SleepersAugust 28, 2012

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Sleeper Watch

By Bradley Cooper

Every play, every hit, every yard increases the chances of someone being injured, becoming a superstar or losing out on their dream. The NFL is full of surprises each season and fantasy football is a recreation of it. When you enter a fantasy football league you are competing to win a prize and you are no different than the guy on field that could probably bench press you or run to the store and back before you made it to your car. As a fan, your competitive instincts need to take over and owners need to look for any edge to win. No one wants to walk into work the next day or meet up with their friends after losing by 50 points and becoming the worst team in the league.

Always look for the player who will exceed draft expectations. A player like Stevan Ridley is a guy to target in the fifth or sixth round. He has the potential to put up big numbers being the Patriots new goal-line back and clock-killer. If he can control the question of ball security issues, Ridley could easily approach double digit scores.

Reggie Bush has been falling in drafts lately, and I’m not sure why. The Dolphins haven’t made many changes coming into the 2012 season aside from quarterback. I would argue they even improved upon that position. Expect them to rely on their only offensive playmaker when no one else steps up for them. With the goal of the rushing title in his sights, fantasy owners have to love the extra motivation.

Cedric Benson should be a huge target for everyone going into draft day this year. I think his value on the Packers will elevate him to RB2 status this year, or at the very least make him a solid flex option. I actually think he takes value away from Aaron Rodgers because he finally gives them a goal-line back. The Packers even went to John Kuhn last season before they handed the ball off to James Starks or Ryan Grant. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see Benson used like Ridley in New England. He will become a strong short-yardage back running between the tackles and will be in to kill the clock. He has extra motivation to prove everyone wrong who passed on him in free agency. Fantasy owners have to marinate in the idea of a 1,000-yard, 10-score season if he plays up to his potential.

Ryan Williams’s stock could be the highest it’ll be all season right now or at its lowest. Beanie Wells appeared in his first preseason game and showed no signs of his injury still bothering him. Wells had a great season last year after hitting double digit scores while fighting off injuries all season. His value is rock bottom right now, and it’s a great time to jump on him. Williams is still coming off of surgery this season and I believe the team will have some limits on his carries for the majority of the season. The future is the focus for this Cardinals franchise right now.

In standard formats, I always drop my kicker in the preseason and take a flier on a running back. If your league allows this I’d advise using this strategy. My roster stays invalid until the day before the season starts, where I pare my roster down and pick up a kicker. It is an effective way to take chances on various players, because if one doesn’t pan out they are easily expendable. Owners who drafted early and took fliers on Kevin Smith, Rashard Mendenhall, Benson, David Wilson and Williams are looking pretty good at this point. All these players have a great chance to outproduce their draft values going into preseason. Mendenhall was activated from the PUP list and is expected to make a contribution after the team’s bye in Week 4. Jahvid Best’s career is still in question and Mikel Leshoure is suspended, making Smith the Lions starter for at least those first two games. Smith is very injury prone, but I like his ceiling early on. He has the chance to light up the scoreboard for fantasy owners, but you’ll find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat holding your breathe every time he touches the ball. Wilson was the Giants’ first-round pick for a reason. Ahmad Bradshaw is already dealing with a hand injury, so expect Wilson to have opportunities to prove himself the starter later in the season.

A lot of fantasy owners seem to draft and then wait all preseason to make trades until the regular season. Be aware that you’ll never get the guys you want once they start performing like you predicted. I’m not going to wait for Reggie Bush to put up a 20-point game before trading for him. Both sides are giving up players that they feel won’t perform like the players they are receiving. Yes, you could wait until the player you liked had a bad game and try to capitalize on a bitter owner, but what if the players you had get injured or play even worse and the other owner loses interest. There are too many variables once the season starts to make anything other than lower tier trades to help supplement your team. An owner who had Reggie Bush as their fourth RB could have them as their second RB by Week 2 of the season based on injuries.

Just remember that the fantasy season is about pure enjoyment. It is about digging into match-ups and finding a new understanding and respect for the game. Sundays become an escape for the owner, and every play becomes a slow moment in time: the possibility of Jamaal Charles breaking that tackle and taking off down field, the moment Brandon Marshall jumps over the cornerback for the Jay Cutler touchdown pass at the end of regulation. Each moment takes the fantasy owner by storm.

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