Ahhh… Fantasy Football sleepers… one of my favorite blogs to write all year. Before I dive into this, let me define what a sleeper is to me. A sleeper is a player who is going to significantly outperform their preseason ranking. The guy doesn’t need to be ranked extremely low to be a sleeper. He could be ranked #12 and if I think he’s going to finish top 5-7, then he’s a sleeper. Let’s get to it.
Phillip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers – Everyone is high on the Chargers this year. Keenan Allen went bonkers last season, and the Chargers would have been in the playoffs if it weren’t for their field goal kicker missing a bunch of game-winning field goals at the beginning of the season. I fully expect a higher-powered offense from the Chargers after 2017 #7 pick Mike Williams will be healthy. This team is ready to roll and become one of the best teams in the AFC, and Phillip Rivers will be the beneficiary of that.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff was a guy that I thought wouldn’t pan out after watching his awful rookie year. However, it’s now clear that Sean McVay is going to be able to get the best out of him (and Jeff Fisher was just horrendous). Goff had nearly 4000 yards in 2017, and had 28 TDs with only 7 INTs. The weapons around him (Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, etc.) will make it near impossible for Goff not to take another big step forward this season. Expect a big year from him and the LA Rams.
Pat Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs – This is an extremely popular sleeper pick, but Pat Mahomes is going to be a great NFL QB. I’m extremely confident in that. In Mahomes’ only game of the 2017 NFL season, he had 284 passing yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, and the win. Although he didn’t throw for any touchdowns, it was an extremely successful debut. Mahomes is also a threat on the ground, and will have a plethora of weapons in Kareem Hunt, Sammy Watkins, and Tyreek Hill.
Eli Manning, New York Giants – Most people think Eli Manning has nothing left, but I beg to differ. Manning played behind one of the worst offensive lines in football last season, and had a bunch of #4 or #5 wide receivers starting for him. The Giants improved their offensive line tremendously, have a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., and now have a great running back in Saquon Barkley. Expect Manning to have a bounce back season and prove doubters wrong.
Jerrick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers – I think McKinnon was probably the most underrated signing of the NFL offseason. Throughout his time with the Vikings, McKinnon showed flashes of brilliance, but never was the true #1 running back. McKinnon was a guy who showed Saquon Barkley-like athleticism at the NFL combine prior to him entering the league, and I think Kyle Shanahan is one of the best coaches to help unleash that. I wouldn’t be surprised if McKinnon is a top-7 RB this season playing on that new-and-improved 49ers team.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans – Derrick Henry was a second round pick in 2016, but still has yet to play a full season as starting running back. At 6’3,” 247 lbs, Henry is a force to be reckoned with. When the Titans played the Chiefs last season in the playoffs, Henry rushed for 156 yards and a TD on 23 carries while filling in for an injured DeMarco Murray. Tennessee signed former Patriots RB Dion Lewis, but I don’t expect him to take many carries away from Henry, as he’ll be used as a weapon in the passing game. Expect Derrick Henry to be the workhorse for the Titans this season.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ronald Jones is my first rookie on this list of sleepers, as he falls into a pretty good situation for himself in Tampa. The Bucs don’t have any good running backs, as Doug Martin as no longer there. I expect Jones to start week 1. The speed back ran for 1550 yards and 19 TDs in 2017 at USC, and is as explosive as it gets at the running back position.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson is one of the most intriguing running backs in the 2018 draft class. He plays exactly like Le’Veon Bell, waiting for blocks to develop before committing to the run. While Johnson won’t blow you away with speed, his vision is outstanding, and playing behind an extremely solid offensive line won’t hurt him. I expect Ameer Abdullah to be cut prior to the season, and I don’t think LeGarette Blount will take many carries away from Johnson.
D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans – Lamar Miller is approaching the end of his career. He’s just not the same player he was a few years ago, and that’s no secret. Foreman scored 2 touchdowns on November 19th vs. the Cardinals before tearing his achilles. Obviously Foreman missed the rest of the season, but showed a ton of promise right before his injury. If he can get back to full strength, I think he’ll take over as the starting running back during the middle of the season.
Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles – While Philly has Jay Ajayi as their starting running back, Corey Clement shined during a few games last year, including the Super Bowl. Clement was a huge threat in the passing game in 2017, and I expect his role to increase in 2018. Expect Clement to be the Chris Thompson of this year, racking up most of his points off of catching the ball out of the backfield. This means he’ll be especially valuable in PPR leagues.
Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis was unfortunate enough to sustain a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for most of his rookie year. However, he was the 5th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft for a reason. Davis is extremely talented, and should be the #1 wide receiver for Marcus Mariota in 2018. If he can stay healthy, he can be a top-20 wide receiver.
Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers – Marquise Goodwin was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target last year, as he caught 29 passes from him within the last 5 weeks of the season. Goodwin is their true #1 wide receiver, so expect him to be a target animal. He’ll have amazing value in standard leagues, and even better value in PPR leagues.
Cameron Meredith, New Orleans Saints – Cameron Meredith was one of my biggest sleepers last season before tearing his ACL in the preseason. Now with the Saints, Meredith should be the clear #2 WR behind Michael Thomas. Anyone in the Saints high-powered offense has the chance to go off, and I think Meredith is an exceptional talent.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins – Josh Doctson only had 35 receptions for 502 yards in 2017, but he did see 23 targets combined between the last two weeks of the season. As a former first round pick, the talent is there, and I think he’ll be a lot more involved in the offense Redskin offense this year. Washington has lacked a true #1 wide receiver for years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Doctson took on that role.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys – Michael Gallup is the only rookie wide receiver on this list. Rookie receivers haven’t performed well the last two years, but Gallup is going to see a lot of targets right away with Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley being the other notable receivers on the roster. Gallup racked up 1418 yards last season at Colorado State, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns heads in the preseason. Look out for Gallup to be one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets.
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers – Mike Williams missed a chunk of last season with an injury, but the former 2017 #7 overall pick has tons of talent, and great size. At 6’4″, 220 lbs., he’ll be a big target for Phillip Rivers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a massive step forward in year two of his career.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Chris Godwin didn’t play a big role for the Bucs last season, but whenever given the opportunity he shined. In week 17, Godwin started for Tampa and caught 7 balls for 111 yards, including a game-winning 39 yard touchdown. Godwin is expect to start week one this year, and with DeSean Jackson declining, I expect Godwin to see a lot more targets this season.
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars are another team without a true #1 wide receiver after Allen Robinson departed for Chicago. During the last 7 weeks of the season, Dede Westbrook caught 27 passes for 339 yards and 1 TD. He then caught another 7 balls in the playoffs for 85 yards. His performance at the end of the year makes him my favorite to be the #1 wide receiver for Jacksonville this year. If he does win that job, I expect him to be a top-30 WR. Remember how good Allen Robinson was in Jacksonville before he tore his ACL.
Trey Burton, Chicago Bears – Tight end is a position where you don’t get a lot of surprises each year. However, there are a few tight ends I really think can break out this season, and one of them is Trey Burton. When Zach Ertz was out vs.the Rams in week 14, Burton caught two touchdowns. He’s ready to be a starting TE in the league, and the Bears didn’t pay him $8 million per year for nothing. I expect Burton to be one of Trubisky’s favorite targets in Chicago.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – I think many of us assume that Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be a big time quarterback in this league. Someone who can be a huge target for him is tight end George Kittle. In the last three weeks of the season, Kittle had 11 receptions for 194 yards and a TD. Look for that kind of production all season with Garoppolo at starting QB.
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – David Njoku is an athletic freak and big target at 6’4.” I expect Njoku to take a huge step forward this season with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. He showed flashes last season and caught 32 passes on 60 targets. Both of those numbers should be way up in 2018.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins – Mike Gesicki is a deep sleeper due to the QB situation in Miami, but this guy was an absolute monster in college. He’s an athletic freak and hasn’t dropped a pass his last two years in college. If utilized correctly, I see a lot of Jimmy Graham and Zach Ertz in him. He was easily my highest graded tight end in the 2018 class.