Devon Heinen

Draft Decisions

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Need Some Fantasy Sleepers?

Friday, April 08, 2011


It's third-and-long late in the fourth quarter. You're down by five and marching down the field. You can't hear the call let alone think straight; the stadium's so loud. Everybody knows what's coming, but can your wideout deliver?

Without a good pair of hands outside, a quarterback is merely a sitting duck behind the line. In the world of fantasy football, having that reliable receiver to get you points when you need them most is just as important.

Looking ahead to the 2011 season, two under-the-radar receivers shouldn't be left off draft boards if fantasy players are looking for late-round low-risk, high-reward options.

Out in the Pacific Northwest, Jermaine Kearse is looking to build off an impressive junior year for the Washington Huskies.

In 2010, no other Husky came close to the 6-foot-2, 205-pound local product. Kearse led the team in receptions and receiving yards. The wideout was so vital to his team's offense that the closest teammate in receiving yards had 475 yards less. Kearse also had eight more touchdowns than any other receiver on the roster en route to being named All-Pac-10 second team.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that his offense last season was anything but consistent with a porous offensive line protecting an inaccurate now-departed Jake Locker.

While Washington will have a new signal caller slinging the ball around in 2011, the steady hands and big-play threat of Kearse will nonetheless be prevalent in Montlake. The Huskies will need to rely on him if they're going to clinch a second consecutive bowl birth, as the team will face big-time opponents in Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, Oregon and Southern Cal.

On the other side of the country, a senior clad in orange and blue is looking to prove that a late-season coming out party wasn't a fluke.

After recording just 42 receptions, 484 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions combined in his first two seasons on The Hill at Syracuse, Marcus Sales could have been pegged as an over-hyped high school All-America bust coming out of local Christian Brothers Academy.

The label held true for much of his junior year as well. He had a mere five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown through the team's first nine games of the 2010 season.

However, the 6-foot, 177-pound wideout stepped up in the Orange's final four games. During that stretch, Sales hauled in 21 balls for 375 yards. His last game of the season was his best, not just of the year, but also of his entire collegiate career. In the Pinstripe Bowl against Kansas State, Sales' five catches that were good for 172 yards and three touchdowns were vital in Syracuse's first bowl victory since 2001.

Unlike Washington's Kearse, Sales heads into the 2011 campaign with a returning starter under center in Ryan Nassib and, according to reports from the team's spring practices, the two are using the Pinstripe performance as a springboard for a big finale that will include Southern Cal and Pittsburgh as the team's only major opponents that could feature a noteworthy defensive force.

While risky receivers can prove to be headaches for fantasy players, if they're approached properly in drafts they could help carry teams deep into the fantasy postseason. Washington's Jermaine Kearse and Syracuse's Marcus Sales might not be the first that come to mind when thinking of that big-reward sleeper, but should have people wishing they had thought of them when 2011 is through.



Email :Devon Heinen



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