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.
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings | ADP 106 – WR41 | Despite the efforts of the Vikings to bulk up the backfield after AP left for New Orleans, Sam Bradford was still bought and paid for in order to create some kind of passing game. Diggs is the obvious #1 but Thielen posted borderline WR2 numbers last year despite the turmoil on the field. Expect similar, if not better, for the third year receiver. Prediction: 1000 Receiving Yards, 4 TDs
Travis Benjamin – Los Angeles Chargers |ADP 170+ – WR96 | While Benjamin is likely only being drafted in the deepest formats, his WR96 ranking is criminal considering how likely it is that Keenan Allen misses time. Benjamin is progressing ahead of schedule on his own recovery and by all accounts Mike Williams is well behind the rest of the offense and may take time to mature in the NFL. Prediction: 800 Receiving Yards, 3 TDs
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys | ADP 131 – WR57 | I’ve been on the Cole Beasley train as early as 2014, arguing his value and suggesting he was a better option than Terrence Williams. Still, even after his success, Beasely is being drafted as late as the 14th round as a 5th or 6th WR. In PPR formats he’s rises as his 75-80 receptions is in the top 25 of all WRs, but he’s incredibly underrated so late in drafts. Prediction: 80 Receptions, 925 Receiving Yards, 5 TDs
Honorable Mentions: Robert Woods, LAR (ADP 155), Josh Doctson, Was (ADP 140), Kamar Aiken, Ind (ADP 260)
Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.
Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.
Surest Thing – Mike Wallace: Despite the appearance of a crowded receiver team, Mike Wallace is my surest bet amongst the late round WR picks based on his ADP (around 179!) Simply put, he’s hiding behind an unproven journey man in Kamar Aiken and a 35 year old Steve Smith Sr. and whatever mess at TE they decide to roll out (Maxx is a competent NFL TE but he’s going to eat significant targets away from any of the players already mentioned, nor is Gillmore). If Aiken regresses and/or Smith Sr. misses time with injury, the speedy Wallace should find himself hooking up with the strong armed Flacco more and more often. For a late round pick, he offers the highest ceiling with the lowest floor.
Highest Risk Reward – Devin Funchess: Despite pedestrian numbers in 2015, Funchess showed that he could be a productive player in the NFL, and there are two sides to the coin surrounding the return of Carolina’s “main man” Kelvin Benjamin. The majority of fantasy players expect Benjamin to step back into his #1 role, and you’d be justified, but I expect there’s a decent chance that having extra time to work with Funchess will result in better numbers for a WR being drafted in the 12-14th round. Obviously with Cam Newton, there’s no
garuntee that skill player A performs the same week in and week out, as the play breaks down Cam’s on of the best in the game finding the open man. Still, the reward if he turns into Cam’s saftey blanket far outweighs the risks.
Big Ole’ Bust – Marvin Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but Marvin Jones has the easiest road to ruin of any WR in the entire league. For starters, Matthew Stafford is is entering his 8th NFL season, and his attempts have dropped significantly as his mileage piles up. With Golden Tate proving he can carry the mantle, it’s highly unlikely Jones (who has no history in the NFL of carrying an offense) will step in and replace the departing Calvin Johnson. It’s more likely that Stafford adjusts his targets to Tate, Ebron, and Abdullah and Jones is left as the 4th or 5th player in touches.
Bonus – Chris Hogan: It’s easy to overlook the former Bill as he dons the enemies attire with New England this year. Why? Well, Gronkowski, Edeleman, Lewis, and Amendola to name a few. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely the New England offense stays healthy, and each of the names just mentioned has a lengthy injury history. Hogan is a sure handed blue collar guy who is likely to slide right in and pick up where guys like Lafell fit (when he was productive). He’s being drafted in the final rounds of drafts, so feel free to take a flier on him.