As futile as the exercise may seem this early, identifying sleeper candidates is one of the most important pieces of research you can embark upon. Below we’ll identify three leading candidates for you to keep an eye on before the preaseaon starts.
Austin Hooper – Atlanta Falcons | ADP 178 – TE 21 | It’s not fair to Austin Hooper that TE’s in Atlanta will be compared to all-time great Tony Gonzalez, but that’s the long and short of it.
With Jacob Tamme gone, Hooper will reprise his role from primarily a blocking TE to catching the football. So far, Matt Ryan has rung his praises, and the Falcons are preparing to get Hooper involved in the high flying offense in Atlanta. Prediction: 750 Receiving Yards, 8 TDs
Julius Thomas – Miami Dolphins |ADP 134 – TE 19 | While Thomas was certainly on these lists over the last few years, it was a combination of poor health and poor fit that caused him to disappear from fantasy relevance. Well queue the music because Thomas finds himself reunited with Adam Gase (the man responsible for his fantastic TE1 seasons in Denver). Despite this, and the fact that Miami has effectively used TE’s in the past (eg. Charles Clay, Jordan Cameron), Thomas is still being drafted as the 19th best TE. Prediction: 900 Receiving Yards, 12 TDs
Erik Swoope – Indianapolis Colts | ADP 319 – TE 42 | Just when you though I wouldn’t go deeper than Julius Thomas, here comes Erik “won’t get drafted” Swoope to round out the TE sleepers. While Jack Doyle is being considered the heir to departed Dwayne Allen’s starting TE gig, it’s Swoope, the former college basketball player, who has the athleticism to make a difference in Indy’s pass first offense. Averaging almost 20 yards per catch, Swoope will inhabit at the very least the targets that went to Allen, meaning he can expect 60-80 targets regardless. Sure he won’t average the same 19.8 ypc he did last year but he carries massive upside from the very last round. Prediction: 800 Receiving Yards, 6 TDs
Honorable Mentions: Dwayne Allen, NE (ADP 221), Jared Cook, Oak (ADP 198), Jordan Legget, NYJ (ADP 315).
Every day more news trickles in from training camps around the league and with it come the whispers of change as position battles rage and our preconceived notion of how things will shake out, get shaken up. Below are 4 early contenders to see their value plummet as the find themselves in the midst of the bad buzz machine that so often derails our fantasy preparations. (this is in no way ranked in order of importance.)
Terrance West – RB / Cleveland Browns – The second head in the two-headed monster in Cleveland last year has seen his stock take a hit with the continued surge of Isaiah Crowell as the lead back and the addition of third down specialist Duke Johnson. Word out of Browns camp is that West isn’t even safe in terms of making the 53 man roster. While I may not be ready to right the eulogy on his career in Cleveland, it’s a safe bet that West sees very little meaningful time on the field barring a catastrophic injury ahead of him.
Charles Clay – TE / Buffalo Bills – Any move that sees you go to a team like Buffalo has to make one pause when considering a players fantasy viability, but we all pointed to the freakish athleticism and the ability to be an impact player on a team that desperately needed one in the middle of the field as reasons why we considered Clay an obvious sleeper. Now, a full week into training camp, reports have Clay being targeted by Bills QBs a whopping 0 times. That’s right, you can’t divide by the number of time’s he’s been thrown at because it isn’t even a number. We’re a ways off from actual NFL games, and this could turn around for the gifted TE, but it’s a bad sign when a bad offense isn’t even TRYING to get you involved.
Darren McFadden – RB / Dallas Cowboys – Once upon a time McFadden was expected to blossom into an elite NFL runner. Then the injury history we all conveniently ignored became the present… and then the future. Now he’s becoming a frequent footnote in fantasy circles as well. What began as an off season filled with cautious optimism (for no reason other than we wanted to be right eventually) has turned into what we always knew it would be; another injury riddled campaign for the much maligned running back. A pulled hamstring is not the end of the world, but it is an other entry in the long list of obstacles that McFadden has to overcome to gain the starting gig… not least of which is that Joseph Randle now holds the keys to the castle. Steer clear of McFadden until the picks don’t matter; that way you won’t mind dumping him when he finds his way to the IR.
Marquise Lee – WR / Jacksonville Jaguars – A second round pick last year, Lee came into the league lauded as one of the top WR options in the draft; expectations where he’d immediately make an impact in the absence of suspended #1 Justin Blackmon. Inconsistency and injury derailed the promising players rookie year, and as we begin camps, it appears as though Lee is the odd man out with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns playing their ways into starting roles, and several touches being siphoned by new RB TJ Yeldon and free agent TE Juluis Thomas. Lee is very low on my list of maybe-sleepers.
Honorable Mentions: Bishop Sankey – There’s been very little good news this off season for the first RB selected in last years draft. He has stiff competition in the form of rookie arrival David Cobb. Trent Richardson – Early reports had him cutting weight, now they have him on the outside of the bubble as Murray and Helu (on third downs) look to lock up the backfield. Joique Bell – This one has been beat to death so much that Bell seems to fallen out of favor with both fans and pundits as Ameer Abdullah continues to carry the torch as Bell returns from an injury. Unless he falls in drafts, his value is taking a major hit.