Fantasy Footballers are a fickle bunch. One off-season a player
is a can’t-miss prospect or a future stud and year later that
same player is trash, a loser, and has no fantasy value, whatsoever.
Here is where the smart dynasty owner who doesn’t necessarily
follow the “What Have You Done for Me Lately” philosophy
of assessing a player’s talent and potential can swoop in
and land a bargain. Here are six players one can land either via
trade from a disgruntled owner at a bargain price, or in the later
rounds of one’s initial dynasty draft. I believe their true
value is higher than their perceived value. Down the road, some
of these hidden gems may help you bring home the crown in your fantasy
league—perhaps even as soon as 2007.
Losman enters his fourth NFL season looking to build on a mildly
successful 2006. He showed noticeable improvement over a rocky
2005 when he was benched for journeyman Kelly Holcomb. However,
his numbers were not eye-popping and the fact that Buffalo drafted
Trent Edwards in Round 3 of the NFL draft will keep his stock
down in dynasty circles. Losman certainly has “chutzpah” (cockiness
for my non- Yiddish speaking friends). The guy does not lack confidence
and I feel that’s a trait that goes a long way in an NFL huddle.
But for those of you that don’t receive points for “chutzpah”
in your fantasy leagues, let’s look at numbers. Losman finished
with over 3,000 yards and 19 TDs while completing 62% of his passes
in his first full season as a starter. The former first round
pick out of Tulane has a strong arm, is beginning to read defenses
well, and has better than average mobility. What I like most about
J.P. though is his supporting cast. Lee Evans is ready to join
the elite WR ranks after his breakout year in 2006, which came
in large part due to Losman’s progress. While the rest of the
receiving core isn’t anything to write home about, Peerless Price
and Josh Reed are crafty veterans and Roscoe Parrish has the look
of a very dangerous slot receiver who can turn a short toss into
a long TD.
The best move for Losman’s development may be the drafting of
RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is a complete back who is much more explosive
than the plodding Willis McGahee. More importantly, he is a very
talented pass catcher—something Willis was not. We may be looking
at the next Manning-Harrison-James in Buffalo by 2008! Ok, I know
that’s going a little too far (since I haven’t been drinking yet
today), but Losman is the perfect upside backup QB for your dynasty
team. He may crack your starting lineup as early as this year.
Go ahead. Cue the sitcom laugh track here. In some dynasty leagues
Grossman may even be on the waiver wire, that’s just how low his
perceived value is. I think people forget how little actual playing
time Rex has had in his young career due to assorted injuries.
He has only started 22 regular season games in his four-year career.
Quarterbacks need time to grow and learn how to read defenses
and develop poise. Perhaps from an NFL perspective a team could
do better, but from a fantasy football viewpoint the guy put up
pretty good numbers last year (albeit in a wildly inconsistent
manner), and I see room for improvement as he learns on the job.
He has already shown one important trait for an NFL QB—he has
a Favre-like memory on the field and is a gunslinger not afraid
to get back out on the field and toss the rock after making a
brutal mistake during his last series. Coach Lovie Smith seems
to have faith in him (some may say too much, but I think it will
payoff in the long run), and unless you think Kyle Orton is the
long term answer (if he is I’d hate to see the question), Grossman
is still the future in Chicago.
Adding the athletic Greg Olsen at TE to a pretty talented WR
depth chart which includes solid vet Muhsin Muhammad, breakout
candidate Bernard Berrian, and the talented but inexperienced
Mark Bradley will only help in Grossman’s development. I predict
that Grossman will be a borderline fantasy starter this year and
he’s a nice addition to your dynasty bench that will come very
cheap. Next season I think you’ll see a QB that will consistently
break 3,300 passing yards and toss 22+ TDs each year.
That thud you heard a few months back was the sound of dynasty
owners jumping off the Bell bandwagon upon hearing the news the
Broncos signed Travis Henry as their “featured back”. To this
I say while you may not want a ride on the Bell bandwagon, you
should at least keep his calling card handy. At 215 pounds, Bell
is a powerful runner who can move the pile if called upon, but
doesn’t necessarily need to run through defenders due to his quick
lateral movement which allows him to sidestep the big hit. While
I do think Henry will see the majority of the 2007 carries in
Denver, I believe Bell will be on the field more than most seem
Henry has never been a good receiver out of the backfield, while
Bell has soft hands. The undrafted free agent had twenty receptions
for 158 yards last season despite the presence of smaller, quicker
back in Tatum Bell. He also had a nose for the endzone, scoring
8 TDs during his rookie year. I don’t think Denver will automatically
pull Henry in the red zone (as Henry is also a powerful runner),
but I do think Bell will see some goal line opportunities and
will match last season’s scoring total.
Bell should be used as a third down and change of pace back this
year, and could see 25-30% of the carries for coach Shanahan.
Let us not forget that Henry has been nicked up quite a bit during
his career. While he admirably played through some major injuries
in the past, he strikes me as the type that may not be so willing
to do so now that he “got paid.” Also, remember Henry
is one transgression away from a season-long suspension after
having been handed a four-game suspension in 2005 for violating
the substance abuse policy. Finally, Henry will be 29 during this
upcoming season, so his life expectancy as a successful NFL back
is not very long. Buy low on Bell while you have the chance.
Williams: Mr. Williams is the perfect example of the fickle
nature of fantasy football owners. Heading into last season he
was considered a first round pick in re-draft leagues, now he
may be there in rounds four or five in your re-draft. Dynasty
owners must look at the big picture and realize this guy was talented
enough to earn rookie of the year honors in a class that included
the likes of Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards and Cedric Benson.
Remember, he rushed for 1,178 yards and six scores as an NFL freshman.
Williams has good vision, acceleration, and has the balance to
slip through the line and maintain his footing after initial contact
despite not being a large back. Last season he struggled mightily
and his owners soured on him. But there were many contributing
factors to his poor stats including injury, poor blocking, and
bad QB play. Tampa simply couldn’t block for him and the
passing game was nonexistent for most of the season with a late
round rookie in Gradkowski taking over for a struggling and injured
From all accounts Williams is in good health and Tampa has improved
its offensive line through free agency and the draft. Tampa also
added veteran QB Jeff Garcia, who opposing defenses must respect
after last season’s success and whose limited arm strength should
help Caddy build up his receiving stats—since he should see many
dump-offs from Garcia in the West Coast Offense.
Coach Gruden has stated he wants Williams more involved in the
passing game and with Michael Pittman being 32 this season, Tampa
surely needs Caddy to step up. A good, young RB is the backbone
of dynasty leagues and now is the time to get one at a bargain
Troy Williamson was drafted 7th overall by the Minnesota Vikings
in 2005. That pick was obtained from the Raiders in the Randy
Moss deal, so it only stands to reason that Williamson was expected
to replace Moss in the Vikings passing game. A mere 61 receptions
in two seasons have led many to label him a “bust”. There was
a time though when fantasy footballers didn’t expect a WR to produce
right away and followed the “three-year rule”.
Well guess what? Williamson enters his third NFL season in 2007
and has dedicated himself to shedding the bust label. To say Williamson
is fast is an understatement (4.38- speed). He has a smooth open-field
stride and the second gear necessary to fly past NFL defensive
backs after the catch. The problem though has been just that,
“the catch”. His drops are well documented, however
Williamson met with an eye specialist at the Nike world headquarters
this off-season and developed a program intended to improve his
vision and hand eye coordination. Additionally he has spent countless
hours in front of the jugs machine during OTCs.
You got to like the fact that the kid has addressed his issues
instead of just expressing entitlement as a first round pick.
The Vikings have brought in journeyman Bobby Wade and rookies
Sidney Rice and Aundrey Allison this off-season to compete for
playing time, but if he gets his act together Williamson should
be the clear cut No. 1 WR in Minnesota this season. Already message
boards have anointed Rice as the WR to own in Minny, but just
wait until next off-season after the rookie predictably struggles.
Sure the doubters will say to avoid the Vikings passing game,
pointing out that Tavaris Jackson is a raw second-year starter
and the wide receivers are void of talent. But those people may
want to look up what Brad Childress did with a young starting
QB named Donovan McNabb and bunch of forgettable WRs like Torrence
Small, Charles Johnson, Chris T. Jones, James Thrash and Todd
Stovall: Well, here is where I join the fickle dynasty players.
Michael Clayton’s time as a starter in Tampa is getting close
to an end. Sure his rookie year was very nice, but two straight
years of limited production due to off-season laziness (i.e.—he
got fat), injuries, and lack of focus is inexcusable. Enter Maurice
Stovall, a prototype NFL WR at 6’5”, 222 lbs. He only had 7 receptions
during his rookie season which is why his value will be low in
some dynasty leagues. In fact, he was a free agent in my league
who I was targeting in our rookie/free agent draft, hoping he
would be forgotten. Alas, he was snatched up before I was able
to grab him.
Joey Galloway has defied father time but needs some one else
to step up in the passing game. Who then? Ike Hilliard? This isn’t
1998. David Boston? Please, someone finally stick a fork in him.
Stovall has a great shot at the #2 in Tampa this year and could
be the man once Joey finally files his retirement papers. While
not particularly fast, his tremendous height and leaping ability
will make him a tough cover for most NFL corners, especially in
the red-zone. The Notre Dame product has fine hands and route
running skills. He caught 69 passes for 1,149 yards and 11 TDs
during his senior year in college. This could be the player that
comes out of nowhere to put up 750+ yards and 7-8 TDs. This is
a player you want to target now in your dynasty league since you
can get him way below his future value.