Mike Bell’s bags are packed and he's headed to the City of Brotherly Love. This has to be the season that we get more clarity from the Saints RBs, right?
Not so fast.
While the obvious logic would be that Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas would split the load that Bell is leaving, there’s one guy that could have something to say about all that.
That man is Lynell Hamilton.
The second year player out of San Diego State, who started as a special teamer in 2009, may be poised for a larger role in 2010.
Dare I say fantasy sleeper? Now, that term gets thrown around a lot, so I try to use it liberally.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the reasons Hamilton will be a guy to keep your eye on this summer.
First, Mike Bell led the Saints in carries last year. I know, it came as a surprise to me as well. Bell was Sean Payton’s bruiser back, and Hamilton's stature is similar to Bell's. Bell is 6'0" and tips the scales at 225 pounds, while Hamilton is the same height and ten pounds heavier at 235 pounds.
If Payton wants to pound the ball in between his finesse passing game, then Hamilton is a better fit over the diverse but smaller Pierre Thomas (5'11", 215) and the string bean Reggie Kardashian (6'0", 203).
Next, Hamilton may see carries by default with the injury history of Bush and Thomas. In 2009, Mike Bell created a role for himself in the preseason and was impressive after Thomas missed time with a tweaked knee.
A 10-carry, 100-yard performance is hard to ignore, and Bell did just that in Week Two of last year’s preseason. Bell parlayed that into a Week One start in which he put up 143 yards on 28 carries (albeit against the Lions). Bell continued to see a healthy role as Thomas regained his niche in the offense.
Year in and year out, Bush also seems to end up on the injury report about halfway through the season.
If we all know about Thomas' and Bush's propensity to miss time, then so does Payton. Thus, he knows he’ll need someone else to lighten their load.
Finally, teams indicate what they plan to do and who they plan to use based on their front office moves. This offseason, the Saints decided not to give Pierre Thomas a contract extension.
Instead, he signed a one-year tender. This is most likely due to the uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement.
But what if it’s not?
What if Thomas isn’t the future back they want? No doubt, he’s a talented back and has put up nice numbers, but he hasn’t put it all together for a whole season just yet.
This could be his year. If 100 of the 172 carries that Bell got go to Thomas, then he’s headed for a great season. If they don’t, then they’re not going to go to Bush. Bush will still see carries, but he can’t handle an increase of that magnitude.
Those carries could go elsewhere. And elsewhere is Lynell Hamilton.
Unlike Bell, Hamilton is a capable receiver in addition to being a bigger back. Thomas and Bush will see most of the receptions out of the backfield, but if needed, Hamilton can be of service as well.
Will Hamilton be the guy who wears down defenses late in the game? Will he be the goal line back?
Because of those possibilities, Hamilton should be on your radar. The good news is he’ll come cheaply. In one of my real drafts that I just finished, he went in the last round (12 team, 20 round draft).
Even if Hamilton has a 5 percent chance of taking over the Bell role, that’s enough for me for what it would cost to find out.
Will this fantasy sleeper stay asleep?
Only Sean Payton knows for sure, but at least you’re one step ahead of the game, and your league, now that Hamilton is on your radar.