Thursday, September 4, 2008

Overlooked talent

Ever get finished drafting your team, look back over your roster and realize it sucks?

That probably happened to a lot of people this past weekend. Maybe you noticed you have four receivers with the same bye week, or a quarterback who didn't win his team's start ing job, or a running back who isn't on an NFL roster.

Or maybe your team just plain sucks.

Before you declare your season a lost cause, take a gander at your league's free-agent pool. There's probably a good amount of overlooked talent available to help reshape your team.

Here are some sleepers who didn't get much love on draft day:

• The Washington Redskins change coaches like the rest of us change our car's oil, but their commitment to QB Jason Campbell hasn't wavered. Campbell was making strides as a starter last year before hurting his knee, and now he gets another fresh start in Jim Zorn's West Coast scheme, which worked wonders for Matt Hasselbeck's career in Seattle. Campbell has plenty to work with, including Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, two talented rookie receivers (Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas) and a healthy offensive line. He could make the leap this year and is worth a serious look as your No. 2 QB.

• When was the last time you owned a Cincinnati Bengals tight end on your fantasy team? That should change this year with Cincy's signing of Ben Utecht, who caught 68 passes in the past two seasons as Dallas Clark's sidekick for the Indianapolis Colts. Utecht provides Carson Palmer with another target and adds a new dimension to what was a top-10 passing offense a year ago.

• Everyone seems to assume the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner will shine in his first season as a feature back, and they may be right. But LaDainain Tomlinson's former understudy has never carried the ball more than 80 times in a season. That's why I expect Atlanta's new coaching staff to also utilize third-year back Jerious Norwood, who's averaged more than six yards a carry in his pro career and is also a fine receiver out of the backfield and can also line up out wide.

Jerry Porter spent more time butting heads with coaches than catching passes in his eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders but signed a big-money deal in the offseason to be the Jacksonville Jaguars' top receiver. A torn hamstring kept him out of training camp and all preseason, but Porter is finally practicing again and aims to be ready for Week 1. An injury like that can sometimes linger, but if he can recover, Porter has the potential to supplant Reggie Williams as QB David Garrard's first option.

• In case you didn't pay attention last year, it's good to have New England Patriots on your fantasy team - even if they're the team's No. 3 wide receiver. That will be Jabar Gaffney's role this year, one he took a liking to last season, especially late, catching four touchdowns in the Pats' final six regular season games. Gaffney's gotten extra reps with Tom Brady this preseason with Wes Welker sidelined, and though he won't be an every-week contributor in New England's spread-the-wealth offense, he'll be worth a spot start here or there as the matchups dictate.

Photo by The Associated Press

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