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2005 IDP Sleepers

Often the key to winning any fantasy league is hitting on a few of your sleeper picks, players that most other owners aren't really paying much attention to. We looked over the NFL depth charts and each picked out about 10 players that we believe have a good chance to outperform their current value. Many of these players are young guys who are just on the cusp of establishing themselves, and some are vets who have switched positions or teams and now find themselves in a more favorable situation. Either way, knowing about these players is what will often allow you to build a strong squad of IDP players without having to spend too many high draft picks to do so. You'll probably notice that we tend to favor younger players with our selections and that is because many IDP leagues use a dynasty format where youth is at a premium. As most of you probably know, scouting talent is critical in dynasty leagues so if you don't lock up some of these guys before they break out, you may never get a chance again. We've also provided our reasons for why we like these guys so you can read through them and decide for yourselves if any are worth pursuing. (Note that they are simply presented in alphabetical order by last name.)

Defensive Linemen

  • Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona Cardinals
    After being named ACC defensive player of the year in 2003 while playing DT for Florida State, Dockett was a steal for the Cardinals in the third round of last year's draft. Dockett has an explosive first step and can wreak havoc on opposing backfields as evidenced by his school career record of 64 tackles for a loss. He wound up starting 15 games in Arizona at the under tackle position and put up very solid numbers for a DT, including 35 solo tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception. While he may struggle at times against the run due to his smaller size (6'4", 293lbs), Dockett is built in the same mold as playmaking DTs like Cornelius Griffin and Rod Coleman and some teams even considered moving him to end to take advantage of his quickness and pass rushing skills. With quality pass rushers at both DE spots in Bert Berry and Chike Okeafor, he shouldn't see too many double teams and could be in for a breakout season. Getting to face the 49ers twice a year certainly won't hurt his numbers either.


  • Robert Geathers, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
    Geathers was a 4th round pick for the Bengals last year who didn't play much but apparently showed enough for the coaches to make him a starter heading into this season. Not only has he clearly beaten out veteran Duane Clemons for one of the starting DE jobs, but the team has also moved Justin Smith to the LDE spot. This will put Geathers at the RDE spot, which means he won't have to deal with a TE on his side of the field and will frequently be lined up on the QBs blind side. He has great bloodlines as his father and uncle both played in the league. Has good size (6'2", 271lbs) to hold up against the run, good quickness off the snap, and enough closing speed to chase down most QBs from behind. The Bengals defense is a unit on the rise with all the additions they've made over the past couple years and Geathers could play a key role. He has the potential to put up top-30 numbers for a DL and can be had very cheaply.


  • Tony Hargrove, DE, St Louis Rams
    Has identical or superior measurables to the consensus top two DEs from his class of 2004 (Kenechi Udeze and Will Smith). He was flying under the radar of many NFL scouts due to missing his junior season at Georgia Tech for academic reasons (reportedly more of a paperwork snafu) and skipping his senior year of eligibility. Hargrove's deep cover was blown once he clocked a smokin 4.6 with 39"+ vertical ... this is comparable to the top rookie LBs from last season (like Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams), but he is listed at close to 270. In short, he is a freak... he was athletic enough to play QB and safety as prep. Won't see many double teams across from Leonard Little. If Jimmy Kennedy can begin the 2005 season where he left of last year, he should get a big push up the middle, collapsing the pocket and chasing the QB into the waiting arms and voracious maws of Hargrove and Little. The Rams seem to have some swagger back on offense, and there is a good possibility that the defense will be able to play downhill with a lead far more often than last season... always a good thing for a DE. A raw, lump of coal as an underclassman coming off a suspension season, the pressure cooker of last year and high expectations leading into this one could turn him into a diamond in 2005. He had some big games in limited action as a rookie (17 combined tackles in weeks seven and fifteen), and his manhandling of Walter Jones to tackle Shaun Alexander behind the LOS was one of the signature plays in the STL playoff run. Could be a perennial DD sack phenom with rare two way ability to stuff the run in the future... and the future is now for Rams fans.


  • Chris Kelsay, DE, Buffalo Bills
    Chris Kelsay is a fairly deep sleeper in IDP leagues. Because he's not likely to ever reach elite status, he's often ignored. Kelsay has been splitting time with Ryan Denney, but he's got a very high motor and loves to get to the QB. By the end of last season, Kelsay had emerged as the regular starter. He had 4.5 sacks last season and he has the ability to approach double digit sacks. His hard work also enables more chances at recovering and causing fumbles. With the ability to generate ten sacks, Kelsay could make for an excellent DE2 while being scooped up for very cheap.


  • Antwan Odom, DE, Tennessee Titans
    Odom surprised quite a few people when he declared for the NFL draft after his junior year as many thought he would have been a first round lock with another year of experience. He is a physical freak of nature with great size (6'5", 280lbs) who also has the athleticism and speed (4.72 40) to become a factor as an edge rusher. He has added strength over the offseason and should be a more complete player who can equally defend the run and the pass. He is having a strong preseason and looks to be entrenched as the starter at the LDE spot. Could eventually emerge as one of the better pass rushers from the power end spot.


  • Adewale Ogunleye, DE, Chicago Bears
    Just two seasons removed from an AFC-leading 15 sacks. Before a forgettable, injury-marred 2004 season, he had 27 sacks in the prior two seasons. He admittedly doesn't get the benefit of working across from Jason Taylor anymore. Nevertheless, the Bears scouts, after much breaking down of film, answered questions along these lines to their satisfaction that they were comfortable dealing a two-time Pro Bowl WR (Marty Booker), a third rounder plus upping the ante from an initial $4 million signing bonus, to close to $15 million... making him one of the highest paid DL in NFL history (along with Freak II... Jevon Kearse, who also signed a record breaking contract for DL in the 2004 pre-season). Lovie Smith is recognized as a defensive guru, and the Bears could have one of the most formidable D-Lines in the league in a season or two... bringing back echoes of the Monsters of the Midway. O-Gun could be a key piece to the puzzle for them. Chicago certainly opened up their wallet for him like they believe he is capable of being a huge difference maker. We can expect he will be put in the best possible position to succeed. Up and coming DT Tommie Harris could be a future Pro Bowler, a one-gap slasher who gives the Windy City two highly disruptive playmakers behind the LOS. If his ankle problems are behind him, has the goods to be a perennial DD sack artist. If things break right for the Bears and Ogunleye, he has a legit chance of surpassing the phenomenally gifted trio of young DEs Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers and Charles Grant for the NFL sack title. Has more in common with two-way threats Peppers and Grant (actually Peppers is like a ten-way threat) than the one-dimensional Freeney, in that he has a complete game and defends the run with the same intensity as he attacks the passer. In his last healthy season (2003), he finished third in the league at his position in tackles (64, with 45 solos)... behind only the Giants Michael Strahan and the Jets Shaun Ellis. Potentially great value in that his ADP is probably not commensurate with his ability and opportunity. This is a typical scenario when a potentially dominant defensive player is coming off an injury, an edge and a gift that the savvy IDP player will exploit.


  • Dewayne Robertson, DT, New York Jets
    Robertson was a #4 overall draft pick who the Jets clearly have high expectations for. He's capable of becoming an impact pass rusher from the DT position, and began to show flashes of that ability last year with 3 sacks. The Jets lost their NT Jason Ferguson when he signed with the Cowboys this offseason, which will put even more pressure on Robertson to produce. While not known as a great run defender, he has shown improvement in that area. Also, having a healthy John Abraham and Shaun Ellis on either side of him should divert some attention from him and lead to more favorable matchups. The addition of Ty Law to the secondary will also give Robertson more time to rush the passer. If he can get up to 6 sacks or so, he should be a productive fantasy starter this year.


  • Mike Rucker, DE, Carolina Panthers
    Mike Rucker burst onto the scene in 2001 with55 total tackles and nine sacks. From 2001-2003, Rucker averaged about 60 total tackles and over ten sacks, making him one of the most productive fantasy defensive ends in the game. In 2004, Rucker was nothing short of a major disappointment, as he gathered less than 40 total tackles and only 3.5 sacks. At 30 years old, Rucker has fallen off the charts for some IDP owners. But look for Rucker to bounce back in 2005. In the off season, Rucker worked hard to gain even more strength and quickness. Even more important, though, is that Rucker gets back linemate Kris Jenkins, who missed most of 2004 with an injury. Rucker's success has virtually mirrored Jenkins' time in the NFL, as Jenkins arrived in 2001 and quickly became one of the league's best DTs. With Jenkins next to Rucker on the line, Rucker has been a monster. Jenkins is back again healthy for 2005, so look for Rucker to regain the numbers he had from 2003 and again become a top 10 DE for IDP leagues.


  • Kenechi Udeze, DE, Minnesota Vikings
    Kenechi Udeze had huge expectations for the Vikings last season after being drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. He has excellent quickness, good instincts and is a sure tackler. Although he ended the year with five sacks, most considered Udeze a disappointment. However, Udeze had shoulder problems all last year which eventually led to offseason surgery. Also, Udeze was replaced in most passing situations by specialist Lance Johnstone. This year, expect Udeze to play a lot more snaps and become much more of an every-down player. His shoulder surgery has gone well and the word out of camp has been very positive in all regards. 2005 could be the last year that Udeze is ever considered a sleeper, so jump on him now. Double digit sacks and 50+ tackles seem easily within realm this year.


  • Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants
    Super Secret Stealth Stun Sleeper Special... After Strahan went down with a season-ending injury, came on like GANGBUSTERS. If his stats are prorated from when he became a full time starter, you emerge with something like a top 10 talent. Flying under the radar a little bit because he didn't do it for the whole year, and not everybody hunts sleepers by breaking down the game logs. After guys like Peppers and Grant, he may have as much upside as anybody to be a big time two way threat. Could do even better with Strahan back to deflect the attention of blocking schemes away from him. The scary thing to opposing OCs and QBs in the NFC East is that he should get nothing but better. Tiny Troy State is all of a sudden becoming a sort of premier, elite, blue chip DE factory, pumping out two devastating, lethal edge rushing prodigies in about as many seasons... with the other being the luminously talented DeMarcus Ware (also in the FBG Top IDP Rookies).


Linebackers

  • Eric Barton, OLB, New York Jets
    Only 27 (turns 28 in the first month of the season), he has already had some monster seasons with the Raiders... including Top 15 finishes in solo tackles for Oakland in 2002-3. In the FBG IDP scoring system last season, Barton finished 18th overall among LBs, actually ahead of fellow Jet, former Miami MLB prodigy and Defensive Rookie of the Year Jonathan Vilma (as well as just ahead of another Miami MLB luminary... Dan Morgan). He was right behind certified blue chippers Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking and Antonio Pierce. All things being equal, it is nice to shoot for a stud MLB, but Derrick Brooks and Keith Bullock have racked up monstrous stats in recent seasons from the WLB position. Defensive Player of the Year runner up James Farrior had a breakout season for the Steelers in year two after getting acclimated to his new team and defense, and now Barton finds himself in a potentially similar situation. He could see a slight uptick in stats as he gets more comfortable in the system, doesn't have to translate the new scheme, responsibilities, line calls, terminology, etc. Once the mental part becomes second nature, he can let his athleticism come to the fore. The Jets have a young and talented DL, which tie up blockers and keep them from getting to the second level... keeping Vilma and Barton clean and allowing them to fly to the ball and be sideline-to-sideline playmakers (the obligatory, fast athletic LB description). Could produce like a good LB2 and marginal LB1 in larger leagues, but can be had as a LB3 in some cases. Barton's high-end upside is limited to a degree due to playing alongside the voracious Vilma.


  • Monty Beisel, ILB, New England Patriots
    The Patriots defense suffered a huge blow when Tedy Bruschi announced that he would sit out the 2005 season for medical reasons. Taking his place is Monty Beisel who, like Bruschi, was a defensive end in college who took some time to adjust to the linebacker position in the pros. Beisel got his first chance to start while playing with the Chiefs last year and acquitted himself pretty well with 42 solos, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception in just 10 games played. While he is unlikely to be anywhere near the playmaker or coverage LB that Bruschi was, he does show promise as a blitzer and should put up solid fantasy numbers thanks to the players around him. At just 27 years old, the Patriots hope he is a player just on the verge of breaking out.


  • Kendrell Bell, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
    Ever since arriving in the NFL, much has been expected from Kendrell Bell. After winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, many thought Bell was on his way to being a perennial Pro Bowler. Indeed, had it not been for a string of injuries, that might have been the case. Unfortunately for Bell, injuries have derailed much of those expectations and he now finds himself in a position with a second chance after being sent to Kansas City. If healthy, Bell is one of the bigger hitters in the game and brings tremendous pass rushing ability to the position. Bell is capable of 100+ tackles and double digit sacks and those kinds of numbers are difficult to obtain for IDP owners without spending an arm and a leg. The Chiefs have not yet let Bell run wild in practice so there remains plenty of questions, including exactly what LB position will play, but the reward seems higher than the risk and Bell qualifies as one of the biggest potential sleepers in the league this year.


  • Chris Claiborne, MLB, St Louis Rams
    In the ten drafts since 1995, only five other LBs have been taken as high as Claiborne ('99 1.9)... Kevin Hardy ('96 1.2), Peter Boulware and James Farrior ('97 1.4 & 1.8), LaVar Arrington and Brian Urlacher ('00 1.2 & 1.9). Of this group, the former USC All-American has arguably had the least illustrious NFL career to date, and finds himself at the proverbial crossroads with his third team in four seasons (DET, MIN and STL). Though a veteran preparing for his seventh campaign, he just turned 27. After a disappointing two year stint as the Vikings SLB which saw him miss a combined eight games with injuries (he did finish 2004 strong with 19 tackles, 1 INT and 1 TD in two playoff games), he gets a fresh start at MLB with the Rams. The most impressive part of Claiborne's body of work in college and with the Lions was spent in the middle, and he may have been miscast as an OLB. Despite a rep of being a fragile underachiever from his less than scintillating two years in MIN, he only missed one game in his first four years in DET... and he put up tackle totals of 104, 120 and 102 after his rookie season. He also flashed some of the blue chip playmaking skills that were so evident as a Trojan and led to him being selected with a top 10 pick... with nine sacks, six INTs, four FFs, 17 PD and one TD in that same span. With their incendiary aerial assault, STL could be primed for a big season if they solidify the middle of their defense (interior DL, MLB and SS). Claiborne is a big part of the Rams efforts to rehabilitate a defense that was repeatedly victimized and run over in 2004, at a time when he is hungry for vindication of a tarnished, but once brilliant pedigree.


  • Ian Gold, OLB, Denver Broncos
    Ian Gold returns to the team where he achieved his most success. In Gold's first season as a starter in 2002, Gold sparkled with almost 100 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and played with a reckless, disruptive abandon as a weakside linebacker. After a torn ACL forced him to sit out much of the 2003 season, Gold was traded to Tampa Bay, where by most accounts he played very well in 2004. However, his tackle and sack numbers took a nosedive. At least some of the decrease in stats should be attributed to Gold playing on the strong side. Now, Gold is back in the fold at Denver, and back playing where he belongs as weakside linebacker. Playing alongside Al Wilson and second year sensation DJ Williams has caused some to forget about Gold. You shouldn't. Look for Gold to return to the kinds of numbers he had in 2002 and become a top 30 LB. He had tremendous speed and quickness and plays equally well in both man and zone coverage.


  • E.J. Henderson, MLB, Minnesota Vikings
    The offseason has been a rollercoaster ride for the Hendo-nator and his owners. After the Vikings conducted among the biggest defensive dismantlings and overhaulings league-wide, instead of entering the 2005 season as the incumbent MLB, the former Maryland All American found himself on the bench behind Sam Cowart (who had played both ILB and WLB for DC Ted Cotrell... first for the Bills, and later with the Jets). Rather than pout, he sucked it up and decided to treat it as an opportunity to learn from a mentor and get better. Henderson was getting rave reviews from the coaching staff, so they decided to reward him (and lets face it, get the best three LBs on the field together, which they vowed to do) by experimenting with him as the first string WLB, bumping promising 2004 second rounder Dontarrious Thomas from the starting lineup. Some reports have surfaced stating he has been the best LB on the team during the Summer. While he struggled with the mental demands of the MLB position last season and blew assignments, let alone having a handle on how to get others lined up, he can now lean on the veteran presence of Cowart to handle those responsibilities (who knows the defense cold), and devote himself to learning his new WLB role. He has answered coaches' questions about his understanding of the game with a resounding and emphatic affirmative. As a Terrapin sophomore, he routinely terrorized defenses and was a one man wrecking crew, easily looking like one of the most dominant defensive playmakers in the nation at any position. Great things were predicted for him. Even after medical setbacks including back surgery and a dreaded diagnosis of spinal stenosis, he was still thought by most as the consensus top MLB in his class (and one of top two LBs overall with OLB Boss Bailey, who it turned out had medical red flags of his own), before MLB Nick Barnett surged up the draft board leading up to the draft in the wake of some stellar workouts and became the sole first rounder from the class of 2003. Somewhat of a forgotten man due to being stuck behind Greg Biekert his rookie season and the rough transition to starting last year, don't make the same mistake as some of your leaguemates... Henderson is the genuine article... a BEAST. The bonus plan is that he could slide back to MLB as soon as 2006, representing a potential big uptick in stats... has the pedigree, physical ability and talent to be one of the ten best MLBs in the game with development and maturation.


  • Brad Kassell, MLB, Tennessee Titans
    Originally signed as an undrafted free agent 4 years ago, Kassell spent time on the Titans practice squad and contributed on special teams before finally getting a chance to show what he could do as a linebacker last year. It almost didn't happen as he partially tore his Achilles tendon just before training camp and many thought he would be out for the year. But, he decided to put off surgery and eventually recovered in time to take over at MLB when Rocky Calmus was sidelined with a back injury despite not getting any practice time during the preseason. Over the past 5 games of the season, he put up 43 solo tackles and 14 assists, which would amount to an average of 10 points/game using FBG IDP scoring. For comparison purposes, the highest scoring linebacker in the league last year, Donnie Edwards, averaged about 10 fantasy points/game. While Kassell is unlikely to maintain that level of production over an entire season, it clearly demonstrates the upside he has. The Lions tried to pry him away this offseason but the Titans thought enough of him to match the 1 year, $1 million offer they made. While Kassell does struggle in coverage and probably won't be a part of the team's nickel package, the Titans look to be in a rebuilding year so the defense will probably be on the field a lot.


  • Lemar Marshall, MLB, Washington Redskins
    FBG's esteemed John Norton predicts that rookie Robert McCune will win the MLB for the Redskins this year. Indeed, the FBG projections as of 8/19/05 has McCune with tackle numbers of a starter. But the word from what I've heard and read is that 4th year player Lemar Marshall holds onto the lead for winning the battle for Redskins MLB. Marshall started 14 games last season for the injured Levar Arrington and produced solid numbers. With previous MLB Antonio Pierce leaving via free agency, someone has to fill his shoes. Those shoes ended the year with 100+ total tackles and if Marshall can hang onto the job, he could end up being one the best IDP sleepers of the season. The MLB position carries a lot of responsibilities in the Redskins defensive schemes and I believe the experience the veteran Marshall brings, along with his exceptional quickness and work ethic, will enable him to win the job and have a big season.


  • Daryl Smith, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
    Daryl Smith is a smart, technically sound linebacker who has excellent instincts, a high motor and is a hard hitter. Although raw in 2004 as a rookie, Smith still managed about 50 total tackles, a pair of sacks, an interception and a fumble. He has the mentality of a MLB and there has been some speculation that Peterson moves over at some point, perhaps as early as 2005, but that has been unconfirmed by the team. Regardless, Smith plays as the WLB and should get a large number of tackle attempts. Smith has the potential in 2005 to become a force and can be acquired cheaply in most leagues.


  • Kailee Wong, ILB, Houston Texans
    Wong has been under the radar for practically his entire career. The Vikings drafted him in the 2nd round out of Stanford and he put up very impressive totals during his 3rd and 4th years in the league (166 solos, 5 sacks, 3 INTs). He signed with the Texans during their expansion season and took over at one of the OLB spots. Playing outside in the 3-4 limited his tackle opportunities, while Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman were extremely productive on the inside. The Texans released both veteran ILBs this year and will replace them with Wong and Morlon Greenwood. Many are expecting Greenwood to put up bigger numbers because of the large contract he signed, but Wong is the more proven player and could easily push for a top-20 season. Wong has a good combination of size (6'2", 246lbs) and speed, is an excellent tackler and run defender, and can also contribute as a blitzer (20.5 career sacks) and make plays in coverage (6 career INTs, including 3 last season).


Defensive Backs

  • Michael Boulware, SS, Seattle Seahawks
    Comes from an athletic family... he and his brother (Peter) were both Florida State All Americans with the versatility to break through at different positions at the next level. Peter was a DE who morphed into a Pro Bowl LB with the Ravens. Michael was an OLB converted to SS by the Seahawks and could be a future Pro Bowler. He was the fastest LB in the 2004 draft, clocking in with a CB-like 4.4. After just a few starts, the former Seminole already looks like one of the best safeties in the league. He is going to be a MON-STAR, with the potential for 80+ solos & 6+ INTs (could be a top 5 S this year). An ascendant player who will soon be mentioned with the elite young safeties in the league (such as Roy Williams and Ed Reed). Possesses a great football temperament, he is a serious student of the game and intense competitor. A leader with maturity beyond his years, he was Mr. Clutch last year, almost single-handedly saving about four games for SEA with late game heroics. Boulware was a big play machine, and he had many pivotal, game-changers for the team during the course of an incendiary rookie debut. A Frankenstein monster combo of LB size and hitting ability, the range and instincts of a safety and the speed and aerial skills of a CB confer on him the rare and real opportunity to rack up points over half a dozen ways (solo tackles, assists, sacks, FFs, FRs, INTs and TDs).


  • Matt Bowen, SS, Washington Redskins
    Matt Bowen had a breakout season in 2003 when he had 74 solo tackles and three interceptions. In 2004, Bowen started where he left off, but four games into the year, he tore the ACL in his right knee and missed the rest of the year. Bowen and his knee looked good again in camp until he sprained the same knee in a recent practice. However, the sprain was mild and considered to be very minor and Bowen is expected back soon. Last year's replacement for Bowen, Ryan Clark, looked so good that some have almost forgotten about Bowen. But if Bowen is near 100%, he will retain the starting job. Although far from being a superior athlete, Bowen more than makes up for it with very solid tackling skills and hard hitting. He has a non-stop motor and playing the SS position for the Redskins should equate to a lot of tackles. While there remains risk related to his knee, Bowen could be an excellent sleeper pick and end the season as a top 20 fantasy safety.


  • Mike Brown, SS, Chicago Bears
    Brown quickly established himself as a leader of the Bears defense after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft. He has good range and great instincts, which seem to always put him in the right place at the right time. Brown became a hero during the Bears surprising 13-3 season in 2001 when he came up with an overtime interception return in back to back games. Up until this point in his career, Brown has primarily lined up in the free safety spot, with Tony Parrish and Mike Green generally filling the strong safety spot. This year, however, Brown will be moved to the strong safety spot after having missed most of the 2004 season with an Achilles injury suffered in week 2. Based on the huge numbers Mike Green has been putting up at SS the past few years, Brown becomes an obvious candidate to see major improvement in his fantasy value this year.


  • Chris Gamble, CB, Carolina Panthers
    Probably one of the top half dozen athletes in the NFL... and the Panthers have two of them with Peppers, too! After not focusing on CB for most of his life (he was recruited to Ohio State as a WR... showed the stamina and endurance of a cyborg by taking the most two way snaps in several decades and helping the Buckeyes to a National Championship) and engaging in two way exploits in the collegiate ranks ala Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson... still the only Heisman winner not to play primarily on offense... Gamble somewhat surprisingly claimed the starting gig for Carolina early and didn't look back, being among NFL INT leaders (6) in an extremely auspicious debut. He tied for the NFC lead in INTs with former Seahawk Ken Lucas, who is coincidentally now his teammate thanks to the miracle of free agency. Gamble was a liability against run initially, but got stronger as the season progressed and as he got more reps (he never played the position until goofing around with some friends on the field before his sophomore season)... about what one would expect given how raw he was given his defensive inexperience. Not a finesse offense guy playing defense... he had no problem aggressively sticking his nose in for run support, after being coached up. Scout's scout Frank Coyle thought he had the raw, prodigious talent to emerge as the top CB in his class (Dunta Robinson is no doubt the top CB prospect from the 2004 draft for dynasty IDP purposes, with Gamble arguably second ahead of DeAngelo Hall) Though "real world" football chops don't always translate to IDP production, he looks like he will get a lot of tackles in that system. Could be the rare player who gets a lot of INTs from season to season... just because he is so much more gifted athletically than 99% of the skill position players he will ever line up against. Plays the ball phenomenally well in the air (on the atho-lete riff, he led his Florida HS team to a State Championship in hoops as a junior, before duplicating the feat on the gridiron his senior season), and will no doubt score a few TDs over his career as he is a threat whenever he has the ball in his hands between his freakish athleticism and skill position experience. Gamble and Lucas have gone on the record saying they each will get 10 INTs in 2005. A winner at every level he has ever played, across different sports and in some cases... from different positions. His ceiling is as high as virtually any player in his draft class at any position. Still improving by leaps and bounds. Big upside, especially in leagues that differentiate DB scoring and require CBs.


  • Sean Jones, SS, Cleveland Browns
    Sean Jones has an excellent combination of size and speed and when he was drafted in 2004 he was compared in talent just behind Sean Taylor. A torn ACL forced him to sit out the 2004 season, but he returns in 2005 healthy and is notched in as the starting strong safety for the Browns. Because he sat out last year and entered the league without much fanfare, he's not getting the recognition he deserves. But Jones' combination of tackling abilities, instincts, strength and speed make him an excellent sleeper in your leagues and possibly a top 20 DB. With few flaws in his game, expect Jones to have a long career in the NFL.


  • Kenoy Kennedy, SS, Detroit Lions
    Kennedy was a 4-year starter in Denver, who wound up having his best season in 2004 playing alongside John Lynch. The Lions brought him to bring some much needed toughness to their defensive secondary, and Kennedy is the type of safety who will punish receivers for trying to make plays in the middle of the field. The linebacker situation in Detroit remains unsettled, so Kennedy will likely play a big role this year and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron will use him in the same way he used to use Tony Parrish and Mike Brown in Chicago.


  • Bob Sanders, SS, Indianapolis Colts
    Bob Sanders - A little stick of dynamite. Actually, he is less little than he is short. Though technically about 5'9" 210, he plays like (and more importantly, hits like) the sawed off 6'0" 230 he is. Stood head and shoulders above the other DBs at the combine in the measurables department. Left contrails during a supersonic, elite CB/WR-like 4.3 and than had a cup of coffee while waiting to descend back down through the stratosphere after launching a position best 41"+ vertical. His HC Kirk Ferentz said after he came to the Iowa program, it was like as if you had been losing a fight to some neighborhood bullies, and all of a sudden your big brother joined into the fray and started stomping people! He will go fast in dynasty drafts... too fast, maybe, given his troubling injury history in the past year. But if healthy, has "it"... whatever "it" is, he's got it. The charisma, inspiring intensity, magnetic presence, incandescent talent, electric quickness and telepathic instincts to elevate the level of an entire defense... in fact, to rock a whole stadium and city. Some scouts said if he was four inches taller and 10 lbs heavier, he might have carried a similar grade to Sean Taylor. That is saying a lot, as Taylor was one of the highest graded safeties in the history of the draft (with the likes of Kenny Easley, Ronnie Lott and Roy Williams). Along with good looking FBG Top Three Rookie DB Marlin Jackson, the "Hitman" may have what it takes to do the unthinkable... field a stop unit worthy of the #1 overall offense, instead of being like a Shelby Cobra body welded to a Pinto frame. If the explosive impact Sanders and Jackson are as good as advertised, this could be the long awaited year for Colts fans they get by the conference road block otherwise known as the New England Patriots and soar into the Super Bowl... in the Motor City, a fitting destination for a high octane offense and the FS with pedal-to-the-metal intensity.


  • Shawn Springs, CB, Washington Redskins
    Springs was viewed as one of the best cornerbacks in the league early in his career with the Seahawks, but some injury problems set him back aways. The Redskins took a chance on him last year when they signed him to a big contract, and he came through with a very strong rebound season under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Springs' tackle numbers (52 solo, 12 assists) were not too remarkable, but he boosted his value with a bunch of big plays (6 sacks and 5 INTs) that helped him finish as a top-20 fantasy DB. Cornerbacks in Williams' system have traditionally produced very strong fantasy numbers (Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements, and Terrence McGee), and Springs should continue that trend in 2005.


  • Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears
    In a very strong rookie class for cornerbacks (e.g., Terence Newman, Marcus Trufant, Ricky Manning, Terrence McGee), Tillman emerged as perhaps the best of all of them with a 74 solo tackle, 4 INT rookie season. Despite coming from a small school, Tillman plays with an aggressive style and his size (6'1") allows him to match up well with some of the taller WRs in the league. He's a good wrap up tackler who isn't afraid to contribute in run support, who also has demonstrated good playmaking ability. A knee injury sidelined him for half of the 2004 season, but he's healthy now and should rack up good tackle numbers in the Bears cover-2 style defense. An improved pass rush up front should lead to more interception opportunities as well.


  • Tank Williams, SS, Tennessee Titans
    Tank Williams has always seemed ready to break out and have a monster year. Many scouts believe it's only a matter of time before Williams becomes a Pro Bowl caliber player. He's a big hitter with great size and good speed. He's especially strong against the run and plays more like a linebacker than a safety. It seemed like in 2004 he was just coming into his own and beginning to live up to the expectations of being a second round pick when he went on IR with a knee injury. That injury remains in the picture, as the team is unsure if Williams will be ready by opening day, but Williams seems on the verge of a bust out season if he can remain healthy.


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