BY DAVID KOMER
Reggie Bush: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Frustrating equally to coaches and fantasy players like, there are a handful of players who leave everyone guessing. These are guys who, despite showing huge flashes of potential, seem to come up empty when it matters most: in your starting lineup.
The good news is that thanks to letting us all down many times over, the draft value for this select few is pretty affordable for the following group of sketchy prospects. Due to their cheap value but tantalizing talent, any one of them could be the last piece of a championship lineup. The bad news is they come wrapped in yellow CAUTION tape.
If you?re the type that antes at the poker table before looking at your cards, drinks during your draft or just plain likes a good roll of the dice, keep reading.
5) Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers: Everyone's favorite "soldier", Winslow had a fine debut with the Bucs last year, putting up the second-best numbers of his career (884 yards, 5 TDs). Blessed with tremendous raw physical ability (as is everyone on this list), K2 has shown flashes of dominance and looks like an offensive cornerstone to second-year QB Josh Freeman's development. Injuries have always haunted him, highlighted by a high ankle sprain and staph infection combo in 2008, along with multiple knee surgeries seemingly every offseason.
2010 outlook: In leagues requiring a tight end, Winslow is top 10 at his position and can be had in the late middle rounds (7, 8, 9). A great threat for hitting 80 catches and 1,000 yards, the only question is how long can he stay healthy. For fantasy GMs who like to live dangerously.
4) Vince Young, Titans: In 10 starts last year, he produced 188 yards passing per game, 10 touchdown passes and two scoring runs. Not exactly dazzling, but workmanlike for what looked like a one-time draft bust. Going into this fall, veteran Kerry Collins is still on the roster and very much in the mix as a backup plan. Going forward, the Titans are obviously Chris Johnson's team, allowing Young to be his wingman. But whether he'll overcome his sketchy passing ability (57.6 percent career completions) is another matter altogether.
2010 outlook: He may never fulfill the promise of his rookie year, but might serve as a good QB3 or decent QB2 as a late round, low-risk, flier. Even if his passing stays up and down, his scrambling ability makes him special.
3) Braylon Edwards, Jets: What happened to the Edwards from '07, when he lit the league up for nearly 1,300 yards and 16 TD catches? Injuries and drops haven't helped the past two years, nor did a disintegrating Cleveland QB situation. A slow start with the self-destructing Browns last fall gave way to the Jets trade, where he showed a spark of life as the top receiver in a run-first offense. Edwards put up 541 yards and 4 TDs in 11 starts and is back to lend a veteran hand for young QB Mark Sanchez. While the acquisition of Santonio Holmes is a concern, his regular season suspension should give Sanchez and Edwards some extra time to build even more chemistry.
2010 outlook: A late pick who will be his team's WR1, and might make a nice WR3 or 4 in your fantasy lineup. The Jets won't throw a ton, but Edwards is their top target -- at least for this year.
2) Darren McFadden, Raiders: In past years I've wanted to stop friends eyeing McFadden with the "step away from the sleeper list" warning. How does one suffer a sophomore jinx when they were brutal as a rookie? Offseason reports have shown indications that Michael Bush will be the starting back, but with McFadden's stock at his lowest, this might be the best time to buy. His problems are many, for example it?s hard to believe that after looking speeding bullet-fast in college, his career yards per carry average is 3.9. Last year he had a measly 357 yards and one, count it, one, touchdown. Even though he missed four games to injury and shared carries, the numbers are still pathetic. This might be his last chance, and if he shows anything, the Raiders will be sure to get him the ball. The clock is ticking, and McFadden is looking at going down as one of the all-time running back busts not from Penn State.
2010 outlook: Acquire him only if in double-digit rounds and if you have a deep pool of talent at the position. In other words, handle with care.
1) Reggie Bush, Saints: Just good enough to keep in a starting lineup but just inconsistent enough to pull your hair out. Nobody teases in fantasy football quite like Bush. The disgraced former Trojan rushed for only 390 yards last year, but totaled 725 in combined yardage, with his saving grace being eight touchdowns. His all-around explosiveness and the fact he's playing in a high-octane offense are validation enough to draft Bush this season. Pierre Thomas is the goal-line back, while Bush handles dump-off passes and the occasional hand off. What concerns me is that in '09, Bush's rushing attempts fell to their lowest ever, at under nine per game, while his receiving numbers (47 catches for 335) are also his fewest. Because of his explosiveness and pass-catching ability, he is the quintessential feast or famine player.
2010 outlook: Even if the light never comes on and he duplicates his production of a year ago, he's still a good RB3 and a spot starter. He should be had in rounds 6 through 8 this year and will add nice depth and home run ability -- as long as he can cut down on his Rob Deer-esque strikeout rate.
Trying out a 14-team mock draft over at Fantasy Football Calculator. The plan was to pick late in the first round and try to build a balanced squad despite the high number of teams. Here's how it shook down, as I manned the No. 13 slot in a 15-round draft:
1 RB Shonn Greene, Jets
2 QB Drew Brees, Saints
3 RB Pierre Thomas, Saints
4 WR Chad Ocho Cinco, Bengals
5 WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
6 RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
7 WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks
8 TE Kellen Winslow, Bucs
9 WR Devin Hester, Bears
10 RB Leon Washington, Seahawks
11 QB Matt Cassel, Chiefs
12 RB Willie Parker, Redskins
13 Def./ST Colts
14 PK Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
15 WR Taylor Price, Patriots
Overall: If you're going to over rely on a team, make it the Saints I suppose. Thomas was the highest remaining back when I took him and it's a move I made easily. Taking a QB, even one that?s elite, early on in a large draft is a calculated risk. Waiting and watching the depleting crew of RBs and WRs is nerve-wracking. But had I waited, four other quarterbacks all went before my late third round pick and I was happy with how my third and fourth round picks came together. One way or another, large leagues make it harder to wait for a quality QB, so I was happy I grabbed arguably the best in the draft, when I did.