Post-Hype Sleepers (Fantasy Football)
The post-hype sleeper is one of the unique and mysterious beasts in all of fantasy. Some of us have been burned by being a year too early, and sometimes it’s just bad luck. We’ve all been there, we draft that player that was supposed to be awesome out of the gate yet fell short of expectations because of injury, their position on the depth chart, or simply their poor performance. Here are a few players who I feel could put up a career-best season in spite of letting their owners down in previous years. These are guys that had high expectations coming into the NFL that will pay major dividends at their current ADP.
Jameis Winston (QB – TB)
Winston comes into 2019 with a new head coach in Bruce Arians who has been tasked with making the former first-overall pick into the star QB the Bucs have longed for since day one. The talent and potential are there and Arians is famous for taking shots and basing his offense on the deep ball. Winston has a prime opportunity for the next chapter of his career with a head coach who has averaged just 23 rushing attempts per game over his entire six seasons in Arizona. This stat dates back to 2012 when Arians won Coach of the Year with Carson Palmer at quarterback. If he can turn around the career of an aging Palmer before the days of David Johnson in the backfield, that says a lot for Winston’s fantasy ceiling. I’ll put it this way, I have more trust in Arians to unlock a career year from the signal-caller and vault him into elite QB1 territory than Dirk Koetter ever had trust in Winston.
Over the last two season, Winston threw for over 300 yards in half of the 22 games in which his coach didn’t replace him. Think about that. I know that the Tampa defense wasn’t good last year, but they are likely to be even worse in 2019 and that’s another bonus here. Winston already has some ridiculous yardage totals in his career as a volatile arm that can make splash plays. He now has the experience to hopefully put the days of gun-slinging and poor decision making to rest. If you’re in a 14-team league, he’s currently going as the last QB off the board (or as the first QB to fill a super-flex or second QB spot) as the current QB15 in ADP per FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings. Winston could put up a massive breakout season in 2019. Something like 4,400-4,500 yards and 32 TDs is easily in reach with Arians at the helm.
Leonard Fournette (RB – JAC)
Everyone is writing up Rashaad Penny, Royce Freeman, and Ronald Jones as guys who fit the post-hype sleeper mold in the backfield. I thought about that group and Kenyan Drake. Now, it sounds like Kenyan Drake is going to miss some time due to injury so I’ll hold off on him and the others for this piece. Outside of these options, I feel there is one obvious post-hype guy at RB and he was drafted much higher than all those players. I’m talking of course about Leonard Fournette. The former fourth-overall pick just two years ago, Fournette has re-dedicated himself to football. He has taken advantage of his downtime this year to get into peak physical and mental health, and he’s primed for a huge year if he can stay healthy and level-headed. I know we hear these reports every year, but this is a legitimate first for the bruising back.
Since his meeting with Tom Coughlin in late 2018, it’s hard to find a negative comment about him. Try to find something discouraging from this year…I dare you. You can’t! He’s being talked up by all the coaches and staff including new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo (among others) who say that he’ll also be heavily involved in the passing game. That’s what we want to hear in fantasy. I’m expecting Fournette to have 45-52 grabs along with career bests in rushing attempts and yardage. He’ll be a major focus for the Jags this season and if the maturity issues are indeed gone, that means no more silly suspensions for fighting or missing team photos. Currently going off the board as the RB15, this seems like a nice value for someone with all kinds of positive buzz around him. He’s fully healthy for the first time since coming into the league and I’m expecting 320+ total touches for an RB1 season with very real breakout potential and double-digit touchdowns as an every-down back.
Josh Gordon (WR – NE)
This isn’t much of a deep sleeper after Gordon’s reinstatement announcement yesterday, but if he doesn’t qualify as post-hype…I don’t know who does. The NFL receiving leader in 2013, Gordon has complied just 1,375 yards since due to a myriad of suspensions and off-field issues. While those have long been documented, there is reason to believe in him with Tom Brady as his QB. They’ve been working together privately prior to the start of mini-camp and Brady went to Gordon frequently last season when he was available. Looking back at Brady’s career, no other Patriots pass catcher has had a higher average Adjusted Yards per Attempt (11.47 AYA) per RotoViz.com than Gordon, and that includes tight ends. Remember, Rob Gronkowski, Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan are all gone and there are now 204 vacated targets available to the rest of the pass catchers.
That said, can we trust that Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and N’Keal Harry are going to fill the massive target void left behind from 2018? I know the Pats are trending toward being a running team, but even the most run-heavy teams still pass the ball almost half the time. Yes, Edelman will be a PPR machine if his finger injury doesn’t hinder him. Of course James White is likely to have a similar target share again. But let’s not forget that Demaryius Thomas looks closer to retirement than getting on the field right now. New England has also taken a couple hits to their WR depth chart with Harry not practicing since appearing to injure his hamstring in the first preseason game and Dorsett just suffering a thumb injury in practice. With Edelman and Dorsett having battered hands, Gordon could produce early and not look back, threatening to eclipse his 2013 totals when he first set the league on fire. His ADP is skyrocketing right now, as he’s now already shot up to the WR30 in FantasyPros ECR. If you’re drafting this weekend, there’s opportunity here. Take advantage of it before he starts getting drafted in the WR20 range. The Josh Gordon hype train has been repaired and is about to leave the station, friends. ALL ABOARD!