Each new fantasy season there are players who have NFL
experience under their belts but who suddenly perform at
a higher fantasy level and become great value players for
fantasy owners. You get a glimpse of these players late
in the year when games mean less, or sometimes you see
a steady improvement moving into the offseason, where some
more training and instruction could put all of a player’s
hard work on display in the next season.
Here are 10 players throughout the league who are going
to be rated lower next year than their value. Grab a few
of these guys later in your draft in 2004
and smile when your player makes a big difference against a conference foe
David Carr – Carr was having a decent second year
before getting injured about midseason. Give him more time
to work with a young corps of talented receivers (Andre
Johnson, Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford) and he will
become a starting fantasy quarterback before you know it.
Joey Harrington – Joey was largely without his star
rookie this year, and he had to struggle with poor leftover
wideouts and no semblance of a running game. Watch what
happens when he gets Charles Rogers back and has some runners
in the stable (Artose Pinner, James Stewart and whoever
they must draft to compete for the position).
Rudi Johnson – He plays harder on an every-down
basis than Corey Dillon, and he’s much cheaper too.
If the Bengals can cash in by trading Dillon to a team
with a real need for fresh legs then Johnson will get to
shine full time. He already scores plenty of touchdowns.
Lee Suggs – Suggs showed he is in the Pros to play
by running up 186 yards against the Bengals in week 17
this year. If William Green continues to have legal and
personal issues, then Suggs will run away with this starting
Willis McGahee – McGahee makes for a real sneaky
pick in fantasy leagues. He is a risk, to be sure – Both
because he was injured himself and because Travis Henry
has proven he is willing to excel through pain. Still,
the team did not take him as their first pick to be a backup.
They think he has gamebreaking speed and cutback ability.
We’ll see if he still has it next summer.
Charles Rogers – If you forget about Rogers next
year just because the Lions did nothing on offense this
year, you will be in for a rude surprise when you play
the owner who has him as a starting third receiver. Rogers
was leading all rookie wideouts in touchdowns when he was
injured, and led all Lions receivers through much of the
season even after he was sitting for a number of Sundays.
Donte’ Stallworth – Stallworth will probably
be one of those guys who just has to go through growing
pains with his hamstrings. When Stallworth strenghthens
them, he will be a true value, because nobody is going
to be high on him to start the season in 2004.
Tyrone Calico – The Titans’ wide receiver
company is loaded, and with the return of Drew Bennett
and the improvement of Justin McCareins, Calico will have
to work hard and get a little lucky to get enough passes
his way to make a difference. He is very athletic though,
and should push some guys aside soon enough. His big frame
and strength will make him McNair’s favorite target
David Givens – Somebody besides Troy Brown needs
to catch Tom Brady’s strikes. Bethel Johnson and
Deion Branch are gaining experience as well, but it looks
like Givens is going to be the player to be a fantasy factor
Jason Witten – Witten has been hiding some decent
weekly statistics behind an offense which is unstable.
As Quincy Carter becomes even better, expect to see Witten
move up the tight end rankings very fast. He could be a
top-ten guy soon with the consistent yards he gets.
Well everyone, this concludes my column for this season.
I hope you have enjoyed reading and possibly learning something
as much as I have enjoyed writing. Good luck to all in
playoff leagues, and I’ll see you next year.
Joe Levit, based in Boston, writes for www.cnnsi.com and www.thehuddle.com.
He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a devoted Detroit
Lions fan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.