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Article:Fantasy Football 2009's Comatose Sleepers

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NOTE: This article is LONG. Seriously, it's long as in... Michael Crabtree's holdout dispute long. It's long like... Tom Cable's restraining order length long. It's like... okay fine, I'll stop now. That definitely wasn't going anywhere good. Anyway, I highly suggest printing this all out and reading it in somewhere where you'll have a lot of time and won't be disturbed, a la... a bathroom or... a tree house or something.

The subject of fantasy "sleepers", "super sleepers", and "comatose sleepers" is often a touchy one. For the majority of fantasy players who largely consider themselves "in-the-know", to admit that they aren't aware of any player – no matter how obscure they may be – can often be seen as a cardinal offense. Punishable by scorn even!

Add to this that the actual definition of "sleeper" and "super sleeper" varies greatly from person to person and league to league, and you've got yourself a good old-fashioned natural recipe for drama and vehement insults. Good times!

Regardless, which players are actually classified as sleepers can vary greatly from person to person. For some people, well-known players who're a lock to have fantastic seasons such as Tony Gonzalez are considered a sleeper. These same people likely play in 6-8 team leagues and don't watch much football outside of their localized favorite team. They've likely been given everything they wanted throughout their life and like to keep things as simple and non-complex as possible – no matter HOW stupid it may sometimes make them seem.

For still others, possible practice-squad bound players such as Lex Hilliard and Julian Edelman are considered sleepers. These people usually play in 12-14 team leagues and watch every single game humanly possible via NFL Sunday Ticket or bootlegged game Internet streams. They usually like to study all sides of every decision before pulling the trigger and also probably enjoy making lists about the most inane, non-important topics like the best cereals of all-time. Unless they're married, of course. Then they likely make secret lists in their head about how many different ways they could run far, far away.

Really though, who's to say who's correct and who's not here? Since everyone's definition differs, even the people who consider Tony Gonzalez a sleeper and should by all accounts be beaten upside the head with a baseball bat aren't necessarily "wrong". Dumb? Yes. Out of touch with reality? Most definitely! But wrong? That's also probably a yes, but from the public relations side of things, maybe-possibly no! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it makes other people want to bottle said person upside the back of the head whenever they say anything.

But since it would largely take a miracle for Tony Gonzalez to be available past the sixth round – even in a small eight-team league – it really does no one any good going into their own drafts thinking the guy will have a monster season. There are not many people who are asleep on Tony Gonzalez this year, and if they are, it's probably because they are, LEGIT, actually asleep or something.

In the interests of actually helping some people out in their drafts (or even with waiver/free agent claims if you've already had your draft), I've decided to put together a list of players who I consider to be "comatose sleepers". That is, players who fly under the radar even during conversations about possible sleepers and who also have a realistic shot at breaking out in some way, shape or form this season.

So sit back, buckle up and feel free to curse me out for not writing this several weeks earlier. I had to pay the bills, put food on the table and all of that other uninteresting, grueling stuff we need to do in the fantasy game we all know as life. If you disagree with my selections in any way though, please don't hesitate to leave a comment that suggests that I have never won a fantasy league title and have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. Those always turn out to be a good time.

Anyways, the most important thing to remember for this whole thing is to not expect the players listed here to become the next big thing at their respective positions. All of the players listed in this write-up should be taken with a late-round flier if you agree with my analysis defending why they're worth more than a second look. They could remain on your bench for the entire year while they could just as easily become the glue that cements the mid-season trade offer that pushes you into title contention.

The best way to delve into the following list of players is to do so with an optimistic, upside-minded approach. Despite my analysis for each, you could just as easily argue why all of them shouldn’t be taken whatsoever. The most important thing though, is that you recognize what role each of these players will play – if any – on your (or someone else’s) fantasy team. Leagues aren’t won by correctly choosing the right player to take with your #3 overall pick. Leagues ARE often won with wise, well-informed late round drafting that provides depth and quality backups to be used should injuries or poor seasons arise throughout the season. This shit’s deep, I know!

All average draft position (ADP) information is for a 12-team league list only.

With all of that all finally out of the way though, let’s get this shizzle started shall we?!

Players have been listed in order by last name with help from our good friend the alphabet. Without further ado:

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Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram (Wide Receivers, Kansas City Chiefs)

Earliest average draft position: Bradley (N/A), Engram (N/A)

A lot of people have been staying away from Kansas City players during their fantasy drafts, and to be honest, it's hard to argue against this being a sound strategy. However, despite the fact that we can't really see the Chiefs offense producing much in the way of fantasy points this year doesn't mean that they won't. They're going to run the ball and they're going to pass the ball. How effectively they do each of these is another story ENTIRELY, but even expecting the Kansas City passing attack to be average at best would still make their top three receivers worth a look. Am I right? What'ya say? Is there anyone even still reading this far down?

Bradleymark83

Everyone knows and has a 2009 opinion about Dwayne Bowe. Whether or not you think he's fully motivated coming into this season is not that important since he's still going to see his fair share of double teams from opposing defenses. This naturally opens up the field for the other Chiefs wide outs, and since Tony Gonzalez is gone, the WR2 and WR3 spots are as important as ever to the quarterback. Cue Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram; one is a no-name backup whose shown occasional flashes of brilliance while the other is a semi-consistent, crafty veteran who's seen more than his fair share of nagging injuries.

At best, they should see plenty of balls thrown their way with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm who will rapidly switch to his check downs when he finds Bowe double-teamed and no real TE prospect worth receiving his lovin'.

Although you could go either way with choosing who to take over the other, I would personally take Engram, if only because he's an established pass-catcher who's proven that he can be effective if he stays healthy. He may be 36, but age doesn't seem to matter as much with wide receivers, and he looks to have plenty left in his tank if he can somehow stay away from getting all banged up and broken.

Bradley certainly has a lot more upside and has shown to be quite capable in the red zone during his limited playing time the past three years. Despite finding the end zone only once in the 2007 season (in which he only had six receptions), Bradley posted three touchdowns during limited work in both of his 2006 and 2008 seasons. The sky may be the limit for this kid, but don't get your hopes up too high as he will likely be trying to live up to his potential on one of the worst offensive units in the NFL.

Tis a vicious circle!

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Kenny Britt (Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans)

Earliest average draft position: 14.08

Despite having many different capable wide receivers on their depth chart, the Titans still haven’t found or established a true WR1 heading into the season. While Nate Washington is certainly a welcome addition to a beleaguered corps of mediocrity, you certainly won’t be seeing him on any preseason MVP lists or even that high on a list of the top wide receivers in the entire league period. The guy’s never really been much more than a role receiver with solid hands who’s used in multi-WR sets and occasional screen plays.

BrittKennyTEN

In steps Kenny Britt, a highly touted wide receiver prospect out of Rutgers. Despite being a first-round pick, he’s largely been ignored in fantasy circles. By this, I mean he hasn’t been the subject of hours upon hours and days upon days of debate and discussion.

He has the talent and body build necessary to succeed as an NFL wide receiver and in a perfect world he would consistently outperform the rest of the mediocre starting receiver cast throughout the season and claim the WR1 brass ring for his own.

Kerry Collins isn’t too excitement inspiring when it comes to who’ll be throwing him the ball, but the man is a game manager and makes few mistakes. What Britt will be benefiting from though is a box that will be constantly filled with upwards of eight or so defenders interested in stopping the two-headed Titan rushing attack of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. This should give Britt plenty of clear route running opportunities as well as lots of room to make plays out in the open with speed uncharacteristic of a player his size.

If he can get the route running down and adapt to the super fast NFL speed of play, then Britt is definitely a sleeper with plenty of upside to keep your eye on.

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Michael Bush (Running Back, Oakland Raiders)

Earliest average draft position: 14.01

Despite being behind two very capable RB’s in Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas, Michael Bush showed he could provide quite a spark when given the ball late in the 2008 season. While his 177 yard two touchdown performance back in Week 17 of last year was largely written off as a late-season fluke, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had playoff aspirations during that game and thus, every reason to try and prevent Bush from running up, over and ALL around their defense.

Bushmichael29

He’s been an injury risk thus far in his career but is also behind two other very injury plagued individuals in McFadden and Fargas. In fact, at the time of this writing, Justin Fargas has been out two weeks with a hamstring injury. If the injury goes into the early part of the regular season, a single big-game performance from Bush could vault him into weekly featured status.

While it’s unlikely that he’ll hop-scotch both McFadden and Fargas to become the team’s primary running back, he certainly has the talent and work ethic to flourish in a RB2 role. And judging from what he’s shown thus far, he has the potential to be a Deangelo Williams-esque homerun back if just given the proper amount of carries.

Don’t be surprised if Bush emerges alongside McFadden to surpass Fargas and become a weekly part of the team’s offensive attack. The only risk is that if this doesn’t happen, he’ll barely see the field. In the end, the choice is yours young pigskin Padawan!

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James Davis (Running Back, Cleveland Browns)

Earliest average draft position: 12.12

Jamal Lewis isn’t getting any younger – we all know this. Despite reports though, that he’s come into camp in better shape than ever before, there’s still no defying age. We all thought Fred Taylor was an unstoppable beast-machine until recently when he finally began to break down and not play like a cyborg machine. Lewis could start to decline in Week 1, he could end up starting to decline in Week 10 or he could even start to decline three years from now. Kind of like Brandon Marshall's maturity level – you just can’t be sure.

The important thing however, is that his time as the Browns starting running back are numbered, and from the looks of things, rookie James Davis looks to be ready to fill in that hole whenever it ends up being left open.


1davisjames28


Drafting sleeper running backs is a bit trickier than planning to draft sleeper wide receivers in that so many more receivers see the field each year. Davis will surely see some playing time this year, but being a rookie running back and playing for someone as unpredictable as Eric Mangini, how much playing time is he going to see? (Note: Please don’t try to answer that question – Mangini’s logic has been known to make craniums implode on themselves from time-to-time.)

If you think that Jamal Lewis is going to decline enough this year to warrant a serious running-back-by-committee in Cleveland, then Davis is definitely worth a late round pick. If you don’t, then you’ve probably already skipped this entire section. If you’re in a dynasty league though, he’s definitely worth a second look deep in your draft if you’re reaching with your picks anyway.

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Bryant Johnson (Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions)

Earliest average draft position: N/A

Outside of Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, it’s very likely that your league is going to treat any other player (besides maybe QB Matthew Stafford) on the Detroit Lions as if they were infected with a super swine flu strain. It’s certainly to be expected of a team who finished an NFL history worst 0-16 last year, but still. We need to focus on this year, not last year. And we also need to realize that the swine flu is just the frigging flu and we need to seriously just relax, but that ladies and gentleman, is a story for another day…

Bryant Johnson has been what you could call middle-of-the-line the last three years in the league, averaging 44 receptions for 605 yards and 3 TD’s during two years with the Cardinals and last year with the 49ers. As with everyone else on this list, he’s not going to be putting up numbers consistently in the high-teens. But if you take a look at his situation and that of the offense he’s currently playing on, things may begin to take a more meaningful shape.

Johnsonbryant80

Johnson is practically a mortal lock to start opposite the other Johnson (Calvin) and will most certainly benefit from the often obsessive attention focused on the Lions number one wide out. Kevin Smith is no Adrian Peterson, but he should ensure that teams respect the run and not spend all of their defensive assets negating both of the Johnson wide receivers. All day, all day!

Should rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford start, Johnson could take a bit of a hit in potential, but it could also be flipped on its head and he could become a favorite target of the first-year signal caller. At the end of the day though, Bryant Johnson has produced some pretty respectable numbers thus far during his career, and despite being on the dreaded Detroit Lions, may actually find himself in one of the most favorable situations of his entire career. If he’s available late, you could certainly do a lot worse in regards to high-upside WR depth. You know, like trying to talk yourself into Michael Crabtree despite the fact that the kid is an idiotic diva who thinks his shit smells like lollipops.

That actually reminds me of the saying, “Cause there ain’t nothing but ass kicking’s and lollipops around here… and son, we’re all outta lollipops!

Sorry, that had nothing to do with anything but is one of my favorite sayings ever -- despite my not knowing where it exactly came from. Sounds like a corny John Wayne movie quote or something… but seriously, go say that shit to someone and try not to laugh. Very high comedy!

That also reminds me… lollipops don’t really smell like much of anything. I suppose then that this entire rant was an absolute fail in retrospect. Oh well, it needed to be in here. So there’s that.

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Bernard Scott (Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals)

Earliest average draft position: N/A

How you feel about Bengals running back Bernard Scott will likely depend directly on how you also feel about current Bengals starting RB Cedric Benson. If you think Benson is in a good system and the right type of environment he needs to succeed, then maybe you’ll be more in line with the rest of the country in that he’s not worth drafting at all. However, if you have absolutely no doubt in your mind that Cedric Benson will most certainly NOT be the running back the Bengals want him to be then you might begin to see why I’m so intrigued by this young player.

Scottbernard28trainingcamp

I’m incredibly surprised with the Bengals being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this year and all. To go on a brief, BRIEF tangent, Hard Knocks is a GREAT show by the way – even if the team absolutely BLOWS at cutting players in a classy and respectable manner. If you haven’t seen it, just picture this happening to you at your job:

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You’re awoken early tomorrow morning (about 4am or so – you can’t really tell since your eyes are all clogged with sleep since it’s still… you know… 4am) by a knock at your door. It’s one of the overweight public relations managers who always destroyed like half the donut boxes at all of the meetings. And never wore a clean, stainless tie.

He’s surprisingly NOT going to town on a waffle and egg sandwich or something to that artery-clogging effect but instead is standing in front of a camera with a clipboard featuring a few doodles of hexagons and some poorly drawn stick figures. You inquire as to what’s wrong as to cause him to show up at such an hour and he states abruptly, “You’re done. We’re letting you go – you’re not part of the company any longer…”

Naturally, you ask why – still half asleep mind you. You briefly remember that you were dreaming of surviving a zombie attack from a local CVS. Damn. The PR manager drones on, “Honestly, you just don’t have the ability. You don’t have the proper ability to do the job you’ve been doing for most of your adult life. That’s why we always fire people – because they lack the ability to do their jobs.”

You resist the temptation to inform this man that he obviously ALSO lacks the ability to do his job correctly and just sigh. He keeps going. “Since you’re already home we don’t need to transport you there by bus obviously, but I suggest you start hoping that other companies are going to want to hire you – you know, even though we don’t think you have the common ability to do your career job correctly. It isn’t that bad, you’ll probably be alright. We’ll need to search your house and confiscate anything that you received on behalf of the company of course. Good luck with everything!”

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Yeah… that definitely wasn’t brief and I’m pretty sure I got a bit carried away with myself, but for those of you who’ve seen the clip of the Cincinnati Bengals PR guy getting rid of a cut fullback, you’ll know what I was getting at. Whether it made sense or was even remotely funny is another story – but seriously, the Bengals seriously need to rethink how they cut their players. There’s no need to be so disrespectful and ruthless – or even send the most unhealthy guy in the state of Ohio to make the cut official. Rant over!

Anyway, as it stands right now, Bernard Scott has already beaten out both DeDe Dorsey and veteran Brian Leonard for the RB1 backup job. Now, in normal circumstances, this would be somewhat notable, but certainly not enough to warrant such a crucial draft pick on a question mark of a rookie backup running back.

Again, it all depends on how you feel about Cedric Benson. Personally, I think he fits the role of a spelling RB2 perfectly – but definitely not a starting running back. And for a team like the Bengals, whose offense – barring injuries – could be so incredibly explosive through the air, it would almost be a shame if they didn’t have the right running back in there in the backfield. Scott has excellent vision and the cutting ability to get to the proper hole quickly and hit home runs on many of his touches.

Either the team is going to have Benson and Scott share the majority of the carries or Benson or Scott will step up and put their stake in the majority of those carries overall.

It’s certainly a question mark and Scott certainly makes a bit of a risky pick, but if he’s available deep into your draft and you share my feelings about Benson, you could end up with the steal of the year.

The Hard Knocks show didn’t really imply (at least not yet) that Scott had locked up the backup duties, but it had certainly implied it. Maybe the general public just isn’t as perceptive about this stuff as a fantasy football-holic type person is…

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Honorable Mentions and Conclusion

Honorable mentions: Hakeem Nicks (Wide Receiver, New York Giants), Sidney Rice (Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings), Davone Bess (Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins), Fred Jackson (Running Back, Buffalo Bills)

At long last – in conclusion, remember that every great player was at one time a question mark before they TRULY became great. If you can hone your skills at trying to pluck out these players before they become great and lock them up on your fantasy team, then you’ll be blessed with a skill that should have you in the running for the money of your fantasy leagues year after year after year. Just make sure you don’t try to go to public with your predictions like I do – sometimes it can make you look pretty dumb.

In the interests of wrapping this up somewhat short of about 3,000 words or so...

The players listed here (and even in the honorable mentions) are the potential comatose/super sleepers who I think have the best chance at shocking a great many people. Except us of course, since we're talking about them right now.

Regardless, I'm aware that there are a great many other potential comatose and super sleepers out there. In fact, I hope a vast amount of them get mentioned in the comments. I'm only human and will be wrong again just as I have been wrong before. But for just as many players that you miss with a deep sleeper tag, there's a few that you hit. And it's those few -- especially if you can land them on your actual fantasy rosters -- that makes all of this effort worth the while.

I think we can all agree that despite our differing opinions, we all share a common feeling of giddiness that football is almost here once again. If you don't start giggling maniacally like a schoolgirl over the next week or so -- well, maybe you should stop throwing Tony Gonzalez's name around as a sleeper so much. It'll do you well!

Have a great season!

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