Fantasy Football Sleeper/Bust Alert: Matt Cassel and Martellus Bennett

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Fantasy Football Sleeper/Bust Alert: Matt Cassel and Martellus Bennett
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

I hadn’t planned on writing a fantasy football post today, but two pieces of information I’ve heard over the last 24 hours have compelled me to do so anyway. And with most fantasy football drafts either already completed, underway, or fast approaching, this is must-have information.

First, let’s deal with the negative and issue a severe fantasy football 2009 bust alert for new Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel

As far as I’m concerned, there are a host of reasons why Matt Cassel has bust written all over him this season if you are considering him as anything other than a desperation fill-in type 3rd stringer for your fantasy roster. And unless you’re in a two-QB league, I don’t know why you’d carry 3 QBs in the first place.

ESPN’s 2009 player projections currently have Matt Cassel rated 11th among all QBs. Seriously? I could understand this rating if Cassel was still playing in New England, but there is absolutely no reason for him to be rated ahead of the likes of Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, and Ben Roethlisberger.

Shoot, I like Eli Manning, David Garrard, Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Edwards, Jake Delhomme, Chad Pennington, and even Joe Flacco over Cassel without thinking too hard about it. I’m sure there are others (Tarvsagebrett Rosenfavreson?) too.

Why am I so down on Cassel? Because I have a brain.

First of all, he no longer is playing for Bill Belichick, nor does he have Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator. I realize that Todd Haley wants to bring a wide-open style of offense to Kansas City, similar to what he ran in Arizona, but it still means that Cassel will have to make the adjustment to a new coach and a new system while also adjusting to a new city and a new locker room.

If we have learned anything about QBs it should be that familiarity and continuity breeds consistent success. Why else do you think that guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Donovan McNabb are always legit No. 1 QBs, while guys like Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers appear on the cusp of being the same?

Yes, they are incredibly talented; but they also benefit from year-to-year continuity.

I wouldn’t be quite as concerned about this if Cassel was going to a team with a lot of weapons, but even if he gets comfortable quickly in his new KC digs, who is he going to throw to? 

Yes, Dwayne Bowe is an emerging star who had a solid second year last season (86 catches, 10 TDs). But he also was inconsistent and dropped a lot of passes, then came into camp overweight and is currently running with the second team.

Make no mistake: he’ll be starting once Week 1 rolls around; Todd Haley is just trying to send a message and use a little tough love with his best playmaker. But it’s still a bit concerning that Cassel’s supposed No. 1 guy on the outside isn’t mature enough to consistently hold onto his starting position, even in training camp.

And how about the Chiefs’ other WRs? The ancient Amani Toomer and Bobby Engram, the underwhelming Mark Bradley and Ashley Lelie, and then some other guys who have proven nothing.

Contrast that with the guys Cassel had to throw to last season: Randy Moss and Wes Welker. That’s not just a dropoff, it’s like hurtling over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Expecting Cassel to even remotely replicate his 2008 success with his 2009 crop of targets is not a smart move.

Oh, and did I mention that reports are now surfacing out of KC that Brody Croyle is pushing Cassel for the starting job? Todd Haley has gone out of his way to say that he is not obligated to play anyone simply based on their contract.

Again, as with Bowe, I think the smart money is on Cassel opening the season as the No. 1 QB. And Haley is probably just using his two top offensive players to send a message to the rest of the team that there is a new sheriff in town.

But do you really want to waste a draft pick, even a late round one, on a backup QB who might not even be starting when you need him come bye week time? And one that, if he is starting, is going to be in for a rude awakening having only one true playmaker to get the ball to?

Avoid Matt Cassel like the plague in your drafts. I’m not kidding. I wouldn’t touch him.

In fact, if you are thinking of drafting Matt Cassel with a late round pick, I’ve got an idea for you. Why not take a flyer on a young tight end that currently is rated No. 25 at the position by ESPN, but who legitimately has the potential to finish in the top 15, if not the top 10.

I am speaking, of course, about everyone’s favorite Cap’N Crunch fan Martellus Bennett, the second string tight end for the Dallas Cowboys.

(By the way, follow the link for more of MartyB’s hilarious YouTube hijinx.)

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I founded Midwest Sports Fans but currently live in Dallas. And if you’ve ever been to Dallas and turned on sports talk radio, you realize that this town is obsessed with the Cowboys 24/7/365. And I am not exaggerating when I say that the most consistent theme I have heard emerge about the T.O.-less 2009 version of the Cowboys offense (in addition to the breakout potential of Felix Jones) is that they will be running 2-TE sets a lot.

Consider this, from ESPN NFC East blogger and Dallas radio host Matt Mosley:

Jason Witten is already an All-Pro. Now it appears that Martellus Bennett is on the verge of becoming a big-time player as well. The Cowboys could end up running plays out of a two-tight end formation 60 percent of the time—or maybe more. Defensive coordinators spend a lot of time trying to account for Witten. That should open things up for Bennett, a former college basketball player who has tremendous athleticism. Bennett’s an Antonio Gates starter kit. I think he and Witten will combine for 12 touchdowns in ‘09. Bennett gives Romo another option inside the red zone, and his blocking has improved a great deal heading into his second season.

Just look at Martellus Bennett’s stats from last season, his rookie year, and you can see that they are oozing with potential. Bennett caught only 20 balls, but scored 4 TDs and averaged 17.1 yards per catch. Read that again: 17.1 yards per catch…for a tight end!

At a minimum, Bennett is an excellent option as a backup tight end. He is also an absolute handcuff for Jason Witten owners. Usually you don’t think about TE handcuffs, but in this case you have to.

Witten will play through injuries, but does have a history of at least getting dinged up. With the TE poised to be such a huge part of the Cowboys’ passing game this year, Bennett would immediately become a top-5 option if anything happened to Witten.

As it is, Bennett is a legit threat to score every week, something even many starting tight ends can’t claim. That gives him value as a sub who is not just taking up space on your bench.

The Cowboys really only have one proven receiver on the outside, Roy Williams, and he has struggled to fulfill his potential since being drafted in the first round by the Lions.

I do think he will have a solid season as Tony Romo’s No. 1 WR target this year, but he isn’t exactly a touchdown machine. And with 40% of Romo’s career TDs now in Buffalo with Terrell Owens, he will need to find reliable targets in the red zone.

While Witten will certainly gobble some up, Bennett may actually be a better red zone target because of his athleticism and ability to go up and get balls. The “Antonio Gates starter kit” line is a very appropriate one.

Plus, although Bennett has caused some waves with his YouTube videos and the development of his online persona, which has caused many to rightfully question his maturity, every report I heard about Cowboys training camp this year was positive when referencing Bennett’s play and work ethic.

It is rare that two tight ends from the same team have legit fantasy value, but that is the case in Dallas. Martellus Bennett may only get 30-35 catches if Jason Witten stays healthy all year, but 6-8 of those could very well be TDs, which will eclipse the total for many TEs that will be drafted as starters.

Plus, Bennett actually has upside, which I just don’t see in Matt Cassell. (For the record, if you’re in a PPR league, downgrade my fawning over Martellus Bennett just a bit…but not a lot.)

And once again, I will reiterate the mantra that I always try to follow when constructing my teams: draft consistent, proven value in the early rounds to anchor your team and then follow that by drafting upside and potential in the later rounds.

If you buy into this philosophy as well, you’ll avoid Matt Cassel and think long and hard before you let Martellus Bennett start the season on the free agent wire.

**********

Remember, to get any and all fantasy questions answered in a quick and timely fashion, jump on over to the MSF Fantasy Football Discussion Forum , where we are waiting to help you out with your draft preparation.


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