We love this time of year. Uncovering the middle and late round gems while crossing off high-profile names from draft boards is part of what makes Fantasy Football so great.
We've stood by our recommendation of making a list of sleepers, breakouts and busts before going to your league's draft. By doing this, you're ahead of the unprepared owner who will hem and haw over all of his choices before undoubtedly bombing with a bad pick. You, on the other hand, will have a well-prepared list of guys to target after you round up several starters.
Visit Fantasy Football Draft Central!
Practice with our mock drafts!
In fact, let's kick off that list right now. Not only has my colleague Jamey Eisenberg delivered his Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts, but I'm chiming in with mine below. That's a total of 30 players -- 20 worth your time and 10 not -- that you can target in your draft.
One more thing: Remember to find your own sleepers, breakouts and busts. Consult our rankings, read our player updates and get your hands a little dirty doing some research in our Draft Prep Index. Throw in a mock draft or two for good measure, and you'll be prepared to dominate.
Let's get started!
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers
You wanted a sleeper? You've got one. Finley isn't on many Fantasy radars because he's not considered to be even a No. 2 option at tight end, but he's got a shot to be very productive. Finley worked hard this offseason to be as good of a blocker as a receiver and it's paid off. He's seeing time with the first-team offense and his athleticism has been on display in the early going this preseason. With Aaron Rodgers improving and the Packers' offense always looking for more weapons to drive defenses crazy, Finley could be this year's Kevin Boss or Visanthe Shiancoe.
My prediction ... Finley lands 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers
For a running back who is expected to have the vast majority of touches for his team, Grant sure isn't getting respect from Fantasy owners. Maybe it's because last year's totals were low compared to where he was picked last season. If that's the case, wipe the slate clean -- Grant took a while to warm up in 2008 because of a long contract holdout followed by a preseason hamstring injury. Nothing is slowing him down in 2009 and his role with the Packers is sure to be a big one. If you're looking for first- or second-round value in Rounds 3, 4 and even 5, Grant is your diamond in the rough.
My prediction ... Grant re-emerges with 1,550 total yards and nine total touchdowns.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys
Headlines from the Cowboys' offseason were dominated by the release of Terrell Owens and the building of a billion-dollar stadium. But behind the scenes, the Cowboys quietly realized that they had a good stockpile of talent at running back. Jones' rookie year was cut short by hamstring and toe issues, but what he did leave on the field was impressive: 266 rushing yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns in just six games. Now Jones will have more opportunities to produce as the Cowboys go back to their run game to spark the offense with Owens' demands for the ball off the team. He'll definitely lose playing time to Marion Barber along with a handful of carries to fellow second-year man Tashard Choice, but the yardage Jones should produce this year makes him at the very least a worthwhile rusher to use as a flex in deep leagues or as a one-week replacement in standard leagues.
My prediction ... Jones stuns Fantasy owners with 900 total yards and seven total touchdowns.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
For owners in seasonal leagues and dynasty/keeper leagues, McCoy must be on your list. The Eagles see him as the eventual replacement for Brian Westbrook, making him the heir to a statistical fortune. He's adapted to the Philadelphia offense in short order and has been so impressive that the coaching staff is trying to find ways to use him even when Westbrook is healthy. Obviously if you target Westbrook this season you have to pick up McCoy as a handcuff. But even if you don't land Westbrook you should still aim for McCoy because he's a natural fit to rack up some stats in Philadelphia, especially in the weeks when Westbrook can't suit up.
My prediction ... Westbrook plays the majority of the season and McCoy still manages to tally 800 total yards and five total touchdowns.
Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers
In a year dominated by a thin receiver crop, it's always good to have a sleeper wideout. Morgan is ours. He ended 2008 with a bang, totaling nine grabs for 159 yards and two scores in his last three games with at least one catch. He's done nothing but raise eyebrows among the 49ers coaching staff and should nail down a starting job. Morgan has a nice combination of size, speed and hands, and the Niners need him to help stretch defenses and be a contributor to help ease the pressure on their run game. Morgan is willing to do the dirty work across the middle of the field and brings big-play potential. How nice is it to have a potential No. 1 receiver on an up-and-coming team available to draft in the middle- to late-rounds this year? If you happen to come up short in your bid to land elite receivers early, don't hesitate to add him to your squad later on.
My prediction ... Morgan shines with 850 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals
Fantasy owners got nervous when the Cardinals drafted running back Beanie Wells. After all, this signaled a running back tandem for the next several years in Arizona. But Wells' ankles didn't agree with his early camp regimen and he has been sidelined for nearly all of training camp and the preseason. That gave Hightower the second chance to show he can be an every-down back for the Cardinals after failing to carry the load in 2008. He's looked fantastic this preseason and gives Arizona a physical rusher with excellent hands and a nose for the end zone. At worst he splits carries with Wells and retains goal-line duties, but with Wells' track record with nagging injuries, there might be weeks where Hightower delivers incredible totals as the running back in the Cardinals' offense.
My prediction ... Hightower produces 850 total yards and nine touchdowns.
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers
Hill was who we believed to be the best quarterback on the San Francisco roster, and he came through in his competition with Alex Smith for the starting job. For the first time in his career, Hill will captain his own ship from the beginning of the regular season and take over a 49ers offense that has a lot of potential. Josh Morgan, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree (whenever he signs) are three talents with plenty of upside to match with reliable veterans Frank Gore and Isaac Bruce. Moreover, Hill is 7-3 as a starter and makes plays not only with his arm but with his legs, giving him the potential to deliver startling stats for owners each week. While it's too risky to lean on Hill as your Fantasy starter even in deeper leagues, he is an excellent backup quarterback who can be picked with a late-round choice, giving him extra value in drafts.
My prediction ... Hill starts 14 games and accumulates 3,300 passing yards, 250 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns.
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets
Try as they might, the Jets just don't have a reputable No. 2 wide receiver to aid Mark Sanchez in the passing game and threaten opposing defenses. But they do have a talented tight end that can fill that spot for them in Keller. From NFL analysts to the Jets' coaching staff to even ex-Jet quarterback Brett Favre, everyone agrees that Keller is a special player who can make defenses nervous. Additionally, Sanchez will enjoy having a reliable short-area target in Keller to look for in blitz situations and when a play doesn't go according to plan. We don't quite see Keller in the mold of Antonio Gates, but he's close, and that should be more than enough for Fantasy owners to gobble him up on Draft Day.
My prediction ... Keller takes the next step with 850 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
Our affection for Rice's talent goes back to his college days at Rutgers when he was a one-man wrecking crew. In fact, we were disappointed when the Ravens drafted him last year because it meant he'd have to sit behind Willis McGahee (and Le'Ron McClain) and wouldn't be an impact player right away. Now, McGahee and McClain are sitting behind Rice, who worked hard, added muscle and dedicated himself to the Ravens' offense. A slick, versatile runner with solid speed, Rice should benefit from being in a run-oriented scheme even though McGahee and McClain will share his duties. That limits Rice to being no better than a low-end No. 3 Fantasy running back, but one with room to develop into a great option. He's well worth a middle- to late-round choice.
My prediction ... Rice outshines McGahee and McClain with 1,050 total yards and six touchdowns.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans
After working in the shadows of Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes in Pittsburgh, Washington was picked by Tennessee to help them rebuild their passing game. With the Steelers, Washington flashed deep-ball ability and came up with a handful of grabs each week. However the Titans have opted to use Washington as more than just a defense stretcher as he's been in on bubble screens and crossing routes this preseason. A hamstring injury has tripped him up of late, but it's no secret that he's part of the team's plan to be more diverse on offense. As No. 3 wideouts go, he's really not that bad, and he's available late in most drafts.
My prediction ... Washington leads the Titans with 850 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers
It's easy to call a guy with a torn meniscus in his knee a bust, but there's so much more to Bryant that makes him untouchable. Bryant's smash-hit 2008 season that saw him post career-highs across the board with 83 catches, 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns came with Jon Gruden calling the plays and Jeff Garcia throwing the football. Both men are gone, and the Bucs easily have the worst group of quarterbacks in the league. Bryant also had contract issues with the team before accepting his one-year franchise tender offer, guaranteeing him over $9 million. With that cash in his pocket, motivation might be hard for Bryant to find. Additionally, he's been in the NFL for six seasons over seven years and has never produced at a high level in consecutive seasons. There are too many strikes against Bryant to consider him anything more than a low-end No. 3 receiver.
My prediction ... Bryant falls back to earth with 800 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
Let's not take anything away from Cutler's 4,526-yard, 25-touchdown season in Denver -- it was magnificent. But when you glance beyond the numbers, there's a reason why he did what he did. The Broncos were a mess in 2008: Their defense couldn't stop anybody and their running game was crippled by the injury bug, forcing Cutler to throw 616 times -- second-most in the league and the most in his career. The situation is very different in Chicago, where the Bears' defense should be decent and the run game will be anchored by Matt Forte. Yes, Cutler will be called on to carry his weight, but the running game won't be ignored. Additionally, Cutler doesn't have the receiving threats in Chicago that he had in Denver, which will cut down on his yardage heavily. He's still a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, but not one worth a pick until at least Round 6.
My prediction ... Cutler will be effective for the Bears but won't top 3,600 yards passing and 21 touchdowns.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants
We've seen it before: Player enters a contract year, player plays incredibly well, player gets a new contract with a huge signing bonus, player fails to meet expectations the following year. Jacobs could fit that scenario perfectly after a career-best 1,089 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jacobs also runs with reckless power, something that not only dings up his opponents but also himself: he has missed eight games in his last two seasons with injuries. A lot of Fantasy owners think of Jacobs as a lead back for their rosters, but running backs with a history of missing time are never safe; he's better suited as a No. 2 option. When you tack on the security of a new contract, Jacobs might not be willing to play hurt like he might have last season. Not only does this make Jacobs a risk, but it makes his backfield mate Ahmad Bradshaw a sensational sleeper.
My prediction ... Jacobs grinds his way to 1,000 total yards and seven touchdowns.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills
Put yourself in the shoes of a 35-year-old receiver with an attitude problem: You were just released by "America's Team" and can attract attention from just about every team in the league. Are you looking to win a championship to polish off a productive career, or are you looking for as much money as possible? Owens went for the money, signing a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Bills, who are about as far from being a Super Bowl contender as possible. While the concept of adding Owens into the team's game plan is sound, the reality is that his quarterback and his offensive line are big question marks. Can Trent Edwards be as good as past T.O. target passers like Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb? Will Edwards be protected enough to get him the ball as often as he wants it? And did we mention Owens' sprained toe that's lingered since early August? There are too many questions for owners to trust T.O. this season as anything more than a low-end No. 2 receiver.
My prediction ... Owens will fail to get 1,000 receiving yards, though he should manage at least eight touchdowns.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers
Parker has a long-standing history of starting a campaign strong before fading into the winter months. He's healthy as of now and might be fine to begin 2009, but beyond that is anyone's guess. Furthermore, the Steelers have two running backs poised to dip into Parker's workload in Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, and undrafted rookie Isaac Redman is trying to earn a role as a short-yardage/goal-line back. But the biggest concern of all is that the Steelers have made no effort to sign Parker to a contract extension this summer, opening the door for him to leave after the season. That might motivate Parker to play well, but his body and his touches will both have to be strong in order for him to deliver each week.
My prediction ... Parker will end up with 950 total yards and five touchdowns.
Have a question or a comment for Dave about Fantasy Football? Perhaps you have a sleeper, breakout or bust to suggest. We'd like to hear it -- send your thoughts or questions to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts in the subject field. Include your full name, hometown and state.