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Sleepers and Busts: NFC West

San Francisco


49ers

Sleeper: Glen Coffee – It has been a while since anything worth smiling about has come out of

San Francisco. Coffee’s preseason performances has Niners fans drooling over an offensive line that appears much improved. In no way will the rookie press Frank Gore for starting time, but his handcuff status is rising. Gore has a history of injuries and has struggled somewhat since his breakout season in ‘06. Gore has never broken double-digit running scores, and Michael Robinson has proved ineffective in short-yardage situations. Coffee ripped off an impressive 129 yards on 16 carries along with a reception for eight yards in the second preseason game to go along with his 67-yard performance in Week 1. Coffee should solidify the No. 2 spot on the depth chart and will see playing time spelling Gore.

Bust: Michael Crabtree – Those that passed on the diva are sitting home smiling. Rumors out of

Radio

City

Music Hall were that Crabtree was displaying the wide receiver arrogance the position has been known to produce. The Niners thought they were getting a steal at the 10 spot, but soon saw why the young talent was passed on. When he finally gets on the field I have no doubt that he’ll eventually be a solid player in the NFL. When that “someday” will come is a mystery. I hate the guy and have no intentions of selecting him no matter how far he falls. I truly believe that one can never carry personal feelings about a player into draft day for it clouds your accurate evaluation of talent – But for Crabtree, I’ll make an exception.

St. Louis


Rams

Sleeper: Laurent Robinson – With injury comes opportunity. The Rams are thanking God they made the deal to acquire Robinson from the Falcons during the offseason. Donnie Avery went down with a micro-fracture injury and is due to miss 2-3 weeks of regular-season play. By that time, Robinson should prove that he is worth the WR2 spot in the Rams offense.

St. Louis is in a rebuilding year and the team as a whole will struggle, but someone has to catch the passes. Robinson has impressed in his preseason play and should beat out Keenan Burton for starting time. He could provide your roster with a decent late round sleeper on draft day.

Bust: Marc Bulger – The days of the “Greatest Show on Turf” are over. Bulger finds himself at the helm of an offensive overhaul. The Rams have a young and inexperienced receiving corps. The air attack may surprise from time to time, but I’m expecting a lot of growing pains in ‘09.

Seattle


Seahawks

Sleeper: Deon Butler – The Seahawks wide receiver corps was the most injury-plagued unit in all of football last season. The problem appears to be remedied heading into the ‘09 season, and has moved from desolate to an overpopulated position. The acquisition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the ahead of scheduled healing of Nate Burleson and the return of Deion Branch has Deon Butler in an all-out dog fight for playing time.

Butler has impressed through out camp and has provided the ‘Hawks with versatility in the return game. Burleson and Branch are always at risk for injuries.

Seattle was smart in drafting some receiver insurance in

Butler. The battle for starting time will continue, and at some point Butler should see playing time. When he does – he won’t let down.

Sleeper: Justin Forsett – Forsett is entering his second season out of

California. His rookie year passed without a sound, but Forsett is making some noise this preseason. No clear roles have been identified in the

Seattle backfield. One can speculate that T.J. Duckett will vulture goalline duties, but between the 20’s and third-down snaps appear up for grabs. Julius Jones has shown flashes of talent, but has proven he is far from an every-down back. Forsett’s ability to catch the ball may gain him playing time in a backfield that is looking for an identity.

Arizona


Cardinals

Sleeper: Anquan Boldin – How can you have Boldin as a sleeper? Let me tell you. The only thing keeping Boldin from achieving elite status is his injury concern. The only thing keeping him an injury concern is inability to turn down his intensity. There is not a more physical receiver in all of football. He doesn’t out-jump or out-run you – he plows through you. Three weeks after he broke his face and nearly got decapitated, “Q” caught two touchdowns on the identical route he got injured on. Larry Fitzgerald deserves all the press he is receiving, but through Boldin’s first 10 games there wasn’t a better wideout in all of football. He tallied up 89 catches, for 1,038 yards and 11 scores in only 12 starts. His numbers stretch across an entire season would have him tops in nearly every receiving category. If he can stay on the field, and that’s a big “IF”, he should penetrate the Top 5 in fantasy production.

Bust: Tim Hightower – Hightower is benefitting from Beanie Wells’ missed time in camp. Wells is a far superior talent, but his injury status has allowed Hightower to regain the coach’s confidence. Hightower loss touches to the Edge and J.J. Arrington down Arizona’s playoff stretch. He performed in short-yardage situations and is the most likely candidate for goalline duties. It’ll now take more time for the rookie to make his way into the starting lineup, but once he does Hightower should be an afterthought in the Cardinal offense.

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