Well this article will unfortunately not have much teeth until a few weeks in, as injuries typically affect a “sleeper’s” value more than anything. But, we can certainly look at some players that are most likely free agents in your league at this point that may make an impact Week 1. Expect this list to have a lot more depth as hot players emerge. Good luck this season and feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to suggest a player or discuss my picks. Good luck this season!
Tully Banta-Cain (SF): Sure, his last name makes him sound like he’s some sort of mercenary in Star Wars, but rest assured, he’s really a linebacker on the Niners. Yes, he plays at one of the lesser-desirable linebacker spots (RILB in the 3-4 set), but his matchup is favorable (against Arizona) and had wrapped up the ’06 season well (15 and 10 fantasy points his last two games). By no means am I saying he’ll outscore your more established LBs, but in a pinch in a large league, you could do worse.
Willie McGinest (CLE): With McGinest, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. He’s a veteran who’ll get you 7-10 fantasy points per game. McGinest had three of his best games in the final half of the ’06 season. One of those games was against the Steelers, who he and the Browns face to open the ’07 season. McGinest’s veteran presence on the defense (a very lackluster defense that will be on the field aplenty) will be critical if the Browns are to keep the score close against the Steelers. Again, McGinest shouldn’t be considered a radically-stellar play in normal leagues, but if you have an empty slot on your bench, McGinest is worth the gamble.
Landon Johnson (CIN): Disclaimer: this guy is available in my 12-team league but not my 16-team league. The Bengal LB situation is pretty wild right now. Cuts, young players with off-field issues, etc. Johnson is pretty much the only constant here. Johnson will be a key cog to the Bengal offense quelling the Raven rushing attack come Sunday.
Others to Consider: Roosevelt Colvin (NE) and Channing Crowder (MIA)
Chris Kelsay / Ryan Denney (DEs – BUF): Both Kelsay (the starter) and Denney (backup who had some solid runs last season) are available in my 16-team IDP league. Pretty amazing for a league this size, given that both scored relatively well when the starter. The Buffalo defense should be improving this season and should get off to an auspicious start against a Bronco team with some question marks (injuries, Cutler sacked 13 times in 5 games last season, erratic play in pre-season).
Grady Jackson (DT – ATL): For leagues that start DTs, Jackson is a viable start this week. The Falcon defense should be on the field a bunch, and the big veteran will be busy plugging up the run lanes against the Vikings, who will look to control the ball with their two RBs and limit the decision making of their green QB.
Others to Consider: Dusty Dvoracek (DT – CHI) and Brett Keisel (DE – PIT)
James Butler (S – NYG): Butler’s probably the best name on this list, as he has performed well in the preseason, prompting the Giants to dump the veteran Will Demps and move Gibril Wilson to FS. The Giants’ strong safety position can put up points. As evidenced by Wilson's consistency in seasons past. The Giants’ secondary will be tested by Tony Romo and the Dallas WRs and TEs on Sunday.
James Sanders (S – NE): Probably the second-best name on this list as Sanders will replace Rodney Harrison at SS for the Pats for the first four games of the season after Harrison was penalized by the NFL for performance-enhancing drugs. Bummer for Harrison owners as this is not a good sign. But great for those that have a roster spot for Sanders, who could certainly put up numbers in the Patriot system. Give him a shot, and if he scores big on Sunday, do not hesitate to grab him.
Dre Bly (CB – DEN): It’s a favorite theory of mine: the CB on the other side from an absolute stud of a shutdown corner. In Bly’s case, he is the “other” CB on the Broncos. No QB wants to throw against Champ Bailey. Bailey will cover the Bills’ #1 receiving option, Lee Evans. That means Bly has the task of covering the underperforming Peerless Price. Could mean decent things for Bly, given Bills’ QB J.P. Losman’s penchant for gunslinging.
Others to Consider: Mark Roman (S – SF) and Cedric Griffin (CB – MIN)