Editor’s Note: Our newest writer, Thomas Casale, runs a fantasy football blog at www.ThePigskinGuy.com. His column, “The Fire Sale,” is featured on CNN/SI every week during the NFL season. Thomas started writing about fantasy football in 1998 and his work has been published on a number of different web sites and magazines. We’re excited to announce his addition to the DLF team and post the first of what we hope to be countless insightful articles, exclusively found on DLF.
One of the best parts of playing in a dynasty league is trying to find those hidden gems. I always say I love to win my dynasty league, but I love playing in it even more. Making trades, scouring the waiver wire for the next big thing and loading up the back end of my roster are the reasons why I play fantasy football.
When looking for a player who has a chance to surprise further down the depth chart, fantasy owners need that guy to have a combination of talent and opportunity. It’s an ongoing process, but if you were one of the people who hit on Miles Austin or Victor Cruz, it’s a great feeling.
Here are four players early on in the summer I believe have a chance to help dynasty league owners in the near future if a few things break the right way:
Joe Webb, QB MIN
I know Webb is a quarterback some dynasty owners are holding onto as a developmental guy and I say give him one more season before throwing in the towel.
Christian Ponder will be the Vikings starter, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to survive the season. Even with the addition of first-round pick Matt Kalil, Minnesota’s offensive line still has a lot of holes.
Let’s be honest, by playing the NFC North, the Vikings will have to throw the ball a lot to keep up with the high-powered offenses of Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay. While the Vikings offensive line should be improved, Ponder is still going to be running for his life if Minnesota is playing from behind and forced to throw.
Ponder got beaten up pretty good as a rookie and overall there are a lot of question marks surrounding this Vikings offense. How much better will the line be this season? Will another receiver step up to take pressure off Percy Harvin? Will Adrian Peterson be healthy to start the season? Will Leslie Frazier be fired before Thanksgiving?
Teams with that kind of uncertainty are where guys can emerge during the season to really help fantasy owners. Webb is a great athlete, but he was extremely raw coming out of UAB and he’s still a work in progress. Is Webb a long-term answer at quarterback? I don’t know about that, but if he plays he will always have some fantasy value because of his ability to run.
Regardless of what you think about Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback, he’ll always have value in the fantasy world when he starts because of his rushing yards and touchdowns. Webb isn’t Tebow, but his rushing numbers would be an added bonus for fantasy owners. Plus, with the Vikings weaknesses on the offensive line, Webb’s ability to avoid the rush and throw on the run may actually help the offense if Ponder goes down.
Right now, Sage Rosenfels is listed as the Vikings backup. Although, if something should happen to Ponder I believe the team will turn to Webb because of his mobility and athleticism. We know what Rosenfels brings to the table and it isn’t a whole heck of a lot. If Minnesota is 1-5 and Ponder gets injured, look for Webb to get the call.
I won’t be surprised at all if Webb ends up helping dynasty league owners by the end of the season. Minnesota is one of those teams where a lot of things can change in a hurry. If you’re holding onto Webb, I would give him one more year and see what happens in Minnesota. It could pay off for you.
Andre Holmes, WR DAL
I’ve been a Dallas fan for over 30 years and there are certain things I know about that team. I know they’ll never win another Super Bowl in my lifetime because of the way Jerry Jones runs the organization and I know Kevin Ogletree can’t play.
Only in Dallas would Ogletree still be on the team. The guy has been given chances to produce and has shown no signs of being an NFL-caliber receiver. Last year against the Redskins when the Cowboys had injuries at receiver, Ogletree struggled so badly running the wrong routes that he had to be replaced by a guy Dallas signed earlier that week. His name was Laurent Robinson.
In other words, Ogletree knew less about the offense than a receiver who had been on the team for five days. In my opinion, the Cowboys third receiver job will come down to Holmes and Dwayne Harris. I just don’t believe Ogletree will ever produce, even if he ends up winning the job initially.
Holmes has been receiving some rave reviews because of his play in OTAs. Take that with a grain of salt, though. A lot of guys look good playing against air. Still, Holmes has physical skills. It’s hard to find receivers who are 6’5″, 208 pounds and run a 4.4 40. Those are impressive measurables.
Holmes played at Division II Hillsdale College where he caught 181 passes for 2,444 yards and 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons. He spent last year on Dallas’ practice squad for the first 13 games before being signed to the active roster in December to prevent another team from stealing him away.
Holmes is certainly an intriguing prospect on paper, but I also like the fact that he’s 6’5″. When the Cowboys used a three-receiver set last year, Robinson lined up on the outside with Miles Austin moving into the slot a majority of the time. Dallas likes to use Austin in the slot next to Jason Witten so defenses have a tougher time taking away both players. Holmes has the size where he can be utilized in a similar role as Robinson was last year, allowing Austin to be used more out of the slot.
Dallas drafted Danny Coale out of Virginia Tech in Round five, but he broke his foot in May, so the rookie will already be playing catch-up once he returns in training camp. Harris was very productive at East Carolina, but he struggled to pick up the offense in his first season. I believe out of this group that Holmes is the favorite to be the Cowboys third receiver this season.
I have no idea if any of the guys vying for that third receiver job can play, but Holmes has the most upside simply because of his size, speed and leaping ability. If you’re in a dynasty league and looking for a receiver who may come out of nowhere and be a fantasy factor, Holmes is a solid candidate when you combine physical skills and opportunity. I think he’s worth a shot.
Charles Clay, H-Back MIA
I actually covered the Tulsa football team when Clay was in college, so I’m very familiar with him.
Clay played both running back and H-back at Tulsa, but I always thought he was miscast as a running back. Tulsa fans heard that from me virtually every week. Clay was such a productive receiver from the H-back position, so I always questioned why the team even bothered using him in the backfield at all. It made no sense to me.
He has really soft hands, so catching the ball isn’t a problem for him. Also, because he used to play running back, Clay is a monster to bring down in the open field. I know a lot of people don’t see Tulsa play every week but trust me, he had some of the most impressive open field runs in college football during his time there.
Clay is listed as a fullback, but he’s going to line up at different positions for Miami, so in reality he’s an H-back. Now let’s look at the Dolphins tight ends. Anthony Fasano is what he is at this point. Fasano is a good blocker, but he’s nothing special as a receiver and I don’t think he really fits into what new coach Joe Philbin wants to do on offense.
Some people like rookie tight end Michael Egnew. I’m not one of those people. I certainly don’t see Egnew being a major factor as a rookie. Very few rookie tight ends have fantasy value to begin with and in my opinion Egnew’s game still needs a lot of work.
That leaves Clay as a bit of a wild card. When I break down teams that don’t have a lot of playmakers on offense like Miami, I look for guys who have the ability to step up and make plays. I think Clay is one of those guys. I believe Philbin will try to get the ball into the hands of the few playmakers he has on the offensive side of the ball as often as possible. That could mean a much bigger role for Clay in the passing game.
Clay may end up being a guy without a position in the NFL, but I’ve always thought he could excel as an H-back in the right system. Now with Philbin in Miami, the stars may be aligning for Clay. Keep your eye on him.
Josh Cooper, WR CLE
Cooper is in an interesting situation with the Browns. I personally was surprised that Cooper wasn’t drafted, but at the end of the day he ended up in a perfect place for him to succeed.
Because Cooper is white and has lined up in the slot once in his life he’ll obviously be compared to Wes Welker by everyone in the media. Cooper isn’t nearly as quick as Welker, though. The guy he reminds me of is Bobby Engram, who was a darn good slot receiver in his own right.
Again, I’m always looking for opportunity. There’s no better opportunity for a receiver that displays any kind of ability than in Cleveland. Other than Greg Little, the Browns don’t have much at receiver. I believe this is the tenth straight year Mohamed Massaquoi is supposed to have a breakout season. Sure, call me when he learns how to catch and run a route and then maybe I’ll listen.
Now Cooper may not even make the team, but he’s battling with guys like Jordan Norwood, Carlton Mitchell and Travis Benjamin for reps. Maybe one of those players will end up being a star, but on paper that isn’t a very daunting list. Plus, Cooper has more experience running routes out of the slot than any of them, so he has a bit of a leg up in that department.
Then there’s the most obvious plus in Cooper’s corner; he was college teammates with Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State. Anyone who’s watched the Cowboys play over the last couple of years knows Weeden and Cooper already have tremendous chemistry together. Being a rookie quarterback and not having a lot of accomplished receivers to begin with, there’s a good chance Weeden will be looking Cooper’s way a lot if the two end up on the field together.
We’re obviously looking for longshots here and Cooper certainly qualifies, but I like his prospects in Cleveland. He’ll need to have an impressive camp to make the team but if he does, Cooper will be a guy to watch in PPR leagues.
If a receiver is going to come out of nowhere and help fantasy owners, it could very well be in Cleveland where there’s a lot of uncertainty at the position. If you’re searching for a lottery ticket at receiver to grab and stash, track Cooper’s progress closely over the next couple of months.
Follow Thomas Casale on Twitter @thepigskinguy.