Top 2016 Fantasy Football Sleeper Picks
Top 2016 Fantasy Football Sleeper Picks
You know the big-time fantasy catches in your draft, but leagues are decided by those under-the-radar guys who put up points for you every week. Ben Standig outlines his biggest fantasy sleepers for the 2016 season here.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, QB
Anybody that knows me knows the following: I don't dig on Matty Ice. Speaking of that catchy nickname, marketing is a wonderful thing. In Ryan's case, it made the masses believe he was a "franchise" quarterback on the NFL front. That term, IMO, means the player can improve those around him or essentially carry the passing attack without a superstar target. Put your hand down, Matt. As for fantasy, he's been useful at times. The 2015 season (21 touchdown passes, 16 interceptions) wasn't one of those times. So why is Ryan a sleeper? Because his Average Draft Position (ADP) has him around QB20. He'll beat those expectations based on Julio Jones alone. That Atlanta's strength of schedule (SOS) is the league's worst should mean lots of fourth quarter throwing. For those going with the QBBC approach, snagging Ryan for those shootout games makes plenty of sense with this low-ball price.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins, RB
Until the Redskins sign another running back or one of their untested rookies emerge, the second-year back has true three-down potential. Only scatback Chris Thompson warrants major snaps, but he's not built for heavy-duty work. The rugged Jones is. Tack on impressive speed and good hands and the Redskins' offensive potential and it's no stretch thinking Jones could -- emphasize the "could" - have 1,200 yards, 35+ receptions and 8-12 touchdowns. The issues are twofold: History of injuries and fumbling. Jones spent all offseason working on both matters. Hope exists, not just for fixes, but a possible RB1 level season if he can get a grip.
Paul Perkins, New York Giants, RB
Let's look at the running backs slotted ahead of the 2016 fifth-round pick. Rashad Jennings, 31, posted solid numbers last season, but he's not a true lead back and injuries are part of his NFL career. Shane Vereen is a pass-catching savant, but not much more. Andre Williams? Ha, good one. New York signed free agent Bobby Rainey, a journeyman who can help in spots. So, why can't Perkins, the former UCLA standout who rushed for over 1,300 yards last season thanks to his illusive style, emerge as the main man? Actually, he can. The draft slide is more about the continued devaluation of runners than anything. Once on the NFL level, such matters don't, well, matter. Don't assume Perkins can help from the start, but he makes for an interesting stash candidate.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns, RB
Cleveland's offense won't scare anyone this year -- No offense, Robert Griffin III -- but there will be fantasy potential in spots because garbage points count. Enter Johnson, a speed runner who 61 receptions and 913 yards from scrimmage. Isaiah Crowell could enter the year as the starter. Just realize Johnson's will enter on passing downs and when the Browns trail. Both of those situations will happen plenty, which is why targeting Johnson in the middle rounds makes for a sound plan even if the Browns' offense is anything but.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants, WR
Rueben Randle is gone, meaning the job opposite Josh Norman's pal Odell Beckham Jr. is up for grabs. Victor Cruz might dance his way back into the receiving mix, but he hasn't played since early in the 2014 season because of a knee injury. The best bet for success is Shepard, New York's second round pick, who went for 86-1288-11 at Oklahoma last season. Built like a slot threat, Shepard has the game to run routes from all angles. Playing opposite Beckham, he'll rarely (ever) face a double team. Even if Cruz can go, Shepard should get enough looks to be interesting. If Randle could succeed here, the rookie certainly can.
Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins, WR
Injuries largely derailed his rookie season. When the first round pick got the ball in his hands, good things happened. Parker average a whopping 19 yards per catch, albeit on just 26 grabs. Now Parker is healthy and set to play in the receiver friendly system run by new coach Adam Gase that helped turn Alshon Jeffery into a fantasy hero. Owners that start drafts going with receivers in the early rounds could have a three-headed monster if they target Parker in the sixth or seventh round.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans, WR
Fantasy owners can fall in love with 6-foot-5, 238-pound receiver who can run past corners. That this one ended up leading the Titans in some main receiving categories last season boosts the infatuation, even if the 32-549-4 numbers were just modest. Kendall Wright should lead Tennessee in receptions and tight end Delanie Walker remains a potent threat. The group behind them generate shrugs (Harry Douglas) or hmmm's (Justin Hunter) or memories of yesteryear (Andre Johnson). The imposing DGB is the future and his present could include 50+ receptions with at least eight touchdowns.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, TE
Splitting duties with Coby Fleener put the kibosh on any mega season for either tight end. That's why it's good Fleener is with the Saints. At least it's good for Allen owners, who now get their guy catching the tight end targets from Andrew Luck. Allen isn't an elite talent, but his numbers could be impressive in this scenario if not significantly better than the projected 18th off the board. That the Colts get six games in the AFC South, all the better
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, TE
Calvin Johnson retired, leaving a Megatron-sized whole in the Lions passing attack. Golden Tate works best as a No. 2 target, but he's in the lead role for now. Marvin Jones rarely wowed in Cincinnati, but he could be fantasy interesting with his new team. Tough guy Anquan Boldin can help in support. Enter Ebron, a former top-10 pick who set career-highs with 47 receptions, 537 yards and five touchdowns last season. Those numbers alone don't make Ebron interesting. His size-speed combination with the no-Johnson opportunity does. Target him in double-digit rounds and you might end up with a top-10 tight end.
Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins, WR
Think about the Redskins receivers and the names DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon come to mind first. Probably even first round pick Josh Doctson, who has dealt with an Achilles injury all summer. That's swell for those who recognize the PPR value with Crowder, who caught 59 passes during his rookie season. Not everyone understands that the 5-foot-8 slot receiver will remain on the field most plays -- Doctson threatens Garcon most -- and that he's become a trusted target for quarterback Kirk Cousins. Crowder had two touchdowns last season and he likely won't find the end zone enough for starting status in standard scoring leagues. In PPR formats, he's absolutely worth a late-round flyer.
Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles, RB
We're going deep, deep down the list of running backs with the 5-foot-10 Smallwood. Here's why you should care: Ryan Mathews struggles to stay healthy, soon-to-be 33-year-old Darren Sproles' isn't an every-down back and Kenjon Barner remains nothing but a tease. If Smallwood continues to receive impressive reviews, he could become the man to watch.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills, QB
The former Virginia Tech star ranked fifth in yards per pass attempt last season, his first as starter. Throwing for 20 touchdowns with only six interceptions while rushing for 568 yards and four touchdowns adds to the cause of why Taylor is a good chance to produce beyond his current ADP 18-20 range.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, QB
Passing yards have increased during each of his four seasons. During the last two, Tannehill's has 51 TD with 24 interceptions. That's the good. However, Tannehill's fantasy stock is low-end QB2 level because he simply couldn't be trusted as a weekly starter thanks to noticeable drop in completion percentage, touchdown passes and rushing stats. Yet like Matt Ryan, Tannehill's skill set and personnel suggest a borderline QB1 season is possible. Miami upgraded both its head coach with Adam Gase and its offensive line -- and sports a handful of playmaking receivers headlined by DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. That's enough to think Tannehill can reach his 2014 level of 27 touchdown passes. Tack on his ground game potential and finishing the season among the top 12 QB options is within reach.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens, RB
The Ravens backfield is rather messy these days. Justin Forsett fans might disagree, but his 2014 breakout season is probably a one-and-done. Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro haven't fully delivered on their respective while Terrance West and Trent Richardson are in the reclamation pile. Then there is Dixon, who on dominated at Louisiana Tech, finishing as the school's all-time leading rusher (4,483) and second in D1 history with 87 touchdowns. He also caught 88 passes. Allen probably gets first crack if Forsett falters, but Dixon's potential arguably trumps all. Late round flyer? Why not.
Probably shouldn't suggest these guys missed the cut, so let's just say others names to consider include WR Donte Moncrief, WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Jimmy Graham, QB Jay Cutler, RB C.J. Prosise and RB Jordan Howard, who could emerge as the Bears's leading rusher if (once?) Jeremy Langford proves ordinary.