As the fantasy football season winds down, many managers in fantasy football keeper leagues are anxiously deciding which players to keep for next year. Depending on your roster size and the number of teams in your league, here are a few names you will want to consider bringing back to your roster for next year. Some players are probably already owned in your fantasy football league (meaning if you are the owner of this player, you may want to designate them as a keeper), while other players may still be available in your league’s free agent pool.
Top 15 – Hidden Gem Keeper League Players
#1 – Joe Flacco – Quarterback – Baltimore Ravens
With fellow rookie quarterback Matt Ryan stealing all the headlines, Flacco has flown under the radar in his rookie season. However overlooking Flacco now, and keeping another quarterback who is more known and popular like Brett Favre, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Chad Pennington, or Matt Hasselbeck, could lead to a big mistake for not only next years team but years after. Flacco is definitely worth keeping on your team, as he appears headed to lead the next wave of star quarterbacks in fantasy football. A 20-25 touchdown campaign could be in store for Flacco in 2009.
#2 – Donnie Avery – Wide Receiver – St. Louis Rams
When the St. Louis Rams drafted Avery as the #1 wide receiver taken in the NFL draft in 2008, football fans and those around the NFL thought that the Rams management team was losing their minds. Since then, Avery has gone on to play admirably as a rookie and has surprised nearly everyone in fantasy football. With presumably Torry Holt opposite of Avery in the starting lineup next year, Avery will have a great chance to post 800-1,000 receiving yards and 4-6 touchdowns.
#3 – Tyler Thigpen – Quarterback – Kansas City Chiefs
After entering the 2008 season as the #3 quarterback on the depth chart in Kansas City, Thigpen like so many other quarterbacks before him, got his opportunity to play because of injuries. And since taking over as the starting quarterback, Thigpen has simply run away with the job. With such an impressive stretch run this season, Thigpen should be the clear #1 QB for the Kansas City Chiefs next season. A 20 touchdown campaign should be in store for Thigpen in 2009.
#4 – Kevin Jones – Running Back – Chicago Bears
It wasn’t too long ago that Jones was one of the best fantasy football players at his position. Yet one injury and two years later, Jones is now free agent material in even the largest fantasy football leagues. However let’s not forget, Jones will be entering the prime of his career next season, and is destined for free agency after signing just a one-year deal with Chicago this year. Assuming Jones signs with a team who needs a starting running back, he should be fully healthy and charged to make a comeback in 2009. 800 rushing yards and 3-5 touchdowns seem likely for Jones in 2009.
#5 – Steve Breaston – Wide Receiver – Arizona Cardinals
Breaston’s value hinges solely on whether or not Kurt Warner returns to Arizona next year. With that being said, and the way the Cardinals are playing on offense right now, I don’t see any reason why Warner wont be back in a Cardinals uniform next year. And to make things even more interesting, the possibility of Anquan Boldin leaving Arizona would make Breaston the #2 option alongside Fitzgerald. Things can’t get better looking for Breaston in 2009 at this point. 1,000 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns are possible if Warner is the quarterback in Arizona next year.
#6 – Ted Ginn Jr. – Wide Receiver – Miami Dolphins
Ginn has been looking better and better as the 2008 season has worn on. Entering his 3rd year in the NFL in 2009, Ginn should be the clear #1 wide receiver on the Dolphins team making him a great bet for 800-1,000 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns next season.
#7 – John Carlson – Tight End – Seattle Seahawks
With all the injuries to Seattle receivers in 2008, Carlson was able to get plenty of opportunities to show off his pass catching abilities. Luckily for him and fantasy football owners, Carlson took full advantage of his chances, and he looks like a potential top 10 tight end option in fantasy football in 2009. 500-750 receiving yards and 4-6 touchdowns are possible from Carlson.
#8 – Pierre Thomas – Running Back – New Orleans Saints
With injuries to Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Thomas has received plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities and talent. And luckily for him, he showcased his potential very well. With Deuce McAllister likely to leave the Saints as a free agent after the 2008 season, Thomas should take over the main running back role alongside Reggie Bush. 1,000 rushing yards and 5-8 touchdowns is a very good possibility for Thomas in 2009.
#9 – Trent Edwards – Quarterback – Buffalo Bills
Through two NFL seasons, Edwards has shown plenty of potential to be a very good fantasy football quarterback. Unfortunately along with all that potential, Edwards has also shown the weaknesses of his fantasy football game as he lacks a strong throwing arm for the deep ball, which eventually limits his passing touchdown total. However with two years under his belt, Edwards still has plenty of potential to put up 20 touchdown passes in 2009.
#10 – Dustin Keller – Tight End – New York Jets
Unlike many young players, Keller may actually have a brighter short term future than long term future. The reason for this is none other than quarterback Brett Favre. Favre who is known for his tight end pass happy throwing, should make a star out of Keller in 2009, just like he did with Bubba Franks during his tenure in Green Bay. With this said, Keller’s potential for next year is placed solely on the arm of Brett Favre returning to the Jets in 2009. 400-600 receiving yards and 6-8 touchdowns are possible if Favre is a Jet in 2009.
#11 – Julius Jones – Running Back – Seattle Seahawks
After signing a one-year free agent deal with Seattle last off-season, Jones was relying on the notion that he would excel as the #1 running back in Seattle and cash in with a new long-term contract in 2009. Unfortunately those expectation didn’t happen, and Jones is currently an afterthought in many fantasy football keeper leagues at this point. However if he can sign with a team who needs a running back, Jones will be entering the prime of his career and could rebound with 800 rushing yards and 4-6 touchdowns in 2009.
#12 – Sidney Rice – Wide Receiver – Minnesota Vikings
Entering the seemingly magical 3rd year for wide receivers in the NFL, Rice has tons of potential for a breakout campaign in 2009. Now if the Vikings can just get a quarterback that can throw the ball to him, his potential may turn into actual fantasy stats in 2009. 600-800 receiving yards and 3-5 touchdowns are possible.
#13 – Ray Rice – Running Back – Baltimore Ravens
The fantasy football possibilities are nearly unlimited for Rice if he would ever be the starting running back in Baltimore. And with the injury prone Willis McGahee currently taking up the starting role and a huge chunk of Baltimore payroll, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McGahee traded or released by the start of next season. But even if McGahee remains with the Ravens next year, Rice is a very good keeper league option because he has plenty of potential to play and create a one-two punch with McGahee. 500 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns as the sidekick to McGahee, or 800-1,000 rushing yards and 5-7 touchdowns if Rice is the #1 running back in 2009.
#14 – Zach Miller – Tight End – Oakland Raiders
With essentially zero competition for catches and receiving yards in Oakland, Miller is clearly the best pass catching option for the Raiders. So unless Oakland goes out and spends a ton of money to bring in a quality wide receiver (someone other than Javon Walker), Miller should once again be the best receiving option in Oakland in 2009. 500-750 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns may be a stretch, but I wouldn’t put it past Miller in 2009.
#15 – Maurice Morris – Running Back – Seattle Seahawks
After years of being Shaun Alexander’s backup, Morris finally had a chance to start in Seattle….that was until the Seahawks went out and signed Julius Jones. However Jones signed just a one-year deal, and it is highly unlikely he resigns with the Seahawks. So after all this, Morris may finally get his shot at being the #1 running back in Seattle in 2009. And if Seattle sticks with him and doesn’t sign someone else, Morris could easily post 800-1,000 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
Top 10 – Sleeper Keeper League Players
#1 – Kevin Kolb – Quarterback – Philadelphia Eagles
While no one knows for sure if Donovan McNabb will be with the team in 2009, one thing for sure is that Kolb will be given the first opportunity to be the teams franchise quarterback. And if 2009 kicks off the Kolb era in Philadelphia, he is one quarterback that fantasy football owners will want to keep an eye on. So if you can keep a bunch of players for next year and can afford to use a roster spot on him, Kolb could be a very high reward guy in 2009.
#2 – Robert Meachem – Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints
Not sure how Meachem didn’t break out this year with the way Drew Brees is throwing the ball, but at least he got on the field and had some decent fantasy games which gives fantasy football owners a glimpse of hope yet for 2009. Assuming Brees remains the same Brees that he was in 2008, Meachem could finally post his first 1,000 receiving yard campaign in 2009. With all that said, entering his 3rd NFL season, Meachem will be facing a make-it or break-it year in 2009.
#3 – Drew Stanton – Quarterback – Detroit Lions
I can’t remember the last time a Detroit quarterback was actually fantasy worthy for more than a game or two, but if Stanton can stay healthy in 2009, he could definitely surprise fantasy football owners. As one of the main options for being the quarterback of the future in Detroit, you can bet Stanton will definitely get his shot at showing his worth in 2009.
#4 – Jordy Nelson – Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers
With Donald Driver getting older and older, Nelson has a great chance of taking over the starting wide receiver role in Green Bay within the next two years. So while 2009 may not be his breakout year, Nelson should still serve as a very good #3 wide receiver option for the Packers and put up fantasy worthy stats based on specific matchups. Now is the time to grab this guy and keep him before he becomes a household name and potentially a top 20 fantasy wide receiver in two years.
#5 – John David Booty – Quarterback – Minnesota Vikings
The aging Gus Frerrotte isn’t someone teams really want as their starting quarterback in the NFL, and youngster Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t panned out as expected. So with a seemingly wide option quarterback position available in Minnesota in 2009, you can bet the highly publicized college phenom will get an opportunity in 2009.
#6 – James Hardy – Wide Receiver – Buffalo Bills
After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2008, Hardy was thought to be one of the best rookie wide receiver fantasy football options for the 2008 season. However he was quickly passed over by other rookie fantasy football wide receivers including DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal. Now clearly an afterthought in fantasy football leagues, Hardy is someone who has great potential to put up a very good fantasy football stats in 2009. So if you are looking for a solid wide receiver keeper option, Hardy is a great choice.
#7 – Chad Henne – Quarterback – Miami Dolphins
Depending on the length of Chad Pennington’s tenure in Miami, Henne may not get a chance to start until the 2010 season. However given Pennington’s injury history and fragileness, Henne may get an opportunity sooner than expected. So if you are in a larger fantasy football league and Pennington is your quarterback, you would be very wise to grab Henne and keep him for next year as well.
#8 – Limas Sweed – Wide Receiver – Pittsburgh Steelers
On draft day, many wondered why Sweed fell so low in the draft. And now with the 2008 NFL season nearly in the books, Sweed clearly has a lot to learn as an NFL caliber wide receiver. Luckily for him, his size will give him plenty of opportunities to excel in the NFL. And with Hines Ward getting up in age, and Santonio Holmes regressing a bit this year, Sweed should get a lot more chances to showcase his abilities in 2009.
#9 – Davone Bess – Wide Receiver – Miami Dolphins
Even before Greg Camarillo went down with a knee injury, Bess was proving himself to be a valuable piece of the puzzle in Miami. Assuming the Dolphins don’t sign a good free agent wide receiver in the off-season, Bess will enter 2009 as a possible starting wide receiver candidate.
#10 – Andre Caldwell – Wide Receiver – Cincinnati Bengals
Injuries derailed Caldwell’s rookie season in 2008, but with Chad ‘Ocho Cinco’ Johnson likely on his way out of Cincinnati, and a healthy Carson Palmer at quarterback in 2009, Caldwell’s fantasy football stock is suddenly looking pretty good. If you are in a keeper league that is large and with many roster spots, Caldwell is someone you should consider for 2009.