Fantasy football 2017: the sleepers
Fantasy football 2017: the sleepers
All fantasy owners know drafting Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott, Julio Jones and Jordan Reed is wise.
True separation from the pack comes when hitting on middle-to-late round picks.
Melvin Gordon, Derek Carr and Sterling Shepard were among the sleepers to emerge in 2016.
Ben Standig takes his first look at the 2017 crop of undervalued quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
John Brown, WR, Cardinals
Even though Michael Floyd flamed out and Larry Fitzgerald pondered retirement, the Cardinals didn’t truly address the wide receiver position during the offseason.
That opens the door for a bounce-back campaign for Brown.
After a breakout 65-1003-7 campaign in 2015, the 5-foot-11 target’s numbers were cut in half and then some as he finished with two touchdowns.
Brown has game-breaking attributes. He spent the offseason living with quarterback Carson Palmer. He’s entering a contract year. The starting job is there.
So is WR3 potential if he stays healthy.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
The upside is all too real. So is the risk.
Bryant emerged as a playmaking force during his first two seasons – 14 touchdowns, 17.3 yards per catch. He also missed the entire 2016 season for repeated failed drug tests.
Now he’s back and looking sharp according to early reports.
Antonio Brown dominates the passing game in Pittsburgh, meaning Bryant should have his share of 1-on-1 looks.
Good luck with that, solo cornerback.
The suspension fear probably pushes Bryant into the mid-WR3 range.
That’s fair – and all kinds of enticing at that price.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins
With so much focus on the Redskins losing free agents DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, folks ignore the emergence of their slot dynamo.
What the 5-foot-8 Crowder lacks in size he makes up with route-running, toughness and good hands.
He gained the trust of Kirk Cousins from his start and is now poised for work in two-receiver sets entering his third season.
Considering tight end Jordan Reed’s injury, Crowder is the best bet to lead Washington in receptions, bumping up his PPR value.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Rarely a must-have, must-start option, that became even truer in 2016.
Even though he passed for over 4,200 yards, Dalton’s fantasy numbers took a step back last season with only 18 touchdown passes.
There were circumstances, however. A.J. Green missed six games, Tyler Eifert sat half the season and the No. 2 receiver was Brandon LaFell.
Though Eifert (back surgery) remains uncertain for training camp, he’s a TE1 if healthy.
For deep passes, the Bengals drafted speedster John Ross in the first round.
Better balance offense should occur with running back Joe Mixon.
Oh, Green remains awesome.
Dalton remains a QB2 on draft day, but the weapons exist for a steadier and more productive campaign.
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts
Neither the name nor the game is flashy.
That Andrew Luck loves throwing to his tight ends and Doyle produced when given chances is the appeal.
The sleeper tag here is so strong he actually might not be come draft day.
Still, Doyle is a low-end TE1 and the best Red-Zone threat on the roster.
Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets
Somebody has to catch passes for New York.
That’s a not a ringing endorsement, but it’s a reminder that the Jets cut ties with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
Here’s another note: They will stink this season.
Lots of losing and trying to catch up in the second half, which means lots of passing.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots
Very high on the list of fantasy football rules of the road is the following: Don’t trust Bill Belichick’s running backs.
The Hoodie loves playing the matchups, which means one week the power back is carrying the ball 20+ times and the next week he’s sitting on the bench.
Frustrating for sure, but the New England offense is not.
There are a host of RB options on the roster, but Gillislee projects as the best to inherit LeGarette Blount’s workload, which last year included rushing for 18 touchdowns.
Don’t assume Gillislee gets there, but it’s cool thinking he gets more goal-line and overall work than the others.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs
The Jamaal Charles era is over in Kansas City.
Don’t assume it’s now the Spencer Ware show.
Oh, Ware is the likely Week 1 starter, but reports suggest that Hunt takes over sooner than later.
The third round selection is blessed with powerful legs and needed agility.
Hunt also showed good hands at Toledo, catching 41 passes during his senior season.
Andy Reid’s offenses churn out fantasy running back heroes.
It could take a minute, but Hunt looks like the next one set to don the cap.
Paul Perkins, RB, Giants
Opportunity is everything for fantasy running backs and Perkins has that entering his second season.
Look at New York’s depth chart and it's apparent the 2016 fifth-round pick is poised for a lead-back role if he can handle it.
Though Perkins’s overall rookie season was shaky, Redskins fans remember his 102 yards in Week 17.
The Giants did very little to address the backfield this offseason.
With so much focus on the passing game, Perkins shouldn’t face many eight-man fronts.
Put it all together and he’s a legitimate RB2 candidate.
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
Breakout candidate alert.
Atlanta’s 2016 third-round pick played behind Jacob Tamme last season but also performed effectively when given work.
Tamme is gone, but Atlanta’s devastating offense remains.
Seeing as Mohammed Sanu remains the receiver opposite Julio Jones, it’s conceivable the 6-foot-4 Hooper becomes Matt Ryan’s No. 2 receiving target.
If you miss out on the top TE candidates, waiting on Hooper’s upside has merit.
Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
This call is straightforward. Frank Gore is 34.
Though he continues keeping Father Time at arm’s length, that won’t last for long.
Indianapolis selected the physically impressive Mack in the fourth round.
Whether he moves to the top of the depth chart in 2017 depends on Gore’s play.
Mack is at least in a position to take over as a starter in 2018.
That puts him on the keeper league radar, but most leagues should consider Mack in the later rounds.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Rarely is Peyton’s younger brother a compelling fantasy option entering a season.
Some will argue that 2017 is no different.
That’s due in part to the quarterback depth.
It’s not a statement about Manning’s receiving options.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard impressed last season.
Then the Giants added veteran Brandon Marshall and selected hybrid tight end Evan Engram in round one.
If the offensive lineup holds up, Manning could top 600 pass attempts on his way to topping preseason expectations.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles
Deep sleeper call here.
Philly signed LeGarrette Blount, who takes over as the lead back.
Now we’ll see how the 30-year-old performs away from the Patriots and whether his battering-ram style holds up.
Ryan Mathews is next, but talk about your injury-prone and inconsistent options.
Darren Sproles continues as the third-down choice, but age isn’t on his side.
In other words, there are obstacles in Smallwood’s way, but there’s also a path for a role.
Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
Thielen caught 69 passes in 2016 while averaging 14.0 yards per catch.
Perhaps there’s another gear, but either way that’s not bad production.
Minnesota’s offense suffered without Teddy Bridgewater.
His return should boost up the passing game.
Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Philadelphia didn’t exactly load up with receiving options for the No. 2 overall pick’s rookie season.
Entering Wentz’ sophomore campaign, they made amends.
Enter Alshon Jeffery, a bonafide stud receiver, and faster than fast Torrey Smith.
That’s on top of Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz.
Wentz flashed star level at times last season.
His own growth and newfound target should add consistency.
Draft him in the QB2 range, but he’s the type who could develop into much more.
Paired with a Philip Rivers or Eli Manning makes for a balanced QBBC.
Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
Rookie receivers epitomize risk-reward.
Playing with Philip Rivers limits the downside.
So does having impressive Red-zone size and 4.5 speed.
Williams enters a situation where Keenan Allen is coming off knee surgery and Tyrell Williams is the other starting receiver.
If the former Clemson product shows he’s got the goods from the start in training camp/preseason, Rivers could target him early and often.
Worthy flyer in redraft leagues.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
Having Mike Evans on your side is sweet.
Then Tampa Bay signed deep threat DeSean Jackson, drafted tight end O.J. Howard in the first round and later selected receiver Chris Godwin.
Oh, don’t forget Cameron Brate emerged as a compelling option.
Winston threw 28 touchdowns and 4,090 yards in his second season.
In 2017, the former Heisman Trophy winner could turn into a fantasy star.
Consider Winston no less than a low-end QB1.