Finding the right sleepers and avoiding the busts is one of the most critical aspects of any fantasy draft. So to help you best navigate through your draft, here is a look at the NFC's top sleepers and busts for each team this season.
Sleeper:Felix Jones. He's no threat to take Marion Barber's starting job, but the Cowboys are enamored with his diverse skill set and plan to utilize him all over the field -- especially as a receiver. He's a fine RB3 option in Point-Per-Reception leagues.
Bust: Patrick Crayton. It's hard to find a true bust on this loaded team but be careful of overpaying for Crayton. As the No. 2 WR in this high-powered offense, he will have value but he won't be a consistent starting option as there are too many other mouths to feed.
Sleeper:Ahmad Bradshaw. He exploded onto the scene late last season, bringing a dynamic element to the Giants' ground game. The Giants would be smart to use him similar to the way the Jaguars use Maurice Jones-Drew. He can be a productive complement to starter Brandon Jacobs.
Bust: Mario Manningham. The rookie WR may be a solid NFL starter in time, but he's buried on the depth chart right now. He should not be drafted in any league unless your rules stipulate you must draft one ex-Michigan rookie WR each year.
Sleeper: DeSean Jackson. With Kevin Curtis possibly out for the first half of the season and Reggie Brown an ongoing disappointment, Jackson could emerge as a valuable weapon for Donovan McNabb. Be careful to place high expectations on him but he could be a serviceable WR3 in larger leagues.
Bust: Reggie Brown. It's time to stop hoping Brown will live up to his potential and start realizing he'll be a WR with some decent games but far too many disappointing ones.
Sleeper: Jason Campbell. Campbell may be a year away from truly blowing up, but he has quality skills and enough decent options in the passing game to be a solid QB2 this season. You can get him late on draft day and he'll help you as your backup QB this season.
Bust: Santana Moss. If you draft Moss hoping for a strong WR2 he's going to disappoint you. If you draft him as a decent WR3 or, better yet, as a WR4 with some WR3 upside, you'll be much happier. The choice is yours.
Sleeper: Devin Hester. Hester is still learning the WR position, but on a team devoid of standout talent and big-play threats he has the potential to deliver for fantasy owners this season. He's falling to the end of drafts and isn't being drafted in many so you won't have to overspend to target him.
Bust: The Chicago QBs. OK, this isn't exactly going out on a limb but both Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman are awful quarterbacks. It really doesn't matter which one opens the season as the starter, you can bet the other one will get a shot at some point. For now, Orton is the starter but don't bet on him keeping the job for long. You'll want to avoid both of them -- even if you're in a 32-team league.
Sleeper: Kevin Smith. The Lions' running game has been stuck in mud so far in the preseason but the starting job belongs to Smith without question. So he'll have some RB3 value due to the fact he'll get a healthy amount of touches this year. Whether he does anything with them remains to be seen. But on this team, the volume of touches he'll receive qualifies him as the team's best sleeper candidate.
Bust: Tatum Bell. He's no threat to win the starting job and he could end up being cut before the start of the season. Bell once had promise in Denver but that promise has all but evaporated. Avoid him.
Sleeper: James Jones. He's the No. 3 WR and he's very talented. In this offense, he'll get enough targets to warrant drafting him late as a WR4 or WR5. If anything happens to Donald Driver or Greg Jennings, his value will soar. He makes for a fine reserve WR on Draft Day.
Bust: Brandon Jackson. Even though Ryan Grant has missed the entire preseason due to a hamstring injury, Jackson has little fantasy value. He isn't very talented and even if he were to start, chances are Vernand Morency would get plenty of action in a RBBC situation. Jackson doesn't even make for a strong Grant handcuff.
Sleeper: Sidney Rice. It's hard to recommend a WR given Tarvaris Jackson's issues at quarterback, but Rice is a fine talent and big-play threat. You won't want to be starting him every week but he's someone who will deliver some quality weeks when the matchup is right.
Bust: Tarvaris Jackson. It's amazing to me that the Vikings are pinning their Super Bowl contending hopes on Jackson and his fragile quarterback skills. He has durability issues and has shown no consistent ability to play the position at a quality level. He isn't someone fantasy owners should be depending on, much less the Vikings.
Sleeper: Laurent Robinson. He may open the season as the No. 3 WR behind Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, but he brings a big-play dimension to the Falcons that will make it difficult for the team to keep him off the field. Let the other owners chase after Jenkins late in larger leagues; you play it smart and grab Robinson at the end of your draft. Then just be patient because his time will come. That's a promise.
Bust: Jerious Norwood. The Falcons insist they plan to utilize Norwood more this season. Yeah, right. And if you pull this leg it plays "Jingle Bells." You'll forgive me if I'm not buying into what the team is selling. Michael Turner is being paid big money to be the featured RB and he'll dominate the carries. Norwood will be the backup and he'll be involved in the passing game, but he's no serious threat to carve out a meaningful role in this offense as long as Turner remains healthy.
Sleeper: DeAngelo Williams. I have to admit, I wasn't big on Williams heading into training camp. I didn't think the Panthers viewed him as a featured RB. I'm still not sure they do, but there's no question he's elevated his play and that, combined with Jonathan Stewart's lingering toe injury, has helped Williams carve out a role as a potential value pick as a RB3 this season. He's definitely on my radar and should be on yours as well.
Bust: D.J. Hackett. I'm a big fan of his talent, but it's becoming more and more apparent he simply cannot be trusted to stay healthy. He had injury issues in Seattle and he has them again in Carolina. When healthy, he'll likely play at a high level, but you can count on him missing games and frustrating the owners who believe he can be an effective WR3. If you can get him late, he's worth targeting, but don't draft him hoping he'll be a weekly starter in your lineup.
Sleeper: Pierre Thomas. If Deuce McAllister gets hurt again -- or I should I say, when Deuce McAllister gets hurt again -- Thomas' value will soar. If both McAllister and Reggie Bush are out of the lineup, Thomas could deliver top-15 production in this offense. That makes him a great end game pick in larger leagues.
Bust: Devery Henderson. He could open the season as the starter opposite Marques Colston, but he lacks David Patten's reliabilty and Robert Meachem's upside. This looks like a situation where several receivers could rotate in and out of the lineup each week. Of that group, Henderson has the least amount of potential.
Sleeper: Antonio Bryant. The Bucs are looking for playmakers in the passing game, and Bryant has never lacked talent. His focus and maturity have often been called into question but the reports from Bucs' camp so far have been positive. He could emerge as a starter opposite Joey Galloway or as a No. 3 WR. In larger leagues, he's definitely worth considering late on draft day.
Bust: Warrick Dunn. Dunn's return to Tampa Bay is a nice story, but age and declining skills are catching up to him. His YPC has declined each of the past two seasons and he no longer can be counted on to carry a heavy workload each week. He'll be active in the passing game, but he shouldn't be viewed as a viable threat to Earnest Graham's starting job.
Sleeper: Tim Hightower. The rookie has emerged as Edgerrin James' backup and he should get a handful of carries each week to keep Edge fresh. He also could vulture a few TDs as well given how James has never been overly fond of goal-line duty. The Cardinals like his explosive ability, and he's worth considering late -- especially as a handcuff to Edge.
Bust: Matt Leinart. The Cardinals desperately want him to be their starting quarterback but right now, Kurt Warner is the superior option and everybody knows it. If you draft Leinart, you're almost forced to grab Warner as well, meaning you have to carry three QBs on your roster. In most leagues, that simply isn't a prudent approach. That makes Leinart someone you'll want to avoid.
St. Louis Rams
Sleeper: Antonio Pittman. StevenJackson is back in the fold, but Pittman looked good as his replacement when called upon in the preseason. Jackson has some durability issues so if anything happens to him, Pittman could deliver some solid production as a RB3.
Bust: Marc Bulger. He's talented, but he's brittle and he's stuck in a bad situation. The Rams' offensive line has major issues and the team lacks a consistent No. 2 WR opposite Torry Holt. Bulger has top 5 QB ability but you know he'll miss at least a game or two this season and if the Rams' offense goes south again you'll want to far away from this guy. The smart move is to avoid him alltogether on Draft Day.
Sleeper: Josh Morgan. The rookie WR has opened eyes in a big way during training camp. He could unseat Bryant Johnson as the starter opposite Isaac Bruce. Keep in mind it's going to be extremely difficult for the 49ers to generate quality production for one WR this season, much less two. But in a larger league, Morgan is worth a look late because he clearly has the ability to play at this level. And you know Mike Martz will want to throw. And throw. And throw. And throw. And throw ...
Bust: J.T. O'Sullivan/Alex Smith. Martz has worked fantasy magic with the QBs everywhere he's been but I believe his luck will run out by the Bay. Smith clearly lacks the mental toughness and ability to be a big-time starter and O'Sullivan barely qualifies as a stopgap option. Don't chase after either one of these guys hoping for Martz to find lightning in a bottle again. It simply isn't going to happen.
Sleeper: Maurice Morris. Julius Jones may be the "starter," but the best RB on the team is Morris. Considering how far he's falling in drafts right now he's the ultimate value pick at this position. He'll get plenty of touches as both a runner and receiver, making him a fine RB3 -- especially in PPR leagues. Even if he remains the backup, don't forget the last guy to back up Jones did pretty darn well for himself in that role.
Bust: Deion Branch. I'm amazed this guy is being drafted considering he may not return until the middle of the season -- if then. He's trying to return from a major knee injury suffered in the playoffs that could take a full year of rehab. Even if he returns, he could be like Javon Walker late last season -- a decoy and a non-entity in the offense. Don't waste your time chasing Branch on draft day. You will regret it.