Aug 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) catches a pass against Denver Broncos cornerback Tony Carter (32) at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Early Look at Some NFL Fantasy Sleepers and Weepers

Having been a Fantasy Football owner for twelve-plus years, or long before it became so popular, I’ve learned one thing about the preseason: It’s very, very silly and ultimately self-defeating to have a fantasy draft before at least the third preseason game. I was reading the news on Trent Richardson’s problems with his surgically-repaired knee, and someone commented that he needs him healthy for his fantasy team!

My initial reaction?

Only idiots have their fantasy league drafts before the PRE-season begins.

No personal insults intended for those of you that have, but think about it: A) You’re drafting without vital information about which newcomers are looking up (ie: a T.Y. Hilton or Doug Martin) and which ones aren’t looking too good so far (ie: a Dontari Poe, Morris Claiborne) and B) You cannot account for injuries that invariably occur during the preseason (ie: Pat Angerer, Trent Richardson).

Also, as I write this, the breaking news of the day is that Giants DT Shaun Rogers is out for the season with a blood clot in his leg. While Rogers is hardly a fantasy stud even in fantasy leagues that have a DT position, this is just the latest setback in the Giants’ interior DL and will affect their ability to stop the run. Things like this have ripple effects.

May 23, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (95) takes a break during the Giants OTA at the their training facility. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

So, remember the Golden Rule for Fantasy Commissioners: Don’t draft your league too early! Nobody wants a league where one or more owners gives up due to multiple injuries to their “top players” before the season even begins.

In this article, let’s take a look at some rookies that could provide some good upside with a mid-to-late round draft choice:

Brian Quick before Stephen Hill

Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams – there are mixed ideas about this kid. He comes from small Appalachian State in Boone, NC, so conventional wisdom is that he should take some time to get up to speed with an NFL playbook. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, he ran a 4.55 at the NFL Combine. These stats basically mirror those of Bears’ WR Brandon Marshall, who came from UCF (Central Florida).

Remember back in 2007 when App. St. won in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines? Quick wasn’t a part of that game, but players like Chad Henne and Mario Manningham were on Michigan’s side. Armanti Edwards was the game’s leading passer, and he’s now a starting safety for the Carolina Panthers. It demonstrates the strength of their program.

By contrast, Stephen Hill is probably the most physically gifted athlete in the entire WR class for 2012. The kid averaged – averaged – over 28 yards per catch in college at the much larger school, Georgia Tech. However, he’s even more raw than Quick is and has to learn the route tree besides posts and go patterns. Even though the Jets are thin at the position, Hill has a ton of work in front of him before he becomes a consistent threat in the passing game. He’s worth a late-round pick as a 4th WR perhaps but don’t look for much production from him early.

You also have to take into account the team’s offense and who exactly the quarterback is. Would you rather have your “sleeper” WR pick catching passes from Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford?

Bradford had a bad year last year but he was hampered by injuries. Mark Sanchez has yet to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. Bradford showed he can be that guy in 2010 when he was a healthy rookie.

Alshon Jeffery before Rueben Randle

Randle is the better-known player as Jeffery had a dismal final season for the Gamecocks, so Randle will probably be headed off the board first. This is a case of perhaps TOO much talent – on the New York Giants’ WR roster. Randle will compete against Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for targets. Alshon Jeffery likely will start the entire season opposite Brandon Marshall, making Jeffery the team’s no.2 option. While Randle may also start for his Giants, there’s more talent there to compete with. Both teams have strong quarterback play, with a sizable edge going to Eli, but again…Randle is one among many while Jeffery is one among two. The math favors Jeffery, but Randle should produce also. I just think Jeffery might be the better value of the two in terms of fantasy draft position vs. upside this year.

Some random notes:

RB David Wilson of the Giants could wind up being a fantasy points machine. He was drafted to be the “hammer” to Ahmad Bradshaw’s shifty style of running. Bradshaw has a history of getting dinged up with some injuries, and Wilson looks to be the more natural goal-line back of the two. Wilson not only has the potential to be a TD vulture, but will probably see at least a few games where Bradshaw’s either out or hurting, allowing Wilson to get more touches.

RB Lamar Miller of the Dolphins should be considered in PPR leagues. The Philbin regime has begun and he runs a West Coast style offense. With the lack of receiving experience on the team, I see a lot of different guys catching balls this fall. I’d be surprised if any single guy gets more than 60 catches and backs and TEs should see a higher percentage of total targets as a result. Reggie Bush may line up in the slot or run patterns out of the backfield and Miller should see his share as well with his speed. While I probably wouldn’t draft him in regular leagues, he might be worth a later pick in PPR leagues.

Don’t “reach” for Justin Blackmon – There are two good reasons NOT to draft Justin Blackmon high: Laurent Robinson and Blaine Gabbert. Having said that, if he does fall into the 6th round or beyond, which is highly doubtful, THEN you might take a flier on him. Just remember for WRs that half of it is about who is throwing the ball. With Blaine Gabbert looking marginally better so far than he did last year, he has a long way to go as well in his second year. When you add in Laurent Robinson on the other side, Blackmon’s opportunities look to be limited by circumstance – and especially if Pocket Hercules continues his holdout into the regular season.

The 2012 NFL season looks especially rich with untested skill-position rookies looking to make an immediate impact.

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Tags: Alshon Jeffery Brian Quick Chad Henne Dam Bradford Dontari Poe Doug Martin Justin Blackmon Lamar Miller Laurent Robinson Mario Manningham Mark Sanchez Morris Claiborne Pat Angerer Reggie Bush Rueben Randle Stephen Hill T.Y. Hilton Trent Richardson

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