While watching the latest installment of "Hard Knocks," an HBO series that chronicles training camp with the Miami Dolphins in an entertaining and informative way, I couldn't help but wonder what veteran wide receiver Davone Bess was thinking. After all, with so much (unwarranted) attention surrounding media magnet Chad Johnson, in the news for all the wrong reasons and now, after a disturbing weekend off the field, unemployed, Bess could easily stand in front of the camera and ask, "What about me?"
Put simply and bluntly, I had little confidence that the formerly named Chad Ochocinco retained the proper skills, physically or otherwise, to help the Dolphins' receiving corps in the first place, and now that this square peg in a circle puzzle has been jettisoned -- I don't think I gave away the big news if you've DVRed the show for later! -- perhaps Bess and others slated to catch passes for first-year head coach Joe Philbin can receive the notice they deserve.
Bess isn't a world-class sprinter by any means, and he's scored a total of 11 touchdowns in four NFL seasons, but he's also on my list of relatively ignored options in standard leagues who certainly become relevant in point-per-reception formats, joining the likes of Danny Amendola (St. Louis Rams) and Greg Little (Cleveland Browns). Bess caught 76 passes in 2010 and 79 the year after, and now that Brandon Marshall -- and Chad Johnson -- have departed, I don't see why a career season wouldn't be in order. That doesn't mean 11 touchdowns in 2012, but Bess is someone I've chosen late in a draft already just in case this slot option emerges into a bit more than that.
One of the many things I like about "Hard Knocks" is that we get introduced to players we ordinarily wouldn't learn a thing about, such as Dolphins wide receiver Chris Hogan, who teammates and coaches have astutely noticed brings an innate ability to avoid being blanketed by opposing defensive backs either in practice or in the team's first preseason contest. In fact, running back Reggie Bush has been calling Hogan "7-11" because he's always open. Will Hogan matter in fantasy football? Will he even make the Dolphins? I hope so in both cases, but let's be realistic. It is, however, fun to see behind the training camp battles and meet unsung players who aren't seeking the limelight. If Hogan catches seven passes and a touchdown in Week 1, he'll become a popular add in fantasy. In every camp there's a wide receiver like that, but most of us don't know who it is.
Bess will start, and I feel he's a bit underrated, even in standard (non-PPR) formats. He'll catch a lot of passes, whether it's Matt Moore, David Garrard or rookie Ryan Tannehill slingin' the pigskin. I'll take the under on 900 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but stranger things have happened. For now it appears former San Diego Chargers/Carolina Panthers wideout Legedu Naanee will earn the starting nod on the other side. Naanee, soon to be 29 years old, has hauled in 107 passes and scored four times in an undistinguished, injury-filled career. It's easy to be pessimistic about him, but then again, has he ever really had an opportunity like this?
Colleague Christopher Harris shrewdly pointed out on a recent Geico Fantasy Draft Special podcast (see the archive here, and I recommend listening to all three episodes so far and those to come) that thanks to Miami's lack of high-end receiving options, the team could certainly use Bush out of the backfield to get him into open space more. He's an accomplished pass-catcher who caught 88 passes as a rookie. Although he was used mostly a conventional running back last season, when he rushed for a stunning 1,086 yards and averaged 5 yards per tote, his 43 receptions were unremarkable for him. It ranked Bush just outside the top 10 for receptions by a running back, but it wouldn't be a shock to see younger, larger running backs Daniel Thomas or rookie Lamar Miller ease Bush's backfield work so he can slot outside.
Those in standard leagues don't need to rush out and draft Bess before the 12th round, or even choose him at all, but I know many of you play in considerably deeper formats, as I do. I know PPR formats are also very popular. Bess won't win you leagues, but he's certainly going to matter to many of us when he catches 80 passes. I'm keeping an eye on Hogan, Brian Hartline, Julius Pruitt (team-high eight targets in the preseason opener) and the inconsistent but seemingly talented Roberto Wallace, who could emerge. I'm open to the possibility that someone else emerges for the Dolphins, but make no mistake, someone has to catch these passes.
Sure, the Dolphins don't figure to score at any prolific level, but even poor offenses produce some numbers. Marshall caught 81 passes. Bess will have a better season, and I expect Bush, if he plays 14 or so games, to flirt with 70 receptions. Johnson wasn't in my rankings to start with, and even if he finds work elsewhere, don't get too excited about it. This isn't like Cedric Benson joining the Green Bay Packers, not the same opportunity or remaining skill set. Perhaps nobody in the Miami offense really excites you, but there is surely value to be had here.