Fantasy Football 2010: Michael Crabtree and searching the heap for sleepers

Last week we took at look at drafting tight ends, and whether or not Vernon Davis was the top TE in fantasy football. An astounding 68% of Niners Nation felt that Davis was indeed head of the class, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. This week, the poll will focus on something not-so-Niner biased, and we'll see how things shape out. The focus of this article will be on WRs, but not the big names you're used to getting drafted in early rounds. Instead, I'm going to dig through the pile of wide outs to find some hidden gems, as well as take a look at Michael Crabtree. A small portion of this article is also going to focus on PPR (points-per-reception) versus standard scoring, and the poll will see just how many Niners Nation users think which format is better.

Let's start with Crabtree, who heads into his second season of what we all hope to be a Hall of Fame career. In 2009, Crabs missed a considerable amount of action due to his hold out and his fantasy value was hindered. Heading into 2010, Crabtree will have his first chance at a full 16 game season, as well as full participation in offseason activities and training camp. Developing a chemistry with Alex Smith will be the first step in determining just how successful Crabtree will be, and having a full offseason to build upon 2009's results can no doubt increase Crabtree's numbers. Referring to ESPN's fantasy rankings, Crabtree has been ranked 52 overall and 23 amongst WRs.  Taking a quick peek at Fantasy Football Calculator (FFC), we see that Crabtree has an average draft position (ADP) of round 4, pick 10 (in 12-team leagues), or 46 overall (18 amongst WRs). Spending a selection that high on Crabtree definitely means people are expecting him to be a constant contributor as a fantasy football WR2.

(Andrew's Note: I moved the jump here so other stories don't get pushed down so much) After the jump, more on Crabtree, I take a look at some sleepers, and briefly discuss PPR vs. Standard scoring...

If you take Crabtree's 11 game season (48 catches, 625 yards, 2 TDs) and project those numbers into a 16 game season, Crabtree would've finished with 69 receptions, 908 yards and 3 TDs. To say the least, I think most of Niners Nation would be pleased if Crabtree can put up those reception and yardage totals in 2010. The numbers, however, would not be worth a 4th round draft selection considering 23 WRs had more receiving yards in 2009 (49 scored more TDs; 20 had more catches). In other words, Crabtree needs to improve upon his numbers to live up to late fourth round expectations. Wide Receivers can be tricky to predict, so I'm not sure that Crabtree is worth a late 4th round choice. For example, Antonio Gates has an ADP of round 4, pick 12 and Vernon Davis has an ADP of round 5, pick 3. I would suggest taking either player before Crabtree, simply because you'd be getting one of the best TEs in fantasy football, instead of say, the 20th best WR.

I'm not expecting everyone's drafts to pan out according to ADP from FFC, but you can see that picks in the fourth round can potentially be spent on high tier players of thin positions. Taking a deeper look at the ADP from FFC, we also see that players like Santonio HolmesHines WardDonald Driver, and Robert Meachem are all projected to go after Crabtree. You can certainly take the risk on Crabtree having a break out season, but keep in mind proven players can be had later on, and are less of a risk. While some of these players may appear older than dust (Ward and Driver), fantasy production never gets old.

2010 Sleepers

Round 8: Players you should be able to get in round 8 or later that should have a productive 2010: Steve Breaston (Arizona), Eddie Royal (Denver), TJ Houshmandzadah (Seattle). Obviously Breaston and Royal both have bigger roles now that WRs ahead of them on the depth chart have departed (see: Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall). From both Breaston and Royal, I think you can reasonably expect numbers similar to 2008 in 2010 (around 900-1000 yards, 4-5 TDs). As for Houshmandzadah, even if he repeats 2009, his value is tremendous in round 8 compared to where he was being drafted in 2009 (round 3-4).

Round 11 and beyond: Players you should be able to find in round 11 or later: Lee Evans (Buffalo, round 11), Malcolm Floyd (San Diego, round 11), Donnie Avery (St. Louis, round 12), Mario Manningham (New York - G, round 13). It was hard for me to leave Anthony Gonzalez off of this list, but with the emergence of other young WRs in Indy, it's hard to see just how worthy of a 10th or 11th round selection Gonzo will be in 2010. Lee Evans isn't in a great situation, but he's the undisputed number one in Buffalo and still managed 7 TDs in 2009 (he's averaged 890 yards and 6 TDs per season). Malcolm Floyd could build upon his decent 2009 in San Diego's pass attack, and an 11th round flyer isn't going to break the bank. Avery in St. Louis isn't a brilliant situation, but Bradford could rely on Avery since he's the most seasoned WR on the team. Manningham may be third on the Giants depth chart, but 800 yards and 5 would be great production from a 13th round choice (assuming he can repeat 2009). 

Rookies: Rookies you may want to consider drafting: Demaryius Thomas (Denver, Round 9), Brandon LaFell (Carolina, Round 15). Like Eddie Royal, Thomas should have a substantial role in Denver with Brandon Marshall out of the picture and I think the rookie from Georgia Tech has much more fantasy upside than Dez Bryant (projected round 7). In Carolina, LaFell shouldn't have much issue gaining the team's #2 WR role, and he could have a surprisingly productive season (even with Matt Moore at QB). That does it for my list of deep round sleepers, but you can bank on finding some gems on the waiver wire when the season is still young.

PPR vs. Standard Scoring

Points-Per-Reception leagues are something I've always participated in since I first began playing fantasy football. While I'm used to the concept, I'm not exactly sure it's best to have 1 point rewarded for every catch a player makes. The scoring definitely favours receiving RBs, and boosts the fantasy output of the top WRs in the league; it also makes guys like Wes Welker God-like. For example, Wes Welker could have a 10 reception, 100 yard performance good for 20 fantasy points, and that's without hitting pay dirt. Welker had seven (7!!!) games with 10 or more catches, while scoring just 4 TDs on the season (and he only had six 100 yard games). In a non-PPR league, Welker would've average around 11 FPPG; in a PPR league he averaged 20. You can definitely see why PPR formats are debated, and I want to know which format you prefer.

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