SleepersOctober 2, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Jimmy Vanderpool

How is it that a pool that was so rich with WR talent over the first few weeks, dries up within a blink of an eye? This phenomenon is the “settling of the dust”. Each season presents an early season shakedown to find WRs that slipped past all of the experts.

Since a lot of NFL teams mask their offense in the preseason, a WRs development doesn’t surface until the season starts. At no other time during the NFL season, other than the preseason, will there be an abundance of WR talent that coaches actively attempt to hide. So over the coarse of the first few regular season NFL games, all of the hidden talent becomes exposed. This exposure is why the pool of hidden gems will dries up so rapidly.

But fantasy owners should feel confident that WR sleepers can still be located, even after the initial surge has depleted the WR sleeper pool. While the obvious WRs are gone, this just means that the research for player potential will have to dig deeper and assume more high risk. These players will carry a limited window of displayed NFL consistency, play for notorious poor passing offenses, and/or be labeled as a high injury tendency. At this juncture of the NFL season, this list will consist of Andre Caldwell, Mike Sims-Walker, and Kenny Britt. A special mention alert will also go towards Chaz Schilens at the close of this article.

Andre Caldwell:
Andre Caldwell has emerged as the clear cut WR3 in Cincinnati. After his 6 reception/52yd/1TD performance, that included the game winning clutch TD against division rival Pittsburgh, Caldwell immediately showed up on every WR sleeper radar. In addition to this game, he also posted a six reception game in Week 1. For the season, Caldwell is tied at fourteen for the reception lead on the Bengals with OchoCinco and is second on the team in receiving yards.

While it is easy to get excited about Andre “The Waterboy” Caldwell” (because of how he interviews), fantasy sleeper seekers should note that his ceiling appears modest at best. Consistency appears to be the forte of this WR but the low AVG 8.56yds per catch and the ever lurking presence of Chris Henry act as handcuffs that will choke out great fantasy production. While Chris Henry has only posted a total of three catches in three games, two have been for almost 20 yards each and the one catch that was for poor yardage went for a TD.

It is reasonable to expect Caldwell to become a solid possession WR, but until Chris Henry can be eradicated from the Bengals offense, owners should only anticipate minimal fantasy production from Caldwell on a weekly basis. Andre Caldwell’s status as a sleeper should be monitored closely though, because ultimately his consistency is defining an increasing role.

Mike Sims-Walker:
Jacksonville’s Mike Sims-Walker is showing that in his 3rd season, he is the biggest beneficiary from the addition of Torry Holt. While Holt draws the double team focus, Sims-Walker has posted back-to-back six reception games with one going for over 100 yards and a TD. He leads the Jax WRs in yards receiving and catches on the season despite posting zero catches in Week 1. In 2008, Sims-Walker posted a Week 5 6 catch/100 yard performance and a Week 4 5 catch/46yard performance.

The limitation that is holding Sims-Walker from becoming a solid sleeper is the fact that Jacksonville’s passing attack is fairly weak. They are ranked 16th in overall offense but only 19th in passing. David Garrard only threw three 2 TD or more games in 2008, while throwing 11 games of at least 200 yards. While the yardage is decent, the TD opportunity in Jacksonville is crippling.

But in terms of potential, Sims-Walker has displayed consistency the past two weeks and this alone makes him worthy of being considered a decent sleeper. Definitely merits consideration to become a solid sleeper.

Kenny Britt:
Kenny Britt, the former Rutgers WR, has really transitioned smoothly into the NFL, similar to Eddie Royal last season. He has displayed good route running and great hands. Although Tennessee is a poor passing offense, Britt has managed to lead the team with 166 yards in his rookie campaign.

The hindering side of Britt is that Tennessee spreads the ball around. Justin Gage leads the team with 13 catches compared to Britt’s 10 catches, and Nate Washington leads the team with 2 TDs while only posting 7 catches and 69 yards on the season. As the season progresses, expect the Tennessee offense to rely on Britt more by increasing his role weekly.

Chaz Schilens:
Chaz Schilens has started practicing in a limited capacity this week. The injury status of Schilens to start the season may have allowed him to slip through undrafted in a lot of leagues.

Owners will want to add Schilens now before he is fully recovered and starts to receive constant positive practice reports. During the final two regular season games of the 2008 season, Schilens displayed a “lights coming on” with Russell by posting a TD in each game. He then carried over this solidifying chemistry into the preseason, with a 5 catch/52yd preseason Week 1, before suffering a broken toe. The biggest note about the preseason Week 1 game is that he had a 45 yard pass interference call that affected his final stat-line. If Chaz Schilens is available for any reason, then it is strongly advised that all fantasy owners should pursue him at this time.

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