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2003 Sleepers & Busts - IDP
by Dave Foral
August 21, 2003
 
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP

Yes. By all means, try to get your hands on Urlacher, Lewis, R. Williams, Archuleta, Peppers and Taylor. Use your picks wisely to secure a starting IDP lineup to compliment your offense, and you are that much closer to making your league playoffs this year.

There are, however, events that may derail your strategy and render your team weakened or ineffective. Those of you who had Ray Lewis last year know what I’m talking about. Chad Brown, as well. Injuries are the great unknown factor that must be considered as you progress through your draft. How does one counter the unknown? You can count on Lady Luck to escort you past disaster, but I wouldn’t advise relying on that. Rather, one must find the gem in the rough… the hidden treasure… the sleeper in the mid- to late-rounds.

Also important is to try and weed out those players who are prone to under-perform, for such reasons as health, defensive schemes or surrounding personnel. It can be just as devastating for a fantasy team to draft ineffective players high as it is to forego the effort to locate the sleepers in the league.

That all said, here are some IDP sleepers and busts to consider as you enter your draft or are evaluating the free agency before the season begins.

SLEEPERS

Linebackers

Nick Barrett, Green Bay -- The rookie MLB is raw and a bit undersized, but is in a great position to log some serious tackles this year. While Packer LB’s have typically underperformed in IDP scoring, someone beside Darren Sharper has to make tackles this year, and Barrett has the sideline-to-sideline speed to track down the opposition. The risk is that the smallish Barrett, at 6’ 2” and 237 lbs, will wear down over time. I counter that with other examples of smaller MLB’s that have faired well in the NFL, such as Dat Nguyen and Brian Urlacher, both of whom have not had vastly superior DL’s to tie up opposing teams’ offensive linemen. I place a greater value on MLB’s than any other IDP position, and Barrett could be a great find in the late rounds when all other MLB’s have been selected.

Charlie Clemons, Houston -- The Texans have a solid core of IDP veterans who should excel in their second year in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive. After a less-than-stellar year with the Saints where he went under-utilized, OLB Charlie Clemons is set to return to form. Clemons is fast, has a great nose for the ball, and was brought in to pursue the quarterback. Odds are most of the owners in your league will forget that Clemons had 13.5 sacks in 2001, so he could be a fantastic value in the late rounds. You could very well draft him as your 6 or 7th LB, but his value will skyrocket during the year as he performs to a #3-4 LB level.

Defensive Backs

Deon Grant, Carolina -- Everyone knows that the Carolina Panthers have one of the best, if not the best, fantasy defenses this year. With a stud defensive line with two of the league’s best sack masters (Peppers and Rucker), a monster in Dan Morgan at MLB, and a Top 10 SS in Mike Minter, only the TB Buccaneers measure up with the Panthers. While Peppers and Rucker register sacks and Morgan and Minter accumulate tackles, look for FS Deon Grant to make gobs of big plays this year. He’s a quick and physical player who could match Minter for tackles and snag 6-8 interceptions this year. Taking a flyer on Grant as#2 or even #3 DB could pay great dividends.

Tony Parrish, San Francisco -- Sometimes, a player produces a sound, but un-inspiring season, only to find himself overlooked by the fantasy masses the following year. San Francisco 49ers SS Tony Parrish lead the team in INT’s last year and tallied 73 total tackles in 2002, yet has been mostly relegated to inferior tiers this year. This is hard to explain, because Parrish has done nothing but work hard (played all 16 games last year despite numerous injuries), execute and be a team leader, both on the 49ers last year and the Bears the 4 years prior. While the 49ers’ secondary has taken a few hits this preseason, the front 7 appear solid, and this should provide Parrish the scenario to pull in above-average stats in 2003. He could be the steal of the draft if taken in the later rounds.

Defensive Linemen

Adalius Thomas, Baltimore -- Thomas could be a big surprise this year on one of the league’s best defenses. Gone is stud Michael McCrary, who retired this past year. Enter Thomas, who has the same quickness and aggressive nature McCrary had, and now has a similar supporting cast that McCrary had. At 6’ 2” and 270 lbs, Thomas has played both DE and LB, and has shown the range of motion to both track down opposing running backs and put pressure on quarterbacks. With an outstanding supporting cast of linebackers and DB’s with solid cover skills, Thomas should have ample opportunity to log double-digit sacks this year. He should be available in the late-rounds, and could be a steal as your #2 defensive lineman.

Derrick Burgess, Philadelphia -- How could the Eagles let one of the most dominant defensive linemen, Hugh Douglas, leave via free agency? One reason is the healthy return of Derrick Burgess, who takes Douglas’ spot on the D-Line next to stud Corey Simon. With speedy ND Kalu on the other end and a defensive backfield that can lock down opposing receivers, Burgess could very easily achieve double-digit sacks this year. Recurring injury is a concern, but if Burgess can complete the preseason and look as impressive as he has thus far, there’s reason to believe that you could select him with the last selection of your draft, and end up with a top 15 lineman.

BUSTS

Linebackers

Junior Seau, Miami -- It’s too bad intensity can’t carry you in the NFL. Otherwise, Miami Dolphin OLB Junior Seau could play and excel in the game forever. Seau will under-perform this year for a couple of reasons. One, he’s definitely lost a step. I’ve seen him in the preseason this year and, even going all-out like he always does, he just couldn’t catch or adjust to the speed of the competition. Two, there are only so many tackles to go around. With Zach Thomas, Sammy Knight and Jason Taylor on the field, I am fairly confident that it will be Seau that will be the “star” who gets left out in the cold when it comes to stat-generation. Because he has name recognition, Seau will undoubtedly be drafted earlier than he should by one of your fellow owners. Wait until the tail end of the draft to take him, it at all, and you can avoid one of this year’s over-valued draft selections.

Defensive Backs

Lawyer Milloy, New England -- Milloy has been synonymous with tenacious defense and bone-jarring hits. Entering his 8th year, I really don’t think he’s lost a step, as evident from his team-leading 91 tackles and Pro-Bowl performance in the 2002 season. I do believe that Milloy will continue to produce an above-average number of tackles this year. However, both the defensive line and linebacker corps will be vastly improved through the addition of high-impact free agents and experience gained by young players. Also, the Pats brought in fellow-tough man Rodney Harrison at FS, making the safety tandem likely the best in the league. There will only be so many tackles and big plays to go around, and Milloy could very easily end up with the short end of the stick. Milloy will be a bust for the owner who drafts him in the early-mid rounds as his #1 DB. If, for some reason, he falls to the late-mid rounds and you’ve already secured a stud DB, then Milloy is a safe selection.

Defensive Linemen

Courtney Brown, Cleveland -- Has there been a more disappointing defensive lineman in the past couple of years than Cleveland Browns DE Courtney Brown? Brown looked dominating at the college level while at Penn State, but has yet to translate his game to results at the professional level. While he has had numerous injuries, there has been nothing to show that Brown is special, even with a solid supporting cast around him. This preseason, the Browns have kept Brown on ice trying to keep him whole until the season starts. He still carries a recognizable name, and it’s conceivable that Brown could be selected as someone’s #1 DL, based on name recognition alone. In my opinion, Brown is not worthy of a draft selection this year. Rather, keep an eye on the progress of his health and how well the Browns D gels, after having lost all 3 starting LB’s from 2002. If progress is made and stats look favorable for 2-3 consecutive games, add Brown as a free agent back up.

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP