2) Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Pros: The baby-faced 29-year-old has not missed the Chase in his four years as a full-time driver on the circuit, and he has won at least a race in each of these seasons. Coming off a career-best four-win showing, the Joe Gibbs Racing talent has a strong foundation to use as momentum entering the 2010 campaign. Speaking of a strong foundation, JGR provides Hamlin with enough support to make a serious run at the title. Hamlin has averaged 13 top-five finishes and 18.67 top-10s over the past three years. His average finish in 2009 was a strong 13th place; Hamlin won two of his last five entries and finished no worse than third in the final three races.
Cons: Hamlin tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. While he'll drive on it, and JGR says it won't compromise his abilities, one has to wonder. Composure may be the emotional racer's biggest enemy. Despite his success to close out the season, his final 10 races were a mixed bag. Hamlin failed to finish three of the final seven runs (two engine failures, one accident). Hamlin ended the year with a career high in DNFs, incidentally, with four. He tallied three of them in '08, which was one more than his career total from 79 previous starts. Some question teammate Kyle Busch's willingness to assist Hamlin given Busch's aggression on the track; it's not something to be too concerned with, but you should keep an eye on the situation.
Fantasy tip: Having finished as high as third place (2006), Hamlin is ready to break out and take his game to a new level. The only thing standing in his way: Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin will certainly be gunning for Johnson's crown, and we think he has a legitimate shot at overtaking the four-time defending champ. Drafting Hamlin after Johnson comes off the board is our preferred approach, but we can understand if you would rather go with Jeff Gordon or Mark Martin, especially since Hamlin's knee injury. In our eyes, Hamlin's upside is great enough to outweigh the risk of the knee injury.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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