This week’s Sleeper Watch features a 2009 first-round wide receiver coming off a career week, a signal caller who slid in this year’s NFL Draft, and a former Green Bay Packers second-round draft choice who was quickly cast off and may have a chance to take over signal calling duties elsewhere this year.
Darrius Heyward-Bey | WR | Oakland | 6 percent Yahoo! ownership
Darrius Heyward-Bey was last year’s widely criticized first-round selection of the Oakland Raiders. Everyone and their brother claimed Al Davis lost his mind last year when he chose to draft DHB before the more heralded Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. While selecting him where they did was a reach, Heyward-Bey did grade out as a first round pick by most draft pundits, thanks to his large frame (6′2 and 210 lbs) and his blazing 40-yard dash time at the combine (4.3 seconds). In his first season, Heyward-Bey was only able to tally nine receptions for 124 yards, causing many to dismiss him as just another toolsy combine freak with whom Davis wrongly fell in love. However, it’s hard to lay all of last year’s disappointing season at DHB’s feet, as the man attempting to get him the football for most of the season was none other than JaMarcus Russell, who not coincidentally since getting cut by the Raiders has been unable to even land a third string gig with another team.
Heyward-Bey’s first game this season was once again yawn inducing, as he only caught one pass for 11 yards, but his Week 2 follow-up this Sunday gives a glimmer of hope to fantasy relevance this season. To start the second half of Sunday’s contest against the St. Louis Rams, head coach Tom Cable opted to remove Jason Campbell and hand quarterbacking duties over to Bruce Gradkowski, who completed five passes to Heyward-Bey for 74 yards. It remains to be seen who the Raiders opt to start at quarterback going forward this year, but either Gradkowski or Campbell are leaps and bounds better than Russell; thus, DHB has a more reliable passer to toss him the football. Also taking into account that he is now in his second season and further acclimated to the pro game, it is easy to see him taking a large leap forward this year.
Those in deep leagues looking to speculate on upside should give Heyward-Bey a look. He’s likely to hold greater value in the short term in non-PPR leagues thanks to his big play ability and the fact he’s still learning the nuances of being a complete receiver. For that reason he’s a bit raw, but he’s someone who should be on all owners radars in medium to large leagues.
Jimmy Clausen | QB | Carolina | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
Much of the talk of the 2010 NFL Draft was just how far former Notre Dame starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen fell (16th pick in the 2nd round). It looks as if Clausen may be getting the opportunity to prove his worth and stick it to the teams that passed on him earlier than expected. He replaced an ineffective Matt Moore in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.
Head coach John Fox has already been quoted as saying the Panthers will start the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win next week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Regardless of who starts, they are a must-bench against a solid Bengals secondary that made Joe Flacco look terrible on Sunday. However, with a strong running game and an elite number one wide receiver in Steve Smith, he has the tools around him to be successful as a rookie. Right now he’s a must add in leagues that start two quarterbacks and a solid gamble emergency quarterback in large leagues that start just one. Sam Bradford’s start to the season should serve as a solid barometer for what Clausen may be capable of doing if he takes over the starting gig.
Brian Brohm | QB | Buffalo | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
This week’s very deep sleeper is current Buffalo Bills third string quarterback Brian Brohm. Two games into the year, Trent Edwards has been putrid. Edwards’ current line reads 29 for 52 (55.8 percent completion rate) for 241 yards (120.5 yards per game) with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Bills are 0-2 and clearly the doormat of the AFC East, if not the entire NFL. The Bills have a new head coach and general manager this year with no ties to the Edwards draft selection, thus no reason to validate the pick.
As of now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Bills backup quarterback, but at 27 years of age with a track record of poor play, it seems likely that the man to eventually unseat Trent Edwards at starter for the Bills would be 24-year-old Brian Brohm, a former second round pick in 2008. Brohm was a standout at Louisville but played in zero regular season games for the Packers before they opted to cut ties with him last year and roll with Matt Flynn as their backup quarterback. The Bills decided to take a flier on Brohm, signing him off the Packers practice squad and even going so far as to give him a start last year. He was unspectacular in the start but discussed as a possible starter in the offseason in what was deemed an open competition at the position. Those in deep leagues that start two quarterbacks, or essentially start all or near all starting NFL quarterbacks, should add Brohm to their watch lists and be prepared to add him in the event the Bills shuffle things up at the quarterback position.
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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