Early Dynasty Sleepers to Target (Fantasy Football)
We’re at the point in the offseason where most walk away from fantasy football. Heck, most walk away from football in general until it comes time for the NFL Draft. There are some diehards, of course, but for those reading this article, this is your time to strike before the iron gets too hot.
Coaches have been fired, while others have been hired. Players have been cut, while others are waiting to see what free agency does to their future with the team. Some situations have changed drastically, which means you can get players at a fraction of what they’ll cost once the general public catches on to their newly-found value. I scraped through the bargain bin in dynasty leagues to find the players you can buy now for much cheaper than you will come August.
Jameis Winston (TB)
Many were selling off Winston on the off-chance that he was released at the end of the season. In fact, he was dropped in some 1QB leagues. This may seem rash, but I assure you that his perceived value is much lower than it will be come August. Offensive-minded Bruce Arians is the new head coach and he’s said they’re building around Winston. With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard available as pass-catchers, Winston could be in the top-10 conversation for years to come.
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF)
Remember when he was being drafted as a top-six dynasty quarterback? I’m not kidding. This time last year, his average draft position in dynasty startup drafts was the QB6. Now? He’s sitting in the QB16-17 area, just in front of Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Quarterback stock should not move this much, especially when nothing bad has happened. In fact, the 49ers are the most likely to land Antonio Brown in a trade, which would send an injection into Garoppolo’s ADP and shoot him back up to where he was last year. The time to buy is now and your window could slam shut at any time.
Ronald Jones (TB)
It’s hard to find a true ‘sleeper’ at the running back position because a lot of time, it requires an injury in front of them to get a shot at production. That may not be the case with Jones, who the Bucs invested a high second-round pick in last year. Think about it… would you give up on a high second-round pick after watching him gather just 23 carries? Maybe it was the offense? During Kirk Koetter’s time as the head coach with the Bucs (three years), all running backs combined for just 3,637 yards on 1,020 carries (3.56 yards per carry) with 21 rushing touchdowns. Those are not good results. Bruce Arians’ five years in Arizona netted 7,360 yards on 1,872 carries (3.93 yards per carry) and 57 rushing touchdowns. You can get Jones for pennies on the dollar right now and the minimal risk is well worth it. Other name to monitor with the Bucs: Ameer Abdullah. Don’t forget Arians wanted to draft him over David Johnson while in Arizona.
John Kelly (LAR)
Did you see what C.J. Anderson did once he was signed to the Rams roster? Keep in mind he came off the street, was overweight, and had very limited receiving skills. He became a fantasy superstar and a DFS favorite. Knowing how much money the Rams have invested in Todd Gurley, they won’t pay for a pricey backup, which is why they drafted Kelly in the first place. He may not have been ready to carry the torch in 2018, but if Gurley were to miss any time in 2019, Kelly would be the one who benefits. He’s someone to buy for next-to-nothing and stash him on your bench.
Royce Freeman (DEN)
He may not fit the term sleeper considering his ADP is still a top-40 running back, but he’s much cheaper than he should be. Under a new coaching staff, it’s possible Freeman becomes the primary ball-carrier he was drafted to be, as he was the Broncos third-round pick just one year ago. While Phillip Lindsay is pretty dang good in his own right, he wore down as the year went on, finishing with just 100 rushing yards on his final 38 carries of the season (2.63 yards per carry). Freeman even showed the ability to help in the pass-game when he was asked to start in Week 17 when he finished with eight receptions for 43 yards. Even if he remains in Denver stuck splitting carries, he’ll get a nice second contract from another team. At the very least, his cost will not drop any more.
Jordan Wilkins (IND)
There are a lot of fantasy owners who’ve accepted Marlon Mack as the lead back for the Colts, but I’d urge you not to forget about Wilkins. When he had his opportunity early in the season (when Mack was out), the Colts offensive line was missing three starters at one point and had some tough matchups with the Eagles and Texans. I believe Mack was a product of the offensive line straight-up dominating, as he didn’t break a single tackle while catching his 17 passes and averaged just one broken tackle every 10.8 touches while carrying the ball, which ranked 48th of the 56 running backs who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps. If the Colts don’t sign a big-name free agent (like Le’Veon Bell), Wilkins might be closer to a starting job than you think.
Dwayne Washington (NO)
Everyone knows that Mark Ingram is a free agent, right? Washington was the one who totaled 108 yards on 11 carries in Week 17 and the one who best suits the role Ingram played alongside Alvin Kamara. While I believe they address the position in the draft, Washington is free in most leagues. He’s nothing special, but fantasy points come from opportunity, and if they don’t address the position, he’ll get enough to be fantasy relevant.
Quincy Enunwa (NYJ)
It’s odd to see Enunwa continually overlooked in both dynasty and real life. Can a new head coach change that? With Sam Darnold showing glimpses of the quarterback he was drafted to be, there are wide receivers in the offense who are going to be productive. While Robby Anderson is going to be one of them, Enunwa fits the role of possession receiver and may be the more consistent one. On top of that, it’s a weak free agent class for wide receivers, so it’s unlikely Enunwa is booted out of his role.
Marqise Lee (JAX)
Did you know that Lee had 1,553 yards between the 2016 and 2017 seasons? That ranked 33rd among all wide receivers, and it’s important to keep in mind that 2016 was when Allen Robinson was still on the team (and active all 16 games). He did that with Blake Bortles. ACL tears are no longer worrisome, as we’ve continually seen pass-catchers bounce-back to their pre-injury form. The Jaguars are going to have a new quarterback under center in 2019 and it’s very likely it’s an upgrade over Bortles. The Jaguars also invested a second-round pick into D.J. Chark last year, so it’s unlikely we see them take another wide receiver with an early-round pick. He’s currently being drafted outside the top 75 wide receivers, which is dirt cheap for a starting wide receiver.
John Ross (CIN)
He’s now down to the No. 79 wide receiver in dynasty ADP, which means he can likely be had for a third-round pick in rookie drafts. While Ross did make some mistakes last year, there were times where he was wide open while Andy Dalton just flat-out missed him. With A.J. Green coming back to the lineup, it’ll help Ross see more single-man coverage with no safety over the top. New head coach Zac Taylor is surely going to shake things up with the offense, so why not acquire Ross now while he costs essentially nothing? You shouldn’t forget that Tyler Boyd was on some dynasty waiver wires before his breakout last year. It’s also worth mentioning that the Bengals have shopped Ross while at the NFL Combine. If a team trades for him, he’ll likely be a bit higher on the pecking order.
Deon Cain (IND)
We waited and waited for the Colts to draft a wide receiver in the first couple rounds of the NFL Draft last year, though it never happened. They waited until Day 3 and snagged Cain, a late-round favorite of many analysts. He was impressing throughout camp until he tore his ACL in the preseason opener. He’s 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, built to be a possession-style receiver, the role he played at Clemson. This matched well with T.Y. Hilton‘s ability to stretch the field. Once again, many of us will be waiting for the Colts to select a wide receiver with a high draft pick, but if they don’t, Cain would be a starter for Andrew Luck, something dynasty owners should covet.
Geronimo Allison/Equanimeous St. Brown (GB)
I’ve built dynasty rosters by tying my bench wide receivers to elite quarterbacks. When you get them at a discount, it’s even better. Both Allison and St. Brown are outside the top 90 wide receivers in February ADP, which makes no sense. One of them is going to be a starting wide receiver for Aaron Rodgers in 2019. Most will wonder about Marquez Valdez-Scantling, but he didn’t play so well on the perimeter and would likely fill the slot role that Randall Cobb used to occupy. Allison or St. Brown would be on the field for 2WR sets. You shouldn’t forget that Allison was the No. 25 fantasy wide receiver one-quarter the way through the season (four games), hauling in 19 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. I’d acquire both at their current costs.
Trey Quinn (WAS)
With Jamison Crowder out of town, the Redskins have a clear role over the middle of the field that needs to be filled. Quinn played over 70 percent of his snaps in the slot when on the field last year, so it’d be natural for him to fill that role. He only saw 10 targets in his rookie season, but managed to turn them into nine receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. He’s a free agent in some dynasty leagues, but even if he’s rostered, he’s probably cheaper to acquire than he will be in a few months.
Demarcus Robinson (KC)
Remember when I said to acquire wide receivers who are attached to elite quarterbacks? I think many would put Patrick Mahomes in that category. He was also extremely productive when he got the opportunity in 2018, hauling in 22 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns on just 33 targets. Sammy Watkins has a long history of foot problems and Chris Conley is set to be an unrestricted free agent, leaving Robinson a short way from big fantasy production. Just imagine if Watkins were to miss time next year and you just happen to have the receiver who replaces him on your bench.
Jordan Reed (WAS)
I was shocked to see Reed outside the top 25 tight ends in dynasty ADP and that’s the only reason he’s here. If I were to click on a “sleepers” article and see Reed, I probably would’ve laughed, which is the reason I felt it necessary to tell you he’s currently the TE26, behind guys like Kyle Rudolph, Ian Thomas, Vance McDonald, and company. Really? When on the field, he’s been a producer, something that not many tight ends can say. He certainly had a down year in 2018, so a dip in his stock makes sense, but outside the top-20? Not even close. If someone is selling for that cheap, you should be buying. He’s still just 28 years old.
Jason Croom (BUF)
When looking for a potential sleeper at the tight end position, you want to find someone who has the chance to be heavily targeted, because volume equals production at the position. Croom was someone who led the Bills tight ends in receiving last year with 22 receptions, 259 yards, and one touchdown. With Charles Clay off to Arizona, Croom is walking into the starting role. While I’d fully expect them to snag a tight end in this deep draft class, rookie tight ends rarely get on the field anywhere near a full-time capacity, which means Croom should have plenty opportunity to make a fantasy impact.