2003 Fantasy Draft Sleepers

If you're playing against smart owners, it's often the gems that you find in the later rounds that ultimately determine whether or not you win your league. Instead of reaching for a player that will see limited playing time, like Antwaan Randle-El, you can instead draft a player that will produce for you if one of your starters gets injured or has a bye week. Today, I'll discuss in depth a fantasy sleeper for each NFL team. E-mail me your questions for the Freebie Q&A at bills_report@yahoo.com.

Buffalo BillsMark Campbell, TE – The most obvious choice for this team would be to say Josh Reed. Everyone is touting him as a sleeper, so much so that he is consistently drafted in most fantasy drafts. At that point, he's not much a sleeper if he's a team's 3rd WR. Campbell may not get a lot of yards or catches this year, but as the Bills look to improve their red zone efficiency, he may catch a lot of TD's once the Bills get inside the 20.
Miami DolphinsDerrius Thompson, WR – He's not going to pick up huge numbers in a Norv Turner offense, but I think he'll out produce Chris Chambers who is vastly overrated in my opinion. He's got good size, speed and doesn't drop a whole lot of balls. Those people who drafted Chambers better keep an eye on Thompson and see who Fiedler starts to favor as the season wears on.
New England PatriotsAntowain Smith, RB – The former Bills RB was a disappointment last year after not breaking 1000 yards last year after doing it the year before. He got off to a slow start when New England was pass happy the first four games of the season. Had he had 18 more yards rushing, people might not look at him in such a negative light. The Patriots will probably move back to a more balanced offense and Smith's carries will increase again. He might not match the 12 rushing TD's from 2001, but he will be a good option as your #3 RB. There is, however, a lot of talk from Patriots Camp that he is splitting carries with Kevin Faulk. Keep an eye on him throughout the preseason and if it looks like New England is going with a running back by committee approach or Faulk will win the job, then stay away from Smith. If you do draft Smith, it may be wise to also pick up Faulk as a fall back option.
New York JetsChris Baker, TE – Another one of my sleepers to be the starter by the end of the season. He's more athletic than Anthony Becht who hasn't really done anything in my mind. While I wouldn't draft him, watch him closely and pay attention to see if he's getting more and more touches during the games. He could become a Pennington favorite in short yard situations.
Baltimore RavensMarcus Robinson, WR – the big question about him is if he can stay healthy. In 1999, he had 1400 yards and 9 TD's in Chicago. If he stays injury free, he could replace the disappointing Travis Taylor as the #1 WR for the Ravens and have a big year. Most leagues aren't even drafting him. Keep an eye on him as the season progresses.
CincinnatiJon Kitna, QB – A very erratic QB but one who played well as the season went along, he was a talented WR corps in Chad Johnson, Peter Warrick, and Kelley Washington as well as a very good RB in Corey Dillion. H's prone to interceptions because the Bengasl constantly play from behind but if Marvin Lewis's new defense can create some turnovers and make some games closer Kitna might not be so rushed to make the big play and could have a nice season.
Cleveland BrownsTim Couch, QB – I'm going to say that he's going to be the #1 QB when it's all said and done. Owners are staying away from the Brown's QB's like Toronto with the SARS, but Couch has the most physical tools and is making too much money to sit. He's got a talented and deep WR corps and if William Green can play like he did at the end of the season, Couch won't have to put so much pressure on himself.
Pittsburgh SteelersJay Riemersma, TE – The former Bills tight end takes his pass catching ability to the Steel City where Tommy Maddox is leading the charge on a potent passing offense with Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward. He won't get you Shockey type numbers, but he will definitely improve on a 25 catch, no TD season and be a reliable fantasy backup.
Houston TexansBilly Miller, TE – Became a favorite target of David Carr who had very little time to throw last year. With more reps and defenses having to pay more attention to the WR position now that rookie Andre Johnson is there, Miller could increase on his 2002 totals.
Indianapolis Colts – Brandon Stokley, WR – With Marvin Harrison across the field, he's the classic sleeper at WR. Then again so were Reggie Wayne, Qadry Ismail, and Jerome Pathon. None of them produced as the #2 WR. Stokley can fill this position though with his speed team's paying more and more attention to Marvin after catching a record 150 balls last year. If Manning stops throwing so many INT's, Stokley could break 1000 yards this season.
Jacksonville JaguarsDonald Hayes, WR- The fact that he was the latest casualty to the Jaguar's "choose a player to suffer a heat stroke" program, Hayes has a real chance to shine in the Jaguar's offense. His size makes him a great target in the red zone and will benefit from the West Coast offense. He struggled in New England but could benefit from having a legitimate #1 WR in Jimmy Smith playing opposite him. He may not get a lot of yards, but his TD totals might surpass some star WR's totals by the end of the year.
Tennessee TitansDrew Bennett, WR – What boggles my mind about this team is Steve McNair is getting picked up relatively early in fantasy drafts, but owners are staying away from Eddie George, Derrick Mason and Bennett. While I understand that Mason is an injury risk, George is seemingly coming to a twilight in his career and Bennett is unproven, where do these people think the fantasy points for McNair are going to come from? Mason is a talented WR and if he can stay healthy, Bennett could put up good numbers opposite him. I think Bennett's real fantasy value comes from the fact that at any point in the season he could end up being the #1 WR for the Titans if Mason goes down.
Denver BroncosAshley Lelie, WR – He was the second WR taken in the 2002 draft and is too good to keep on the bench much longer. Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey are declining and Lelie will take over for McCaffrey by the end of the year. Grab him as a #4 WR on your team and watch him out-produce your starters by the end of the year.
Kansas City ChiefsJohnnie Morton, WR – Last year, fantasy owners were eating Morton up to be a big fantasy star in the Chief's prolific offense. He never got into a rhythm with Trent Green last year, however, and was a huge disappointment. Now he's not even getting drafted for the most part. Another year in that offense with Green may produce some different results and could be the guy the Dick Vermeil was expecting when he signed him out of Detroit. Keep an eye on him as a mid-season free agent or draft him in the later rounds if you are struggling for a WR.
Oakland RaidersTim Brown, WR – Everyone has him slipping, but the guy still caught 81 balls for over 900 yards. His TD's dropped a lot, but if opponents start keying on Jerry Porter now and if Jerry Rice doesn't suffer a huge dropoff, Tim Brown will beat 90% of team's 3rd cornerbacks in the NFL. He's a good option as a 3rd or 4th WR. He'll have around 900 yards again but his TD totals will go up.
San Diego ChargersReche Caldwell, WR – With LaDanian Tomlinson as the primary threat and David Boston now the #1 WR, a lot of attention will be paid to the two of them. If Reche can overcome the shortcomings that seemingly every Gator WR has in the NFL, he could be a surprise. Yes, Marty Scottenheimer loves the ball control offense and running the ball. But can he ignore that this team could have all the makings of a high powered offense? That, couple with the fact there are a lot of questions on defense, the Chargers might have to actually outscore opponents in order to win games.
Dallas Cowboys – Troy Hambrick, RB – In many leagues he's not getting drafted in favor of Onterrio Smith, Stacey Mack, or his predecessor Emmitt Smith. What makes him attractive is his yards per carry average when he did get the chance to tote the rock and Bill Parcell's dedication to running the ball. If the offensive line can gel and Hambrick is disciplined he could be in for a stellar year.
New York GiantsIke Hilliard, WR – With so many weapons at Kerry Collin's disposal, Hilliard is the forgotten man and that could be a god thing. Jeremy Shockey is already the premier TE in the league and with Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer getting plenty of attention as targets, Ike Hilliard has a real chance to shine. He's got the talent to have a great year for the Giants in these circumstances; He just needs to put it all together.
Philadelphia Eagles – Correl Buckhalter, RB – This is a risk and reward type of pick. Andy Reid loves this guy but Duce Staley and injuries have kept him 2nd on the depth chart. He's back after an ACL injury and Staley is a training camp holdout. From what I hear, Buckhalter has been running well so he could pay real dividends if you draft him as a 3rd RB. In most cases though, you can probably get him as your 4th RB.
Washington RedskinsPatrick Ramsey, QB – The 2nd year QB struggled last year after a holdout and learning Steve Spurrier's "fun n' gun" offense. The Redskins didn't really have the talent to successfully operate that offense effectively. Ramsey has the talent though, and with another year of knowing the offense as well as an improved talent as the skill positions around him in Laverneous Coles and Taylor Jacobs to go with Rod Gardner at WR and Trung Candidate at RB, Ramsey has all the tools to play well if he can make the right decisions. While Candidate is a downgrade talent wise from Stephen Davis, he is better suited for the offense and you'll see Ramsey hit him quite a bit with pass plays out of the backfield.
Chicago BearsDesmond Clark, TE – Two years ago he had over 50 catches and 500 yards for 6 TD's for Denver before injuring himself in week 15. He was a highly touted fantasy TE who saw little action in Miami after Randy McMichael's emergence. He should be the #1 TE in Chicago and is a better option that drafting Dallas Calrk who will still be the #2 TE for the Colts.
Detroit LionsJoey Harrington, QB – A stud WR, a good offensive coach in Steve Mariucci and a better understanding of the West Coast Offense spells out success for this second year quarterback. He might be this year's Chad Pennington, only with a bigger arm.
Green Bay PackersJavon Walker, WR – I'm not completely convinced that Donald Driver is a #1 WR kind of player and Walker has all the physical tools to be the go to guy for Brett Favre. He's not getting drafted by most owners and in a weak NFC North division and teams concentrating on Driver, the Packer's first round draft pick in 2002 could be in for a big year.
Minnesota VikingsKelly Campbell, WR - A smallish WR with good speed, he has the benefit of playing opposite Randy Moss and being a favorite of Daunte Culpepper. His chances also increase in the fact that with Byron Chamberlain suspended for four games and Michael Bennett probably sidelined for the season the chances of him getting the ball as a 2nd option has increased dramatically. The popular choice for a Viking's sleeper is Onterrio Smith, but I'm not as optimistic about the rookie. Pick Smith up though if your short on options at RB.
Atlanta FalconsAlge Crumpler, TE – One of these days this guy is going to be everything that fantasy owners are expecting from him and with Peerless Price now the #1 WR in Atlanta, he could find himself with a lot more open looks down the middle of the field. Michael Vick will pass more this year and he is getting better every year. Look for Crumpler to be a big benefactor.
Carolina Panthers – Stephen Davis, RB – Last year he had barely 800 rushing yards in Spurrier's pass happy offense. He's getting passed over by a lot of owners and lasting until the 3rd or 4th round. Behind Carolina's improved offensive line and dedication to ball control, Davis will see a lot more carries and could get back up to 1300 yards rushing and 10+ TD's.
New Orleans Saints – Joe Horn, WR – It might seem kind of silly that I'm listing a top 10 WR as a sleeper, but he could really be in for a huge year. With an improved defense, Dante Stallworth keeping defenses honest and an improved Deuce McAllister, Horn could end being the 4th best fantasy WR. He's always good for 1300 yards, but has never caught more than 9 TD's. This is the year that he makes it happen. Taking him before David Boston and Peerless Price could pay off subtle dividends throughout the season.
Tampa Bay BucsThomas Jones, RB – Everything about him spells bust, but with the legal troubles of Michael Pittman and the hesitancy to give Mike Alstott the starting halfback job, Jones could emerge as the starter. In the preseason game versus the Jets in Japan, I thought Jones was running very well. If he keeps that performance up, he could finally live up to his billing. He's not getting drafted so pick him up at the end of the draft as a sleeper and wait for him to emerge. Keep on eye on the Pittman saga, however.
Arizona CardinalsBryant Johnson, WR – It's tough to choose a sleeper off a team that will probably be the worst in the NFL this year and although I think that Emmitt Smith will gain over 1000 yards and play well in Arizona, a lot of owners are overlooking this first round rookie. Chances are he'll be the #1 wideout in Arizona and in addition to constantly playing from behind that could mean a lot of looks and touches for this kid. He might not have stellar TD totals but his yardage may be pretty high.
St. Louis RamsBrandon Manumaleuna, TE – With Ernie Conwell moving to the Big Easy and the only other viable TE being the brittle Cam Cleeland the idea of this massive tight end being the starter could be a story of sooner rather than later. Supposedly he has the tendency to run lazy routes and take plays off, but vets like Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce should help him on that. He could turn out respectable fantasy numbers if he gets his act together.
San Francisco 49ersTai Streets, WR – Streets has every chance to succeed where J.J. Stokes failed. Last year he pulled in 72 catches for over 700 yards and 5 TDs as the #3 WR. This offense goes as Terrell Owens goes, and Owens is in a contract year and there are a lot of rumblings of him leaving and new question marks arise with the health of Jeff Garcia's back. If everything can click, then Streets could have a very good year for a #2 WR. If not, Streets may be on a sinking ship. I wanted to originally put Garrison Hearst here also, who has managed to hold off Kevan Barlow for the past three years when everyone else is ready to hand Barlow the starting job. Hearst's yards went down last year, but his TD's went up and still had a very good rushing average despite losing carries. He's getting picked way too late in drafts in my opinion.
Seattle SeahawksJosh Brown, PK – There are all sorts of risks with drafting a rookie kicker. But if the Seahawks turn out to be the offensive powerhouse that people are touting them to be, Brown will see a lot of extra points and short field goals. That should make him a more attractive option than a guy like Billy Cundiff.

Grabbing one or two of these sleepers might mean fantasy success for your team. Next week, I'll lay down the potential fantasy busts and who to avoid in the drafts. Send me your questions at bills_report@yahoo.com about more sleepers, busts, or fantasy football questions in general and I'll answer them in my weekly Q&A column.

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