In the Trenches: Uncovering the sleepers
April 10, 2003
By Michael Fabiano
Commissioner.COM Fantasy Writer
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In the Trenches offers insider information, advice and in-depth analysis to keep you updated on all the latest news in Fantasy Football. Check back every Thursday, year-round, for an array of preseason draft strategy, regular-season coverage, postseason highlights and offseason player analysis.
Sleepers are always on the minds of Fantasy Football owners. Being able to snag a player in the late rounds who performs above and beyond expectations can be the difference between fielding an average team and a championship contender. Most drafts are still more than five months away, but it's never too early to examine how offseason movement and possible depth chart changes have increased the value of some up-and-coming Fantasy players.
Here's an early look at some of the players Fantasy owners should keep tabs on in the coming months.
Drew Bennett, WR, Tennessee: Kevin Dyson's departure via free agency creates an opening for Bennett. He showed some ability late in the 2002 season while Dyson was sidelined with a hamstring injury, so coach Jeff Fisher should give him a chance to play a prominent role in the offense. Bennett's sleeper potential will decrease if the team signs a veteran receiver.
Marc Boerigter, WR, Kansas City: Boerigter actually posted more receiving touchdowns (8) than Tony Gonzalez, Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison last season. He became a reliable red-zone target for Trent Green and proved himself as a downfield threat as well. Boerigter will only improve with time and experience.
Drew Brees, QB, San Diego: Brees was very inconsistent in his first season as a starter, but better days lie ahead for the young signal-caller. The addition of David Boston and potential of Tim Dwight and Reche Caldwell as reliable receiving options bodes very well for Brees. Having LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield doesn't hurt either.
Correll Buckhalter missed the entire 2002 season with a knee injury. (Getty Images)
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Philadelphia: Buckhalter was expected to play a bigger role in Philadelphia's offense last season before suffering a major knee injury during an April minicamp. His rehabilitation has reportedly gone very well, and his stock as a Fantasy player will only increase with an impressive performance in training camp.
Trung Canidate, RB, Washington: Canidate is a perfect fit for coach Steve Spurrier's "Fun 'N' Gun" offense and has a chance to emerge as a weekly starter on Fantasy teams. He has some experience as a featured back in a high-scoring offense from his days in St. Louis, and his blazing speed makes Canidate a threat to score anytime he touches the ball.
Desmond Clark, TE, Chicago: Clark compiling 566 receiving yards and six touchdowns as Shannon Sharpe's replacement in Denver just two seasons ago. Injuries and the emergence of Randy McMichael hurt his value in Miami, but Clark will have a chance to re-emerge as a valuable Fantasy commodity.
Troy Hambrick, RB, Dallas: Coach Bill Parcells has always focused his offenses on the run, whether it was O.J. Anderson with the N.Y. Giants or Curtis Martin with New England and the N.Y. Jets. Hambrick has shown flashes of brilliance in the past and has the potential to be a 1,000-yard, six- to eight-touchdown back as long as the Cowboys passing game improves.
Kelly Holcomb, QB, Cleveland: Coach Butch Davis has already stated that Holcomb will have a chance to vie for the starting job with Tim Couch during training camp. Holcomb was impressive in the absence of Couch last season, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 109.6 in two starts.
Ashley Lelie, WR, Denver: Lelie might be third on Denver's depth chart behind Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, but he has much more long-term appeal. He had a few strong performances during the latter part of last season, and could emerge as a reliable No. 3 Fantasy receiver if either Smith or McCaffrey fall prey to injury.
Stacey Mack, RB, Houston: Mack could have signed with Jacksonville or the Giants for more money, but he opted for Houston to prove himself worthy of a starting role. The Texans have some questions in their passing game and offensive line, but Mack still has the potential to be a useful Fantasy option, especially in touchdown-based leagues.
Jason McAddley, WR, Arizona: The departures of Boston, MarTay Jenkins and Frank Sanders means a more prominent role in the offense for McAddley. Injuries forced him into a starting role too quickly last season, but the experience McAddley gained was priceless. Jeff Blake loves to throw the long ball, and McAddley could emerge as his favorite target.
Santana Moss, WR, N.Y. Jets: With Laveranues Coles in Washington, Moss will become a much more prominent part of the Jets' passing game. He has great speed and playmaking ability, and offensive coordinator Paul Hackett will use him regularly to stretch the field. If Moss is ever going to emerge as a quality Fantasy receiver, this will be the season.
Patrick Ramsey, QB, Washington: Ramsey still has a lot to learn but he also has the weapons to emerge as a Fantasy starter by midseason. He will have endless opportunities to succeed in Spurrier's pass-happy offense, especially with Canidate in the backfield and a re-vamped receiving corps.
Tai Streets, WR, San Francisco: San Francisco has already given J.J. Stokes permission to seek out a trade with another team, meaning Streets will likely enter next season as the team's No. 2 receiver. Playing alongside Terrell Owens will mean a lot of single coverages for Streets, who'll have a great chance at a 1,000-yard, six-to-eight-touchdown season.
Javon Walker, WR, Green Bay: Terry Glenn has been traded to Dallas, leaving the door open for Walker to emerge as a starter alongside Donald Driver. He has all the tools to succeed, a year of NFL experience under his belt and the advantage of being on the receiving end of passes from Brett Favre.
Amos Zereoue, RB, Pittsburgh: Jerome Bettis' status with the team won't be known until after the draft, but there's little doubt that Zereoue should emerge as Pittsburgh's featured back. He is a much better fit for Pittsburgh's new passing-based offense than his veteran counterpart, and has the potential to be a 1,000-yard, eight-to-10-touchdown back.
Edgerrin James, who is 17 months removed from major knee surgery, feels as good as he did before sustaining the injury. He is playing basketball, lifting weights and feels he's running again like the league's two-time rushing leader. He is even participating in the team's voluntary passing camp this week, which is a welcomed change. James was easily one of the most valuable players in Fantasy Football entering the 2001 season, and continued good news in his lengthy recovery from knee reconstruction will only improve his stock on Draft Day. Right now he's worth a late first-round pick.
The recent addition of Chad Morton makes the Washington defense/special teams much more appealing from a Fantasy perspective. Morton was awarded to the Redskins by an arbitrator, who upheld the NFL Players Association's claim that the N.Y. Jets improperly matched a five-year, nearly $8 million contract offer sheet to Morton last month. The Jets reportedly failed to match a provision in the Redskins' offer to void the final two seasons of the contract. Morton joins fellow free-agent addtions defensive end Regan Upshaw, defensive tackle Brandon Noble and safety Matt Bowen on what might be a top-10 Fantasy defense next season.