Before I begin talking about my next fantasy football sleeper, I'd like to give myself a little pat on the back for suggesting to all owners that they pick up Browns RB Peyton Hillis before the season last year. While others at my former site were touting second-year James Davis, I went against the grain and wound up reaping the rewards. Now, do I think Hillis can put up a repeat performance? Well, lets just say that his Madden cover might be the only accolade he gets this year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the next player in my sleeper series; Browns RB Montario Hardesty.
In the Summer of 2010, Hardesty was impressing the coaching staff so much that he was touted as the Week One running back weeks in advance. Many owners jumped on him considering he was the ultimate sleeper going into September. Unfortunately, Hardesty's fantasy season ended before he took a regular season snap. Hardesty suffered a torn left ACL in the team's final preseason game against the Bears and was eventually placed on injured reserve.
Besides the knee injury, Hardesty's college career at Tennessee was like reading a whose who of ailments. He underwent a left knee scope in 2006, suffered a high right-ankle sprain in 2007, a stress fracture in his left foot in 2008, and had his right knee drained in 2009, a year in which he also suffered a shoulder subluxation (say that five times fast).
The Browns knew about his history, but still considered him their future at the running back position when they drafted him by trading up in the second round. I am banking on 2010 being more of a fluke and not a sneak peek on things to come.
Fast forward to 2011; Hillis has been going in the second round in almost all leagues so far this Summer. It's hard not to think he wouldn't go this high considering he was the offense last year, but was Hillis' fantasy year a fluke as well? How many times have we seen a player blow up one year, only to disappoint the next? Too many for me to count. And one has to wonder why the Broncos would choose to trade him for Brady Quinn instead of letting him try to prove himself the following year instead of drafting Knowshon Moreno, who is proving to be a dud.
Anyways, everything I am hearing out of Cleveland has Hillis as the starter, but Hardesty is expected to get a big role this year. His knee is fully healthy. And with a new coaching staff, there is no loyalty to one player.
As it stands now, it doesn't sound like either player is going to have that much more of a role than the other. But if I was forced to take Hillis early (I plan on trying to avoid this situation altogether), you better believe I will have to force myself to take Hardesty, who has been going between the 11th-13th round in all redraft leagues. And even if I didn't land Hillis, Hardesty could be worth a flex spot on your roster if he proves himself early in the season. So if Hardesty can stay healthy himself, he is one injury away from making a huge impact in the Cleveland offense. That's sleeper value you can bank on.