In the Trenches: Keeper league quandaries
Jan. 23, 2003
Michael Fabiano

If you play in a keeper league, it's already time to start evaluating your roster for next season. While the decision to keep a Fantasy superstar like Priest Holmes is obvious, there are a growing number of players that remain on the border in terms of their keeper-league value. In an effort to decipher the studs from the duds, let's take a look at some of the more questionable keeper-league players for the upcoming season.

David Boston, WR, Arizona: The recent promotion of wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan to offensive coordinator might make staying in Arizona more attractive to Boston, who is an unrestricted free agent. Sullivan was a big reason for Boston's development into a Pro Bowl receiver in 2001, and his desire to build an offense capable of making big plays in the passing game could mean a comeback year for the talented receiver. However, questions about the team's starting quarterback must be answered before Boston's true keeper value can be determined.

T.J. Duckett, RB, Atlanta: The presence of Warrick Dunn will keep Duckett from emerging as a true Fantasy stud in 2003. But if you can keep several players in a larger league, holding onto the bruising tailback at a reasonable price still warrants serious consideration. Coach Dan Reeves will continue to use him as a goal-line weapon, which makes Duckett even more attractive for Fantasy owners in touchdown-only formats.

DeShaun Foster, RB, Carolina: Foster would have been projected as a huge sleeper for 2003, but reports out of Carolina suggest his knee injury might keep him from being ready for training camp. In fact, Carolina was reportedly interested in moving up and selecting Willis McGahee of Miami before he suffered a major knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl. Unless his prognosis improves during the offseason, holding onto Foster is a huge gamble.

Eddie George, RB, Tennessee: George's overall numbers were terrific from a Fantasy perspective, but there are a few things to take into consideration. He has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry over the past two seasons, and ran for 100-plus yards only five times during that span. George is getting to the age where many running backs break down, and he already has a ton of mileage on those legs.

William Green rushed for five touchdowns in his last six regular-season games.  
William Green rushed for five touchdowns in his last six regular-season games.(Getty Images)  

William Green, RB, Cleveland: Green went from a colossal bust to a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back in one season. Once he remembered to follow his blockers and hit holes in the line of scrimmage with authority, Green finally looked like the stud tailback that Cleveland's brass raved about before selecting him in the 2002 Draft. The Browns will rely on Green and the running game heavily next season, which makes the former Boston College star a solid keeper option.

 

Troy Hambrick, RB, Dallas: Hambrick's value as a keeper depends on the status of Emmitt Smith, who will likely be asked to take a huge pay cut to remain in Dallas. New coach Bill Parcells loves running backs that can pound the ball, a la O.J. Anderson, and Hambrick seems to fit that mold. There have been rumors that the team might draft a running back or go after a free agent, possibly Stephen Davis, which makes this situation even more difficult to read at this point in time. However, keeping Hambrick at a low price in larger leagues is worth the risk.

Edgerrin James, RB, Indianapolis: James posted only three touchdowns and ran for 100-plus yards just twice, proving that even the biggest Fantasy stud is no match for the mental and physical tolls of reconstructive knee surgery. But the fact that James was able to endure close to a full season with no apparent complications is a good sign. James should enter training camp both mentally and physically confident, so an improvement in his overall numbers next season is very likely.

Chad Pennington, QB, N.Y. Jets: Despite starting only 12 games, Pennington still threw for 3,120 yards and 22 touchdowns. His accuracy and poise in the pocket draws comparisons to one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, Joe Montana. Pennington has an improving group of wide receivers and a strong running game, so the potential is there for the young signal-caller to throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 scores.

Marcel Shipp, RB, Arizona: Arizona inked Shipp to a three-year extension, which seems to indicate the team is leaning toward releasing Thomas Jones. Shipp doesn't have great speed, but he's a powerful back with good hands and a ton of playmaking ability. Considering he was likely a cheap free agent addition during the season, Shipp is definitely a good keeper option in larger Fantasy leagues, especially for owners lacking depth at the position.

Anthony Thomas, RB, Chicago: The "A-Train" went through an enormous sophomore slump before a finger injury landed him on injured reserve late in the season. Reports out of Chicago suggested the Bears were interested in taking a running back in April's Draft, which might indicate a lack of confidence in Thomas' abilities as a featured player. Thomas likely cost a ton to keep a year ago, which makes him even less appealing.

Javon Walker, WR, Green Bay: Walker's rookie numbers weren't impressive, but he did display the type of upside that makes him worthy of keeper consideration. If Green Bay decides to release Terry Glenn, which has been rumored, Walker could emerge as Green Bay's No. 2 receiver alongside Donald Driver. If nothing else, Walker is a player for Fantasy owners to keep a close eye on in 2003.

Kurt Warner, QB, St. Louis: Warner was easily the biggest bust from a Fantasy perspective in 2002. Injuries cost Warner much of the season, but he was very subpar even when he was "healthy." Warner was recently given a clean bill of health, but he will likely have to compete with Marc Bulger for the starting job. Fantasy owners paid through the nose for Warner's services, and he won't be worth keeping at such a high price entering next season.

Jonathan Wells, RB, Houston: The injury to McGahee reportedly threw a monkey wrench into Houston's entire draft strategy. The Texans were looking at selecting McGahee with the third pick in April's Draft, but they might now decide to trade down and go after an offensive lineman, possibly Stanford's Kwame Harris. In any event, the desire to select McGahee suggests a lack of confidence in Wells, who did very little to prove he can be a productive running back at the NFL level.

Amos Zereoue, RB, Pittsburgh: Reports out of Pittsburgh suggest that Jerome Bettis might be released due to his health and for salary cap purposes. Even if the "Bus" is retained, it will be tough for coach Bill Cowher to ignore the impact Zereoue made for his team in 2002. His durability might be a question, but Zereoue's upside makes him a good keeper candidate.

Trench Mailbag

Michael Nichols: I have to decide between Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap at tight end and Peerless Price and Laveranues Coles at wide receiver in a keeper league. Who do you like going forward?

M.F.: Gonzalez might still be considered the best tight end in the league, but Heap has much more upside and is a bigger part of his team's offense. Price is more attractive than Coles from a keeper standpoint, but his value depends on whether he stays in Buffalo or tests the free agent market during the offseason.

Larry Jennings: What is the situation with Stephen Davis? Is it worth keeping him if Washington releases him?

M.F.: The Redskins are expected to release Davis in late February because of his hefty salary and a power-running style that conflicts with coach Steve Spurrier's offense. Several teams, including Dallas, Tampa Bay and New England, are reportedly interested in Davis. It would be shocking if he isn't a featured back next season, so keeping him at a reasonable price is advised.

 

2001-03 MANIAK FANTASY  LEAGUE

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