesn't look any better.

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings (Lipscomb)
Even if he is at his physical best, Favre will not come anywhere close to his remarkable 2009 numbers. Prepare for the return of the mistake-prone No. 4, making him a fantasy backup.

Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles (Mass)
Not nearly the talent Donovan McNabb was. The Eagles' offense will become a lot more predictable.

Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (Karabell)
Leinart has had chances to shine in the past, and generally failed. Removing Anquan Boldin from his weaponry hardly helps.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (Cockcroft)
Three of his four best games were ones in which the Giants allowed 30-plus points. Can their D be that bad again?

Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins (Roberts)
People will finally realize just how big a part Andy Reid's offense played in McNabb's past success.

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos (Bell)
They took away his biggest weapons and added a different type of distraction in Tebow.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (Berry)
He's a better real-life QB than fantasy starter. In a run-first offense, he had only one 300-yard game last year.

Running backs

Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys (Bell)
Injuries on their way up. Carries on their way down.

Steven Jackson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesSteven Jackson still has tons of talent, but injuries have worn him down in recent years.

Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins (Berry)
Injury history plus platoon with Ricky Williams and more passing with Brandon Marshall on board. There's too much risk here for a No. 2 running back.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Quintong)
There's no denying the talent, but Thomas Jones could pick up more of the load than you might expect.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (Daube)
Ground and pound might sound positive for Gore's value, but he's so brittle it's more likely to be his undoing.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (Roberts)
This pains me because I love the guy. But as a St. Louisan, I've seen the pounding S-Jax takes week after week. Carrying a team causes injuries.

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (Ravitz)
Too many question marks for a guy I expect will be taken in the first five rounds.

Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins (Cockcroft)
He's now 33 and has 2,164 carries on his legs, not to mention having a fresh-from-surgery Ronnie Brown back to cut into his workload.

Wide receivers

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens (Ravitz)
Seasons with fewer than five TDs: three. Seasons with more than seven TDs: three. Not the elite fantasy guy he's purported to be.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (Bell)
Expectations exceed performance … again.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Quintong)
Can he replicate the big plays from last year with Kevin Kolb? Remember, he had 62 catches in '08, then 63 in his "breakout" '09.

Derrick Mason, Baltimore Ravens (Cockcroft)
Besides his advancing age (36), Mason also has Anquan Boldin around to cut significantly into his number of targets.

Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (Karabell)
The presence of inaccurate Donovan McNabb won't help overcome a poor offensive line and years of inconsistent play for Moss.

Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings (Mass)
Favre or no Favre, Vikings will need to spread the ball around to have success in the passing game.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (Berry)
With Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and, of course, Dallas Clark, there's less need for Wayne to be "the guy" every week. Age and injuries are starting to creep in.

Tight ends

Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles (Roberts)
Sure, he came on strong in '09, but Donovan likes throwing to his tight ends. Are we sure that Kevin Kolb does?

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (Ravitz)
Love him as a player, but it's a major injury he's coming back from. Not convinced he'll be close to 100 percent.

Fred Davis, Washington Redskins (Bell)
Chris Cooley's return and Jason Campbell's departure combine to hurt him.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (Mass)
With Donald Lee, Spencer Havner and now Andrew Quarless all in the TE mix, Finley's price tag is too high.

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (Daube)
Gonzalez became a pedestrian tight end, and the Falcons' run game struggled. As the running game returns, Gonzo disappears.

Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears (Berry)
Name the last good fantasy tight end in a Mike Martz offense. The fact that Vernon Davis broke out after Martz left doesn't help, either.

Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings (Cockcroft)
It's tough to imagine him scoring another 11 touchdowns on 15 red zone targets, as he did last season.

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (Quintong)
Although he can rack up the yards, the lack of TDs and red zone looks hurts his overall fantasy stock.

Rookie breakouts

Quarterbacks

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (Cockcroft)
Not that I endorse drafting rookie quarterbacks, but if you're going to take one, Bradford's the one you want.

Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers (Berry)
Not a huge fan, but he has the easiest path to a starting gig, not to mention Steve Smith to throw to when he does play.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (Daube)
Rookie QBs aren't worthy of roster spots, but Tebow running the Wildcat could steal some points if you are desperate.

Running backs

Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions (Harris)
Best has speed and quickness to burn and looks like the Lions' No. 1 back. (Kevin Smith is coming off a torn ACL.) Best's only question mark is his injury history.

Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns (Mass)
He's a more physical back than Jerome Harrison, which is crucial in the hard-hitting AFC North.

Ryan Mathews
Robert Benson/US PresswireRyan Mathews appears to be the main man in the Chargers running game right away.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (Karabell)
The Chargers couldn't run the ball in 2009, but Mathews is fast and strong enough to push Darren Sproles back to obscurity.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (Roberts)
Even though he has college size, he has NFL speed and quickness. The guy is just plain tough to wrap up. There's opportunity for him in Buffalo, and Spiller is just the type of "quirky" back to take this league by storm, a la Steve Slaton in 2008.

Keiland Williams, Washington Redskins (Daube)
Mike Shanahan has a knack for finding talent where nobody else bothered to look. Williams, an undrafted rookie from LSU, could very well be his next big find as the former Tiger excelled in his first taste of NFL preseason action, running for two TDs and 4.6 yards per carry against the Bills.

Wide receivers

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (Lipscomb)
He has an elite QB and a big-time speed threat to complement him. He'll have some big games, even if he lacks consistency.

Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks (Ravitz)
Has the best combination of talent, experience and opportunity.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (Daube)
He's essentially a Brandon Marshall clone playing the same position. He'll finish as the No. 1 rookie wide receiver.

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Quintong)
Off-field issues, not talent, dropped his draft stock. The Bucs really don't have a No. 1 wideout now; he could seize the job.

Tight ends

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (Mass)
Former hoopster and potential Antonio Gates type could take over for mentor Jeremy Shockey by season's end.

Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals (Karabell)
This first-round pick should be recovered from an ACL tear and ready to make the tight end spot relevant again for the Bengals.

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (Lipscomb)
I didn't think the Pats' drafting of Gronkowski got enough noise, and I expect Tom Brady to click with him immediately. He's a playmaking tight end.

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (Quintong)
One of Tim Tebow's favorite targets could become a favorite of Tom Brady's if the Pats get the tight ends involved again.

Dennis Pitta/Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens (Berry)
I'm not high on rookie TEs, but whoever wins this gig will be in exciting offense that made even Todd Heap look good a few times last year.

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