This fantasy season the Sleepers column will be taking on a slightly different look, as it will feature multiple players each week as opposed to a single sleeper of the week. With that in mind, this week’s column features two former top-ten draft selections and a newly minted starting quarterback in the desert.
When the Raiders selected Darren McFadden fourth overall out of Arkansas, it was easy to see why people had thoughts of Adrian Peterson version 2.0 dancing through their heads. Two disappointing seasons later, many have cast McFadden off as just another top-ten selection to bust for a team, the Oakland Raiders, that has become the butt of many jokes amongst football observers. Currently his ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 98, so this is not your classic sleeper in the sense no one is aware of him as a player, but more of a post hype breakout candidate.
McFadden boasts a big body (6′2 and 210 pounds) with blazing speed (4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL combine) and receiving ability out of the backfield supported by his 50 career receptions and 530 yards in spite of irregular work. It appears in addition to having tantalizing measurables, that he also will have opportunity, as his running mate in the Oakland backfield, Michael Bush, has suffered a Bennett fracture and four-to-six weeks of recovery for the injury appears to be a best case scenario, according to Dr. Michael Schwartz.
Previously burned fantasy owners can be forgiven for their short memories and possibly forgetting that in just his second NFL contest the former two-time Heisman runner-up and Doak Walker award winner rushed for 164 yards. With that reminder in place, it’s probably time to give one last chance to Darren McFadden, as those same burned owners will only be further chapped if he’s able to run off with a feature role in the time Michael Bush misses and live up to the previously lofty expectations heaped upon him. Finally, furthering the cause for owning McFadden this season, and any other Oakland Raider for that matter, is the fact that Jamarcus Russell is no longer the ring leader of the Raiders circus, and Jason Campbell is now the new starting QB in Raider Nation. With NFL defenses no longer able to completely ignore the possibility of the Raiders throwing the football, McFadden should see less stacked fronts, and have a slightly easier road to hoe. With so many teams implementing multi-back systems, the potential exists that if all things click and McFadden is able to earn the lion’s share of the carries in Oakland for a top 15-20 season at the RB position at a fraction of the price. Further bump him up your cheat sheets and rankings in PPR leagues given his previously mentioned strong receiving skills out of the backfield.
Like Darren McFadden, Mike Williams of the Seattle Seahawks is a former top-ten NFL draft selection who has fell well short of living up to his draft hoopla. Two years removed from taking his last NFL snaps, reportedly at a weight as heavy as 270 pounds no less, Williams has been given a second chance by his former college coach and new Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Williams has re-dedicated himself to his craft and getting into shape, and his strong preseason has shown as much. He has done enough to date to embolden the front office to cut ties with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and crack the team’s top-three receivers. At 6′5 he presents a large body in the red zone yet has enough speed to be useful at all points of the field. It remains to be seen if Matt Hasselbeck will be able to stay upright long enough to sling the ball to Williams, but with an ADP that doesn’t crack the top 200 at Mock Draft Central, he is a low risk, moderate upside starting wide receiver worth monitoring in shallow leagues and owning in deeper leagues with medium to large benches.
The final featured player this week is new Arizona Cardinals starting QB Derek Anderson. The 2007-2008 fantasy darling has gone sky diving without a parachute the last few seasons, spiraling to an embarassing low point of being cut by the lowly Browns and replaced by Jake Delhomme, a man the Browns view as an upgrade at the position who posted an ugly 8:18 touchdown to interception rate last year.
Being cut from the Browns and added by the Arizona Cardinals was the greatest thing that could have happened to Anderson’s fantasy value, short of allowing him to wear a red practice pinnie in regular season games and face skeleton defenses. Anderson has always been known as a strong armed quarterback, but he has also been equally noted for his inaccuracy, supported by a 52.9 percent completion rate. Even in his Pro-Bowl season he was only able to complete 56.5 percent of his passes.
Largely forgotten about Anderson’s success with the Browns in that rags-to-riches season was that he was aided by a big wide receiver (Braylon Edwards) who was able to go get the ball and help marginalize his accuracy issues. Those taking a flyer on Anderson as their backup QB this season are likely hoping Larry Fitzgerald, who by all accounts is a much better receiver than Braylon Edwards, can do for Anderson in 2010-2011 what Edwards was able to in 2007-2008. In addition to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals boast 6′0 Steve Breaston, 6′0 Early Ducet, and 6′5 undrafted rookie Stephen Williams (who has had an electric preseason and is a deep sleeper in his own right) at the WR position. Anderson’s current ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 290, meaning he can be had late, though I’d expect that number to rise with the official release of Matt Leinart. Anderson is a great backup QB option for those who own an elite starter and are willing to take a gamble for a potential trade chip to bolster another position as the year wears on, or for those unwilling to spend a high pick on a QB and hoping to throw “stuff” at the wall and see what sticks.
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