Fantasy Football Sleeper.
That term lacks a clearly-defined shared meaning and you could certainly argue that "sleepers" don't even exist in today's era of instant information.
For purposes of this post, we will define sleepers as players being drafted (on average) beyond the 10th round of fantasy football drafts. In other words, the top-120 players in terms of Fantasy Football ADP are excluded from consideration.
To be clear, the players that appear on this list aren't the only players going in Round 11 (or later) that I like. And if you want to do who I would draft (over other players), check out my Top-200 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet.
With that said, here are 10 fantasy football sleepers to target in your fantasy football drafts (ADP via FantasyPros):
QB — Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 169, QB22)
Being drafted outside the top-20 fantasy quarterbacks (on average), Tannehill should easily outperform his current ADP. Excluding his rookie 2012 season, Tannehill has finished as the QB16, QB9 and QB17 over the past three seasons, respectively.
Among the top-10 quarterbacks in passing yards (15,460, ninth-most) and rushing yards (901, eighth-most) since entering the league, Tannehill has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons and 24-plus touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
Not only does Tannehill get a coaching upgrade with Gase and Peyton Manning as an occasional tutor, but I expect big things from second-year receiver DeVante Parker. While Tannehill is one of my favorite QB2 targets in 2-QB leagues, he has sneaky top-12 upside.
Tannehill also appeared on my list of 12 Undervalued Players in 2016 Fantasy Football Drafts
RB — Bilal Powell, New York Jets (ADP: 126, RB44)
Complementing Chris Ivory well, Powell was a PPR machine down the stretch last season. Powell finished as a top-25 weekly PPR performer in five of his final six games, which included a trio of top-eight finishes. During that six-game stretch (Weeks 11 to 16), only three running backs scored more PPR fantasy points than Powell. He was the RB10 in standard formats over that same span.
Perhaps the biggest potential concern with Powell's 2016 outlook is that the Jets replaced Ivory, who signed with the Jags in free agency, with Matt Forte, who excels as a receiver (like Powell). Based on my Jets fantasy football projections, however, I believe both Forte (56) and Powell (51) could end up with 50-plus receptions in 2016.
With the Jets giving Powell a three-year, $11 million contract to return, some expect the split between between the two backs to be fairly even. I have the split projected to be 61/39, but even so, Powell offers upside from his current RB44 ADP.
RB — DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 160, RB55)
Latavius Murray is one of my favorite fantasy running backs heading into 2016 and he appeared on my undervalued players post (link above) earlier this offseason. But especially for Murray owners, it makes sense to handcuff him with the fifth-round rookie. Either way, Washington should get plenty of work as Murray's change-of-pace option.
Not the biggest back (5-8, 204), the Texas Tech product received high praise from GM Reggie McKenzie shortly after the draft: “We think he’s a complete back, and when he gets out in space, he can make you look silly. He can catch the ball, but he can run between the tackles as well as well as bouncing it outside. We think he’s the total package as a runner. We really like him.”
It's so far, so good for Washington. In his preseason debut, Washington carried the ball five times for 43 yards and added a 32-yard reception.
RB — Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 195, RB57)
Who will be Baltimore's starting running back? Going into the season, it appears to be Justin Forsett, but it is certainly possible that another running back on the roster finishes as the team's top fantasy producer.
Shedding 15 pounds this offseason, West has generated plenty of buzz in training camp. ESPN's Jamison Hensley recently wrote, "West has been the No. 1 playmaker for the Baltimore offense so far this training camp. He's hitting holes, making cuts to elude tackles and producing big gains consistently."
Scoring a pair of touchdowns in the preseason opener and with some uncertainty in Baltimore's backfield, West is at least worth a late-round flier.
RB — Josh Ferguson, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 236, RB68)
An undrafted free agent the Colts reportedly considered drafting as early as Round 4, Ferguson has impressed the coaching staff throughout offseason workouts. Leading up to the NFL Draft, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote the following about Ferguson:
"Ferguson's ability to change direction instantaneously and create explosive yardage as a runner or pass catcher could make him a dangerous weapon in the hands of the right NFL team. Ferguson has the hands and route running potential to be considered as a slot receiver option to go along with being a change of pace back."
Frank Gore has been a durable back despite his age, but Ferguson got the start with Gore resting the preseason opener. At a minimum, Ferguson should get plenty of opportunities as a change-of-pace option to Gore. Given Gore's age and cumulative workload and the lack of competition elsewhere on the roster, Ferguson has plenty of appeal as a late-round flyer in fantasy drafts this summer.
Related: 2016 Fantasy Football Profile for Frank Gore
RB — Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 230, RB64)
Following the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the team drafted a trio of running backs, but Michael seems to be the favorite for the second-largest role behind Thomas Rawls. Referring to Rawls and Michael, coach Pete Carroll described the duo as a "little 1-2 punch that we are really excited about.''
After being re-signed by the Seahawks late last season, Michael had a few productive games at the end of the season (16/84 in Week 15, 17/102 in Week 17 and 21/70/1 in Wild Card playoff game). Michael has always possessed elite physical tools, but it appears that his maturity and leadership are starting to catch up to his athleticism.
WR — Bruce Ellington, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 209, WR70)
Ellington had just 13 catches for 153 yards last season, but he enters 2016 as the favorite for the team's No. 2 receiver job. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee recently wrote that Ellington "appears to be a major component and is in excellent position to be the 49ers’ breakout player on offense."
Meanwhile, CSN Bay Area named Ellington the team's "most improved" player in a mailbag post, in which they wrote the following about Ellington:
"With the 49ers apparently featuring a ball-control passing attack, Ellington has the short-area quickness to get open quickly out of the slot. He figures to be an easy pitch-and-catch option as the 49ers’ quarterback will try to get the ball out quickly against unblocked pass-rushers.
If Ellington can remain healthy, he has a chance to be a big factor in the return game and as a pass-catcher who could blow away his previous reception totals early in the season."
WR — Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 161, WR60)
Will Devin Funchess score more fantasy points than Kelvin Benjamin? Probably not, but "it wouldn't surprise" ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton if Funchess outperformed Benjamin.
With Benjamin (ACL) missing all of 2015, Funchess began his rookie season slowly, but he built some momentum in the second half. Over the final nine games of the season, Funchess scored all five of his touchdowns and he saved his best performance for the final week of the season with a 7/120/1 line.
It's likely that Funchess finishes third on the team in targets behind Benjamin and Greg Olsen, but all reports indicate that his positive momentum has carried over from last season into the offseason and training camp. The second-year receiver should easily exceed his rookie production (31/473/5) and offers fantasy owners plenty of late-round value.
WR — Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 156, WR54)
With just one catch in six games as a rookie, Coates is poised for an expanded role due to Martavis Bryant's full-season suspension. Earlier this offseason, OC Todd Haley said Coates was having a "tremendous offseason" and his positive momentum has carried into training camp.
It's possible that Markus Wheaton and/or Darrius Heyward-Bey score more fantasy points than Coates. At a minimum, Wheaton is currently ahead of Coates on the depth chart. But with Bryant suspended for the first five games last season as well, Wheaton failed to capitalize with a total of only nine catches during Bryant's five-game suspension.
As a vertical threat possessing outstanding physical traits, Coates will have plenty of weekly upside that will likely find his way into many of my DFS GPP lineups as well.
Coates was the past week's biggest weekly riser in Fantasy ADP (via FFC)
WR — Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 142, WR52)
The nephew of Keyshawn Johnson, Thomas has a chance to make an immediate and fantasy-relevant contribution as a rookie. Underutilized at Ohio State, Thomas will step into a fairly prominent role in one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL. And early reports from training camp have been glowing. And the rookie wideout impressed in the preseason opener with four catches for 67 yards against the Patriots.
ESPN Saints beat reporter Mike Triplett wrote of Thomas: "The big, sure-handed, 6-3, 212-pounder should emerge as a red-zone target. But he has also shown the potential to make big plays down the field, with spectacular catches throughout training camp and the first preseason game. Thomas has quickly drawn the trust of Payton and the quarterbacks, who have raved about his talent."
WR — Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 240, WR76)
Matthews missed the final five games last season due to injury. Through the first 10 games (before getting injured in his 11th), however, Matthews had 43 catches for 662 yards and four touchdowns -- equivalent to a 16-game pace of 69/1,059/6.
While I don't expect Matthews to reach the 1,000-yard milestone, I expect him to be the team's most productive fantasy receiver, especially now that Dorial Green-Beckham has been traded to the Eagles. His ADP is sure to rise considerably, but he quietly put up impressive numbers pre-injury last season so it's possible that he remains a late-round bargain for fantasy owners leading up to the start of the season.
TE — Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 284, TE30)
Through his first 31 games over 2 1/2 seasons, McDonald was essentially a non-factor on offense. During that span, he had a total of 18 catches for 193 yards and no touchdowns. Down the stretch last season, however, McDonald became a much bigger factor in the passing game.
Over his final six games, McDonald had 21 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns and he finished with the 11th-most fantasy points among tight ends over that span. In the preseason opener, McDonald caught a pair of passes for 54 yards including a 43-yard touchdown. Given the team's lack of offensive weapons, McDonald has the potential to pick up where he left off last season.
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