Sneaky pickups for 2012

Updated: December 16, 2011, 8:44 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

Time to get sneaky again! Week 15 has already begun, and while one might think we've run out of angles to cover in the weekly Friday Sneaky Additions blog entry, that's just not true. In recent weeks we've discussed planning ahead for the final playoff rounds, looking at backup quarterbacks that might be called to duty and searched for potential home run hitters among barely-owned wide receivers. Today we'll delve into a topic that one might think isn't as pressing, but it is: Planning ahead. Not for Week 17 necessarily, but for next August.

A year ago this week I was one of the final four teams in a deep league and, to be honest, my lineup was pretty much filling itself out. I didn't have decisions to make each week, with mostly obvious choices. However, I saw a few names on my bench that didn't seem to matter anymore, and decided to think about the following season's keepers. Trust me, it's OK to look ahead to the next season even when the current one hasn't ended. I grabbed running backs Dexter McCluster and Ryan Grant and wide receivers Steve Smith and Victor Cruz. I ended up making the Green Bay Packers running back and the Carolina Panthers wide receiver two of my eight keepers in August 2011.

Well, entering Week 15 of this year, Smith is tied with Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers as fantasy's No. 5 wide receiver, and Grant has been a dud, but you take your chances, right? Heck, I should have kept Cruz, but who knew he'd be fantasy's No. 4 wide receiver! The point is, a sneaky pickup can be for the long-term future as well, and I'm already thinking about it even in leagues in which I'm still filling out lineups. And by the way, if you wait another week or two, more people in your league, as they get eliminated, will think about it. In most leagues, free agency closes when the season ends. You can't add in February.

In general, my keeper selections come from the running back and wide receiver pools. In that league I referenced above, I've kept Eli Manning the past few seasons, but haven't felt great about it. In a more standard keeper league I'd say perhaps four or five quarterbacks are worth it, and you can draft fellows like Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub -- second-tier fantasy passers -- later. I also tend to eschew tight ends unless it's Antonio Gates, or this season, the record-setting Rob Gronkowski and very good Jimmy Graham. I'm not keeping solid Jason Witten or ever any defenses or kickers.

So, here is my top 10 of notable players on my mind today as potential keepers for next season -- depending on the size of your league, of course -- and they might be sitting on your free agent wire. They don't need to help you this December to matter next December, and perhaps you won't need them at all. But then again, do you really want to keep Joseph Addai or Ryan Torain owned? I think not.