8 Fantasy Football Sleepers
Jon Collins of Fantasy Sports LR names his top sleepers for each position.
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In the game of season-long fantasy football, there are a number of different routes one can take in the quest for value… whatever route you pursue, though, everyone doing their fantasy research in July and August has the same goal, it seems: find that ultimate sleeper value play that no one else will uncover.
With a limited player pool and an exhaustive amount of coverage on the subject, that isn’t likely to be the case… still, there are certainly a few players you’ll want to keep an eye out for in the later stages of your draft who could end up paying dividends.
Again, there are a lot of different routes to value, but my approach always tends to be to look for a player who others are down on other than his anticipated per game fantasy production. Bad press? Good buy! 2 game suspension? You can’t win your Championship Round in September! Injury/poor production in 2014? 2015 Bounceback?! Let’s hope so.
Beyond that, the only criteria for this post is an ADP outside of the top-120.
With that in mind, here are some of my top 2015 fantasy football sleepers for each position.
David Cobb (TEN)
Despite an early round draft pick invested in Bishop Sankey a year ago, the Titans went out and selected Cobb in this year’s draft in what should be seen as a reasonably clear indication that they didn’t see enough from Sankey to think he’s a true lead back. Unlike most college prospects, Cobb comes to the pro game with an above average profile as a pass blocker, suggesting that he could contribute right away. This will be a situation to monitor in training camp. Whether Cobb is the lead back in Week 1 or not, he is a good bet to lead the team in carries this year. Sweetening the pot, Cobb’s College tape shows a strong inside rusher with a low center of gravity and tackle breaking ability. If that translates to goal line production – an area where Tennessee really struggled last year – he could return solid value on his draft day cost.
Danny Woodhead (SD)
I’m all aboard the Melvin Gordon train and my ranks reflect it. That doesn’t mean that Danny Woodhead is going to be put out to pasture by the Chargers though. The training staff has no concerns heading into training camp regarding his recovery from a fractured ankle and leg in 2014, and he was one of the top-PPR options around before that injury cost him most of last year. Recall, Woodhead had 76 catches and 1,034 in 2013, which was Ryan Mathews’ most productive season in San Diego. He can co-exist with a lead back as a solid compliment and should do so to the rookie Gordon this year, at a highly discounted draft cost.
Pierre Garcon (WAS)
At this time last year, Garcon was coming off a season of consistency rarely witnessed, with five catches in every ball game and a WR13 finish (113-1346-5). His draft stock was commensurate with that production, and his investors were miserable during the 2014 season. Fast forward to present day and he’s coming off a dismal 68 catch, 105 target season that seemed to see him entirely eliminated from the game plan in certain weeks. That poor performance creates a buying opportunity, however. Sure, he’ll operate as part of the same system, but Garcon has shown an ability to be productive for two different clubs, and it doesn’t seem reasonable to assume that his skills have eroded over night. Early reports have the coaching staff committed to involving Garcon in 2015, and if RGIII and the offense produce at a better clip, there should be more production to go around. Add to that mix the team’s disappointment with DeSean Jackson’s offseason activities (and his inactivity during OTAs) and the needle is moving back in Garcon’s favor for the year ahead.
John Brown (ARI)
The second year Cardinal’s potential for 2015 is tied tightly to Carson Palmer’s health (and continued production) and Michael Floyd‘s role, but he showcased enough in his rookie season to suggest that he can be productive if afforded the opportunity. Beat writers, coaches, and his QB have all been pumping Brown’s tires this season and the 5’11” burner is deserving of the accolades. His 51.1% catch rate from a year ago looks unimpressive, but, when considering that 27% of his targets came on passes of more than 20 yards (11th highest among qualified receivers), and a great percentage of those targets came from inaccurate QBs, there is a lot of room for growth in that number. Couple that with a presumed increase in targets overall, and Brown could easily push his reception totals up significantly while using his speed to maintain a YPR near 14.5.
Teddy Bridgewater (MIN)
The upside on Bridgewater this year should be fairly clear. The team made a major investment in the receiving corps (acquiring Mike Wallace from Miami), has a few developing sleeper candidates of their own alongside Wallace in the passing game (Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph) and they’re bringing Adrian Peterson back to the mix. All of this factors in alongside a reasonably strong rookie season from Bridgewater, including an impressive 64.4% first year completion rate. After failing to throw for a TD until his fourth game, things evened out well for him with a 14:9 TD:INT ratio the rest of the way and a finish as fantasy’s 15th overall QB from Weeks 7-17. None of that necessarily portends a QB1 season from Bridgewater, but he’s coming off the board as QB17 and has a lot of room for payoff at that price.
Robert Griffin III (WAS)
After a pair of disappointing seasons, fantasy owners have understandably soured on Griffin, but they may be turning their collective backs a season too early. Things are shaping up for a bounce-back season from the once-productive Washington QB, including improvements along an offensive line that allowed pressure on 44.2% of his dropbacks a season ago, and a healthy offseason where he focused on improving within Jay Gruden’s offense after a year’s worth of experience, rather than learning a new playbook or working on rehab. He did that work this year with the aide of a full time QB coach too, a position that Washington did without in 2014, and evidently the pair have enjoyed working together. This year will go in one of two completely opposed directions for Griffin – either he’ll stay healthy and provide some semblance of the production, accuracy and consistency he offered in his rookie year, or he’ll wind up injured and/or ineffective and out of the lineup. With an ADP of QB24 though, Griffin carries no risk and still has palpable upside.
Eric Ebron (DET)
Rookie TEs rarely make big waves in their first season, and that was certainly the case for Ebron last year despite a lot of bluster coming out of Detroit about his Jimmy-Graham-like role in Joe Lombardi’s offense. Instead, Ebron struggled with drops (just as he had in college and training camp) and disappointed anyone who drafted him in redraft leagues. That has no bearing on his 2015 campaign, however. Certainly, you’ll want to see an improvement in drops and catch rate this year, but you should also see an organic rise in production as he enters his second season. He remains the same athletic talent that drew all the hype last year, and should be the 3rd look in the passing game between Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
Ladarius Green (SD)
Ok, Green isn’t all that ‘sleepy’ as we’ve been dialing up the hype on him for years, but there may be a degree of post-hype discount here given that he didn’t pan out last year and the suspension to Gates gives him an obvious opportunity to earn a role to start the season. Intriguingly, Green’s ADP hasn’t really changed in the week since news of Gates’ suspension broke. In great likelihood, Gates will take his role back in October and should eat up most of the TE red zone targets, so, Green may not have staying value. But a prudent owner can draft him for the first four weeks of production and keep an eye on the snap count for the following few weeks, where they can then decide to trade, dump, or deploy him as needed, as long as the draft day price is right.
Jon Collins leads football content at Fantasy Sports Locker Room and prides himself on finding value late in fantasy drafts. Stay tuned to FSLR for their Ultimate Sleepers Bracket coming soon to crown this summer’s top fantasy football sleeper.