Fantasy Football Week 1: 10 Under-the-Radar Point Machine Sleepers

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2010

Fantasy Football Week 1: 10 Under-the-Radar Point Machine Sleepers

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    DETROIT - AUGUST 28:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns tries to escape the tackle of Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions during preseason game on August 28, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Fantasy football managers enter Week 1 filled with excitement and optimism.  They also enter the first week of the season filled with stacked rosters and looking to keep traditional bench players out of the lineup.

    As always, it's important to look at the match-ups before settling on a standard lineup.  Several lowly-ranked players could be in line for a great start to the season, while their more prestigious counterparts might struggle to get going early on.

    Here's a look at 10 under-the-radar type performers who could put up big points in Week 1.

No. 10: Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, St. Louis Rams

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 26:  Michael Hoomanawanui #86 of the St. Louis Rams gets by Brandon Spikes #55 of the New England Patriots on August 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Don't be afraid to take a long look at Hoomanawanui this season.  If your tight end situation is less than ideal heading into Week 1, you could even plug him into your starting spot early on.

    Although he is unproven and plays for the woeful Rams, Hoomanawanui could be a nice contributor in his rookie season.  He showed flashes during the preseason and developed a connection with fellow rookie Sam Bradford.

    His future in the NFL seems to be bright, and don't be surprised if he gets off to a good start against the Cardinals defense in Saint Louis.

No. 9: Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Fred Taylor #21 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the New York Giants on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Patriots 20-17.  (Photo
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Patriots appear poised to enter the 2010 season featuring Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor at running back.

    Neither player receives a great deal of respect in fantasy circles, but Taylor's value in the red zone makes him worth a look in Week 1.

    The 34-year-old scored four touchdowns in six games with the Pats last season and is likely to handle the carries at the goal line against the Bengals.

    It might be a good idea to take advantage of Taylor's production while you still can.  It's not likely he will hold up for the entire season, and Bill Belichick will eventually turn to Morris and Laurence Maroney.

No. 8: Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions

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    DENVER - AUGUST 21:  Tight end Tony Scheffler #85 of the Detroit Lions lets the ball slip through his hands and fails to make a reception in the endzone against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 21, 201
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Scheffler will be the starter in Detroit while Brandon Pettigrew continues to recover from his knee injury.  His presence could make life much easier for Matthew Stafford.

    The former Denver Bronco has been productive throughout his career, but has never garnered a great deal of attention fantasy-wise.  That might be about to change, and it starts in Week 1.

    The Bears' secondary is decent at cornerback but horrible at safety.  The linebackers are much better in run support than in coverage, and Scheffler should be able to find holes in the Cover 2 defense.

    Don't be surprised if Scheffler hauls in a touchdown in his first game as a Lion.

No. 7: Jabar Gaffney, WR, Denver Broncos

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    DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney #10 of the Denver Broncos makes a reception and is tackled by linebacker Lawrence Timmons #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denve
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    A Broncos receiver is a good fantasy option?  Without question, at least in Week 1.

    Gaffney is the stereotypical possession receiver and Kyle Orton is a game-manager who excels in the short-passing game.  It's a match made in heaven.

    The Broncos face the Jaguars Sunday in what figures to be a low-scoring affair.  Look for Gaffney to get plenty of targets from Orton, and possibly even sneak into the end zone.

No. 6: James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers moves around Kelvin Hayden #26 of the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Colts 59-24. (Photo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jones has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his young NFL career, but the San Jose State product might finally be ready to put it all together in 2010.

    It appears Jones will be the Packers third receiver against the Eagles in Week 1, and likely for the entire season providing he manages to hold off Jordy Nelson.

    Given Donald Driver's age and the Packers' prolific offense, Jones figures to get plenty of targets in Week 1 and beyond.

    Even if you don't have a need for him in your lineup right now, make sure to snatch him off the free agent list if he is available in your league.

No. 5: Arian Foster, RB, Houstan Texans

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 28:  Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans avoids a tackle from cornerback Terrence Newman #41 of the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter of a preseason game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo b
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Foster has been a trendy sleeper pick in fantasy drafts after he was officially named the Texans' starting running back.

    His impact should be felt early and often this season.

    It starts with a home match-up against the Colts, who ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing defense in 2009.  Foster is likely to get plenty of carries as the Texans look to keep Peyton Manning off the field.

    Depending on your running back situation, Foster is close to a must-start in Week 1.

No. 4: Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears tries to regain his balance after catching a pass as Michael Adams #27 of the Arizona Cardinals grabs his leg during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The C
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Bears offensive line is really, really bad.  So bad that Jay Cutler was sacked 10 times in the preseason despite seeing limited action and sitting out the final game.

    The receiving corps isn't very good either, but Johnny Knox is the exception.

    The speedy Knox got stronger in the offseason and enters this season as Cutler's No. 1 option.  He seems to have grasped Mike Martz's offense and figures to get plenty of targets this season.

    Look for the second-year pro to get off to a good start with a strong showing against the Lions Sunday in Chicago.

No. 3: Derek Anderson, QB, Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Quarterback Derek Anderson #3 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the preseason NFL game against the Washington Redskins at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defea
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Matt Leinart did just about everything he could to lose the starting job in Arizona, meaning Derek Anderson and his huge arm will get the chance to resurrect his career in the desert.

    Things could get off to a great start for Anderson Sunday against what figures to be a bad Rams' defense.

    His 2009 numbers with the Browns were simply awful, including an appalling 44 percent completion rate and three touchdowns against 10 interceptions. 

    But he didn't have Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal, and the Cardinals still have plenty of talent at receiver even without Anquan Boldin.

    It might be a good idea to consider given Anderson a surprise Week 1 start depending on your quarterback situation.

No. 2: Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on August 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Bears 14-9. (Photo by Jonathan Dan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Depending on who you ask, Matt Forte might not really be a sleeper.  At the same time, an awful 2009 season and the arrival of Chester Taylor has seen his value steadily decline.

    That could change early in 2010, with a healthy knee and plenty of chances to catch passes from Jay Cutler in Mike Martz's offense.

    Don't be surprised if Forte puts up some impressive total yardage numbers in the Bears' opener against the Lions.

No. 1: Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns

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    DETROIT - AUGUST 28: Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns tries to escape the tackle of Dre Bly #32 of the Detroit Lions during preseason game on August 28, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Harrison was ranked surprisingly low by many fantasy outlets despite a 2009 season in which he tallied 862 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

    The biggest reason for his slip in the rankings was the arrival of Monterio Hardesty, who battled knee injuries at Tennessee and in training camp.  He tore his ACL in the Browns' preseason game against the Bears, meaning Harrison won't have to be looking over his shoulder in 2010.

    Browns coach Eric Mangini said he expect Harrison to get the bulk of the work in the opener against Tampa Bay and beyond.

    That could spell a 1,000-yard season for the unheralded back out of Washington State.