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Sleepers

Here is a list of players who I consider “sleepers” for the 2009 fantasy draft.

QB Jason Campbell (WAS): Most think Campbell has been disappointing thus far in his career. But you should remember that — until this year — he has yet to have the same head coach and offensive coordinator for two years in a row. I think HC Jim Zorn will have Campbell playing well this year. He should be a better-than-average backup, and could even be your starter against weaker teams.

QB Kyle Orton (DEN): Of course, QB Jay Cutler got all the attention in the blockbuster trade of the offseason. But it could be Orton who ends up benefiting the most. Orton was not all that terrible last year. And now he has guys like WR Brandon Marshall and WR Eddie Royal to throw to, in addition to a pretty solid running game. He should put up respectable numbers, especially in the AFC West, which is weak against the pass. A very solid backup.

QB David Garrard (JAX): Last year, the Jags struggled due mainly to injuries across their offensive line. Assuming the same does not happen this year, I expect Garrard to put up better numbers. Plus, they brought in WR Torry Holt, who may be old, but he is better than anyone they had before. Another very solid backup.

RB Lesean McCoy (PHI): If RB Brian Westbrook gets injured, McCoy should be a stud in the Eagles offense. And he should get quite a few touches either way.

RB Michael Bush (OAK): I am not a big fan of RB Darren McFadden. Yes, he is fast and athletic. But so is RB Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, D-Mac struggled with injuries last year, so it is hard to tell. But I do not think he can be a full-time RB in the NFL. He runs too upright. Which should open the door for Bush, who would have been a first round pick but for a nasty leg injury in college. Rumors are that he has looked great this summer.

WR Brian Robiske (CLE): Despite the fact that he is a Buckeye, I like this kid. His dad is a WR coach in the NFL. He has good size and good (enough) speed. And — most importantly — he runs good routes. And he can catch the ball. Combine all of those, and you have the recipe for an effective rookie WR. And the rumors out of Cleveland are that he is penciled in to start opposite WR Braylon Edwards. And we learned from last hear (e.g. WR Eddie Royal, WR DeSean Jackson) that rookie WRs that start have a good chance at doing something good.

WR Miles Austin (DAL): Someone has to catch balls opposite WR Roy Williams. TE Jason Witten will continue to be QB Tony Romo’s main target, but I expect Austin to work his way into the rotation and get quite a few looks. He has very good size for the position. He will probably be somewhat inconsistent, but he is a borderline WR3.

WR Chris Henry (CIN): Henry has had his fair share of problems since coming into the NFL. But I think he actually figured out that he has to stop screwing up if he wants to succeed on the field. The reality is, Henry is extremely talented. So if he can focus on football, he could be a very good WR, especially now that WR TJ Houshmandzadeh is gone and QB Carson Palmer is healthy.

WR Josh Morgan (SF): I liked this guy last year, but he could not stay healthy long enough to get into the lineup. Although the 49ers like to run, I think Morgan will get some changes to make plays. And the arrival of WR Michael Crabtree should force defenses to direct their focus elsewhere. Keep him in mind in the late rounds. Stash him on your bench and see how he develops.

WR James Jones (GB): I love this kid. But, as with many others on this list, injuries kept him from doing much last year. However, his knee is healthy and he has dropped some weight in order to increase his speed. He will play behind WR Greg Jennigns and WR Donald Driver, but if QB Aaron Rodgers throws for around 4000 yards again (which he will), Jones should do well enough to use as a bye-week fill-in or spot-starter. And bump him way up if either Jennings or Driver misses any time with injuries.

WR Earl Bennett (CHI): He was very (very) quiet last year. But someone has to catch the ball in Chicago, right? I am simply not convinced that WR Devin Hester is that guy. I might be putting too much stock into the fact that Bennett and QB Jay Cutler were college teammates. But that has to be worth something, right? (A bench spot, perhaps.)

WR Mike Walker (JAX): Like Morgan, I was high on Walker last year. But also like Morgan, he could not stay healthy. But I expect him to get his opportunity this year, since guys like WR Jerry Porter and WR Matt Jones are now unemployed. I doubt many people will even consider picking him, but I think he is worth a bench spot on your roster.

WR Sidney Rice (MIN): All this guy does is catch touchdowns. No, he is not Cris Carter. But seriously, all he does is catch TDs. Last year, he had 15 catches and 4 TDs. Not bad. I love his size (6-4, 202). If he can stay healthy (anyone sense a trend?), he should make some plays this year, especially if QB Brett Favre is lobbing jump balls in his direction. If he can stay healthy, he could be a very solid WR3 option if he can get involved in places that are not the endzone.

WR Steve Smith (NYG): The Giants have a high-powered offense. And QB Eli Manning looked to Smith often last year when he needed a 1st down. Smith is not a burner or big-play guy, but he runs very good routes and has reliable hands. He should have a surprisingly solid year. My guess is he will make a solid WR3 in most leagues.

WR Mark Clayton (BAL): I pick him as a sleeper every year. Its sorta like a tradition, at this point. I believe in you, Mark!

WR Mark Bradley (KC): He has never stayed healthy. But if he can, he could do well in the new-look KC offense. Defenses will have to focus on WR Dwayne Bowe, allowing Bradley to get open. But he has never stayed healthy. Ever. So you can likely get him off waivers after the first couple weeks if he is not already on nursing an injury.

WR Michael Jenkins (ATL): After doing very little during his career, he actually looked like a decent WR last year. Part of this was due to the surprisingly solid play of QB Matt Ryan, but it was also due to the emergence of WR Roddy White. Jenkins is slow, but he has great size (6-4), making him a good possession receiver. Also, having TE Tony Gonzalez taking up some attention should help him get open on third downs and in the endzone. Likely waiver material, but keep an eye on him.

WR Harry Douglas (ATL): Two Atlanta WRs on this list? I must be crazy. Perhaps. But Douglas looked good last year coming in as a rookie. And I think he will continue to develop this year. Keep an eye on him early in the season to see how he is used.

WR Keenan Burton (STL): Call me crazy. But I think the Rams will be (slightly) better this year. And, other than WR Donnie Avery and RB Steven Jackson, there is no one else to throw the ball to. And Avery is more of a deep threat. So look for Burton to compliment Avery’s speed. Another guy to watch on waivers, perhaps.

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