This is the ninth in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
Two of the nicest sounds a fantasy football owner can hear on draft day are: (1) "Nice pick" or (2) nothing at all. The former means you've beaten your competition to the punch for a coveted player; the latter means you've probably made a solid, logical pick.
Sometimes, though, it's good to make a pick and hear, "Who?!!" This can be disconcerting early in the draft and likely a bad sign — you may well have reached for a player you could have had later.
But in the latter stages of the draft, you want to take your competition by surprise. You're looking for sleepers: boom-or-bust, low-risk gambles who can make a good team special if they reach their potential.
As you look for late-round draft day steals, here's one sleeper to watch from each of the AFC North teams:
RB Willis McGahee — McGahee had a career-low 109 carries last season, and there is no denying Ray Rice will get the majority of the work in the Ravens' backfield in 2010. Nevertheless, McGahee's a must to select for those who take Rice early in their drafts, and he merits consideration from all owners. McGahee racked up 14 touchdowns a season ago (12 rushing, two receiving) and has 53 TDs in his six seasons of play, making him all the more valuable in TD-only leagues (where he likely will be drafted earlier than in yardage formats). As long as the Ravens carry just one fullback on the roster, McGahee, not blocking back Le'Ron McClain, is the second-most valuable Baltimore back for fantasy owners.
RB Bernard Scott — Yes, Bengals starting RB Cedric Benson was a workhorse in 2009, but he missed three games, and he has never appeared in all 16 games in any of the seasons in which he was on an NFL roster as of Week One. If he misses any time this season, the quick Scott will be first in line for carries. Scott played well in Benson's absence last November and racked up 151 total yards (119 rushing, 32 receiving) at Oakland.
WR Mohamed Massaquoi — Massaquoi got a lot of experience as a rookie, which is a plus, and he flashed the ability to stretch the field (18.4 ypc), which is another reason to like his chances to exceed expectations this season. The biggest reason to like Massaquoi? New QB Jake Delhomme is more accurate than predecessors Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson and throws a decent deep ball. Massaquoi, who caught 34 passes for 624 yards and three TDs last season, could improve in all categories because of better QB play and one more year of experience under his belt.
RB Jonathan Dwyer — He's said to have impressed in the club's organized team activities, and with neither starter Rashard Mendenhall nor top backup Mewelde Moore known for being exceptional goal-line runners, the 5-11, 229-pound Dwyer has a chance to get red-zone work as a rookie. Also, he has more upside than the steady Moore. Note that Dwyer rushed for 35 TDs in 40 games at Georgia Tech.
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