Fantasy football doesn’t get any better than when you land a prime sleeper candidate late in your draft and said player goes off for a big year. You get bragging rights, a great record, and often a nice chunk of change. With that in mind, I present to you one deep sleeper at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. (I will accept a royalty from any winnings you acquire this year, thank you very much.)
Billy Volek – With Vince Young in town, Tennessee is salivating at the chance to see last year’s Rose Bowl hero at the helm. Even Titans’ owner Bud Adams has a full size Young replica in his living room with a clock counting down. (OK, that may not be true.) Meanwhile, Volek has officially been named the Titans’ starting quarterback and, in case you forgot, he has some experience as a starter. He has averaged a 61 per cent completion rate, 250 yards per game, and a better than two-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. While Young is certainly waiting in the wings, something tells me that the clock I imagine in Adams’ living room has more than six months’ worth of hours, minutes, and seconds to get through before hitting all zeros. If you’re looking for a sleeper quarterback going in the 14th or 15th round of your draft, Volek may just be your man.
Frank Gore – So a 49ers back-up running back doesn’t excite you, eh? Yes, the offense did struggle while finishing dead last in the league in yards and 30th in points. But that wasn’t Gore’s fault. He managed to average nearly five yards per carry while toting the ball 128 times, which is especially impressive compared to Kevan Barlow’s paltry sub-3.5 yard average on 175 carries. In fact, Gore took over as the starter in Week 15 and averaged 108 total yards over the final three contests. As the 2006 preseason wears on, Gore is looking more and more like the outright starter. In Friday’s pre-season game, Barlow only had one carry because of a bruised thigh while Gore excelled. The former Miami Hurricane ran 10 times with the first team and caught an additional five passes for 81 total yards. Gore is being taken in the eighth round of many drafts, which should pique every fantasy owner’s interest.
Michael Clayton – When talking about the busts of 2005, Clayton’s stat line is inescapable. Widely considered a top 15 wide out entering the season, he had a measly 32 catches for 372 yards. Even more astonishing, Clayton accounted for exactly zero touchdowns in the 14 games he played. The former 15th pick in the 2004 draft battled injuries from day one of training camp. He had knee issues all year, suffered a shoulder injury towards the end of the preseason, and after Week Three, the Bucs offensive scheme was changed to make Joey Galloway the top receiving option. Fast-forward to this preseason, and all signs point towards a rebirth for Clayton. He is reportedly fully healed and in better shape than ever. Bucs coach Jon Gruden had Clayton sign a homemade contract, presumably to dictate playing weight, practice habits, etc. Gruden even mentioned how Clayton reminded him this preseason of the player the team drafted in 2004. Clayton is falling to the late sixth to early eighth rounds depending on your league size. For a player who could very easily finish as a solid second option at wide out, that’s an amazing value.
‘Till next time, if you see Titans’ mascot T-Rac in a golf cart, consider him armed and dangerous.
– Andy Goldstein