The long wait is nearly over. The NFL season is almost upon us, and that means that over the next few days fantasy football drafts will be in full swing. If you’re reading this then you’re obviously looking for an advantage.
I’ve been preparing for my drafts as well since I have a plethora of standard, PPR, IDP, and auction leagues to prep for. Some of these league formats are inter-connected; other formats are not connected, and that pretty much describes my line of thought for what follows. Some ideas are connected – others are not, but they are all relevant.
This term has really been misused in fantasy. Per the Oxford dictionary a “sleeper” would be a player “that achieves sudden unexpected success after initially attracting little attention, typically one that proves popular without much promotion or expenditure.” So basically, the chances are, as the definition indicates, that the player is flying under the radar attracting little attention in most drafts.
To prove this, I took a look at the 2015 rankings to see where some of last season’s sleepers came from.
At the QB position: Carson Palmer was a 13th round pick in most leagues. Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kirk Cousins went undrafted. Yet all four quarterbacks finished as top 12 QB.
Seven sleeper RB that finished in the top 24 had an average draft rank of round 12.3. Jeremy Langford rounded out the top 24 RB and he went undrafted in most leagues.
Three TE sleepers that finished in the top 12 went undrafted, Jordan Reed, Gary Barnidge and Ben Watson.
Of the four sleeper WR that finished in the top 24, two of them, Michael Crabtree and Doug Baldwin, were 14th round picks. The other two, Allen Hurns and James Jones, went undrafted.
Synopsis: If you’re looking for sleepers, they’ll be in round 12 or later. And a good chunk of the rest will be off the waiver wire. A few players for 2016 that would fit into this mold of round 12 or later (ranking 132 or higher) that I like per current ADP rankings are:
Robert Griffin III
Contract Year Players
When the Bears decided not to offer wide receiver Alshon Jeffery a long-term contract, I immediately looked at the situation from a positive fantasy view. After all, if Jeffery feels he deserves to get rewarded with “starter” type money, not just from the Bears, but from any interested NFL team in 2017, then he’d have to make his case for it on the football field – this season.
While this is no guarantee for fantasy success, a player with a contractual chip on their shoulder could prove to be a huge motivating factor to do well. Other notable players facing the final year of a contract year:
Most fantasy football host sites will provide a feature that allows you to pre-rank players. In other words, you personally get to adjust the way the players are listed or ranked for use during the actual draft. Player projections, which are in the form of rankings, vary from site to site.
Is it wise to make adjustments to these site-provided rankings? What are the Pros and Cons to pre-ranking?
One of the cons to pre-ranking may involve your competition. Less experienced fantasy owners will probably lean more heavily on the “projected” rankings that the host site provides.
What this means for the more knowledgeable fantasy owner is that by leaving the projected rankings as is, this gives you a fantasy road map as to how the less experienced owners most likely will be drafting. If the majority of owners are following the projections, you’d have a better insight as to whether you need to “reach for”, or if you can “wait on” specific players. Pre-ranking your players will mess up this road map.
For instance, WR Donte Moncrief’s ECR (how experts collectively rank him) is 56. Yet his ADP (the position he is actually being drafted) is a rank of 70. That’s more than a full round difference. A smart owner reading this “map” can draft another quality player ahead of Moncrief and still have a good chance of drafting Moncrief as well. Win-win.
The only “pro” I see to pre-ranking players is if there is a better-than-average chance that you will miss part or all of your draft.
Some leagues will reward kick return and punt return yardage. This can be a surprising yet slick scoring setting that can really bump up the value of players that play a relevant role on offense as well as on special teams. Obviously it is best to focus on players that return both punts and kickoffs, but the nod would go towards players that return kickoffs over punts in my opinion.
Note: with rosters and roles still changing in preseason, not all NFL teams have announced their returners.
Tyler Lockett led all players with KR/PR total return yardage with 1,231 yards. For reference, only 9 wide receivers had more receiving yardage than Lockett had return yardage. Add in Lockett’s 684 receiving yards and only one other RB/WR had more combined yardage (1,915) than Lockett last season (Antonio Brown’s 2,074). Lockett is listed for the same role in 2016.
Ameer Abdullah is another player to watch. In addition to his 1,077 return yards, in a RB time-share he amassed 780 yards for Detroit (1,857 combined yards). Plus, his numbers could improve this season since he may have less competition at RB this year, and he is still being shown as the KR.
Another player to target is Bruce Ellington. He was third in KR/PR total yards with 802. Ellington has also moved into Chip Kelly’s WR2 position and could really rack up the offensive yardage.
Other KR/PR players to target include:
WR Dwayne Harris
WR Jarvis Landry
RB Darren Sproles
WR Travis Benjamin
WR John Brown
WR Tavon Austin
WR Julian Edelman
WR Stefon Diggs
If your league scores return yards and also has IDP, then you may want to target DB starters Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones (414 total return yards) and Patrick Peterson (306 total return yards). That may boost their numbers more than any tackles and sacks.
For additional preseason football articles and rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown.