Posted 12/2 by Jeff Pasquino, Jeff Tefertiller, and Sigmund Bloom, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
The purpose of this column is to spotlight deeper roster moves that could pay off big over the course of the season. Unless stated in a player's write up, we're not looking for one-week wonders here, but shark moves that could really strengthen your team down the road.
Dynasty Watch focuses on low risk, huge payoff roster moves that you might be able make before the guys in your league think about it. This aim of this column is to make you look like a genius to the other owners in your league. When news breaks and the other owners are scrambling to make a waiver wire move, we want them to be upset time and time again that the player is already on your squad.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Dallas Cowboys
What has he done so far
Bennett started playing more in week seven and really stepped up when Jason Witten was injured. Bennett is a rookie from Texas A&M who is very athletic. He has scored a touchdown in the last three games, and four out of the last six contests. He has earned the trust of Tony Romo and is a solid redzone option.
Dallas drafted Bennett with the 61st overall pick. They thought a lot of him to take the former Aggie in the second round. Bennett plays in two tight end sets and is able to get up the field with ease. With so many weapons on the Cowboys, Bennett is covered by a linebacker and is able to get open. He is also a good blocker. This blocking ability has allowed him to get on the field more as the season has progressed. He has been able to play through injuries. He showed this on Thanksgiving when was questionable with an ankle injury and still played well.
Bennett is 6'6", 260 pounds. He is surprisingly fast for a man of his size. He ran a 4.68 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. To illustrate his athletic ability, Bennett has a 34" vertical and 9'9" broad jump. He has big hands and does not drop many passes. Bennett caught 49 passes for 587 yards and four scores his last season in College Station. This was on an offense that did not throw the ball well. He is a good receiver that can break tackles and make plays.
Jason Witten is under a reasonable contract until after the 2012 season. Bennett's upside is limited unless Witten misses time. If he was the unquestioned starter, Bennett could be a solid Top 10 tight end. Bennett is only 21 years old and will develop further as he gets older.
Martellus Bennett is a good receiver and blocker. He will be a guy to watch to see how he develops. Bennett is a player that could surprise if his situation ever changes. He started slowly in training camp, making mental mistakes. But Bennett has stepped up and earned valuable playing time the last few weeks.
Gary Guyton, LB, New England Patriots
What has he done so far
Guyton was an undrafted free agent who apparently signed with San Francisco after the draft, but that report proved to be false, as the Patriots and their superior personnel department swooped in and signed the "other" (and maybe better) Georgia Tech LB in the 2008 draft class (apologies to Colts LB Philip Wheeler). Guyton caught on with the Pats, and he quickly earned the important job of being the only LB in the dime package. He has posted 21 solo tackles and two passes defended already, and he has generally been around the ball any time he is on the field.
Guyton seems to be taking more and more snaps away from Tedy Bruschi in base packages every week, and he's also attacking on the blitz. He had four solos and three assists vs. the Steelers last week and he's earning the trust of the Patriots defensive coaches.
At this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Guyton will inherit the other ILB starting spot from Bruschi and settle in for the long term next to fellow rookie Jarod Mayo. He should be a viable IDP fantasy LB in 2009.
New England's scheme does not make for fantasy studs, but Guyton has the skills to be at least an LB3 in an every down role. He can drop into coverage and has legit hands for the interception, he's a vicious pass rusher, and he's a sure tackler. He should be owned in every deep dynasty league.
It's hard to know why none of the 32 NFL franchises thought Guyton was worth a pick last April. It can't be his measurables - he had the fastest 40 time of any linebacker at the combine, the best broad and vertical jump numbers, and his 3 cones and short shuttle were among the top 10 LBs at the combine. It can't be his play - he was outstanding as a do everything linebacker at Georgia Tech. He often covered his and Wheeler's responsibilities when Wheeler would blitz, and he excelled in that crucial role. Guyton is another shining example of why it's best for us to forget draft status when we are watching rookies. If the draft was held today, he would definitely be a 3rd or 4th round draft pick at worst, and he would go among the top 10 LBs in rookie dynasty drafts. If he's still on your waiver wire, rectify that immediately.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks
What has he done so far
Not much, but then again the rookie has been buried on the depth chart in Seattle behind both Julius Jones and Maurice Morris. Even T.J. Duckett has had more work than Forsett, but that may be changing soon for the Seahawks' 7th round pick.
Slowly rising up the depth chart. Head coach Mike Holmgren has exhausted the supply of viable runners, as Julius Jones could do next to nothing against the Cowboys (except fumble) and Maurice Morris is not the long term answer.
Any week now, Forsett should see some action in the backfield. He's already active and the kick returner, so giving the rookie some work as a rusher should be one of the items on the "must do list" for the rest of the schedule. The Seahawks are going nowhere fast this year, so it is time to see what the young players can do for next year.
Seattle is in for an overhaul on offense. Mike Holmgren is as lame a duck as can be, while Jim Mora has to be anxious to take over. There's nowhere to go but up for Seattle, and they will be in need of new talents on offense. Matt Hasselbeck is likely to stay along with Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, so adding John Carlson at TE and suddenly the offense may have some semblance of a passing attack. A young tailback that shows some life over these next few weeks could find himself fighting for a starter role in training camp next year.
Forsett is likely off of many radars simply because he was off of the Seahawk roster. A 7th round selection that gets cut but winds his way back to the practice squad is not the ideal path to fantasy production, but given how little is in front of him on the depth chart he could easily ascend quickly. For the price you would have to pay to grab him vs. the possible upside, he is certainly worth a roll of the dice.
Players You Should Already Be Watching
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants
Mario Manningham skipped his senior season at Michigan to jump to the NFL. He had some off the field issues that dropped his draft status, along with a slower than expected time in the 40 yard dash. The Plaxico Burress shooting should allow Manningham to see the field more in the future. This is a golden opportunity for him to validate his draft pick. So far this season, Manningham has been used sparingly, even when Burress was sidelined. Manningham does have talent. Last year, he caught 72 balls for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns. Yes, Manningham need to refine his skills as a route runner and mature as a player, but he does possess talent.
Andre Caldwell, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Andre Caldwell is a receiver that did not show much early in year. He and fellow rookie Jerome Simpson were drafted to be the future receivers for the club and provide much needed depth at the position. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is slated to be a free agent after the season. Who knows if Chad Johnson will be a Bengal in 2009. It is also unknown whether Chris Henry can stay out of trouble. These are the issues that led the Bengals to draft the pair of rookies. Caldwell played well against the Steelers in week twelve as Chad Johnson was deactivated for the game. He was targeted seven times and caught three. The third rounder from Florida looked comfortable and was able to get open. Caldwell could be viable in 2009 or even sooner if there is an injury.
Marcus Smith, WR, Baltimore
Smith quietly passed Yamon Figurs on the depth chart, and he could have a bright future with the Ravens. He was a running back turned wideout at New Mexico, and he runs like a back after the catch. He's the kind of big wide receiver that Cam Cameron loves to use, and if Demetrius Williams can't stay healthy, Smith could be in line to take over when Derrick Mason goes off into the sunset. He's the best suited WR on the roster to work the middle of the field and he has a chance to assert himself in the Ravens future plans over the course of the rest of the season.
Brandon London, WR, Miami
London has moved up the depth with the loss of Greg Camarillo for the season, and while Davone Bess has broken out, London is still a name to remember. He has already passed Ernest Wilford in the pecking order for targets, and he's got the goods to make an impact in the NFL. London is 6'4", but he runs in the 4.5s, and he's got good ups to compliment good quicks for a such a big WR. He was lost in the shuffle and went undrafted in 2007, partially because he went to I-AA UMass, but the Giants signed him after the draft and stashed him on the practice squad. London aimed to make the active roster this year, but he was passed by current starter Domenik Hixon and the Giants chose to roster recent draft picks Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss over London, so the Dolphins nabbed him off their practice squad before the season began. He's exactly the kind of talent that NFL teams look back and wonder "why didn't we give him a longer look in the draft?", and he should seize a permanent spot on the Dolphins 53 man roster with this new opportunity.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers
Remember Jackson? He was a second rounder out of Nebraska for the Packers and was supposed to have been their new tailback of the future, but Ryan Grant came on strong in the second half last year and took control of the starter role. Grant has struggled this year and with his recent hand injury the door opened up once again for Jackson. If he continues to be productive he could push for much more work going forward in a high-powered offense.
Martin Rucker, TE, Cleveland Browns
With Kellen Winslow sidelined once again, Cleveland will need additional receivers and tight ends to pick up the slack. Steve Heiden will be in the mix, but keep an eye on Martin Rucker. Rucker, a fourth rounder from Missouri, was active for the first time in Week 13 and had a single reception. Rucker was productive in the preseason but tore his knee after his 5-70 game in the first week of preseason. Expect him to be active the rest of the season and to get additional work with the offense that needs productive players and sparks for 2009.