In this weekly column, I will explore some young players that haven’t made much of an impact to date. Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap/moderate trade. Acquiring any of these players could decide how well your dynasty/keeper team does for the next few years.
Rob Housler, TE Arizona Cardinals
The young tight end is getting better at making defenders miss and gaining more separation on passing routes. He has a good inclination of where defenses are open to attack using underneath routes. I really like his field awareness as he uses the sidelines as an extra blocker and successfully can walk that tight rope down the line. Injuries have led to his increased playing opportunities so far as Todd Head isn’t the youngest or healthiest player anymore. On a team that has been devastated by running back injuries, the Cardinals need to explore their short passing game to help move the ball down the field. The young tight end could be a valuable asset in that role.
Housler has a modest stat line of eight receptions for 118 yards on 12 targets after the first five games. He can be hindered by Kevin Kolb’s play as well as Arizona’s proclivity to work out of four wide receiver sets. The Cardinals line up Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, and Michael Floyd when they go four wide. Housler has not developed much as an inline blocker so he is not an asset in the running game. This unfortunately limits his upside for the immediate future. In a few of my deeper dynasty leagues, I have Housler as a TE3, but I think his upside is closer to a TE2. Once Arizona settles on a long-term quarterback, Housler should flourish as a more productive Dustin Keller type of tight end.really like his field awareness as he uses the sidelines as an extra blocker and successfully can walk that tight rope down the line. Injuries have led to his increased playing opportunities so far as Todd Head isn’t the youngest or healthiest player anymore. On a team that has been devastated by running back injuries, the Cardinals need to explore their short passing game to help move the ball down the field. The young tight end could be a valuable asset in that role.
Coming out of Penn State, he was known more for his run blocking, quick speed ad agility. Norwood made the most of his opportunity and caught an amazing nine balls out of nine targets for 81 yards. Averaging nine yards a catch does not make a premier receiver, instead it makes him an extension of the running game. In last week’s game, his crisp routes helped Brandon Weeden move down the ball down the field and get away from pressure caused by JPP and the rest of the Giants front seven.
He did a good job getting open in the middle, using good body control, and even caught several passes between linebackers and safeties bearing down on him. Yes, Norwood is more of a possession receiver as he would sit down in a zone and wait for the ball. s the game wore on, Weeden continued to target him. On the Brown’s last drive, he was the target of three straight passes that all went for first downs.
Norwood also was a willing blocker in the running game which was something he excelled at playing for Penn State. He may never be a flashy, speedy WR3 like Josh Gordon, but he can carve out a roll as a WR6-8 on your fantasy team. Weeden is on pace to throw over 4,000 yards and needs reliable options like Norwood. The Browns play in the tough AFC North so they will need hard-nosed reliable receivers who are willing to catch the ball in the middle and run block. He reminds me a bit of Jericho Cotchery. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with 60 catches, 700 yards, and a handful of touchdowns this year.
Update: after this article was written, he was put on the Injured Reserve with the ability to come back after eight weeks.
Shaun Draughn, RB KC
Thanks to an injury to Peyton Hillis the fantasy football community got introduced to Mr. Draughn. The young back, like Hillis, is a complementary back, to Jamaal Charles. He is more of a power runner, but isn’t very dynamic as his 12 carries for 40 yards and one catch for five yard stat line show. He is a tough runner with decent balance, but a slow deliberate back who struggles at times seeing the entire field. There is very little wiggle to his running style, but does a good job keeping his legs churning which results in few negative carries. The Ravens and I were caught by surprise with the spin move that he displayed on a carry to break a play down the sideline in the third quarter. He is averaging over 4.6 yards a carry (34-159 yards and a rushing touchdown in five games). His playing time may decrease in the short-term, but remember Hillis only signed a one year “prove-it” contract.
As a complementary back to Charles, he takes what his offensive line blocks for him and protects the ball. He has a tendency to cut with the ball to the outside and avoid taking too much contact. On passing downs, he does his best to block and keep his quarterback safe. Draughn does well as a receiver as he has caught 11 passes for 100 yards out of 13 targets. In return yardage leagues, his value increases slightly as he handles kickoffs. As a returner, much like his running back style, he finds a seam, puts his foot in the ground, and runs straight ahead.
I’m not convinced that he will ever be more than a RB5-7, but he is playing on a run-first offense that has serious quarterback issues (Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn?). If you already own a piece of the Kansas City backfield, Draughn is worth a roster spot in a deeper league as the Chiefs will not abandon their dedication to the running game. Also keep in mind, Charles’ knee may not hold up to these 30+ touches every game.
Check back next week as we cover more young players and track their dynasty progress.