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BY ANDY GOLDSTEIN
For our 2008 NFL Draft Kit, we’ve got a bunch of stuff planned to get y’all ready for the upcoming season. Without giving too much away, we’re going to get you the best customizable cheat sheets in the history of the world. But that will happen in a little bit. For now, here’s my list of sleepers and busts. One each per position. Enjoy.
Sleeper – Matt Leinart - Yes, we all know that Leinart might get two starts and then be yanked in favour of Kurt Warner. He might be ineffective and he’s had injury issues in his brief NFL career. I don’t care. Look at the upside! He has two uber talented wide outs to throw to, a lousy run game that won’t take away many yards or scores, and a team that will be in plenty of shootouts. Right now, Leinart’s ADP is after the tenth round. He is, on average, the 19th quarterback taken in drafts, and that may be entirely justified. Ahead of him are guys like Eli Manning and Jon Kitna. Leinart can outperform both by wide margins for a much lower price.
Bust - Jay Cutler - Many prognosticators have been falling over themselves to call Cutler the next big thing at quarterback. He progressed well last season and developed a great rapport with studly wide out Brandon Marshall. But that’s kind of the problem. Marshall has already been suspended for two or three games (depending on behaviour) and he still has outstanding legal issues which could cause further suspensions. On top of this, Marshall tore his arm up in the offseason while wrestling with a sibling. Cutler has other options, namely tight end Tony Scheffler (the Scheff!) and the surprisingly still only 29 year old Darrell Jackson (sleeper alert!), but those two can’t combine to be the force that Marshall was. Cutler still shouldn’t be relied on as a starter, and I prefer my backups to have that potential.
Sleeper – Earnest Graham - Few times in my fantasy football prognostication career have I been as mystified about a certain player’s pre-season ranking as I have with Graham’s. Experts seem to be down on his ability to hold off Carnell Williams and Warrick Dunn for 20 carries a game. Say what? Williams has been resting on his laurels since Week Three of his rookie campaign. Dunn is 52 years old* and couldn’t quite reach that lofty goal of 3.3 yards per carry last season. Graham, meanwhile, was one of the top running backs in the league over the second half of the season. I had to emphasize that because I think everyone forgot about it. He’s falling to the fourth round in 12-team leagues and is being taken as the 20th-ranked back, which means you can take him in the third round and laugh and laugh and laugh.
- Age estimated from scientific evidence.
Bust - Joseph Addai - This might seem silly, but when I take a guy in the first round of my fantasy draft, I want him to be the focal point of the offense. I want everything to be about him. Even mid-first rounders like Frank Gore, Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, and Clinton Portis are their respective offenses. Sure, secondary options like Addai can have success, but consistency becomes an issue. When Peyton Manning and the Colt passing offense is rolling, Addai can get lost in the shuffle. That, along with injuries (which might still be an issue if the silly Hall of Fame game means anything) conspired to give the Colt back nine games of sub-75 yards rushing. Addai is, at best, a late first rounder, which means he’ll never end up on my team.
Sleeper - Chris Chambers - Okay, okay, okay. I know. He’s been in the league for seven seasons and he’s had only one worthy fantasy season. But his best quarterback for six and a half years was Jay Fiedler. It’s really not his fault. In seven starts with Philip Rivers, Chambers averaged 63 yards per game and almost a half a score per game. Those aren’t all-world numbers, but extrapolate them over 16 games, and you’re looking at a 1,000-yard, eight-score season, which should be good enough to make him worth a second wide out spot.
Bust – Wes Welker - Look, Welker is a nice enough wide out. He’s fast. He can find the soft spot in a zone, especially when no one even tries to cover him. But aren’t we getting a little carried away here? He’s the 13th wide out going off the board, which is absolutely nuts. He is still a slot receiver. Defenses will adapt to the Patriot passing strategies, which often left Welker alone over the middle of the field. There will be plenty of linebackers just waiting to give Welker a little payback. Last year was an awesome campaign for the diminutive wide out, but it was clearly a career season, so don’t expect many 100-yard games, don’t expect ten scores and definitely don’t expect 100 receptions.
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