The prospect of picking a player who is guaranteed to miss multiple games to start the season will be unappealing to many fantasy owners, particularly owners in smaller leagues or those with limited waivers.
In short, Lions RB Mikel Leshoure and Vikings WR Jerome Simpson will be strictly in-season considerations for numerous owners. Leshoure will serve a two-game suspension to begin the campaign, and Simpson is suspended for the first three contests. Nevertheless, they are players to be familiar with even if they aren’t on your radar on draft day.
Here’s a brief clip-and-save scouting report on each from a fantasy-football perspective:
Lions RB Mikel Leshoure
Upside: Leshoure quickly could become the Lions’ top inside running threat during the season. If nothing else, that would give him a shot at goal-line carries. In the best-case scenario, he would become the Lions’ featured back. The Lions’ other prime threats for carries — Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith — have durability concerns, and Best has yet to be cleared after concussions ended his 2011 season.
Downside: Leshoure missed his rookie season with an Achilles injury, and he has been hampered early in camp with a hamstring injury. A pair of offseason arrests landed him in trouble with the NFL; any more off-field issues likely would not be looked upon kindly by the club or the league. The Lions are a pass-oriented club, and a fade pass to WR Calvin Johnson is a wonderful goal-line play, too.
Draft range: In bigger leagues, there’s a case to be made to take Leshoure late, especially if owners have the luxury to give up the roster spot for a couple weeks and can afford to be patient if Leshoure needs time to round into form.
When to pick him up if undrafted: No later than after Week One. There could be multiple suitors for Leshoure after Week Two as owners start to reassess their rosters.
Vikings WR Jerome Simpson
Upside: The former Bengals wideout has special athleticism — his Christmas Eve TD vs. Arizona, in which he flipped over Cardinals LB Daryl Washington and landed on his feet in the endzone, is an all-time highlight. Simpson, who has field-stretching speed, is the Vikings' top deep threat, and he figures to regularly play once he returns from suspension. He has had a handful of impressive games in the past two seasons, exceeding 100 receiving yards four times.
Downside: Simpson is somewhat inconsistent. He caught less than half of the passes thrown his way a season ago, and drops were a problem. He will be no better than second in the pecking order for targets among Vikings wide receivers behind Percy Harvin, and Minnesota’s passing game doesn’t look overpowering. Finally, he has little margin for error after the three-game suspension, which stems from a marijuana arrest last year.
Draft range: He could merit consideration in big leagues where clubs start three wideouts or more and waivers are limited once the season begins.
When to pick him up if undrafted: If he has a strong training camp and it appears he will start right off the bat once he returns, he could merit a waiver claim after Week Two. Otherwise, it's reasonable to wait until after Week Three.