Fantasy Football Sleepers/Creepers, Aug. 18

Junkyard JakeCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2008

Fantasy Football Sleepers/Creepers
Our thoughts on some possible undervalued and overvalued players...

Updated Aug. 18, 2008  JunkyardJake.Com

Laurence Maroney RB

Poor, neglected Laurence Maroney, who spent too many Sundays in 2007 watching Tom Brady and Randy Moss streak down the field on 80-yard TD drives, usually ending the day with a meager contribution of 12 carries for 52 yards.

Of course, the Patriots' prolific passing attack wasn't Maroney's only impediment; it didn't help that he also missed three games with a groin injury and had four games with 10 or less carries. Predictably, the unforgiving fantasy football world has taken note of Maroney's 2007 shortcomings, and his draft stock has significantly dropped from a late first-round pick in 2007 to an early third-round pick in 2008.

Remember, it's not like this guy can't play; he rushed for over 120 yards against both Jacksonville and San Diego during the Patriots' 2007 playoff run, and note that New England has a predicted easy schedule against the run.

(Also consider that New England's predicted schedule against the pass doesn't look quite as good, and this could lead to more contribution from the running game this year.)

All in all, even if Maroney has the same exact performance as last season, he is worth a third-round fantasy pick, but his potential for a breakout make him a compelling player to target.

Eli Manning/Kevin Boss/Steve Smith QB/TE/WR

After his playoff and Super Bowl heroics, you have to wonder what else Eli Manning needs to do to gain a little respect in a fantasy draft. Maybe he can save some puppies from a burning building or convince North Korea to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Perhaps those are the type of accomplishments that could bump his average position up a little bit.

Granted, we are still waiting for Manning to break the 80 QB-rating barrier, which he surprisingly has not done since entering the league in 2004. Nonetheless, even a modest improvement over his typical 19 TD, 3,300-yard season will justify his eighth-round fantasy draft spot.

Two other potential values from the Giants' offense could be TE Kevin Boss and No. 3 receiver Steve Smith. Boss will replace Jeremy Shockey at TE this season and actually compares quite favorably with Shockey in terms of size and speed. You should be able to draft Kevin Boss in the 16th or 17th round, and that could be quite a bargain.

Receiver Steve Smith played only four regular-season games in 2007, but ended up as a valuable contributor in the playoffs for the Giants. Smith is not especially fast, but he is intelligent, runs great routes, and has good hands. He is typically available in the 16th round, and if Amani Toomer ever remembers that he is almost 35-years old, Smith could significantly outplay that draft position.

Andre Hall/Eddie Royal RB/WR

The Mike "Shananigans" Shanahan annual running-back derby is in full swing, and although Selvin Young is the projected No. 1 RB on his amorphous depth chart, does anyone really feel comfortable drafting him?

Let's be realistic, at this point in the Denver running-game sweepstakes, is it safe to dismiss any possibility? Anthony Alridge? Why not? Ryan Torain with a bionic elbow? Sure. Barry Sanders, Kordell Stewart, or Michael Jordan? All right, now you are just being silly, but I can't say I'd be shocked.

Selvin Young is appropriately getting picked in the sixth round so far this year, but the better speculative bet could be Andre Hall. Hall had already ascended to No. 2 on the RB depth chart, even before Ryan Torain's elbow injury, and although he is slighter shorter than Selvin Young, he is also faster, at effectively the same weight.

Looking back at the 2007 comparison between Young and Hall, Andre Hall saw limited action but had a solid start versus Chicago (26 carries for 98 yards and 1 TD), while Selvin Young did most of his damage in two starts against Kansas City (37 carries for 256 yards).

Essentially, both backs showed pretty much the same potential and ended up with a yards-per-carry of around five. As for Eddie Royal, as you may have heard, the precocious and speedy rookie has been sensational in training camp and has been promoted to starter. Rookie receivers are risky, but even if he catches a few long TD rockets from Jay Cutler this year, he is worth a 16th-round pick.

Other Possible Sleepers

QB-Donovan McNabb, Matt Schaub, David Garrard, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers
RB-Michael Turner, Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams
WR-Calvin Johnson, Lee Evans, Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem
TE-Heath Miller, Greg Olsen, Dustin Keller, Ben Utecht

Rudi Johnson RB

There are a bunch of reasons to avoid picking Rudi Johnson in your fantasy draft this year. For one thing, when he wasn't injured last season, he looked like he was running in clogs and dragging a half-cord of firewood. In fact, Johnson has been steadily regressing since 2005, with his yards per carry dropping from 4.3 to 3.8 to 2.9 in 2007.

Also note that he has already been struggling with a hamstring problem in training camp this year. So what are the chances that the 2005 version of Rudi Johnson re-emerges this year?

While you are contemplating that, it may also be time to start considering the prospects of Chris Perry and Kenny Watson, who have looked pretty good in training camp, and can be acquired in fantasy drafts in much later rounds.

Jeremy Shockey ,TE

Jeremy Shockey used to be a pretty good football player, and still has the potential to get there again. However, somewhere down the line, Shockey turned into an underachieving whiner, and of course, the only thing worse than an underachieving whiner is an underachieving whiner that spends 25 percent of the season on the sideline with assorted injuries.

That was Shockey's 2007 season in a nutshell, and while it is possible that he enjoys a resurgence over in New Orleans, note that he is still recovering from fractured leg and ankle injuries, plus a new hamstring problem.

With so many good TE options out there for fantasy purposes this year, it makes little sense to take Shockey in his current draft position around the seventh round, when you could get emerging young players like Heath Miller or Tony Sheffler in the 10th round.

Julius Jones RB

When Julius Jones was signed this offseason, the city of Seattle collectively put down their Venti Peppermint Mocha Java Frappuccinos to applaud the apparent transition of the Seahawks running-game from battle-weary and lumbering Shaun Alexander to the shiny, new, former Cowboy. Well, "Not so fast," said Coach Holgrem, "I'm not so sure I trust the running back we just signed for $12 million to be an every-down starter, I am sensing this could be a good situation for some platoonery."

Ummm, ok, makes sense. It is, of course, subject to change, but basically "platoonery" is the operative word that describes the Seahawks' RB situation right now, as Seattle will apparently deploy both Julius Jones and Maurice Morris on a relatively equal basis.

This immediately makes Jones a risky pick in your fantasy draft at his current draft position (fifth-sixth round). Certainly, if he struggles through another 600-yard, two-TD season like he did in 2007 with Dallas, his draft value is probably equivalent to about an eighth or ninth rounder.

Other Possible Creepers

QB- Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia
RB-Fred Taylor, Warrick Dunn, Selvin Young, Deuce McAllister
WR- Marvin Harrison, Reggie Brown, Derrick Mason, Javon Walker
TE-Chris Baker, Desmond Clark, Eric Johnson, Mercedes Lewis


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