'Slippers' can turn into late-round draft bargainsPosted: Friday August 15, 2003 4:43 PM
Updated: Friday August 15, 2003 5:41 PM
By Bob Harris, Special to SI.com
The regular season is fast closing in on us, which of course, means most fantasy drafts are also drawing nearer. That being the case, my focus over the next three weeks will shift to sleeper picks, players who should offer owners the best bang for their fantasy buck.
But first I'm going to break out with my top five "slippers" -- five previously productive stars who I believe offer tremendous value, despite the negatives (advancing years, roster moves, coaching changes, etc.) leading to their current status.
In order to qualify, the players in question had to be drafted in rounds 12-16 of last week's SI.com Experts League draft. Each player is listed with the pick used to select him (in parenthesis) to add a little perspective.
(12.06) Brian Finneran WR Atlanta Falcons
Price is a speed merchant; Finneran is a strong, tall receiver with dependable hands. And just as Price benefited from Eric Moulds in Buffalo, Finneran could come out way ahead with Price drawing regular double coverage. It's very likely both men will be major factors in the passing attack.
Although free agent MarTay Jenkins could push him for playing time, I have a sneaking suspicion that 43-yard TD hookup between Finneran and Mike Vick in last week's preseason opener was a sign of things to come.
(13.11) Keenan McCardell WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although he missed two games last season with a fractured scapula, McCardell has only missed three starts in the last five years.
As long as the rest of Tampa's passing attack -- meaning Brad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson and Joe Jurevicius -- remain healthy, McCardell should have little trouble putting up totals similar to those he posted in 2002.
(14.07) Desmond Clark TE Chicago Bears
According to head coach Dick Jauron, "He's got good hands. He's got a feel for the game. To my knowledge, he's never been the starter. That's the difference now, he is the starter. He is our guy. We expect him to step up and play like that athlete that you all saw out there."
And the former Bronco has set lofty goals for his first year as an NFL starter.
Clark figures if he can catch 51 passes as a reserve, which he did in Denver two years ago, there's no telling what type of numbers he's capable of posting as an every-down player. "I'm shooting for the sky," Clark said last week. "There wasn't a tight end that had 80 catches last year, so I'm trying to be on top of the league. But if it's 40 catches and we win 14 or 15 games, then I'm happy. It's not a personal thing because all the personal accolades come when your team is winning anyway. But I'm shooting for 80."
For what it's worth, Clark has looked sharp as a receiver in training camp and those who follow the team closely report that he's already developing an excellent rapport with new signal caller Kordell Stewart
(15.10) Morten Andersen PK Kansas City Chiefs
After all, we're talking about a guy who has kicked more field goals and scored more points than any player in NFL history except for Gary Anderson.
I know what you're thinking: Andersen is 42 years old.
Maybe so, but that doesn't mean he's ready to pick up his marbles and run home. The fact is Andersen wants to kick until he's 50, and after having knee surgery this past December he feels like it's a legitimate possibility. "Now that I've got a brand-new bionic knee, I'm good to go for another 10 years, or at least another eight years anyway," he said earlier this year. "The knee feels great. It feels like I have a new knee."
As The Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher noted, the former Lion reported for initial mini-camp workouts in superb physical condition and fully prepared for a position battle. Dick Vermeil agreed with that assessment and recently told reporters Morton was among the most improved players on the field during early training camp workouts.
It's also worth noting that a switch from flanker (where he played last year) to split end (a position he played for eight seasons in Detroit) also weighs in Morton's favor.
Bottom Line? Morton is the most complete receiver on the team and the monster contract he signed upon arrival in K.C. will make it very difficult to keep him on the bench. And if he suddenly returns to the form he demonstrated as a Lion, the former USC star could easily be the steal of this year's SI.com Experts League draft.
That's all for now; check back next week when we'll review this year's top backfield sleepers.