The First Annual Zach Hilton Awards

by on January 15th, 2015
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Your first kiss. Your first love. Your first car. And to that small list of things that we will never forget, I would like to add your first fantasy team.

Now, I can sit here and bore you with my entire lineup from my first squad (remember Vinny Testaverde , kids?) but that wouldn’t be any fun. However, what would be fun would be to recall my past fantasy football sleepers from previous seasons. Mind you, I did correctly call the outbreak of Chad Johnson and Vincent Jackson. But I’ve had my fair share of misses, to say the least.

I once not only drafted Ronnie Brown in the first round (in my defense, Ricky Williams was still smoking pot on some island at the time) but immediately interrupted my friend by calling him during a Catholic Mass, only to exclaim about Browns’ 23 yds and 2 tds in the first half of Week 1.

And how can we forget the year I refused to let my ignorance take a backseat to my pride as I started Stephen Davis as my RB2 for an entire season. As Deshaun Foster continued to get 15+ reps for the Panthers, I’ll never forget Davis’ historical afternoon that I still to this day get heckled about by many of my friends on Sundays: 3 carries, 2 yds, 2 TD.

But those two picks look like Arian Foster compared to this last one.

My buddy Corey to me is the equivalent of House to Bill Simmons. Whether there’s a women’s soccer game to watch, a NFL draft to predict, or a line to bet on, Corey and I will always be on the same page. I can always guarantee a “way too early” phone call on Sunday mornings from Corey that involves a betting strategy or a question about who to start on his fantasy team. In fact, I’ve written about him before when mentioning the ” Hot Coals Hall Of Fame ” (scroll to the 8:45 mark. This subject will surely get its own column in the near future).

At our fantasy draft a few weeks ago, he walked up to the board and deliberately took Percy Harvin two rounds early, only to turn around, throw his hands in the air, and yell, “He’s Harvin a migraine!”. Who cares that everyone else sitting around us was disgusted. I heard gold.

In 2005, a young tight end named Zach Hilton emerged with the Saints towards the end of the season. In his final three games, he averaged 5 receptions, 1 TD, and a ridiculous 11 YPC. This was the guy I was determined to remember all off season, only to focus my team around him the following year. He was released by the Saints in preseason and immediately picked up by the Jets. “Watch out for him,” I continuously warned Corey, “because Kellen ‘Checkdown’ Clemens is sure to make him an even bigger star.” I went out of my way to grab him during every draft that year.

Two weeks later, before the regular season kickoff, he was cut by the Jets.

Four years later, I’m still reminded how all my sleepers will be “as good as Zach Hilton.”

And with all that being said, I think it’s time to find our next fantasy sleepers that will hopefully produce like Hilton (sigh):

Lance Kendricks

Last season, Bradford completed 7 of his 18 touchdowns to tight ends. His tight ends? Billy Bajema, Daniel Fells, and Michael Hoomanawanui. Don’t even begin to tell me that a freakishly athletic Kendricks isn’t better than Danly Hoofema (the 2010 STL hybrid TE name…you’re welcome).

Kendricks landed a triple crown for receiving at Wisconsin last season, leading his team in receptions (43), receiving yards(663), and receiving touchdowns(5). The 6’3 236 lb Kendricks will surely not only run away with the starting TE spot, but will continue receiving nothing but love from his fellow coaches and teammates. I think Bradford, who targeted the small Amendola a league leading 24 times in the red zone, will not only feel much more comfortable throwing to a larger guy while in the 20, but also to a guy with much more talent than Hoofema.

Jared Cook

I swear all my sleepers aren’t tight ends. I just can’t help myself with these two.

Being even more athletic than Kendricks, Cook (6’5 246) came into the league out of South Carolina in 2009 with receiving tools that already surpassed some of the NFLs starters. Though not receiving much playing time during his rookie year, Cook came on strong in the final half of last season, putting up top 10 TE fantasy numbers down the stretch that included a 5 rec, 96 yds, 1 TD day at Kansas City during week 16. The best news about Cook isn’t even in his preseason numbers. Word out of Tennessee is that they like him so much, they’ll use him in the slot during 3 WR formations. Count me in.

Jason Campbell

Let me explain myself before you begin yelling. Contrary to what you believe, Campbell wasn’t THAT bad. In an injury plagued season, he still managed to almost put up a 2-1 TD ratio and finish with a QB rating 4.5 points higher than the league average. On top of all that, Bruce Gradkowski (his only competition, if you choose to call him that) is long gone to the bowels of Cincinnati. Now, with no one watching over his back with every throw, and an Olympic triathlon team posing as his receiving corps, I truly believe that the Raiders are prepared to put up some serious YAC in a division where the “terrifying” defenses of KC and Denver makeup a quarter of their schedule.

Not saying that Campbell is someone that will single handedly win your league for you, because he probably won’t. But when you get into those late rounds when valued backups become vital, have no fear when selecting the guy under center in Oakland.

Delone Carter

During the same draft that the infamous “Harvin” moment took place, I walked up to the board prepared to make my final pick. As I threw sheets of stickers around, I was a bit befuddled when I couldn’t find the name I was searching for. I quickly grabbed the sharpie, wrote in “Delone Carter” on a blank square, stuck it to the wall, and turned around. There was no look of disgust. No laughter. Not even a grimace. Everyone literally stared at the board until I overheard a voice in the background whisper, “Who?”

That’s when it hit me. I’ve targeted the backup RB for Indy the entire preseason, but no one had fought me for him. Before, I thought it was because no one believed in him. Not true. Turns out no one has even heard of him.

This is complete speculation, but I’m convinced that the Colts hate Addai as much as Sean Payton hates Pierre Thomas, or as much as Shanahan hates running backs as a whole. If I had been handing out the Hilton awards last year, Donald Brown would have been the first RB that I mentioned. And not because of his talent, either.

With Addai in a contract year last season, I think the Colts wanted to go a different way. Having a reputation as injury proned, the Colts starter has yet to play a full NFL season during his career. But when Brown did finally get the carries last year, he was much worse than Addai, leaving Indy no choice but to give the agile back a new contract. That didn’t keep their intentions shy though.

They drafted Carter in the second round and handed him the keys to not only the backup role, but the goal line carries as well. Having cut Javaris James, their third round selection from last season, this afternoon, I believe that by the end of the season the Colts will be calling Carters name more than your average backup.

Bernard Berrian

In the words of Jake Gyllenhaal, ” I wish I knew how to quit you .”

We’ve seen this act before. In fact, this has become a running joke in a league of mine because I opened last season’s free agency by outbidding EVERYONE for Berrian, spending $73 out of a $100 FA budget on the veteran wideout. His week 1 production, you ask? 1 reception, 7 yards. Now is the time you flog the comments section with your laughs.

But once again, Berrian, I’m coming back to you. I’ve seen enough Vikings preseason play to accumulate two things: 1) Donovan Mcnabb is a much better quarterback than Joe Webb, and 2) It might not be vintage Mcnabb, but he still has the deep ball in his back pocket and isn’t afraid to use it.

On play action with arguably the best running back in football, someone has to be on the receiving end of a 75 yard bomb . Don’t even try and say Shiancoe could run that far. Or better yet, that Aromashadu could catch a pass. With Sidney Rice gone to Seattle, I’m looking at one guy to catch those long touchdowns, so I’m once again telling Berrian that I believe.

Who knows, maybe he could even be as good as Zach Hilton or Danly Hoofema…

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