Aug 29, 2011
As we did last week, we are going to continue analyzing our poll results as part of our blog. Recently, we asked FG.com subscribers which of four different players (two rookies and two veterans) we’ve taken a liking to this preseason is their favorite sleeper:
As I was certain our subscribers have taken notice to Brown WR Greg Little just as much as we have this preseason (perhaps because we’ve been so demonstrative about him), it was no surprise to see him win this “election” comfortably: he ended up with a 24% margin on the other players, more than doubling the next highest vote-getter’s ratio. Little is a converted running back who has had some problems with his hands, but it’s clear he’s an excellent fit in this system for QB Colt McCoy. Little has an understanding for route running, and his big, tailback frame means he’s a strong receiver in the intermediate area and can overpower CBs, safeties, and even some LBs in a matchup. Remember, the Browns traded out of the slot where the Falcons ended up drafting WR Julio Jones, and we believe there is a good reason for that. Looking at Little from a skillset standpoint, he actually resembles Jones remarkably. He just wasn’t anywhere near as productive – Little started as a RB and missed his last season because of an NCAA suspension, and in between was a receiver on a team that wasn’t exactly pass-first (he had one 100-yard game in his entire career). Jones had the track record, but Little certainly had the potential. If team president Mike Holmgren, then, didn’t see a whole lot of difference between the two, why not stock up on picks and go grab Little in the second round? So far, Little is proving Holmgren to be very prescient, as he’s looked exceptional for a rookie coming off a lockout, and it also helps that McCoy has had a great preseason. Little might not be a “Mr. Relevant” option after all – he’s moving up draft boards. He could be the #1 WR in this offense, and potentially a very nice #3 receiver in a PPR.
Coming in a distant second, but second nonetheless, is Tennessee TE Jared Cook, one of the more talented young players at his position in the league. We’ve been intrigued by Cook from quite a while, and yet he has yet to put it all together through two seasons in the NFL. But down the stretch last year, he started to show what kind of potential he really had. Through Week Eleven of 2010, his career numbers in 14 games were 14/143/0, which comes out to 1.4 FPG. Bur starting in Week Twelve last season, the Titans gave Cook a bigger role and he showed signs of life, ranking 20th in FPG with 24/292/1 in six games in which he was 8th among TEs in targets. His 12.4 YPC were above average and his 64% catch rate was average – and not bad considering his QB situation. Now, the Titans will be starting Matt Hasselbeck at QB, and Hasselbeck has a history of throwing to the TE often. But there’s also the fact that Cook’s talent is undeniable – he might be top-five in the NFL in terms of skillset, perhaps the closest to Jermichael Finley and Jimmy Graham of any other player in the NFL. It’s just taken him a while to put the whole package together. Honestly, we see a guy who might be the #2 target in this passing offense behind Kenny Britt. Hasselbeck, even though he’s up there in age and his arm strength is limited at best, is a reliable passer who should be able to get Cook the football. And Cook’s still an under-the-radar name, available late in drafts.
It’s pretty obvious why the Raiders drafted our third-place finisher, Denarius Moore – he’s six feet tall and he ran a sub-4.4 40 at the combine. But he’s a guy who struggled with terrible QB play in college at Tennessee, and had he been able to show his stuff more often, he almost certainly would have been higher than a fifth-round pick. In other words, he’s not just a speed guy, but a player who projects as a decent route runner with more practice. For instance, he made things very difficult on LSU CB Patrick Peterson, who might have been the best overall player in the 2011 Draft. While Chaz Schilens, Jacoby Ford, and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been battling nagging injuries in camp, Moore has been lighting it up. Right now, we’re willing to expect Moore to start for the Raiders Week One, and he has the potential to make a Ford-like impact this season. Although we’re not completely sold Jason Campbell is the tonic for Moore’s poor-QB ailments, but at least he has a strong arm. There are plenty of reasons Moore finished third in this poll, Campbell among them, but he certainly has the upside to be the most productive finisher of these four.
Rounding out the four is Tampa Bay WR Dezmon Briscoe, who is still trying to make a name for himself. The advantage Briscoe has is health – it’s taking Rejus Benn some time to get back to full strength as he recovers from an ACL tear. While Benn is more talented, Briscoe provides an excellent option for QB Josh Freeman, because he has a 6’2” frame and very good hands. Our friend Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times predicted a breakout year for this second-year player, and Rick was the first to tell us to focus on Mike Williams (instead of Benn) last year. Unlike some of these other guys, Briscoe might be a legitimate final-round sleeper, and if he will start, as Stroud predicts, Freeman should find a way to get him the football. But the presence of Benn – and the fact that Briscoe is the least athletically gifted of all four players in this poll – are the reasons he would up last here.