Christopher Howland

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Five Sleepers to Watch: SEC

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nothing is better than taking a flier on a guy in a late round situation and have him pan out and carry your team to a playoff berth. While he may have been off the radar during your pre-draft analysis, from the production he's put up, he could have been worth a first round selection.

Sleepers are always hard to pinpoint when making a list of who to covet in your fantasy league, but we'll try to make your decision easier in a series of college football fantasy sleepers, starting with the SEC.

Top 10 Rankings: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

Michael Dyer – RB – Auburn
For most of the 2010 college football season, Auburn freshman running back Michael Dyer had to take a back seat as Tigers' QB Cam Newton ran up and down the field on opposing defenses. While most of the conversation was focused on Newton as he led Auburn to the National Championship game, Dyer was sure to make his mark on the biggest stage for a college football player.

Dyer had a monster of a National Championship game, rushing 22 times for 147 yards and a controversial long of 37 yards, helping the War Eagles to a 22-19 defeat of the Oregon Ducks. While some may no longer see him as a sleeper after his stellar performance, he's still relatively new to the spotlight, making him the perfect candidate to bust out in 2011.

Splitting time in Auburn's backfield in 2010 with Ontario McCaleb, Mario Fannin and a few other backs, Dyer will be given the starting spot in 2011 to improve upon his 2010 season totals of 182 rushing attempts, 1,093 yards and five touchdowns; numbers he should easily eclipse.

With Newton's departure to the NFL, the Tigers still expect to be competitive in the difficult SEC West even with a new quarterback under center and will rely on Dyer to carry much of the workload and create scoring opportunities early on.

Look for the War Eagles to capitalize on the momentum they've created in 2010, but this time with Michael Dyer leading the way.

2011 Projections: 1,550 yards, 16 touchdowns

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Marquis Maze – WR – Alabama
In 2010, all eyes (and opposing defenses) were on star receiver Julio Jones. He caught a career high 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns, but now that he has moved on to the Atlanta Falcons, it's Marquis Maze's time to be the No. 1 wideout for the Crimson Tide.

Despite his current sleeper status, Maze has seen success wearing his #4 crimson uniform. In 2010, Maze caught 38 receptions for 557 yards and three scores, all while lining up next to the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Now that Jones is gone, Maze will be the biggest threat lining up for Alabama and will have to utilize his explosive speed and even better hands to get the best of opposing defenders.

While the pressure will be on Maze to succeed immediately in 2011, he'll have to rise to the occasion if Alabama has hopes of making it back to a National Championship game and he should be a good one to watch as the 2011 college football season unfolds.

2011 Projections: 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns

Chris Relf – QB – Mississippi State

As second-year head coach Dan Mullen has his Mississippi State Bulldogs on the rise in the SEC West, he'll have the unique chance to decide which QB he wants to go with in 2011: Tyler Russell or Chris Relf. Russell may be the better passing option, but Relf owns more experience and can bring an all-around game that begins with his ability to make plays with his feet.

If given the right opportunity, it's not unreasonable to think that Relf will be able to rush for over 800 yards and become Miss. State's own version of a Cam Newton or Vince Young; minus the off-field controversy. And to think he could also trump his 1,789 passing yards and 13 passing touchdowns from 2010, will make him very valuable pick in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

Relf will once again be a huge part of the Bulldog's offense in 2011 and will solidify himself has one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation with a surprisingly productive season under center for Mississippi State.

2011 Projections: 2,300 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 850 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns

John Brantley – QB – Florida

Entering his senior season in the orange and blue, Brantley didn't quite make the list of the top 10 fantasy QBs in college football, but he sure is a viable candidate to land on this list of sleepers from the SEC.

Struggling for much of the 2010 season under coach Urban Meyer and his Tim Tebow-style spread offense, Brantley enters his final year in Gainesville with a new head coach in Will Muschamp, but even more important is Florida's addition of Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.

Despite throwing for over 2,000 yards last season, Brantley mustered only nine touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions and 22 sacks, but that's nothing Weis can't repair beginning with restoring the quarterback's confidence on the field.

Specializing in turning the average quarterback into a productive passer in a simple offensive scheme, Weis' arrival could help Brantley's stock boom for prospective fantasy owners. While Brantley is no Tebow, he does have the arm strength and accuracy to become one of the better sleeper players picked up later in your fantasy draft.

2011 Projections: 3,300 passing yards, 17 touchdowns

Greg Childs – WR – Arkansas

"We'll definitely miss him. You're not going to replace his productivity, competitiveness, [and] toughness with just one person." Those were the words of distinguished head coach Bobby Petrino after learning his star receiver, Childs, would miss the final five games of the 2010 season after suffering a patellar tendon injury.

Childs was gearing for an outbreak year, catching 46 passes for 659 yards and six touchdowns, when he injured his knee on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter of Arkansas victory over Vanderbilt, but now Childs is back at practice and feels 100 percent healthy and hungry to prove 2010 was an aberration.

Well on his way to establishing himself as one of the nation's best wideouts, Childs has done nothing but work hard to return to the football field, which include participating in passing drills with other receivers this summer, and is projected to be a top 10 player in a tough SEC conference.

While injury concerns may be fresh on the mind of any owner leery of taking a chance on Childs with an early draft pick, his hard work, past success and determination to regain his old form, Childs will prove to be a solid pickup for any owner searching to strike gold with a sleeper pick.

2011 Projections: 1,250 yards, 10 touchdowns

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