By: Justin Lynch
Sleepers are in general tough to identify, but these are guys who are being picked as backups in 10-team leagues that I believe will far outperform their ADP.
Standard League Sleepers:
Martin isn’t a true sleeper, but he’s a guy going way too late in many drafts. He won’t return to his rookie year form, but he should improve dramatically over his last two campaigns. As a Doug Martin supporter I hate to say this, but the reason is really that Martin wins by default. We saw last year that Chris Sims and Bobby Rainey are not NFL-caliber running backs, or at least guys that can handle the ball double-digit times per game. Martin lost weight and looks good in preseason. He’s a guy that could be a weekly starter and he’s going relatively late in most drafts.
Stills is a deep threat who is now with Miami, coming from New Orleans. Miami drafted DeVante Parker this offseason to play opposite of Stills, and they still have Jarvis Landry in the slot. Stills, who caught 63 passes for 931 yards last season, gets his first shot at being the top option in the offense. Though Landry is the safety valve and will likely get more receptions, most of the big plays will go to Stills (and his sub-4.0 40 time). Stills has the ability this season to accelerate the development of Ryan Tannehill by providing him a true deep threat that also seemingly wants to be in Miami (cough-Mike Wallace-cough). Stills will allow the Dolphins to stretch the field in an otherwise very west-coast style offense. Stills might not get huge reception numbers, but now without guys like Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, Robert Meacham, and Darren Sproles taking his targets, he should be able to shine. He is also more valuable to standard leagues due to his big-play potential, and the fact he will not be someone who racks up receptions.
PPR League Sleepers:
After tearing up Seattle in the Super Bowl, Vereen ditched the Pats for the Giants. He comes into a similar role to what he had in New England. He will primarily be a pass-catcher, but he also serves as a valuable change-of-pace back, especially for draw plays out of the shotgun. Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings will be the primary between-the-tackle runners, but both averaged less than four yards/carry last season. With the return of Victor Cruz along with Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle, opposing secondaries will have plenty to deal with before Vereen even gets mentioned. It’s good to have receiving running backs in your arsenal, and Vereen is a guy that is getting slightly overlooked by many. He is good value as 3rd or 4th back in a PPR league.
It’s tough to call a guy with the pedigree of Colston a sleeper, but he was more or less fantasy irrelevant last season in New Orleans. This year, however, Colston comes back to the forefront as the starting receiver opposite of Brandin Cooks. With Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham gone, Drew Brees will lean heavily on Cooks, but also on the reliable hands of Colston. Colston may be past his prime, but he is so consistent and sure-handed that Drew Brees will not hesitate to look his way. Colston at the very least should get an uptick in targets, which is even better considering the deadly-accurate Brees is still his QB. Look for him late in a PPR league, and even in a standard league if you are looking for someone who almost undoubtedly will go 5/70 every week, with the occasional touchdown.
Standard: Cameron Artis-Payne
The Panthers spent their first round pick on the rookie out of Auburn, and he has impressed in camp. Though Jonathan Stewart is the clear starter, he has had injury issues in the past and has not been the primary rusher in five years. Artis-Payne rushed for over five yards/carry in college and scored 13 TD’s last season. Payne won’t have much of an impact in the receiving game with Fozzy Whittaker as the main receiving running back, but should any of the injuries that have hampered Stewart in the past come back, Artis-Payne will be in line for a heavy workload. He has plenty of talent to take advantage should the opportunity present itself.
Also, in standard leagues it’s very important to grab running backs who have upside late in the draft because of their potential value should they become the starter versus that of wide receivers. Payne might just sit behind Stewart his entire rookie season, but if he keeps playing the way he is, he will cut into Stewart’s workload and be there if Stewart goes down.
PPR: Michael Crabtree
With much of the offseason attention on Latavius Murray and first-rounder Amari Cooper, Crabtree has fell through the cracks in the Raiders’, dare I say, emerging offense. Crabtree was on the path to becoming a perennial fantasy starter until a torn achilles derailed his last few years. He is now out of San Francisco and has joined up with Derek Carr in Oakland. Crabtree is still a talented player, and he now takes that talent to a team where he won’t be relied on as the number one option. He, at this point, is just as talented as Amari Cooper, but he will likely face the second corner on most teams, giving him the edge in most matchups he will face. The Raiders are also a team that will be losing and forced to throw. Crabtree should be able to put up at least decent numbers, due to his promising situation.