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The Sporting News, The War Room sez:

WR Darnerien McCants, Redskins. A free agent after the season, McCants will be in high demand because of his combination of size (6-3, 210), hands and toughness. He has good top-end speed, though he lacks the quickness of a true No. 1 receiver. He could overcome that deficiency if his technique continues to improve, and he probably will get a chance at more playing time in '04 because Washington isn't likely to bring him back.


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Not surprising. It would probably take a first round tender to retain him, and that would be a steep price to pay for a player who, at best, would be your #3 WR.

I'm sure he has caught a number of teams' eye this season. It would be nice to lock him up with a modest contract, but that probably won't happen. They'll probably tender him the requisite amount (was he a fourth or fifth rounder?), and, then, if someone signs him to a contract, take the pick and run.

I'd like to keep him, but I don't see it happening.

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That's an articale for fantasty leagues, & we all know ff are a crapshot. McCants has outscored Gardner & Coles as far as TDs. He's an endzone threat, & will be back next year.


By The War Room

for Sporting News

At this time of the NFL season, there is a sad truth for fantasy footballers: More of us have taken our ball and gone home than are still playing.

So are you going to sulk over it, or will you hunker down in the war room and start building a contender for 2004? It's not too early, especially for those in keeper leagues. Here are a few players to think about slipping under the radar in deep keeper leagues or as sleepers for next season.

QB Mark Brunell, Jaguars. Yeah, remember him? NFL teams outside of Jacksonville haven't forgotten. With a shortage of experienced, in-their-prime starting quarterbacks in the league, Brunell isn't likely to be carrying a clipboard next season. In particular, Green Bay (where Brunell got his start) might make a pitch if a certain future Hall of Famer decides he has had enough. Brunell isn't as crotchety as some of the reports early this season indicated.

RB Dominic Rhodes, Colts. We all know what Rhodes can do, or rather, could do. But is the imminent free agent the same back after tearing his ACL in 2002? Maybe not, but some NFL team will be willing to find out. If Rhodes is indeed healthy and gets another shot as a feature back (1,104, nine TDs in 13 games in 2001), he has the speed, shiftiness and hands to be a force.

RB Lee Suggs, Browns. With all the uncertainty surrounding William Green, the Browns will be willing to at least consider the possibility of Suggs becoming their feature back. He is coming off shoulder surgery and lacks ideal size, but he has the speed, vision and patience to be a Michael Bennett-type runner, with better power and more goal-line presence.

TE Antonio Gates, Chargers. It seems as though anyone the Chargers plug in at tight end gets a chance to put up numbers, and Gates is the only one who hasn't spent significant time in the trainer's room. He certainly has the size (6-4, 260), hands (he was a small-school basketball star) and work ethic to have a future. He already is a red-zone threat.

WR Tyrone Calico, Titans. Calico has T.O.-type size, strength and speed, plus a similar small-school pedigree. The Titans are using him less than they were early in the season, which won't change now that the stakes are higher. But if he becomes a better route runner, learns the plays and continues to adjust to the NFL, he should be a factor in 2004.

WR Bethel Johnson, Patriots. Johnson is already one of the fastest players in the league; he has been clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Johnson still has room to grow. He needs to show more focus, get his routes down pat and refine his overall technique. He doesn't have elite receiver size (5-11, 201), but some of the best don't, and Johnson is in a system that will allow him to easily overcome that shortfall.

WR Darnerien McCants, Redskins. A free agent after the season, McCants will be in high demand because of his combination of size (6-3, 210), hands and toughness. He has good top-end speed, though he lacks the quickness of a true No. 1 receiver. He could overcome that deficiency if his technique continues to improve, and he probably will get a chance at more playing time in '04 because Washington isn't likely to bring him back.


QB Marc Bulger, Rams. The funny thing about Bulger is that, despite being a no-name working with a former MVP and a coach with a short leash breathing down his neck, and in spite of his 19 interceptions, his confidence seemingly has never wavered. Bulger still is learning the value of checking off his receivers and figuring out how to set up defenses, but he is making the correct throws and doing so with accuracy. Seattle and Cincinnati have some talent in the secondary (and the Seahawks have depth, too), but the next two weeks the Rams are at home, where they and Bulger (26 total TDs, compared to 10 on the road) have been dominant.

RB Thomas Jones, Buccaneers. Impending insignificance has a way of motivating underachievers, and Jones apparently is no exception. The seventh overall pick in the 2000 draft, Jones has fallen well short of expectations and was on the verge of becoming nothing more than a pair of great biceps to show off from the bench. But last week (20 carries, 89 yards) he might have overtaken Michael Pittman as the Bucs' feature back, and this week he faces a Houston run defense that is in a bad way because of injuries that have sapped its talent and depth. Now that Jones seems ready to take on more than just goal-line carries, he could emerge as a legitimate No. 2 or 3 fantasy back.

WR Steve Smith, Panthers. Smith hasn't spit the bit since Week 5 (one catch for 13 yards). He is an excellent fit in the Panthers' offense, he is the passing game's one reliable threat, and he has been a more dedicated technician. Smith's quickness enables him to get open quickly and elude defenders to pick up yards after the catch, something his improved route running has only enhanced. Jake Delhomme can throw high-percentage, low-risk passes his way and still give the Panthers' offense some measure of explosiveness. Arizona and Detroit are good targets for Stephen Davis and the run game, but those teams' secondaries are even more vulnerable and have had trouble pinning down other receivers as slippery as Smith.


RB Charlie Garner, Raiders. With Oakland seriously rethinking its offensive strategy (and perhaps looking to make an offseason coaching overhaul), Garner probably doesn't fit in the plans. He will be 32 next season and could be allowed to leave as a free agent this winter. The Raiders are more interested in getting reps to Tyrone Wheatley and others to see how they factor in, and the new emphasis on the run is keeping Garner from even getting much play as a receiver. With Baltimore and Green Bay up, Garner will face two defenses that are stopping the run and have the speed at linebacker to slow him in the passing game.

TE Randy McMichael, Dolphins. In the midst of another second-half swan dive, McMichael might be suffering from confidence problems or the wear and tear of the season. One thing is sure: Because of Miami's troubles on the offensive line, he isn't getting out into pass routes as often as he was earlier this season. And McMichael's deficiencies as a blocker might also eat into his playing time. Fantasy owners shouldn't be that surprised. For all his physical gifts, McMichael has turned in only six start-worthy fantasy performances in 13 games this season. Philadelphia won't help him make it seven. The Eagles' safeties are among the best cover men at their position.

WR Amani Toomer, Giants. An offensive line that can't protect the passer, a supporting cast of receivers that has been eroded by injuries and now a quarterback also sidelined. The question shouldn't be, Why has Toomer struggled? More like, How could he possibly have succeeded? Although Toomer is an excellent vertical receiver with size, strength and usually reliable hands, he isn't quick off the line or able to create much separation on underneath routes. Even his trusty hands have failed him too often this season. With Jesse Palmer at quarterback and the Giants' pass blocking in a miserable state, Toomer won't get enough time to get open against a Saints defense that has few other legitimate receivers to concern itself with.


WR Dante Hall, Chiefs. Hall, coming off career highs of 11 catches and 124 yards against the Broncos, has a chance to build some momentum. He has two upcoming games against awful secondaries with poor tackling skills and zero depth (Detroit, Minnesota). His production will depend quite a bit on how much the Chiefs want to work Priest Holmes -- both the Lions and Vikings also are vulnerable against the run -- but Hall will be a huge threat. He has don't-blink quickness, which will get him open underneath coverage against the cover 2 (which his next two opponents primarily play) and make him a tackler's nightmare after the catch.

QB Tommy Maddox, Steelers. If you think Maddox is too proven to be a sleeper, just take a look at where he lands in this week's TSN rankings--not that he doesn't deserve to be there. He has struggled, and the Jets haven't allowed much to opposing passing games. Moreover, the Steelers are trying to get back to smashmouth, and New York's run defense (ranked last in the league) is a nice place to start. Still, Jerome Bettis doesn't match up very well this week, and the Jets' pass defense is a bit overrated by circumstance and is less potent with end John Abraham out. In Week 16, Maddox could be a sweet play against San Diego's pass defense.

TE Jed Weaver, 49ers. Weaver always has been regarded as a solid pass-catching tight end and intriguing goal-line threat, but it wasn't until last week that he really made a mark in the 49ers' passing game. With their run defense, the Bengals will be scared stiff of getting burned by Kevan Barlow, so Weaver should have his chances to get behind safety Rogers Beckett. Weaver also has the size to shield his man from the ball and the change-of-direction skills to get a step on his man on the goal line. The 49ers' offense is moving again, and Weaver will produce if the team chooses to go to him.

Former Fantasy Source expert Jason Langendorf now writes for The War Room, a team of football scouts headed by Gary Horton. The War Room analyzes NFL and college players, coaches and teams exclusively for Sporting News.

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This is fully within the team's control -- all they have to do is tender him at a premium level.

You would think that after Snyder plundered the Jets, he is not going to leave himself open to the same strategy being used against him. And yet I don't get the feeling that either Spurrier or Snyder are completely sold on McCants. Snyder made a dismissive remark about him in the offseason, and Spurrier hasn't given McCants many opportunities compared to Gardner.

I'm not sure McCants has ever dropped a pass thrown his direction inside the 5 yard line. If the team wants TDs, they need to sign him. He's also a hedge against Gardner leaving -- and could even be tried as a replacement for Gardner this year and next year.

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Originally posted by Buf-ford

More like Coles and Jacobs with McCants as your #3 guy.

I wouldnt jump the gun Jacobs has done NOTHING that warrents him starting at this point in his career. He did nothing in pre-season b4 the injury. Yes it was a seriouse injury but he was soft in college and has already had a knee injury and now a foot. His scouting report was a speedy guy who can make all the catches but gets knocked off his route easy. He has been known to have problems getting off the line. I went to a few camps in the summer and liked what I saw but when they do hit he kind of gets real quiet.

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We have a busy offseason ahead of us we have to restructure samuels and Lavars contacts. Hopefully get Mccants and Bailey new ones then hould To D Russ hopefully before the FO thinks about going out and bringing in some more free agents they will sure up things at hom first.

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S Double joked that when in the redzone they should throw to darnerian 4 to 5 times so its not like he is being ignored.

Gardner seems to vanish at the wrong times and i have been seeing him out of the rotation during obvious passing situations.

This week I think I'll chart the WRs specifically D mac and gardner

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Originally posted by DrunkenBoxer

I would say his blend of size and speed is pretty spectacular.


I agree. Darknarian has made some pretty sweet catches too. Everyone on here keeps saying he's not good enough to be a #2 wr, but I'd like to know on how they're making that judgement. The guy doesn't get on the field much, but when he does he makes big catches, usually for touchdowns. Given the opportunities, McCants could be an improvement over Gardner, who hasn't played as well as most expected this year.

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