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Remaining Sleepers

Well since most fantasy drafts are happening very soon, I decided to shorten this up and list all of my sleepers. These guys won’t be tops in the league but they should be great values for how late they can be drafted. Consider this list additions to the ones that I have been posting throughout the week.

QBs

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins-Henne was thrown into the fire last year and performed admirably with basically zero offense around him. Their best receiving threat was Davone Bess….undrafted free agent from Hawaii if you haven’t heard of him. Ronnie Brown, one of the best running backs in the league at taking short passes for long gains, was lost in the middle of the season due to injury and TE Anthony Fasano pulled quite the vanishing act (talentwise) during the year. This year, the Dolphins added elite receiver Brandon Marshall who should help out Henne immensely. Ronnie Brown will be back and I am expecting a strong season for Henne.                                                                                                               Fearless Forecast: 3500 yards, 23 tds, 10 interceptions

RBs

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants- Although Brandon Jacobs is listed as the feature back, Bradshaw looks primed to steal the starting gig from him. In limited action this year, Bradshaw looks to have fully recovered from his ankle and shoulder injuries that plagued him last year, and looks more explosive and agile than Jacobs. Don’t be surprised if he’s available very late in your draft and if he ends up getting more carries than Brandon Jacobs this year.                                     Fearless Forecast: 30-40 receptions, 1000-1100 total yards, 6-8 tds

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers- The rookie from Fresno State was electric last year, amassing 1800+ rushing yards and 19 tds. He immediately becomes the strongest candidate to replace LT as the feature back. Darren Sproles has proven himself to be most effective as a change of pace back/receiving threat, not as a starting back. Matthews should therefore be considered the primary back on a very dangerous offense that, without Vincent Jackson, should be more prone to running than they otherwise would have been.                                                                                                                 Fearless Forecast: 10-20 receptions, 1200-1300 total yards, 8-10 tds

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders-This one is a little more dangerous. Bush has proven that he can be lethal when given enough carries (Week 15- 18 carries, 133 yards, 1 td vs Broncos; Week 10-14 carries, 118 yards; Week 17 ’08-27 carries, 177 yards, 2 tds). Justin Fargas is gone and Oakland’s three running back competition has turned to Bush vs Darren McFadden. McFadden, often injured and ineffective, is slowly becoming a bust and I believe Bush is the more talented back and will win the starting job over Run-DMC.                                                                                                                                                 Fearless Forecast: 10-20 receptions, 1000-1100 yards, 8-10 tds

WRs

Santana Moss, Washington Redskins- Moss has really been a hit and miss player the past couple of years. Some games he comes out and goes nuts, but in plenty of other games he disappears which makes him a very dangerous pick. He might win you a couple of weeks but could very well put up a goose egg a couple of times. The reason I like him this year is that he is still the best wide receiver in an offense now run by the strong armed Donovan McNabb. Moss has the speed to be the deep threat and McNabb has the arm to hook up with him (if you need proof just look at what McNabb did repeatedly with Desean Jackson last year). Washington’s young receivers are not stepping up so Moss is securely planted as the top option and new coach Mike Shanahan should only serve to improve Moss’s value.                                       Fearless Forecast: 70-80 receptions, 1000-1100 yards, 6-8 tds

Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers- Vincent Jackson is one giant question mark. He’s holding out and there are even rumors that he could be traded to the Seahawks. Someone has to step up and replace him as a giant red zone  and deep threat. That guy is Floyd, he’s 6’5″ and is part of one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Philip Rivers puts up huge numbers every year and someone besides Antonio Gates has to pulling some of these passes. Once again, Malcolm Floyd is the guy I expect to step up and become the primary receiver in this powerful office.                                                       Fearless Forecast: 65-75 receptions, 900-1000 yards, 8-10 tds

TEs

Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings-Yeah we knew it was going to happen, Brett Favre is back…..well at least until Tavaris Jackson kills him for stealing his thunder once again. Shiancoe was morphing into one of Favre’s top red zone targets. Now Shiancoe won’t get a ton of receptions or yards but he is a touchdown machine and will serve as a good plug in tight end if you need a replacement or a starter (that would be kind of desperate). I had him a couple of years ago and he served well so just don’t count on him to be super consistent but he will have some decent games.                       Fearless Forecast: 50-60 receptions, 500-600 yards, 10-12 tds



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Sleeper #7

Time for sleeper wide receiver number two (or three I guess if you count Johnny Knox). My second sleeper wide receiver is ……

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Photo courtesy of G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

Bowe was supposed to finally be able to breakout last season. Matt Cassel was supposed to be the answer at quarterback and his strong-arm and accuracy was supposed to turn Bowe into a fantasy force. Cassel failed to repeat his stunning Brady-fill-in performance and Cassel, Bowe and the Chief’s passing game faded into obscurity. I bet you that some people even wonder if Bowe is still in the league or what has happened to him. Although he fell apart last year, I believe this is the year Bowe lives up to his potential and breaks out for real. I have a couple of reasons to back that up.

1) Charlie Weis. The offensive mastermind comes in from Notre Dame and has the ability to completely revamp the Chiefs’ passing game. Weis’ primary goal is fixing Matt Cassel’s problems and turning him into a more effective quarterback.  Weis has spent a ton of time analyzing Cassel’s film from last year and has been working with him all training camp. Weis even said, “You know I have to look at Matt Cassel all the time, I see him more than my wife. I am kind of tired of looking at him and he is tired of looking at me too.” Improving Cassel’s play can only help Bowe. Weis’ play calling should be a breath of fresh air for the Chiefs’ offense and should lead to more scoring, something that should directly benefit Bowe.

2) Improved conditioning. Bowe came into camp last year out of shape and not as committed to football as he should have been. He was nagged by injuries and commitment issues all season and was never really able to reach his full ability. Reports from this year’s training camp tell a completely different story. Bowe showed up at camp in great shape and with a warrior’s mentality, fully ready to bring his all on the field. Bowe is 6’2″ and weighs 221 pounds giving him enough size to win jump balls as well be a force after he catches the ball. He has also flashed moments of brilliance (see picture above) and generally has very reliable hands. His improved conditioning and spirits should lead to a much more devoted and effective Dwayne Bowe than we saw last year.

3) Improved offense. The Chiefs’ awesome, while not fearsome, is beginning to take shape and has the ability to put up points. The past couple of seasons, the Chiefs have been plagued by an awful running game. It seems like they may have finally cured that problem. They bring in Thomas Jones who is coming off back to back 1300+ yard, 13+ td seasons. They also have Jamaal Charles, who finally was able to get out from LJ’s shadow and proved he could be an elite feature back. From Week 9 on, Charles was the best running back not named Chris Johnson (although Charles and Johnson are very similar in their running style). Charles has home run hitting capability and great hands which make him a threat in the passing game as well. Between Jones and Charles, opposing defenses will have to dedicated a lot of attention to the run game which greatly benefits the Chiefs’ passing attack. The Chiefs have Chris Chambers who is enough of a threat to take some of the heat off Bowe. If Cassel is able to return to anything close to his ’08 Patriots form, then the Chiefs could have a dangerous passing attack.

Fearless Forecast: 90-100 receptions, 1100-1200 yards, 7-9 tds

Sleeper #6

Alright well time to go back through the positions which brings me back to the running back. My second sleeper RB is…..

Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

Photo courtesy of AP Photos/Carlos Osorio

Jahvid Best is an electric running back who is capable of the breaking away on any given play. There are a couple of reasons why I like Best this year.

1) He’s Jahvid Best. The guy is fast, quick, agile and runs a 4.35 40, the best in the this year’s combine. Best can beat basically any defender one on one and is a nightmare if he gets to the corner or makes it past the linebackers and into the secondary. Check out some clips of Best at Cal. The guy is a human highlight reel. The video is long but you will get the idea after a minute or two.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q40qIf32jsE

2) The improved Lions offense. Basically just take a look at the sleeper explanation I did on Matthew Stafford. The Lions offensive line has been revamped and while it is still subpar, it is improved over last year’s simply because it really couldn’t get any worse. That should serve in better protecting Stafford and improving the aerial attack as well opening holes for Best to run through. Stafford has Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew for targets and all three are more than capable of making big plays and making defenses focus on the pass which should open up lanes for the rushing game.

3) There is a very realistic chance that Best could be the feature back come opening day. Now chances are the Lions will use a dual back system, alternating between Best and Kevin Smith, but I fully believe that Best will receive the majority of the carries and as the season progresses, his skill and pass catching abilities should prove to overpower Smith’s and earn him a lion share of the carries. Kevin Smith is coming back from multiple injuries, the most notable being a torn ACL. He is only one year removed from a LisFranc injury and these injuries have to start taking a toll on his explosiveness and durability. It is only a matter of time until Best takes over the Lion’s running for real and Kevin Smith is relegated to a simple change of pace back.

Fearless Forecast: 30-40 receptions, 1000 total yards, 6-8 tds

Sleeper #5

RB, WR, QB, TE down, that leaves the Defense to go. My sleeper defense is……..

Cleveland Browns Defense

Once again, I am sure that a bunch of people (well not a bunch because I don’t think a bunch read this blog but a high percentage of my trickling of followers) are laughing at me right now for this pick. I know, the Browns have been associated with a porous defense, I mean the Lions  put up 38 points on them. There are some bright spots for the Browns though. Ahtyba Rubin is playing the nose tackle position in the Browns 3-4 defense and the guy is becoming quite the presence on the D-line. The 330 pounds 3 year player out of Iowa State is really coming into his own and plugging holes and stuffing the run. Rubin’s role as nose tackle allows Shaun Rogers to move to defensive end where he can hopefully put some pressure on the quarterback as well as use his size to stuff the run. D’Qwell Jackson has become quite the force at inside linebacker and he is joined by the consistent veteran, Scott Fujita of the Saints. Fujita is only a couple of seasons removed from back to back 90+ tackle seasons and he still has the ability to post numbers like that again. The Browns also have newly acquired Matt Roth who serves as an effective pass rush specialist. Cornerback Eric Wright is rapidly morphing into a shut down corner and playing opposite of him will either be Sheldon Brown or rookie phenom Joe Haden out of Florida. Either way, the Browns will have a cornerback tandem that has the talent to be in the top 5 in the league. The defense still has some question marks and hasn’t been truly tested but don’t be surprised if these guys are able to put together a good season and make the Browns defense respectable.

Sleeper #4

Check off RB, WR and QB. Next up comes the TE. My first sleeper TE is…….

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Much like my last sleeper, Stafford, Miller is also tethered to a fairly subpar team but that doesn’t mean his fantasy season is doomed. There are a couple of reasons that I am a Zach Miller fan.

1) The dude is huge, like seriously. 6’5″ and 255 pounds which gives him enough size to abuse linebackers and secondary. The truly scary thing about Miller is not his size but his athleticism. He is a matchup nightmare as his size prevents the smaller, quicker guys from covering him but his speed lets him run circles around most linebackers. Miller was second in the league last year in yards per catch, trailing only annual all-star Antonio Gates. Like Gates, Dallas Clark and Owen Daniels (to name a few), Miller is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end’s body. The guy is a beast after catch as once he reaches top speed no single guy can quickly take him down. In fact, I bet you only a fully grown bull elephant could do that. If you don’t know what a bull elephant is then a) you have a life or b)you don’t watch nearly enough discovery channel or national geographic. There is a significant chance that points a and b could overlap. Anyways, take one look at Zach Miller’s 86 yard td against the eagles last season and you will see why this guy is a YAC machine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkYsXneqRpQ (Zach Miller’s td)

2)He is trending upwards. Entering his fourth year in the league, the Arizona State product is poised to have his best season yet.  In his first season he had 44 receptions for 444 yards, second season had 56 catches for 778 yards and last year he had 66 catches for 805 yards. His numbers have been going up every year and should continue to do so this year. All you need to do look at the last 4 games of last season (27 catches, 237 yards, 1td) to see that the Raiders finally understand Miller’s immense talent and are trying to incorporate him more. Extrapolate that data over a full season and Miller has 108 catches, 948 yards and 4 tds. Those are solid numbers and I actually believe them to be a little low for what Miller will do.

3) Raider’s improved offense. Really that should say No More Jamarcus (Off-da-markus for those who have had the misfortune of watching him) Russell!!!! Jason Campbell does have some talent and is a vast improvement at the quarterbacking position. That alone greatly boosts the Raider’s passing attack. Michael Bush and Run DMC (Darren McFadden) should be able to provide enough of a threat on the ground that opposing defenses can’t simply lock down on the passing game and blitz Campbell relentlessly. Developing wideouts Louis Murphy (check out his, #18, blocking on the Zach Miller 86 yard td, the guy works his tail off) and Chaz Schilens have enough talent to draw attention away from the center of the field which should free up Miller to dominate within the hash marks. First year quarterbacks are often uncomfortable taking chances and often look to their tight end as a security blanket which serves to boost Miller’s value.

This guy has the athleticism and talent to be an elite TE and it seems like the Raiders offense is finally catching up to him. He could be poised for a breakout year.

Fearless Forecast: 80 receptions, 1100 yards, 7 tds

Sleeper #3

Well that takes care of WR and RB, at least my first wave of them. Next comes one of a couple sleeper QBs that I have. My first sleeper QB is….

Matthew  Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Photo courtesy of Andy Benoit

I know, I know….he’s on the Lions. The Lions suck and they are a complete disaster, at least that is the common perception. The defense is bad, not quite as bad as its been but still pretty bad however the offense is not in the same ball park. Believe it or not, the Lions are a team poised to have a very solid offense, that might not turn into wins for the team but it helps out for fantasy players. There are a few reasons why I like Stafford.

1) He has a cannon of an arm. Stafford has shown some inconsistencies, but he is a young QB just learning the NFL and his short accuracy, awareness and receiver progressions were improving as last season went on and are bound to improve this season. The guy has the arm to get the ball down the field with accuracy and makes throws that gives his receivers chances to make plays after the catch.

2) His receivers. Everyone knows about Megatron. The 4th year player from Georgia Tech is a force. Quick enough to get down the field and burn guys after the catch on short routes. He is a crisp route runner with insane height and vertical leap and hands that seem perpetually coated in super glue. Granted his 67 reception, 984 yard, 5 td performance last year was disappointing but consider that a fluke. He missed some games due to injury and also had to deal with Daunte Culpepper chucking the rock for some games (essentially fantasy equivalence of lost games). Now Megatron is back and ready to go and alongside newly acquired Nate Burleson, Stafford has 1 astounding and 1 solid option at WR. Burleson should help take some of the attention of Megatron. Lets not forget about TE Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew seemed to be developing quite the connection with Pettigrew when he went down with a gruesome knee injury. Pettigrew spent all offseason rehabbing the knee and seems to be almost fully healthy and will be ready to go for the regular season. He has some great blocking skills that should serve to buy Stafford extra time in the pocket.

3) Improved running game. Kevin Smith was having a solid season last year until he went down with injuries. After that Maurice Morris took over and the wheels completely fell off the offense. They became one dimensional and predictable. The rushing attack was basically a non-threat and defenses focused entirely on stopping the passing attack and were effective in limiting Detroit’s offense. Kevin Smith is back this year and the addition of Jahvid Best greatly enhances the run game. Smith, when healthy, has proven to be an effective rusher and also a backfield receiving threat. Best was electric at Cal, making plays both on the ground and through the air. He has dazzling speed, gets to the outside effectively and can make defenders miss. I highly suggest watching some college clips as some of his moves are just mind-blowing (I know I killed a good hour watching and the Lions aren’t even my team). Stafford should benefit from the improved rushing attack as defenses can no longer focus solely on him. Best and Smith also provide extra check down options and are fully capable of turning short screens into long gains which further bolster Stafford’s potential.

4) The Lions sucky defense. Means they should be playing down a lot which means lots of throwing and more opportunities for Stafford to put up monster numbers.

Stafford is certainly a risky pick. He should be available in later rounds and will most likely be a steal at wherever he is drafted. He, like all sophomore quarterbacks, will make mistakes due to inexperience and he will throw costly, untimely picks. However, he has the talent and the tools surrounding him to post some big numbers and make the Lions’ offense fearsome.

Fearless Forecast: 4000 yards, 30 tds, 17 ints

Sleeper #2+

Alright well I looked back at my love for Devin Aromashodu and in all fairness I must include another Bear and that would be…..

Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears

Courtesy of AP Photos/Tom Kowalski

Now I like Knox for a lot of the same reasons that I like Aromashodu. He is bound to benefit from the Mike Martz offense as well as Cutler’s gunslinger mentality. Knox is a speed demon who runs a 4.35 40 and has really come along in his route running. He is the number 2 guy and really should be number one as he has demonstrated significantly better route-running and hands than Hester. He could really emerge as a viable deep threat for the strong-armed Cutler. He also has the ability to score some points in the return game so an all around great fantasy player.

Fearless Forecast: 60-70 receptions, 1000-1100 yards, 7-9 tds