9 Fantasy Football Sleepers
While I’m a firm believer that you can’t win your league during the draft, you can certainly lose it. One of the most underrated avenues to separate yourself from your league-mates is hammering the back end of the draft with high-upside dart throws. The typical drafter will go the safe route and draft players based on name value. Here’s a pro tip, don’t do that. The latter part of the draft is where you will separate yourself from the rest of your league. Well, you’re in luck! The TFA team is here to lend a helping hand. Below are 9 Fantasy Football Sleepers you should consider taking a flier on during your upcoming drafts. The ADP referenced is for a 12-player, PPR league.
Josh Doctson – WR, Redskins – FFC ADP 12.02
Josh Doctson might be the definition of a post-hype sleeper. The first round pick was projected as an eventual No. 1 receiver and red zone force coming out of TCU but missed almost the entirety of his rookie-season to Achilles issues. He stands 6′ 2″, has an otherworldly Burst Score and Catch Radius (97th and 96th percentiles) and his elite 41″ vertical jump is among the best in the entire NFL. Athletically, he compares very favorably to guys like Dez Bryant and Allen Robinson.
Now participating in camp, Doctson is going nearly undrafted in fantasy, largely due to Pryor’s addition to the receiving corps. This may be a mistake, as Doctson has the athleticism and pedigree to leapfrog not only Pryor but possibly every receiver on the team. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
Marlon Mack – RB, Colts – FFC ADP 13.01
We’ve all heard it before. “Death, taxes and Frank Gore as an RB2.” Well, the jokes have to end somewhere. Frank Gore is far past the typical fall off points for running backs (1,800+ carries and 27 years old). He’s at 2,965 career rushing attempts and is 34 years old.
Marlon Mack is an explosive player who averaged 1,369 yards from scrimmage per season at South Florida. He fits the fast paced Colts offense quite well and should be able to finally usurp old man Gore by the end of this season. He is currently going in round 13 or later, so he is essentially free, making this a low cost, spectacular upside grab at the end of your draft. – Kent Weyrauch (@CCNP_Kent)
Chris Conley – WR, Chiefs – FFC ADP Undrafted
When we look for fantasy football sleepers, we need our candidates to meet certain requirements. Those requirements may differ from person to person but some pretty safe baselines should include talent and opportunity. Enter Chris Conley. Conley has shown flashes throughout his short career but nothing to really bank on for fantasy.
So what’s different now? How about a less-than-ideal running back situation in KC, the release of incumbent no.1 WR Jeremy Maclin, his biggest WR competition being a 5’10” gadget player, and a team looking to win now? Not to mention his 6’2″ frame coupled with 4.35 wheels. If you remember correctly, you’re still watching Conley break the “burst” measurables at the combine as well. With a chance to be the no.1 WR on an offense that should call a fair amount of passing plays, a full route tree, and a 99th percentile catch radius (playerprofiler.com), Conley has an opportunity to be a respectable end zone target as well as a legitimate sleeper candidate. – Derek Womack (@DerekJWomack)
Austin Hooper – TE, Falcons – FFC ADP 14.02
In 2016, the Falcons offense was historically efficient and good. The efficiency that allowed Matt Ryan to amass nearly 5,000 yards on a mere 534 pass attempts is not repeatable, but the season long totals are. The Falcons, once again, figure to be one of the NFL’s high powered offenses, only losing TE Jacob Tamme from their offense.
Tamme’s replacement is 2016 3rd rounder, Austin Hooper. The second year TE had a mildly productive rookie season, catching 3 TDs and averaging 14 yards per catch. Hooper is fairly athletic for a TE at 6’ 4”, 250, running a 4.72 40 with good agility scores from the Combine. Tight ends always take a long time to become regular TEs, but Hooper has a chance to be a top 15 TE and a regular match-up based play. At TE 23 in ADP, Hooper is a near lock to outperform his ADP and an excellent streaming/upside TE in deep leagues.
Dion Sims – TE, Bears – FFC ADP Undrafted
Dion Sims is hardly your typical sleeper, but at the TE position, you don’t need to be special to be relevant. Sims has a career stat line of 74/699/8 in 56 games that would have ranked as the TE 5 overall in 2016. Yet, the Chicago Bears signed the 26-year-old to a 3 yr-$18 million contract with $10 million guaranteed as they retool their offense around Jordan Howard and Mike Glennon/Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears drafted Adam Shaheen in the 2nd round to join Sims and Zach Miller, but coming out of Division II, Ashland, he will need plenty of time to maximize his ability. Miller missed most of the offseason with a foot injury and isn’t necessarily a lock for the roster, with a $2 million cap hit at 33 years old. That leaves the TE position and the red zone wide open for Dion Sims, a 6’ 5”, 262 lb monster. In fact, all 8 of Sims’ career TDs have come inside the red zone. The Bears are aware of Sims’ strengths and should utilize him properly. For a TE outside the top 24 in ADP, you could do much worse than the TE 1 with red zone value as your last pick in a deep league.
Ted Ginn Jr. – WR, Saints – FFC ADP 14.01
Old guys can be sleepers, too. Ted Ginn still has elite speed at age 32. In 2017, he will catch deep balls from Drew Brees, whose deep ball completion rate is twice that of Cam Newton. As recently as last season, the Saints supported three WRs who finished in the top WR32 in fantasy.
Former UDFA and unathletic (8th percentile SPARQ score) Willie Snead has gotten the offseason hype and is being drafted in the seventh round. Meanwhile, Ginn presents an inexpensive entree to a top passing offense in the 14th round as WR65, just above Cooper Kupp. – Frank Gruber (@threedownhack)
DeAndre Washington – RB, Raiders – FFC ADP 14.02
While the Raiders went out and upgraded the running back position by adding Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington still figures to have a role in the offense. Last season, Washington split time behind Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard. He posted admirable numbers with 467 yards on 87 carries which were good for a stellar 5.37 YPC. The Raiders also possess the 6th best run blocking units which should also be baked into his ceiling.
The real question for Washington is how much work will he receive behind Marshawn Lynch? With Lynch turning 31 years old and missing a full season due to retirement, it’s obvious to wonder how much does he have left in the tank and can he hold up through the rigors of an NFL season. Not to mention the last full season beast mode played in he posted a below average 3.8 YPC.
If Lynch were to go down or if he fails to meet the lofty expectations the fantasy community has bestowed upon him (RB12) with his current ADP then DeAndre Washington stands to inherit one of the best situations of any late-round running back. DeAndre Washington is one of the best high-upside low-risk investments you will find this late in your draft. I will likely forgo drafting Marshawn Lynch in any draft due to his insanely high ADP and wait to grab his backup at an insanely reduced price. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
David Njoku – TE, Browns – FFC ADP 14.08
The Cleveland Browns have had their share of quarterback struggles. From Josh McCown to Robert Griffin to Cody Kessler there has not been much consistency. However, with those three quarterbacks, Gary Barnidge has had success. Barnidge finished as the second-ranked tight end in 2015 and had 611 receiving yards last year with two different quarterbacks in that season. He is now a free agent after Cleveland drafted the athletic David Njoku in the first round.
Hue Jackson’s offense is predicated on running the football and using the play-action game. The tight end has and will be a big part of his plans. David Njoku can expect to see a steady stream of targets with Kessler at the helm. With 698 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season at the University of Miami, Njoku provides the down the field threat that Barnidge was as well as a big-bodied target in the red zone.
Njoku played in the slot and as an inline tight end at Miami. He is a capable blocker and that will allow him to be on the field at all times thus making Barnidge expendable.
His ADP is 14.07, meaning he will go undrafted in many leagues. Njoku has all the tools to finish as a top 7 TE for pennies on the dollar. – Landon Sparkman – @Sparkman386
Gio Bernard – RB, Bengals – FFC ADP 13.09
I understand bumping a player down when there are question marks. A new rookie sensation, a lingering Jeremy Hill, and injury concerns top the list of question marks for Cincinnati Bengals RB, Giovani Bernard. News circled that Bernard might start the season on active/PUP list due to recovery from his torn ACL in week 11 of 2016. However, Gio isn’t on the PUP list. He DID practice at training camp. He looked good and healthy. So, why is his ADP in the 13th round? Good question.
After missing the final 6 games of the season, Gio finished 2016 as the #41st PPR fantasy RB. The previous two seasons, he finished 17th and 16th respectively. Bernard was 20th in targets among running backs last season (yes, even with only playing 10 games), and in the top 10 in 2014 and 2015. He’s also been in the top 20 fantasy RBs in receiving yards for the past three years.
Joe Mixon looks to see the majority of the early down work with Jeremy Hill as his competition, but Gio should receive most of the 3rd down/receiving work. He received 50% of the targets out of the backfield in 2016 and this should remain steady. Helping Gio’s value is also a bottom-rung offensive line (ranked 31st by PFF), as Dalton will most likely need to make quick screens and dump offs to him consistently. At his current ADP, GioBernard is a steal. – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)