SleepersOctober 16, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Jimmy Vanderpool

To date, the young 2009 NFL season has provided owners a temporary luxury by delaying the devastating IR injuries to the elite RBs. But owners should anticipate this to change within the next couple of weeks. Since the waiver wires are almost completely depleted of immediate impact talent, the RB sleeper watch should now be shifting to the backup RB watch. One of the biggest keys to success in fantasy football is the ability of owners to not only overcome but to also capitalize on the ”big” injury. No successful fantasy team ever starts out on day one of a new season and ends on the last day of that season with the exact same fantasy starting lineup.

The best place to start the preparation is to look at the RB3 for each NFL team. It is the fact that the RB3 is so gravely buried on the depth chart that deters most fantasy owners from using a roster spot on them. Voila, an instant, untouched, hidden vault of sleepers. Once the IR injuries begin, these players will gain immediate value and in some cases, these are the players that will carry teams into the fantasy playoffs. As recent prime examples, look at how far NYG had to dig to find Ahmad Bradshaw, and it was the same with GB and Ryan Grant, TB and Earnest Graham, NO and Pierre Thomas, BAL and LeRon McClain, and DEN and Peyton Hillis. All provided significant sparks for their fantasy teams at some point.

Here is a list of what I deem as the current NFL RB3 pool (some teams are unclear on distinct RB2-RB3-RB4 status according to depth charts):

Ari – Jason Wright
Atl – Jason Snelling
Bal – LeRon McClain
Buf – Xavier Omon
Car – Mike Goodson (R)
Chi – Garrett Wolfe
Cin – Brian Leonard
Cle – Chris Jennings (R)
Dal – Tashard Choice
Den – Peyton Hillis
Det – Aaron Brown (R)
Pit – Mewelde Moore
GBP – DeShawn Wynn
Hou – Ryan Moats
Ind – Chad Simpson
Jax – Rashard Jennings (R)
KCC – Kolby Smith
Mia – Lex Hilliard (R)
Min – Albert Young (R)
NEP – BenJarvis Green Ellis
NOS – Mike Bell
NYG – Danny Ware
NYJ – Shonn Greene (R)
Oak – Justin Fargas
Phi – Eldra Buckley (R)
SDC – Michael Bennett
SFO – Michael Robinson
Sea – Justin Forsett
StL – Samkon Gado
TBB – Earnest Graham
Ten – Javon Ringer (R)
Was – Marcus Mason

Now we can break this group down into three groups of value. The high value (likely unavailable) group, the drafted/undrafted rookie group, and the players that have received high NFL reports at least once so far in their career.

  • Players like Choice, Fargas, Graham, Moore, and Bell obviously have value currently high enough that they may not be available in most leagues. Each of these players are borderline RB2 but due to NFL team situation they have been pushed back into a RB3 role.
  • Next is the rookie group, both drafted and undrafted. Players like M Goodson, J Ringer, R Jennings, A Brown, and S Greene came via the NFL draft and thus carry bigger name notoriety. But it is just as important to also track the no names such as Chris Jennings, Eldra Buckley, Albert Young and Lex Hilliard. Remember that the bigger the surprise, the bigger the chance that player’s value was mistakenly underrated.  
  • Lastly, take notice of players that have experienced success at some point in their NFL career but are now afterthoughts because of any odd reason imaginable. Players like McClain, Hillis, Bennett, Moats, and Green-Ellis all could have fantasy value if the right situation befalls upon them.

Players of special interest:

Mike Goodson
Based on preseason play, Goodson showed that he could compete on the NFL level. In fact, the only reason that Goodson is not a fantasy factor at the moment is because he is a victim of being buried on a depth chart featuring really great RBs behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Marcus Mason
Mason is a preseason monster. Last season, he led all of the NFL RBs in preseason rushing.

Brian Leonard
Leonard has show a great ability to “leap” over defenders. He runs hard but his jets seem limited as a fast startup. Although he appears to make defenders miss, it usually looks more like a missed tackle rather than an elite move on the part of Leonard.

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