Originally created 09/02/04

Fantasy Football: Wake up and take a look at some potential sleepers

Nobody knows better than I do that the snooze button on my alarm clock gets a lot of use. Well, maybe my boss knows it, too, but that's a different story.

I guess that's why he handpicked me to do this column two years ago. Somehow, he knew it'd pay off. It looks like it might this week.

Just like me, there are sleepers in the NFL. Sleepers are those players who aren't expected to do much, but end up winning league titles for owners.

Last year, there were sleepers aplenty. Seattle's Darrell Jackson and Matt Hasselbeck slept soundly into the middle to late rounds in drafts, only to wake up in time for a playoff run. Hasselbeck threw 26 touchdown passes and finished second in passing yards in the conference. Jackson had career highs in passes caught (68) and touchdowns (nine).

Cincinnati had a slumber party of its own, but it was reserved for players named Johnson. Wide receiver Chad Johnson and running back Rudi Johnson were standouts on a surprising Bengals team. Chad caught 10 scores and went to the Pro Bowl, while establishing himself with flamboyant touchdown celebrations. Rudi didn't fumble at all last season and amassed nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as he split time with the now-departed Corey Dillon.

Perhaps the biggest sleeper of last year won't be taking the field this year.

Arizona's Anquan Boldin won the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award and the admiration of his owners with a Pro Bowl season. Boldin, the Cardinals' 2003 second-round pick out of Florida State, could miss the entire year with a preseason knee injury.

Boldin finished with a rookie-record 101 catches, 1,357 yards and 10 scores. Now it's looking like a Philadelphia Eagles fan's outlook: Just wait until next year.

Houston found its running back in Domanick Davis. He didn't start until Week 6 yet still racked up more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.

Owners take chances every year on players they hope can deliver the league championship to them. A lot of times, those players just keep hitting the snooze button. Sometimes, they wake up.

Here's a list of some that could lead your team to the promised land.

1. Joey Harrington, QB, Detroit: Look at the offense around him and the playmakers he has to work with. Harrington could be a nice midround steal.

2. Todd Pinkston, WR, Philadelphia: If Terrell Owens can hold his own, look for the other Eagles wideouts to benefit mightily.

3. Vinny Testaverde, QB, Dallas: Yes, he and Moses roomed together, but he's got a comfortable offense and a reliable receiver, and he'll throw Keyshawn Johnson the ball.

4. Chris Brown, RB, Tennessee: If you saw him totally embarrass Dallas' Roy Williams on Monday night, you know he's got some talent. He could be a pleasant surprise.

5. Freddie Mitchell, WR, Philadelphia: Like Pinkston, Mitchell could benefit from a healthy dose of DCOTO (Double Coverage On Terrell Owens).

6. Quinton Griffin, RB, Denver: The Broncos always develop running backs. With Mike Anderson out for the year, Griffin should get the starting nod, but he still might be sharing time.

7. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati: In a way, this is his rookie season, but if he can wing it like Jon Kitna did last year, look for big numbers.

8. Lee Suggs, RB, Cleveland: If William Green's problems continue, Suggs proved he was more than capable of filling in.

9. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas: It's always tough to find a good tight end after the top three go. Keep an eye on Witten.

10. Matt Schaub, QB, Atlanta: Michael Vick has been anything but healthy lately. If it continues, Schaub will take over. A risky pick, but if you have Vick, it could be a smart one.

Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or raymond.beasock@augustachronicle.com.


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