Fantasy fans speak out on their definition of a sleeper

Last week, I asked fantasy footballers to offer up their own personal definition of a sleeper. Was it so vague to be able to include former fantasy superstars like Carson Palmer or Chad Ochocinco, or can players of this caliber fit the bill?

After reading countless responses, I think the true definition of a sleeper is, well, open to debate and opinion. While a lot of you agreed that Palmer and Ochocinco weren’t traditional sleepers, the definition has been stretched so much that it can include more than just the lesser known players.

I still prescribe to my own definition of the term, which is more strict and doesn’t include the likes of Palmer and Ochocinco, but maybe I’m just making my job harder! Tyler Thigpen was a great sleeper in 2008, but no one could have predicted what he did on the football field in the preseason. Of course, you could have easily labeled him a potential waiver-wire sleeper once he was handed the starting job in Kansas City.

Furthermore, isn’t part of what makes fantasy football so fun is trying to predict what is sometimes unpredictable?

Look for Anthony Gonzalez to be fantasy sleeper in 2009. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

Look for Anthony Gonzalez to be fantasy sleeper in 2009. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

With that said, here’s a few of your responses on the definition of a fantasy football sleeper:

The term “sleeper” no doubt originated exactly how you define it, and it is perfectly acceptable to think that way. However, I believe the term has expanded slightly to include any player who you think will significantly outperform his draft position. Ochocinco is being drafted in Rounds 4 and 5. If he returns to his elite wide receiver status, he’ll undoubtedly be overachieving for his draft position. Palmer is being drafted in Round 8, which is five rounds behind the guys who will likely put up similar numbers. This definition of sleeper still applies to players like Anthony Gonzalez and Ray Rice, but now includes players that might exceed expectations of lower production. — M. Walker, Indianapolis, Ind.

I agree, the term “sleeper” should be reserved to players that have never produced in the past. You have to be willing to put all of our chips on that unproven player because you’re trying to predict true talent before it shines. Palmer and Ochocinco are in the category of “possibly performing back to past expectations.” — D. Campau, Dallas, Texas

Thank you Michael,for addressing this topic that has driven me nuts for the last few seasons! It seems the definition of a sleeper has become very loose. Your criticism of what makes a sleeper is far from harsh. Ochocinco and Palmer offer possible draft value, which is far from a sleeper. In my opinion, a sleeper is someone who might not begin the season as an every-week starter, but will end up being an every-week starter and can be picked up in the later rounds of a fantasy draft. A perfect example came last season in Houston. When Ahman Green was named the starter, I thought, “the guy hadn’t played a full season in a number of years,” so I looked to who his back up was, some guy named Steve Slaton. That’s a sleeper! This season I like LeSean McCoy out of Philadelphia. — D. Bennington, Canada

What makes for a sleeper candidate has more to do with the drafter’s savvy and intellect then the players themselves. It’s like finding a diamond in the rough, if you are the only one smart enough to know where to look for the player, then you get great value late in the draft. A sleeper is simply a high-value player that is taken late in the draft. You might be mocked for picking the player at the time, but when you win the championship people will want to know how you did it. — Grant van Boeschoten, Canada

My definition of a sleeper would be a player who is projected to have little or no fantasy impact who goes on to have a substantial fantasy impact. For example, a player drafted in the middle to late rounds who, based on his production, should have been drafted in the early rounds of the draft. — C. Eslick, Pleasant Hill, Mo.

In my opinion, “sleepers” are those players that have potential fantasy value because of a change in their situation. A perfect example is Pierre Thomas, who should see more work with the released of Deuce McAllister and frailness of Reggie Bush. How about Ryan Grant, who went to Green Bay from the New York Giants practice squad and became a solid option? This season I like Greg Olson with Jay Cutler now under center in Chicago. There are unpredictable sleepers like Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen that come from injuries, but for the sake of forecasting, I believe it should be anyone with a favorable situation, potential skill and the opportunity to display that skill. — T. Daniels, Greer, S.C.

With the popularity of fantasy football rising and with the internet making stats and opinions so accessible, there are a lot of people putting there two cents out there on players. With all this world wide communication, the definition of a sleeper has seemed to become mixed with a player having good draft value. Just because Palmer or Ochocinco may have a much better statistical season in 2010 than last year, that doesn’t make them a sleeper. If they are being drafted on their stats from 2009 and perform like they should and have, then they are good value picks, not a sleeper pick. The popular sleepers for 2009 include Anthony Gonzalez, Donnie Avery, Zach Miller, John Carlson and Felix Jones. Last year, Michael Turner ended up being a great value pick, but someone going in the first four rounds can’t be a sleeper, can they? When you look back each year, there are hardly more than one or two guys who actually end up being true sleepers. So all those ‘sleeper’ lists out there shouldn’t be much longer than a few players…right? — R. Burke, St. Paul, Minn.

Can I just copy and paste what you’ve written, Mr. Fabiano!? I totally agree with what you’re saying! Perhaps you could add the term “performance sleeper” for players this year like Palmer and Ochocinco. — R. Mooring, United Kingdom

You nailed it Fabiano!!! A sleeper and a good draft value are different. A sleeper is a player who hasn’t put up superstar stats yet but has the potential to do that based on the situation they are in. Anthony Gonzalez fits the definition because he is a starting wide receiver in a good passing offense, meaning he has the potential to put up good numbers. Kevin Walter also comes to mind, because he is kind of an unknown and hasn’t put up major numbers but has the potential to based to do that this season. Another name that comes to mind is Derrick Ward, who hasn’t put up big numbers but has the potential to because of an increased role in Tampa Bay. A good draft value is someone who has put up big numbers and been called a superstar in the past but has fallen off due to injuries or being in a new situation. This definition includes Palmer, Ochocinco, Joseph Addai, Terrell Owens or even LaDainian Tomlinson. — J. Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

People who say that Palmer or Ochocinco are sleepers this season are stretching the definition of a sleeper way too much. People have heard of them. If someone is sleeping, no one hears them. Sleepers are players that most people haven’t heard about or have never made the headlines. — M. Moe, Lake Forest, Calif.

I totally agree with you about the definition of a sleeper. Palmer and Ochocinco are not sleepers because Palmer was hurt last year. We all know he can still can put up huge fantasy points when healthy. OchoCinco didn’t have a good season because, for the most part, Palmer was hurt. He wasn’t going to be a star with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center! So your definition of a sleeper is 100 percent accurate. — M. Miller, Vero Beach, Fla.

I think many fantasy players look at sleepers different ways. I agree that Palmer and Ochocinco are nowhere close to sleepers but can be called great value picks. There is a difference: A value pick is considered a player you can draft somewhere in the middle rounds but has the potential to put up top-tier fantasy numbers. A sleeper is considered a late-round pick that has a chance to put up nice fantasy numbers at some point in the season. Some sleepers in my opinion are Hakeem Nicks, T.J. Duckett, Rashard Mendenhall and Miles Austin. Two deep sleepers are Chase Coffman and Shawn Nelson. — R. Glass, Louisville, Ky.

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