With the first Sunday of football in the books, and only the two Monday Night Football games left before Week 1 is a thing of the past, it is time to look at this week’s sleepers. Featured this week are a surprise contributor in Denver’s receiving corps, a potential time-share running back in Cleveland, and a possible handcuff lurking in Cincinnati.
Brandon Lloyd | WR | Denver
Brandon Lloyd hasn’t been fantasy relevant since his 2005-06 season with the San Francisco 49ers in which he had 48 receptions for 733 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, Brandon Marshall’s 101 receptions in 2009 are up for grabs in Denver, and Lloyd helped himself to five on Sunday for an eye popping 23.4 yards per catch and 117 yards. With head coach Josh McDaniels at the helm, it stands to reason that the Denver Broncos will air the football out a ton, likely utilizing their wide receivers heavily and largely ignoring their tight ends, a formula that McDaniels has used since his days as the offensive coordinator in New England.
Jabar Gaffney was the wide receiver who received love during fantasy drafts, but with Gaffney having a history of mediocrity, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Lloyd is the more productive wide receiver as the season winds along. The Broncos spent a first round pick on Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, but he was inactive for the season opener — in spite of being a full practice participant the week leading up to the game — mostly due to lack of work in the preseason because of a foot injury. Even though he’s now healthy, it appears Lloyd has a bit of time to carve out a niche for himself before the Broncos’ rookie wide receiver starts creeping up the depth chart.
Peyton Hillis | RB | Cleveland
Brought in as part of the trade that saw Brady Quinn shipped to the Denver Broncos, Peyton Hills was able to make a quick impression on head coach Eric Mangini this preseason. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hillis saw as many carrie (nine) as starter Jerome Harrison. In addition to receiving as many carries as the starter, he was also the only Browns running back to see paydirt and score a touchdown the opening week of the season.
The glaring negative against Hillis after Week 1 is that he put the ball on the ground twice, losing one of his two fumbles. It’s likely he’ll have a short leash until he proves the fumbles were a one week aberration, but for now he appears to be the bruiser yin to the burner Harrison’s yang. Hillis should be viewed right now as a goal line vulture and a must-own in touchdown heavy scoring formats, with the possibility for a higher ceiling than that. Those in point-per-reception formats should view Hillis in an even more favorable light as well thanks to his pass catching skills out of the backfield.
Bernard Scott | RB | Cincinnati
Cedric Benson’s opening line of 15 carries for 43 yards (2.9 yards per carry) with a touchdown and a fumble lost almost certainly left a sour taste in the mouths of his fantasy owners. While one poor performance doesn’t ruin an entire fantasy season, it is worth noting, since last year’s Patriots run defense was at best, mediocre, allowing 110.5 yards per game at a 4.4 yard per carry clip.
Most (but not all) of Bernard Scott’s opening week work as Benson’s backup came in mop-up time late, and he was the more effective back averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Scott was also able to reel in three receptions. Benson only had 17 receptions all of last year, so it’s possible, if not likely, that Scott could see some third-down work as a receiver out of the backfield, assuming he’s also capable of pass protection and picking up blitzes. While this seems obvious, it bears mentioning: it is always better to be early grabbing a handcuff than late. That makes now the time to speculate that Benson’s 2009 proves to be a statistical outlier and Scott supplants him as the starter in the early going and runs away with the starting gig.
Josh Shepardson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of B-Chad.
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