Picking a sleeper is easy: find the player who is being slept on.
I know what you are thinking. Where is he going with this? If you keep reading, I’ll tell you.
The very definition gives us an idea. A sleeper for the purpose of this article is a player who is not projected to be as productive as he actually is. I will take a look at some past performers and explain the best way to choose sleepers, as well as give you mine!
It may seem like it was a decade since Mike Williams and Brandon Lloyd were top 10 WRs. If you were smart/lucky enough to grab both, you probably took the trophy home.
These 2 players had a couple things in common. Both had QBs who were not new to their respective systems and were the #1 Wide Receivers on the team.
Last year is fresh on everyone’s mind. Where would you have drafted Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz, and Laurent Robinson? Jordy Nelson was my top sleeper, but Cruz and Robinson were not on it. Injuries to Mario Manningham and Miles Austin, which are impossible to predict (unless it’s Darren McFadden or Greg Oden), gave Cruz and Robinson the opportunity for fantasy greatness.
The commonality between these 3 is great Quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, and Eli Manning are starting QBs in fantasy, and therefore will have starting WRs on their teams. Sleeper ability is directly related to the quality of the Quarterback.
So where does that leave us?
- Solid Quarterback
- Not first year QB
- Cannot plan for injuries
Philip Rivers had a down year but still produced a top 10 WR in Vincent Jackson. VJax is gone now, and “experts” are picking Robert Meachem as a sleeper. Really? The dude had knee surgery this offseason and is in a new offense. Floyd has had a hard time staying healthy but just like touchdowns, you cannot predict them. Antonio Gates is getting older and slower. Philip Rivers is a gunslinger, and that won’t change. Go Floyd, not Meachem.
Joe Flacco played his tail off in the playoffs. Anquan Boldin is getting older and Torrey Smith only had 10 less targets last year in the same number of games, even though Smith was in his first year. This is turning into the Pittsburgh Steelers when Mike Wallace starting taking over for Hines Ward. You can easily grab Smith in the 6th round and produce at a high WR2. No, I’m not scared of Jacoby Jones going to Baltimore. He is a body-catcher who will be the third option.
Here is my true man crush for this year. Carson Palmer and Moore will both be fully immersed in the offense and have an entire offseason to work together. Palmer has gone out of his way several times this offseason to say Moore has talent. That is good enough for me! Jacoby Ford should be back and Darrius Heyward-Bey is getting better (I know, right?). Moore has the highest ceiling and is an absolute steal later in the draft.
Having a Quarterback throw for 5,038 yards is definitely a good thing. Nate Burleson and Young performed fairly equally, despite Burleson having 9 years of experience under his belt. Calvin Johnson is a beast and will continue to produce as an elite level, but defenses care guaranteed to put a higher emphasis on at least slowing him down. That means more opportunity elsewhere. It would not surprise me at all if Titus Young is this year’s Victor Cruz.
Cam Newton is a beast, but I believe he won’t surpass his rookie fantasy numbers simply because he won’t rush for more touchdowns. Newton is a franchise Quarterback and needs to be protected. He will throw the ball more, and LaFell will be the biggest beneficiary of it. Steve Smith can still play and will command constant defensive attention. LaFell will see a lot of single coverage and can make something happen.
Having faith in these players gives you an edge, but not because you will draft them slightly earlier. Truly having faith in these players, the schemes they are in, the Quarterbacks that throw them the ball, and the talent of each player gives you a drafting edge on draft day. Knowing you will grab these players will allow you to grab 2 top-flight RBs and a decent QB.
There is only 1 QB on the field at a time. There is only 1 RB on the field at a time. There are 2+ WRs on the field at a time. Statistically, sleepers are easy to find in the WR group than QB or RB. Injuries withstanding, drafting these 5 WRs will give you a great chance of positioning yourself as a top-seeded playoff team.
Go get em!
As always, you can find me on twitter at @FD_Bass