I found it in a pile of receipts and paid bills that was leaning ever so slightly against my computer tower in our home office.
It was a coupon for toilet paper. A whole dollar off a pack of Scott bathroom tissue.
I was instantly elated. We didn’t need toilet paper, but I had found a bargain. We, as a human race, can’t pass up a deal, even if it turns out to be a bad one. Give me a nickel off a pack of gum, and I’ll spend the rest of the day doing random fist-pumps and dancing an Irish jig.
Then I saw the coupon’s expiration date, and wanted to cry. The dollar-off-a-pack-of-TP deal ended 8/31/09.
It was as if someone had sucker-punched me in the gut. It was like I had just lost my best friend.
This Tuesday morning, millions of people will experience a similar feeling. That’s the day that free agents in many fantasy football leagues come off waivers for the first time, and a mad rush of people all try to get the next great thing before owner Wally the Waiver-Wire Nerd makes his move.
Waiver priorities will be burned, emotions will run high and local drugstores will run low on Alka-Seltzer and antidepressants.
But you can avoid all that.
Simply pick up the next big thing BEFORE the games kick off Sunday and waivers lock up. Stash them on your bench and watch the other owners in your league wither in jealousy as your sleeper stash-away becomes the Anquan Boldin of 2009.
But who to choose? If you read just one of my stories all season, this is the one you should review. Consider snagging the following players on the cusp of fantasy stardom.
1. Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals. No sense beating around the bush. Bernard Scott is my sleeper to end all sleepers. He’s the closest thing you’ll find to a “Steve Slaton” this year. Remember Slaton last year as a rookie? Undrafted in all but the largest of fantasy leagues. Mired just behind an aging and questionable Ahman Green on the Houston depth chart. Had inspiring preseason performances. Replaced Green as starter. Suddenly, he became everyone’s fantasy darling and a savior to many a fantasy owner’s season. I drafted him in most of my leagues to jeers from leaguemates. Advantage me.
Scott follows a similar path this season. He went undrafted in many fantasy leagues. In fact, in Yahoo leagues, he’s owned by just two percent of teams. He’s behind just Cedric Benson on the depth chart. Yes, that Cedric Benson … the one who deserves a start on your fantasy football roster as much as Rosie O’Donnell deserves her picture on a box of Wheaties. Bernard Scott’s only detractor is his size (5-11, 220) … except, remember that Slaton guy (5-9, 201)? He made it work with a much smaller frame.
Some experts rave that Cedric Benson has an opportunity to be a sleeper, sneaky RB start this week against the train wreck of a team in Denver. However, the pet rock from my first grade art class has a better chance to score legitmate fantasy points. Scott will be the one who turns heads, and he’ll be a difference maker as the season progresses — regardless of what happens in Week One.
Grab him now. The expiration window is small.
2. Earl Bennett, WR, Bears. No need to go into super detail on Bennett and why I love him this season. Just check out my popular WR sleeper story and my Week One things to expect. Bennett is owned in 29 percent of Yahoo leagues — up nine percent from when I posted my bold predictions piece yesterday. By Wednesday, I expect him to be owned, easily, in 65 percent or more of all Yahoo leagues. Don’t miss the curve.
3. Mike Bell, RB, Saints. Again, much of my reasoning for grabbing Bell before Sunday’s games is explained here. However, the difference between Bell and the others on my list at the moment is that Bell is a short-term option. Pierre Thomas should be back next week. The Saints don’t play the Detroit defense every week of the season. Lucky for us fantasy ninjas out there, most run-of-the-mill owners have the fantasy equivalent of ADHD. They’ll see Bell’s 100 yards and two TDs early next week and trade you their grandmother’s left kidney for him. If you do snag Bell, make sure you try to capitalize on his statline from Sunday and make a quick move for a player with more long-term upside that may have struggled some in Week One.
4. Deon Butler, WR, Seahawks. By all accounts, Deion Branch will be riding the pine this week. Butler may not be super-big, but he his super-fast, and Hasselbeck and company will utilize Butler to stretch the less-than-scary St. Louis defense. Yes, it is unlikely that Butler will be a super rookie breakout at receiver. The position is historically a slow-burner for rookies. However, Butler will be a serviceable option off your bench as long as there is room to squeeze him in. More on him here.
5. Brent Celek, TE, Eagles. Have I ever mentioned how incredibly ADHD many fantasy owners are? Celek turned many a head in the postseason last year, is the only viable and healthy tight end on a team known for chucking regularly to a tight end, and is only owned in 35 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment. Go snag Celek off your waivers before games start Sunday (and before some random butterfly diverts your attention) and reap the benefit of having some quality TE depth on your team. At worse, having a second quality TE will allow you to pry your way into a nice early-season trade, dealing your name-brand Tony Gonzalez or Dallas Clark for an improvement at another position and ride Celek to fantasy stardom. More on Celek’s sleeper status can be found in our NFC-East preview.
6. Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers. Owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues, Hill is finally in a position to succeed as a starter and will fare well in a game that promises to be a shootout against Arizona. Read more on my Week One mancrush for Shaun Hill here.
Who do you suggest as must-add players before week one starts? Want to debate any of the players on this list? We’d love to hear your comments.