“I don’t know why you’re bragging. He was a sleeper”. Truer words may never have been spoken. What a great line to throw out to silence the constant barrage of gloating from an opponent who dropped 30 fantasy points with a 3rd string running back. It’s not as if they knew that player would go off for that many points, right? He was a sleeper.
I’m fairly certain the person who created the word “sleeper”, as it applies to fantasy sports, was referring to the players selected by GMs who are asleep at the wheel in the late rounds of fantasy drafts. However, a sleeper has come to be known as any player that exceeds expectations, regardless of what round he was taken in. Targeting some of these sleepers in your draft could ensure you’re the one gloating later.
Here at Fantasy JoneZ, we have compiled a list of sleepers that warrant consideration in fantasy leagues. You’re obviously not going to be drafting all of these players, but getting a couple on your team late in your draft could prove to be a home run (or touchdown, if that makes you feel better).
Since all rookies are essentially sleepers, I will not be including any rookies on this list. We will be posting a list of top fantasy rookies of 2015 in a couple of days.
20. Robert Griffin III – QB – Redskins
A year ago you would have thought RG3 and head coach Jay Gruden hated each other, after publicly outing each other. Well, it seems Gruden has changed his tune a bit during the offseason. “[He’s] taken over the leadership role….. It’s exciting to watch him” Gruden has stated. Drafting Brandon Scherff with Leonard Williams still on the board shows that the Redskins want to protect their QB and give him every chance to succeed. Griffin has plenty of talent around him in Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, and a plethora of rookie offensive weapons. He is currently being drafted in the mid 20’s for QBs and is worth a look late. His potential value could be off the charts.
19. Owen Daniels – TE – Broncos
Goodbye Julius Thomas. Hello, Owen Daniels. Peyton Manning has always loved his TEs and it should be no different with new teammate Daniels. New head coach Gary Kubiak loves utilizing TEs in his playbook and one of his first moves as head coach was acquiring (and reuniting with) Daniels. Daniels should be a reliable red zone target for Manning and has potential to finish as a top 10 TE. Keep in mind that Manning threw 15 TDs to his TEs last year.
18. Stedman Bailey – WR – Rams
Bailey came on strong last year and looks to continue where he left off. He should be lined up opposite Kenny Britt when the season begins. In the 46 times Bailey was targeted last year, he put up some of the best numbers of any receiver in the league. It was a pretty small sample, but his success rate was 3rd among all receivers. He should see a bigger workload this year. The Rams used a 1st round draft pick on Todd Gurley then proceeded to draft a handful of O-Linemen. This seems to bode well for Bailey, as the Rams seem to be moving to a heavy run attack, which could open up Bailey for the big plays.
17. Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Buccaneers
It’s easy to write Jenkins off after that pitiful fantasy performance last year, but it was not all the rookie’s fault. Tampa Bay could not seem to get their offense moving in the right direction in 2014. Jenkins was also hampered with injuries during the season and only played 9 games. The additions of Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter – who has a knack for getting the best out of his TEs (Mercedes Lewis, Tony Gonzalez) - and rookie QB Jameis Winston could help to bring this young TE to fantasy relevance.
16. Sam Bradford – QB – Eagles
Hopefully, Bradford doesn’t get a hang nail before week 1, because if he does, he’s sure to be out for the entire season. If Bradford can stay healthy, and all reports claim that he is, he has the chance to be a very productive fantasy QB. Bradford is a much better QB than Sanchez and Foles, who both had success as a starting QB in a Chip Kelly offense. Over the past 2 years Eagles QB's have averaged 4,500 yards and 30 TD's. That's a huge stat stat that makes Bradford a very tempting sleeper pick.
15. Monte Ball – RB – Broncos
New head coach Gary Kubiak has already declared that CJ Anderson will be their starting running back, but Ball is convinced he will be splitting time with Anderson. It does look as though Ball is the early favorite for the backup spot, edging out Ronnie Hillman and the return to a zone blocking scheme benefits Ball the most of all the RBs. Kubiak’s system has room for multiple RBs to have success and Ball is one injury away from being a tier 1 RB.
14. Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Vikings
Just under 3,000 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, over 200 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, all in 13 games. These are the 2014 stats for Teddy Bridgewater. Playing with mediocre offensive weapons, Bridgewater quietly led all QBs in third down completion percentage and red zone completion percentage. That’s right, Bridgewater was statistically more accurate in the red zone than the big four – Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, & Russell Wilson (Maybe you expected Brees & Brady here. Sorry to disappoint. Wilson & Luck are in the big four when it comes to fantasy QBs). Add Mike Wallace, a healthy Kyle Rudolph, and a rested Adrian Peterson and Bridgewater has the recipe for a very successful sophomore year.
13. Marlon Brown – WR – Ravens
The Ravens are looking to fill the huge void at receiver that was left when Torrey Smith headed to San Fran. In steps rookie receiver Breshad Perriman. Not so fast. Third year receiver Marlon Brown will have a lot to say about this and could end up as the number 1 WR week 1. Brown is a bigger target at 6’5” with better hands and has some chemistry with Joe Flacco. There’s no denying Perriman’s speed but he has been known to drop balls. Even if Brown does not get the nod for the number 1 spot, he will be on the field quite a bit and is a huge end zone target.
12. Allen Robinson – WR – Jaguars
Robinson was on pace for a great rookie season in 2014 before his injury. He is finally healthy and he will start the 2015 season as Jacksonville’s number 1 WR and Bortles favorite target. Bortles claims that Robinson can “do everything in the open field…. He’s unbelievable”. Only five receivers were targeted more than A-ROB in 2014, during his time on the field. Some analysts have A-ROB listed as a breakout star in 2015. He should be a monster in PPR leagues.
11. Marvin Jones – WR – Bengals
Jones had a breakout 2013 season and was a promising prospect in 2014 drafts. Unfortunately injury kept him out all season. Mahamed Sanu did not pan out as a true number 2 WR. So expect Jones to immediately plug in opposite AJ Green. Jones will be playing to secure a big contract from an organization next year and could end up having a very successful fantasy year.
10. Stevie Johnson – WR – Chargers
Don’t call it a comeback. Johnson has been around for years. The 49ers didn’t seem to know how to utilize this guy correctly. For a 3 year stretch in Buffalo Johnson was a WR1 in fantasy leagues. Now, with the Chargers, Johnson may jump back up to fantasy relevance again. Rivers will be the best QB Johnson has had throwing to him and the Chargers love to pass the ball. With Antonio Gates suspended for 4 games, an aging Malcolm Floyd, and a rookie RB in Melvin Gordon, Johnson could see a lot of targets come his way. Johnson may end up being one of the steals of fantasy drafts this year.
9. Josh Hill – TE – Saints
First it was Jeremy Shockey. Then it was Jimmy Graham. Now is the time for Josh Hill. The Saints love utilizing their TEs early and often and it should not change in 2015. Drew Brees has used his TEs as a safety blanket since his days in San Diego. Hill is no Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham but he is no rookie either. He has been in the Saints system for 3 years and plugged in very well last year, catching 5 TDs on only 20 targets. This year Hill figures to get at least three times as many targets. You do the math.
8. Reuben Randle – WR – Giants
Eli Manning has been raving about Randle all offseason stating, on one occasion, “I think Reuben’ll have a big year”. Odell Beckham Jr is the clear number 1 on this team, but Randle will very likely line up at the number 2 position, as Cruz is likely to play the slot. Randle quietly recorded 938 yards last year and is primed to break the thousand yard mark this year. He should be seeing lots of single coverage.
7. Cody Latimer – WR – Broncos
I could just say this kid is a WR on a Peyton Manning led offense and that should be enough to cement him as a fantasy sleeper. However, now that Wes Welker is gone, Latimer figures to be the 3rd WR and will play the slot or even line up at the number 2 spot, if Emmanuel Sanders is moved to the slot. The upside value here is tremendous, if Latimer sees some significant playing time.
6. John Brown – WR – Cardinals
Brown’s ability to separate and pile up yards after catch, make him a great fantasy sleeper and a possible stud in PPR formats. Head Coach and offensive mastermind Bruce Arians loves to mix his offense up and confuse defenses. Brown was a key to this in 2014, though the Cardinals got very poor QB play. Well, Palmer is back and fully healthy and the pass happy Cards will find a way to get one of their biggest playmakers the ball.
5. Shane Vereen – RB - Giants
Vereen is the most talented running back that the Giants have and should see a lot of playing time. Though Rashad Jennings will likely get the starting nod early, look for Vereen to be the top fantasy scorer at RB for the Giants. He is a great pass-catching back and should be a top scorer at RB in PPR leagues. The Giants have a lot of weapons this year and Vereen will benefit tremendously.
4. Alfred Blue – RB – Texans
Arian Foster is out for what looks like a good portion of the season. Alfred Blue is more than capable of carrying the load. You would think a starting RB would be higher on this list, but Chris Polk has been competing with Blue for touches. Blue is the tougher runner but Polk is a dual-threat out of the backfield. If this turns into a committee backfield, it could get frustrating for owners of either RB. Blue is the more talented and should retain the number 1 spot until Foster returns. Blue has also been working with Adrian Peterson this offseason to improve his footwork.
3. Davante Adams – WR – Packers
One of my favorite sleepers on this list. Adams should thrive this year with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy demanding coverage. Aaron Rodgers has given the second year receiver high praise too, stating he is “going to be a star”. Green Bay coaching staff has also stated that Adams will see a lot more targets this year. Oh, did I mention Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the ball? I’m almost convinced that Rodgers hates throwing to TEs and Adams makes a great end zone target.
2. CJ Spiller – RB – Saints
If so many fantasy owners hadn’t been burned by Spiller in the past, I’m not sure he would even be considered a sleeper. Yes he’s playing behind Mark Ingram, but that’s it. Khiry Robinson is no threat to Spiller for the backup role. Spiller should be the new pass-catching back for Sean Peyton’s Saints with the exit of Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet. Pass-catching backs thrive in this offense. Spiller is best used in space; not in that plod it between the tackles type of system he was used in in Buffalo. Spiller should be an excellent RB2 for PPR formats with potential for RB1.
1. Brett Favre – QB - ?
Obviously I’m joking, but wouldn’t it be great to see The Gunslinger suit up one more season and just destroy fantasy boards? He'd fit in great with Houston.
True 1. Martavis Bryant – WR – Steelers
So my true number 1 sleeper is Martavis Bryant. Bryant exploded on the fantasy scene last year with 6 TDs in his first 4 games and never looked back from there. He is set for an even bigger year this year. Currently Bryant is moving up draft boards and may not be a sleeper too much longer. Bryant is not only a speed receiver he also offers a big target at 6’5” for Ben Roethlisberger to connect with. Having Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell as teammates provide Bryant with more opportunity as well, as both players draw a lot of defensive attention. It’s a rare thing to have size and speed and Bryant is a player who should be drafted in all formats. Some experts have even claimed that Bryant could be the next superstar WR.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Stills, Kyle Rudolph, Charles Sims, Carson Palmer
This list should help you to get value late in your fantasy drafts, but remember, they are called sleepers
for a reason. You don’t want to reach for these players too early.
Keep in mind where your needs are at during your draft and select your sleepers accordingly.
If some of these players don’t get drafted, make sure to keep an eye on them. You may want to snatch
them off waivers later.