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This is the third installment of my sleepers column, and the first two were based on player evaluation with little to do with Average Draft Position. But that changes now. This is all relative to ADP.
With that in mind, we're looking at players being drafted after the first 100 overall picks, and I'm going by the ADP from FantasyPros to hopefully eliminate any bias from CBS Sports users who rely on my rankings. But before we look ahead, let's take a quick look back.
Here are the 12 players that I highlighted in Sleepers 1.0 in early April.
- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins
- Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
- Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
- Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys
- Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers
- Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons
- Kevin White, WR, Bears
- Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts
- Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans
- Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Buccaneers
- Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
And here are the 12 players I featured in Sleepers 2.0 in mid-June.
- Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
- Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
- Frank Gore, RB, Colts
- Karlos Williams, RB, Bills
- Paul Perkins, RB, Giants
- Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens
- Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings
- Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
- Corey Coleman, WR, Browns
- Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots
- Willie Snead, WR, Saints
- Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts
The players I'm still bullish on from these lists include Johnson, Sims, Coleman, White, Dorsett, Jones, Romo, Rivers, Gore, McKinnon, Shepard, Coleman, Hogan, Snead and Allen. But based on ADP, the only ones who still qualify as sleepers under our criteria of pick No. 100 overall or later are Romo (No. 100), Sims (No. 113), Tevin Coleman (No. 122), McKinnon (No. 164), Dorsett (No. 157), Corey Coleman (No. 105), Hogan (No. 184), Snead (No. 117) and Allen (No. 174).
Let's see how these players stack up to Sleepers 3.0.
Stafford was an easy quarterback to write off when Calvin Johnson retired this offseason. After all, how could Stafford still post quality stats, let alone be a starting option, with his best player no longer on the field? But the Lions have done a nice job putting talented weapons around Stafford to help replace Johnson, including the additions of Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin to go with Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. And I think Stafford will benefit from an up-tempo offense under coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, which could lead to plenty of volume. Stafford was No. 7 last year in pass attempts with 592, and he's no stranger to being a leader in this category. Stafford was fifth in pass attempts in 2014 with 602, fourth in 2013 with 634 and first in 2012 with 727. He could be No. 1 in this category again, which would result in plenty of positive production, and I would draft him as a low-end starting option in all leagues.
Duke Johnson should be the first Browns running back drafted because he's a better dual-threat option than Crowell, but don't discount Crowell having a prominent role this year. Coach Hue Jackson would love to recreate what he had as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals when Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard were at their best, and Crowell definitely is the Hill clone in this comparison. Forget what Hill delivered last season with his 3.6 yards per carry, he still had 223 carries and worked at the goal line, delivering 11 touchdowns. It would be shocking if game flow allowed him the chance for that kind of workload, especially the goal-line opportunities, but he has a decent track record when given extended touches. He had seven games last season with at least 12 carries, and he scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in five of them. He did that in three of six games in 2014, and we expect Jackson to give him enough touches to make him worth his ADP. The Browns offense might scare you off, but you might be glad you gambled on Crowell with a pick in Round 10, especially in standard leagues.
I'm nervous about Matt Forte this season since he's 30 and changing teams for the first time after eight seasons with the Bears. He also has more than 2,000 career carries and 2,500 total touches, which could catch up to him. He's already dealing with a hamstring injury in training camp, which has kept him out of practice. That has allowed Powell the chance to work with the starters, and he did well for the Jets last season in a timeshare with Chris Ivory. He only appeared in 11 games in 2015 but scored at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of them, including seven games with at least four catches. Powell and Forte have a similar skillset, but Powell's price tag is much cheaper in Round 11. If Forte were to miss extended time due to injury, Powell could be a Top 20 running back in the majority of leagues, especially PPR. And even if Forte is healthy we still expect Powell to be heavily involved. He's worth drafting with a late-round pick whenever possible.
Booker should beat out Ronnie Hillman for the No. 2 running back job in Denver behind C.J. Anderson, and that's a good role to have should Anderson struggle or get hurt. Anderson battled foot and ankle problems in 2015, which allowed Hillman to be a top-20 Fantasy running back in standard leagues. We hope Anderson can play 16 games and deliver as a top-tier Fantasy option, but Booker could produce at a high level if given a chance. The former Utah star, who was selected by the Broncos in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, averaged 1,387 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in college the past two seasons, with 77 catches over that span. Denver coach Gary Kubiak's system is great for running backs and you always want a piece of a potentially explosive backfield. If you spend an early round pick on Anderson (Round 3 is appropriate in most formats) then you should invest in a late-round pick on Booker as the handcuff. And he also presents standalone value if the Broncos give him the chance to work in tandem with Anderson during the year.
There are some Fantasy owners getting overexcited about Michael following the first preseason game and getting down on Thomas Rawls, who didn't play against the Chiefs and is coming back from last year's ankle injury. The Seahawks are just being cautious with Rawls, who remains the starter and is worth drafting toward the end of Round 3 or beginning of Round 4. But Michael is doing a great job taking advantage of the opportunity for extended playing time (seven carries for 44 yards against Kansas City), and he's clearly earned the trust of coach Pete Carroll. After bouncing around the league in 2015 (he went from Seattle to Dallas to Washington and back to the Seahawks), Michael was a savior of sorts when Rawls and Marshawn Lynch were hurt. He had 16 carries for 84 yards in Week 15 against Cleveland, 17 carries for 102 yards in Week 17 at Arizona and 21 carries for 70 yards in the Wild Card win at Minnesota. Rawls would need to miss extended time with an injury for Michael to have increased Fantasy value, but Rawls runs with a violent nature, similar to Lynch. Michael has become the handcuff in Seattle and he's worth drafting if you select Rawls or if you just want a lottery ticket on the end of your bench.
We know now that Dion Lewis (knee) is out for the beginning of the season and could miss the entire year after having a second surgery in August. That should allow White to play a prominent role for the Patriots this year, which also happened last season after Lewis first suffered a torn ACL in Week 9. In the final seven games of the season in 2015, White scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league three times and at least eight points in five outings. He also had at least four catches in four of those games over that span and finished his final seven outings with 32 catches. If your project that over 16 games he would have finished with 73 catches, which would have put him tied for third among running backs in receptions with Devonta Freeman. There's still the chance that Lewis comes back this season, which would make things frustrating for Fantasy owners if both play a role. But if White has the job as the receiver out of the backfield for the Patriots all season, especially from Week 5 on when Tom Brady is back from his suspension, he could be a steal with a mid-round pick.
I'm cheating a little bit with Diggs on this list since his ADP can clearly rise and make him ineligible for our criteria, but this is also me making a public apology to any Fantasy owner planning to target him this year. I downgraded Diggs too far with the addition of rookie Laquon Treadwell, but Diggs has remained the No. 1 receiver throughout training camp and should be Teddy Bridgewater's top option in the passing game. We saw last season as a rookie that Diggs can be a playmaker when he had five games with at least nine targets and had at least 87 receiving yards in four of them. His value is higher in PPR leagues since it's hard to envision a Vikings receiver scoring double digits in touchdowns with Bridgewater under center and Adrian Peterson in the backfield, but he won't kill you in standard leagues as a No. 4 receiver with a late-round pick. And the good thing is this isn't a Vikings receiver being hyped up like Cordarrelle Patterson or Charles Johnson in recent years. Just let Diggs fall in your lap, and you should be rewarded with positive production.
Thomas isn't expected to start for the Saints with Brandin Cooks and Snead locked into their roles, and he should be behind Coby Fleener and Mark Ingram as well for targets. But that doesn't mean Thomas will be shut out, and Drew Brees knows how to spread the ball around to his talented playmakers. Thomas has been getting rave reviews in training camp, and he showed off in the preseason opener with four catches for 67 yards on six targets against the Patriots. He can still be productive as the third receiver, and it's never a bad idea to spend a late-round pick on a promising pass catcher in a pass-friendly offense. And if something were to happen to Cooks or Snead then Thomas could become a star. In a run-based offense at Ohio State, Thomas had 113 career catches for 1,602 yards and 18 touchdowns over 27 starts, and he dropped only five of 157 targets. If he carves out a role as expected for the Saints as a rookie then his production could be promising, which is why he warrants a selection likely earlier than his Round 12 ADP.
It's easy to expect that Kelvin Benjamin will come off last year's torn ACL and slide back into his No. 1 role, but the reports through training camp and the first preseason game haven't been promising, especially in regard to his conditioning. It could lead to Benjamin being a bust at his Round 3 price tag at No. 35 overall in ADP. Meanwhile, the reports for Funchess have been glowing, and an ESPN report suggests Funchess could be Carolina's best receiver this year. We need to see it to believe it after he had just 31 catches for 473 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie last season, but he's clearly worth the gamble with a pick in Round 14. Cam Newton has gotten at least nine touchdowns from one receiver each of the past two years with Benjamin in 2014 and Ted Ginn last year, and we're hopeful Benjamin can be that guy in 2016. But if Funchess somehow does prove to be the best receiver for the Panthers this season then you'll be thrilled that you drafted him with a late-round pick in all leagues.
The Titans receiving corps is far from dynamic, so it wouldn't be a stretch to see a rookie be the No. 1 receiver. And that's the way it looked through the early part of the preseason, especially the second game when Sharpe had six catches for 68 yards on six targets against the Panthers. All Sharpe has to do is continue to earn the trust of quarterback Marcus Mariota and beat out Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright for playing time and targets. Delanie Walker should be the No. 1 threat in the passing game, and the Titans are going to definitely lean on the run with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. But Sharpe should get his share of production and is worth a late-round pick. Touchdowns might be hard to come by in this offense, but he could be a potential flex option in PPR leagues.
We've been down this road before with Cook. He has all the attributes you look for in a tight end with his size and speed, but he's never been a consistent performer. But he's also never played with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, and that could be the difference maker for his career. He should be the No. 1 tight end in Green Bay ahead of Richard Rodgers, who actually was the No. 9 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues last year, and Cook is an excellent late-round flier in the majority of leagues. One report in May suggested Cook was the best offseason acquisition for the Packers, and he should easily top his career highs in catches (52), yards (671) and touchdowns (five). I have no problem using Cook as my first streaming tight end since the Packers open the season with Jacksonville and Detroit in two of their first three games, and those two teams were miserable against tight ends last season.
The Patriots have been looking for a second tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski since parting ways with Aaron Hernandez following the 2012 season. Hernandez was a vital part of New England's offense with 113 targets in 14 games in 2011 and 83 targets in 10 games in 2012, but since then guys like Timothy Wright and Scott Chandler haven't come close to being prominent options in the passing game. Bennett could change that given his history as a No. 1 tight end for the Bears, and he was a Top 10 tight end in 2013 and 2014 with at least 96 targets each year. We doubt he gets that much work with everyone healthy since New England has a lot of mouths to feed on offense, but he could find a way to get 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns like he did with the Giants in 2012. That would make him a borderline No. 1 tight end in the majority of leagues, and he is definitely a streaming option once Brady is back from his suspension in Week 5. Bennett also presents the rare scenario of the handcuff tight end because he could be a superstar if Gronkowski was out for any extended period of time.
Other sleepers to consider ...
- Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers - ADP: No. 131 overall
- DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders - ADP: No. 160 overall
- Will Fuller, WR, Texans - ADP: No. 193 overall
- Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs - ADP: No. 198 overall
- Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals - ADP: No. 210 overall
- Clive Walford, TE, Raiders - ADP: No. 231 overall
- Shaun Draughn, RB, 49ers - ADP: No. 263 overall
- Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins - ADP: No. 273 overall
- Vance McDonald, TE, 49ers - ADP: No. 283 overall
- Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers - No ADP
- Virgil Green, TE, Broncos - No ADP
- Jesse James, TE, Steelers - No ADP