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Article 14

by Steve Stegeman (May 5, 2001)
Guest Writer,


This article is also up at FF Today.  Click here to go there and view it.


     While the current buzz is about this weekend’s NFL Draft, avid fantasy footballers will immediately take the next logical step and contemplate the diamonds that will exist in the mid-round rough of their fantasy drafts.  High-profile rookies will be taken during these rounds, but this is when savvy owners will be looking to acquire those veterans poised to become statistical monsters.


     Though rookies can be very tempting, very few have a significant fantasy impact outside of a couple running backs here and there who wind up in ideal situations, and prediction is a roll of the dice.  In contrast, prepared owners are readily able to identify veterans poised to have breakout seasons.


     Having the inside track on this year’s Jeff Garcia, Lamar Smith and Joe Horn will go a long way to increasing off-season cheer and diminishing end-of-season jeer.  To this end, we come to the list below.


How the list was made…


…The players were chosen with a combination yardage-touchdown scoring system in mind; they have significant upside AND are currently being forgotten, overlooked and/or discounted.  So, herein, you will not find players like Brad Johnson, Priest Holmes or Keyshawn Johnson as most “scratch” fantasy footballers are well aware of them.  They have big upside this year, but are more of the “light-sleeper” variety.  The following players would be better described as in hibernation.  So, without further ado, here are the top “sleeper” candidates at quarterback, running back and receiver as it appears in the early going, along with a special bonus pick.


QB Matt Hasselbeck - Seahawks - Definitely not a secret, but a player whose upswing is not appreciated to the degree it should be.  Holmgren knows quarterback talent, goes out, gets it and molds it.  One has to ask… could Hasselbeck be the next coming of Brett Favre?  Standing at 6-4, 220, he will take the reigns of this potent Holmgren-style, West Coast offense, which just received a shot in the arm during the first round of the draft in the form of a talented wide receiver and guard and has its short- and long-term running game in place.  Heck, an estranged, semi-talented Jon Kitna would have probably thrown for about 3,500 yards last year had he started every game.


RB Tshimanga Biakabutuka - Panthers - He is one of those players either being written off for this upcoming season or, since there has been little talk about him for quite awhile, overlooked.  He has a career average of 4.1 yards per rush, which he was matching last season up until getting injured.  At age 27, he is just entering what many experts consider to be the best years for a running back.  Notwithstanding all the criticism from outside sources, head coach George Seifert has stuck by him, maintaining that he has the tools to be as good a West Coast running back as there is.  But, the proof is in the pudding.  The Panthers apparently did not even bat an eye at free-agent RB’s Charlie Garner or Priest Holmes or any of the big-name backs in the draft.  They did sign RB Adrien Murrell, but it has been explicitly stated that he has been brought aboard as a backup and insurance.



WR Corey Bradford - Packers - Now here is a guy who has disappeared from almost everybody’s radar screen.  Last year before getting injured, he was slated to start across from Antonio Freeman and was expected to break out.  He averaged 17.2 yards per catch and caught five TD’s in ’99, and by the end of the season, he was becoming a favorite target of Favre’s.  2001 becomes, in essence, his third year, and third-year receivers are known to break out.  Bradford is a clone of a younger Freeman, and with Freeman evidently on the way out, as has been most recently confirmed by his lax efforts and attitude during mini-camp, Bradford could be a real find in the mid-to-late rounds.


Bonus Pick - Denver Broncos defense – This unit will be the most improved in the league next season, and, a la the Dolphins D, they will be absolutely suffocating at home in the new “Mile High” stadium.  It all began with the arrival of mastermind defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.  As for impact players, they have only lost CB Ray Crockett and DT Keith Traylor from last year’s team, but they have signed the likes of DT Chester McGlockton, DE Keith Washington, CB Denard Walker and DE Leon Lett, and they spent their first three picks of the draft on the defensive side of the ball.




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Revised: 08 Oct 2014 11:56:21 -0700