Top-10 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Bargains for 2017
The smart fantasy football owner approaches a draft prepared. Research has been meticulously done; favorite players have been circled on multiple cheat sheets and potential busts have been crossed out. Draft preparation is the key to having a successful fantasy season. But sometimes all of those numbers and lists can cloud an owner’s mind. The cheat sheet that once guided your selections is now controlling the players you draft and when you draft them. This is a common occurrence for all draft platforms. The player you want is too far down the draft board and it would be foolish to reach for them when you might be able to get them with a later pick. This thought can be detrimental to your team if you let it, but you can also use it to your advantage. Recognize that the other members of your fantasy league are looking at the same or very similar cheat sheets that you are scouring. The other members of the league are also being drawn into selecting the player with the highest ADP (average draft position) left available. Use that knowledge to win. Highlight the sleepers and bargains you want to have on your team before the draft and don’t be afraid to reach down the board and select them. The following list highlights a few players that, based on their current ranking, I believe to be good fantasy football sleepers and bargains for 2017. All ADPs listed are based on a standard league setup (non-PPR) and have been taken from fantasy football calculator.
1) Rob Kelley-RB-Washington
Current ADP: #76
Rob Kelly took over the starting job from Matt Jones in week 8 last year when Jones went down with a knee injury. Despite Jones coming back from the injury a few weeks later, Kelley held the starting job for the remainder of the season. He managed 704 yards on 168 carries with 6 touchdowns to finish the season. That’s not too shabby for someone who only played for half the season. The Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the 2017 draft to compete with Kelley for the starting job, but early reports suggest that the job is Kelley’s to lose. Kelley also boosted his stock by coming into training camp in better shape than last year. All the evidence points to Kelley being a major component in Washington’s offense this year, and he’s currently being drafted extremely low. If it’s the 8th round and Kelley is still around, be sure to grab him. Getting a starting RB at that point in the draft is a steal.
2) DeSean Jackson-WR-Tampa Bay
Current ADP: #85
In 2017 DeSean Jackson was a roller coaster of a player while playing for the Washington Redskins. He was frequently injured in the first half of the season, and inconsistent when on the field. The second half of the season saw Jackson recapture the form that all fantasy owners know and love. On the season he made 56 receptions for 1005 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jackson has since moved on from the Redskins to the Buccaneers where he will slot in across from the already prolific Mike Evans. It seems like a match made in heaven for fantasy owners. Considering Jameis Winston’s growth as a quarterback, I predict that there will be plenty of opportunities for both Evans and Jackson to make a large fantasy impact. Jackson’s occasionally falling as far as the 10th round in some mock drafts.
3) DeAndre Hopkins-WR-Houston
Current ADP: #33
How many fantasy owners just let out a collective sigh? Yeah, me too. Owners who had Hopkins in 2016 may be too scarred from last season to take a chance on Nuk in 2017, but I’d suggest giving it a try if he can be selected in the third or fourth round. Hopkins was able to be a fantasy stud while catching balls from a slew of less-than-stellar quarterbacks–Matt Schaub, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzparick, and Case Keenum to name a few. Brock Osweiler played so poorly in 2016 that not even Hopkins could perform to his potential. Visibly frustrated and broken at the end of the season, Hopkins still managed to put together a decent stat line of 78 receptions for 954 yards and 4 touchdowns. Expect Hopkins to have a rebound season in 2017 with a different quarterback under center for the Texans, whether that be Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson.
4) Jameis Winston-QB-Tampa Bay
Current ADP: #80
Let’s go back to the well with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston has been improving as a player and a leader since he entered the league in 2015. Last year he nearly brought the Bucs back to the playoffs and the team has only gotten better in the offseason. I expect 2017 will be the year that Winston makes the leap forward and establishes himself as a must-have fantasy quarterback. In standard leagues, I don’t think it’s ever wise to take a quarterback in the early rounds. This rings especially true considering the production that later-round quarterbacks have had over the past few years (Think Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins in 2016, or Tom Brady and Cam Newton in 2015). Winston could fall anywhere from the 7th round to the 12th depending on the flow of the draft and I think he’ll be this year’s steal at the quarterback position.
5) Jeremy Maclin-WR-Baltimore
I’m not usually a fan of trusting players right after they switch teams, but like DeSean Jackson, I believe Maclin has landed in a stellar situation in Baltimore. The Ravens may not be a better team than the Chiefs, but they at least have the potential for a successful passing game. Now, you might be thinking that the Ravens haven’t sported a potent, consistent passing game in quite some time; you wouldn’t be wrong. But lets consider the receivers that have been in Baltimore other than Steve Smith over the past few years: Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, and Michael Campanaro. Perriman, a first round pick in 2015, has consistently been injured or underwhelming throughout his tenure in the NFL. The once electrifying Mike Wallace has been on a steady decline since he left Pittsburgh oh so many years ago. Kamar Aiken is possibly the most average receiver to ever grace the turf–never a disappointment and never a difference maker. The depth charts suggest that Campanaro been on the team for years, though I can’t recall him ever making a noteworthy play (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Enter Jeremy Maclin, the once studly receiver who struck fear into opposing defenses in Philadelphia alongside DeSean Jackson. If he comes into Baltimore motivated and ready to roll, expect that Maclin will once again establish himself as a reliable fantasy option.
6) Jack Doyle-TE-Indianapolis
Current ADP: #140
I’m not a fan of the Tight End position in fantasy football. Period. They are consistently inconsistent and wholeheartedly unreliable. For this reason, I often stream tight ends throughout the season and always wait until the later rounds of the draft to grab my starter. For 2017, one of the possible late-round steals at the position is Jack Doyle. In 2016 Doyle came on the scene with Dwayne Allen injured and showed signs that he could be more than just a backup. Given the pressure Andrew Luck is typically under behind that swiss cheese offensive line in Indy, he typically uses his tight end to get out of a bind. Without competition from Allen this year, expect Doyle to emerge as a consistent top-10 fantasy tight end. Doyle has been typically getting drafted between the 11th and 14th round in most mock drafts so aim for him there.
7) Terrance West-RB-Baltimore
Current ADP: #87
Nobody ever claimed that Terrance West was flashy, but he’s an unquestioned starting running back in the NFL. With the recent season-ending injury suffered by Kenneth Dixon, West is even more entrenched as the starting back. He will likely yield snaps to Danny Woodhead on passing downs, but otherwise will dominate the remainder of the backfield work. In 2016, West managed 193 carries for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those are pretty sad numbers for a starting back, but his volume of carries will guarantee that West has a high fantasy floor. Players like West are the key to a successful fantasy season when the injury bug hits–and believe me, it usually does at some point.
8) Corey Davis-WR-Tennessee
Current Ranking: #113
Corey Davis was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he immediately slots in as the number one receiver for the Titans. Having recently signed his rookie contract, Davis figures to lead the passing attack alongside Richard Mathews and newly-acquired free agent Eric Decker. The Titans haven’t had a potent passing for quite some time, but the team seems primed for a change in that department. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has consistently improved over the past two seasons and he may be poised for a breakout season. Beyond Mariota, the entire Titans team is on the rise; Davis was lucky to get swept up at the right time and falls into the perfect fantasy situation. Given his rookie pedigree and some early injuries, he has a lower ADP and could end up being a top-20 fantasy receiver this year. For such a low draft cost, it makes perfect sense for owners to take a chance on Davis this year.
9) Corey Coleman-WR-Cleveland
Current Ranking: #124
Coleman was the Brown’s first round draft pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He started off the 2016 campaign strong before breaking his hand in practice before week three. In all, Coleman missed six games during his rookie season and never truly regained the form that he saw in his first two games. While Coleman should be held partly accountable for his performance, the Browns as a team in 2016 were atrocious. Poor quarterback play meant that no receiver on the Browns was fantasy-relevant in 2016. In 2017, the quarterback play may not be significantly better, but the team as a whole will function more efficiently. This will result in more field time for the offense, and subsequently more targets to go around throughout the season. Coleman should be available until at least the 10th round of the draft.
10) Cam Newton-QB-Carolina
Current Ranking: #95
In 2016 Cam Newton was routinely the first quarterback selected in almost every fantasy draft after winning the MVP in 2015. He subsequently went on to have an absolutely abysmal season that solidified him as a massive fantasy bust. To make matters worse, Newton also underwent offseason shoulder surgery and is just now ramping up to full speed two weeks before the start of the regular season. So why is he on this list? Imagine how Newton performed in 2015 when he won the MVP. Now imagine that he could get close to that level again in 2017. It may not be probable, but it’s a definite possibility. Given the negative conditions surrounding Newton, it’s a perfect storm for the studious fantasy football owner with a penchant for risk. Newton is typically being selected between the 8th and 10th rounds in most mock drafts.
Casey Birch covers the NFL for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on twitter @Calan24
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