Breaking Down a Mock Draft, Part Deux: Handcuffs and Sleepers

Nathan WaddellCorrespondent IJune 3, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 14:  Runningback Chester Taylor #29 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball while being pursued by Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 14, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Welcome back. In part one of this breakdown, we looked at the first six rounds of a mock draft, determined some winners and some losers, and decided that the starters we ended up with weren’t half bad. But starters are only part of the game.

Handcuffs: Not Just for the Boys in Blue

Depending on the size of your league, you have anywhere from five to fifteen bench spots available for your use. These are important spots and should be used wisely, not on the handcuff to the handcuff.

Well wait; what’s a handcuff? A handcuff is a viable fantasy backup to one of your studs. For instance, Chester Taylor (RB, MIN) is a prime example of a good handcuff. We know Taylor is talented, and when given the opportunity in the past, performed well. So should Adrian Peterson be stricken by the Almighty, you have Taylor ready to step in and save your squad. That’s the point of a handcuff.

Be aware that if you are targeting a talented handcuff, such as Felix Jones or Jonathan Stewart, be prepared to draft that player a full round ahead of his average draft position.

Now, what you don’t need to do is handcuff a bad player to your stud. For example, if you draft Steven Jackson, like we did, you will not be drafting Antonio Pittman. Even if Pittman gets a start, and with Jackson’s spotty injury history there is a good chance he will, Pittman is not a talented enough runner to succeed on a regular basis. So there is no point in having him on your roster. He will be available on the waiver wire.

So what do you do if the backup to your stud is not a potential stud? Go find one that will flourish given the opportunity. Pierre Thomas of 2008 is a good example. Marion Barber of 2006 is another.

What you should be looking for are guys that have proven their worth at some point, but are currently backups, or guys with great potential that are currently in a timeshare. You want to avoid guys that are backups because they’ve proven that they cannot be starters.

Sleepers: Everyone’s Got One, and They Usually Stink

Sleepers aren’t even sleepers any more. Before everyone was riding the wave of the internet, successful fantasy footballers had to scour rosters, look for trends, and identify players that he knew others in the draft would overlook.

All you have to do now is hop on the Google, search for fantasy football sleepers, and voila! List after list, after list. And they look pretty much the same. That’s because there are simply a limited number of guys with the potential to make an impact on any given football team. And most of that potential rests in opportunity. A guy can’t make a difference if he’s sitting on the bench.

Leading up to the beginning of fantasy football draft season, we will delve much deeper in to the topic of sleepers and how to identify them. But for now, to find some of your own sleepers, go look for guys that are in new situations.

The player doesn’t necessarily have to be on a new team, but in a new situation (new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new quarterback, anything that has significantly changed).

If a former bench player is now starting, due to the starter’s departure, but has not preformed impressively thus far, go take a look at his college scouting reports. See if the people that get paid millions to make these decisions seem to think he has what it takes to succeed. Maybe all he needed to get it going was the chance to fight for the starting job. Who knows.

The point is simply that if you’re looking for that edge, you need to go look where other don’t. And in all reality, 90% of your sleepers won’t pan out. But when one does, like Chris Johnson or Eddie Royal, it’s all worth it.

And now on to the show…

Round 7

Round 7 Analysis

Boom: Eddie Royal in the seventh round is a great deal. Denver is moving to the Josh McDaniels offense, and Royal should function as the Wes Welker of the West. Royal will have plenty of opportunities to make plays and contribute solid numbers to your weekly fantasy score. If this were a PPR league, Royal in the seventh would be an absolute steal.

Bust: Few rookie wide receivers step in to the league and make an immediate impact. So it stands to reason that Crabtree won’t make too much noise during year one. He will show flashes of brilliance, but that’s because he is a very talented receiver. Taking Crabtree as your fourth or fifth wide receiver could pay off later in the season, but you don’t want to be relying on a rookie wide receiver to start for your team every week.

The Ninja: I was targeting both Royal and LenDale White in this round, but both were taken before I got to pick. Benson will serve as a solid RB3 this year as he is not yet in a timeshare. He still has some tread left on the tires, and is a talented back, just not as talented as top tier running backs. The return of Carson Palmer should provide some benefit to Benson’s rushing totals compared to last year.

Round 8

Round 8 Analysis

Boom: No outstanding picks this round, but Carson Palmer has a shot at comeback player of the year

Bust: No particularly bad picks either. But keep in mind that Donald Driver is on a short leash in Green Bay. The Packers know they have a good receiver in Jordy Nelson, and Nelson should get more involved in the offense this year.

The Ninja: I needed to get my WR3, but I’m not thrilled with the pick. Coles has the chance to do well in Cincinatti, but that is all dependant on what kind of performances are turned in by Palmer and Ochocinco. Coles put up respectable numbers with the Jets last season, and we are hoping that he can do the same as a Bengal.

Round 9

Round 9 Analysis

Boom: Owen Daniels is a good tight end on a great offense. He finished in the top five in most PPR leagues last season, and could have easily finished in the top five in standard scoring leagues if he would have had two more touchdowns. He is a solid option at tight end, and a good value in the ninth round. Interesting note: Daniels and wide receiver Kevin Walter rarely have done well in the same game. Seems like Schaub locks on to one or the other.

Bust: Drafting a defense anywhere before the 13th round in standard scoring leagues is a wasted pick. Even in leagues where defenses contribute decent points, there are so many hanging around the waiver wire that you can mix and match every week based on matchups. Get some value instead of a defense.

The Ninja: This is the time of the draft you need to be targeting guys with upside. Rashard Mendenhall was one of the most talented runners in last year’s draft. While he didn’t perform up to expectations in the limited snaps he took last year, he has the talent to excel. And if last year was any indication, he will have more opportunites this year if Willie Parker’s injury issues continue.

Round 10

Round 10 Analysis

Boom: Greg Olsen has the opportunity to truly make a name for himself this year. As the best receiver in Chicago, he should be a favorite target of quarterback Jay Cutler. Last season Olsen showed good potential but his output was limited by Kyle Orton’s mid-season ankle injury.

Bust: It would be so easy to again say don’t pick a defense in the tenth round, but I won’t. Earnest Graham will be splitting carries with newly-acquired running back Derrick Ward this season. But it’s not going to be an even split, with Graham getting the short end of the stick. He will also play some full back like he did to end the 2008 season. Graham basically has no fantasy value at this point.

The Ninja: If you take Ochocinco out of the discussion, things seem to be shaping up nicely in Cincinatti. The rededication of wide receiver Chris Henry has Carson Palmer jumping for joy. Palmer is suddenly on the Henry bandwagon, and that can only mean good things for Henry’s fantasy value. He could blossom in to a fantasy WR3 this season, which makes the pick in Round 10 good value.

Round 11

Round 11 Analysis

Boom: While he isn’t really a boom, Miles Austin could start the year on the outside opposite Williams, with Patrick Crayton in the slot. Austin is better suited for the outside with his speed and breakaway ability. He could have a rough year if Williams fails to live up to his billing and doesn’t dictate coverage leaving Austin with less open space in which to work.

Bust: People keep jumping on the Ricky Williams train only to exit at the first stop. Williams was once a good runner, but has not yet regained that form. He just won’t have the opportunites in Miami, where Ronnie Brown will dominate the carries. At best, Williams is a waiver wire pickup to plug a hole should you have drafted without respect to bye weeks.

The Ninja: I love this pick. LeSean McCoy can catch and he can run. The only thing he can’t do all that well, yet anyway, is block. But the first two are enough to get him on the field. Should this be the year that Westbrook suffers additional injuries, or falls of the fantasy cliff, McCoy will be there to pick up the slack. The kid is the best running back not taken in the first round.

Round 12

Round 12 Analysis

Boom: A couple of possible booms. First is Fred Taylor and his relocation to New England. It seems that the New England coaching staff has a way of rejuvinating older “washed up” players. Taylor will have the opportunity to start, but will likely split carries with any and every running back on the roster. He should do well enough to spot start if needed.

The other possible boom is Jammal Charles. While he is the second running back on the Kansas City depth chart, he fits the offense much better than Larry Johnson. Charles is a shifty scat back that does well out of the shotgun formation, something Johnson failed miserably at. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time week 1 rolls around that we see a near 50/50 split in carries between Charles and Johnson.

Bust: Josh Morgan is now competing for the third spot on the depth chart. He was the hot sleeper last year, but frankly has little value now that the top two options, Issac Bruce and Michale Crabtree, are so talented. He will be lucky to average more than four targets per game this season. Morgan is another guy with little-to-no fantasy value at this point.

The Ninja: I don’t usually draft a backup quarterback, especially in mock drafts. But hey, for you I’ll do anything. Jake Delhomme is barely a backup option. He had a horrible end to the season, and one must wonder how that will affect him coming in to 2009. Delhomme has one of the league’s best wide receivers in Steve Smith, but the offense is now geared toward running the football, so don’t expect too many great fantasy performances from this backup quarterback.

Round 13

Round 13 Analysis

Boom: None, and there shouldn’t be.

Bust: A kicker this early? Wasted pick.

The Ninja: Alright, here is where you can take a shot at me. When I’m looking at guys to take a flyer on, I don’t usually target rookie wide receivers. However, when the rookie wide receiver is coming off of a great college career and goes to a team with a Hall of Fame quarterback, only good things can result.

Collie may do absolutly nothing this year. If so, then he will go rest on the waiver wire when I need his roster spot. But should he catch a break here, or a touchdown there, he might just be the throw in player I need to swing a deal later in the season.


You might notice that I didn’t include the final two rounds in which I would have selected a defense and kicker, respectively. That’s because they don’t matter. Really.

After the meaningful thirteen rounds, here is how my roster shakes out:

QB: Donovan McNabb / Jake Delhomme

RB: Steven Jackson / Marion Barber / Cedric Benson / Rashard Mendenhall / LeSean McCoy

WR: Marques Colston / Braylon Edwards / Laveranues Coles / Chris Henry / Austin Collie

TE: Dallas Clark

I’d be happy drafting this squad for any of my standard scoring leagues. Wide receiver is the team’s weakest link, but Dallas Clark will help pick of whatever slack there might be. If Steven Jackson can stay healthy, I’m confident that this running back tandem could be one of the best in the league.

So there you have a complete break down of a mock draft as it happened in June 2009. The fantasy football landscape will continue to evolve the closer we get to training camp, and I will do another breakdown near the end of July or the begining of August to highlight changes you should beware of .


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