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Columns - Magazine

Sleepers and Busts

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Sleepers (Tenth-Round ADP Or Lower)


Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers


Rivers was last year's overall QB2 through Week 8, at which point Keenan Allen suffered a lacerated kidney that ended his season. Rivers was the overall QB23 the rest of the way. Rivers played four games without Antonio Gates, who served a PED suspension and is back healthy, as well. The Chargers' offensive line starters also combined to miss a whopping 30 games. Returning to San Diego is OC Ken Whisenhunt, under whom Rivers finished sixth in fantasy quarterback scoring in 2013. Rivers' current Average Draft Position is in the double-digit rounds. With better injury luck, he could make a run at top-five QB1 stats.


Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins


It's natural to be skeptical of Cousins based on his history of turnover-laden meltdowns, but he played a far more controlled brand of football in 2015. Coming into his own under the same coach (Jay Gruden) with whom Andy Dalton posted top-five quarterback stats in 2013, Cousins notched a 23:3 TD-to-INT ratio, 72.4% completion rate and four rushing scores in the Redskins' final 10 games. Like Dalton, Cousins is a quarterback who can be productive if elevated by a talented supporting cast. GM Scot McCloughan has granted Cousins just that, surrounding him with Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder. Cousins can be had with one of the last picks in your draft.


Martellus Bennett, TE, New England Patriots


The self-coined Black Unicorn arrives in New England with a somewhat uncertain role, one which may not be determined until training camp. There is a glass-half-full story to tell in which Bennett could emerge as an every-week TE1 if his usage cooperates. Julian Edelman (foot surgeries) and Danny Amendola (knee, ankle) spent the offseason in rehab mode, while Chris Hogan and fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell are far from proven. Can two tight ends dominate in the Patriots' offense? It happened in 2011 when Rob Gronkowski finished as the overall TE1, and Aaron Hernandez was the TE3 despite missing two games. Bennett is another high-ceiling asset who can be drafted in the double-digit rounds.


Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers


Wildly inconsistent throughout his career, Smith's reputation amongst the public is at an all-time low after he disappointed early-round drafters in 2014 and did nothing to rehab his image last season. A sneaky bounce back may be forthcoming in a Chip Kelly offense that last year ranked No. 2 in the NFL in plays per game compared to San Francisco's No. 29 finish. Quarterback play is a concern. Targets are not in a pass-catcher corps otherwise comprised of DeAndre Smelter, Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton and Vance McDonald. The Niners are going to play fast and from behind this year, and Smith is cheap in drafts.


Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings


A third-year SPARQ superstar, McKinnon's role grew down the stretch last season, averaging 49.3 total yards with three TDs in the Vikings' final six games. He is a terrific receiver and dynamic in space. McKinnon won't be unleashed barring an Adrian Peterson breakdown, though one isn't difficult to fathom with Peterson entering his age-31 season. McKinnon will offer some standalone, low-end flex value with RB1 upside if A.P. goes down.


C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks


The 90th overall pick in the draft, Prosise was taken in the same area as David Johnson a year before and has playing-style similarities to Johnson as an adept pass catcher who weighs 220 pounds but is considered raw as an inside runner coming out of college. A converted slot receiver at Notre Dame, Prosise averaged 6.6 yards per carry in his final season and ran 4.48 at the Combine. The Seahawks raved about Prosise during the offseason and plan to train him initially as a passing-down back. As Thomas Rawls has been slow to recover from last year's ankle fracture, Prosise is a sleeper to make a run at early-down work, as well.


Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles


Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing in 2015 and was a productive college receiver, catching 68 passes in three seasons. Although Smallwood is somewhat undersized (5'11”/208) by NFL feature back standards, he showed the ability to grind between the tackles in college and drew raves at Eagles rookie camp and OTAs. In Philadelphia, Smallwood's competition for snaps is brittle Ryan Mathews and 33-year-old Darren Sproles. A relatively low-profile prospect, Smallwood was one of the biggest winners of the draft.


DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland Raiders


The Raiders were discouraged with Latavius Murray as their 2015 feature back, spending much of the offseason discussing how upgrading their backfield would be a priority. Murray's efficiency plummeted in the second half of the season, wearing down to the tune of 3.18 yards per carry in the final seven games and struggling mightily in the passing game. The passing game is Washington's strength; he racked up 124 career receptions at Texas Tech and was called "a complete back" by GM Reggie McKenzie after the draft. At 5'8”/204, we could envision Washington as the Gio Bernard to Murray's Jeremy Hill.


Busts (All Price Points)


Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers


Hyde's situation seems enticing at first glance as the projected lead back in Chip Kelly's run-heavy scheme, but the run heaviness of San Francisco's offense is an open question for a team whose talent has evaporated in recent seasons. Kelly has also tended to employ multi-back committees, utilizing more than one runner throughout his time at Oregon and DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in Philadelphia last year. Versatile Shaun Draughn, sophomore Mike Davis and sixth-round pick Kelvin Taylor could pose threats to Hyde's workload. The Niners are going to play from behind and probably struggle at quarterback. They also play in the league's toughest division for run defense.


DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans


Coming off a 2014-15 season in Dallas where he amassed an otherworldly 497 touches, Murray fell flat in his only year as an Eagle, averaging a career-worst 3.64 yards per carry. Murray hasn't looked right since the tail end of that final season with the Cowboys, appearing slow, stiff and sluggish on the field. Acquired via trade by Tennessee, Murray looked poised for bellcow work with the Titans before they selected Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in the second round. There's a good chance Henry outplays Murray this season.


Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions


Stafford has spent his entire career benefiting from the Hall-of-Fame impact of Calvin Johnson, who improved the efficiency of Stafford's high-risk jump balls and made his teammates more effective by tilting coverage. As Megatron hung up his cleats after last season, Stafford is entering unknown territory surrounded by a pass-catcher group made up of should-be complementary pieces. Stafford should maintain some fantasy relevance but is best viewed as a QB2. We'd rather have Philip Rivers or Kirk Cousins.


Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks


Coming off the same injury as Graham (ruptured patellar tendon), Victor Cruz appeared on last year's version of this list. Cruz didn't so much as play a snap during the 2015 season. Patellar tendon tears are among the worst injuries in pro sports, far more severe than torn ACLs and debilitating to patients, frequently costing them explosion and change-of-direction skills. Graham was a colossal fantasy bust long before ripping up his knee in late November, scoring two touchdowns through 11 games. If Russell Wilson's second-half stats are predictive whatsoever, the Seahawks' offense may simply be better off without Graham.


Travis Benjamin, WR, San Diego Chargers


Benjamin parlayed his contract year and the Browns' target void into a breakout 2015, smashing his previous career highs in catches (68), yards (966) and TDs (5) en route to a top-30 fantasy wideout finish. In San Diego, Benjamin will fall from the offense's No. 1 or 2 option to fourth or fifth behind usage monsters Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead/Melvin Gordon. Benjamin will compete with Stevie Johnson and rookie TE Hunter Henry for complementary looks. While the quarterback upgrade is nice in theory, Benjamin will be highly inconsistent with a ceiling of around 90 targets. He saw 125 last year.


Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens


We're actively rooting for Perriman, but it's gonna be a long road back. After missing his rookie year with a torn PCL and subsequent setbacks, Perriman lost good friend CB Tray Walker in a dirt bike accident, and his father went on life support in May after suffering a stroke. On the field, Perriman's opportunity isn't remotely what it once was after the signing of Mike Wallace and fourth-round selection of Chris Moore with Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken returning. Wallace and Moore have similar skill sets to Perriman. Injuries and off-field misfortune have him looking like a potential non-contributor in his second year.


Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals


Boyd's Average Draft Position skyrocketed this summer when Tyler Eifert underwent ankle surgery that's left him questionable for Week 1. It still doesn't make Boyd a good bet for rookie-year fantasy relevance. A finesse receiver who doesn't win versus man coverage and isn't physical after the catch or at its highest point, Boyd is an NFL misfit both in the slot and on the perimeter. Look for him to play behind Brandon LaFell in his first year.

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .