Freaks and Geeks: 2017 Sleepers and Busts

Identifying sleepers and avoiding busts is essential to winning a fantasy league. Here are some of the Sleepers we are targeting and potential Busts we are avoiding this season.

A Sleeper is a player you can draft with a late-round flyer, who in the right situation can win you your league. The nature of the sleeper is low risk — the cost of a late round pick — high reward. To qualify as a Sleeper for this post, a player has to have an Average Draft Position (ADP) at the end of the 10th round (#120 in a 12 team league) or later according to FantasyPros consensus ADP, which can be found here.

A Bust is a player who we believe will not perform at a level that justifies their draft price. It is important to note that we are not saying a Bust will bomb this season, instead we are saying they will underperform for their current ADP. To be considered a Bust for this post, a player has to have an ADP that is at a 4th round pick (#48) or lower.


Sleeper: Andy Dalton — CIN

Dalton is being criminally undervalued in 2017 drafts. The Red Rocket is currently sitting at an ADP of #142 overall and #18 for QBs. There are 7 defenses and 4 kickers being selected before the Cincy QB.

Dalton threw for a 4,206 yards, 18 TDs, and a 91.8 QBR in 2016. Most importantly, he did this with only 10 games of A.J. Green, 8 games of Tyler Eifert, with Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd as his main targets, and Jeremy Hill as his primary back — no small feat.

The Bengals brought in John Ross III and Joe Mixon in the draft and Green and Eifert are both healthy. If his weapons can stay healthy, and Mixon takes over at RB, Dalton has top-10 potential. Since you can basically have him for free, there is no reason not to snag him with a late round pick.

Bonus Sleeper: Trod Taylor — BUF

Bust: Matt Ryan — ATL

By all measure, Matt Ryan had a career season last year. The MVP threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, with only 7 interceptions, which was good for a 117.1 QB rating.

Ryan, however, is a 9 year vet and he never replicated his MVP stat lines in any of his other 8 seasons. He threw for more than 30 tds only one other time (32 in 2012), and the only other season he threw less than 11 interceptions was in 2010 when he tossed 9 picks. Ryan has also never had a season, when he had a QBR over 100.

The Falcons have replaced 2016 Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan with former Alabama co-Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Add one part new offense to one part magical season and you have a recipe for regression. By no means will Matt Ryan be horrible this year, but he won’t be worth his #40 overall price tag. Grab a Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill with that pick instead.

Running Back

Sleeper: Jamaal Williams — GB

Jamaal Williams is winning the battle of the rookies for the RB2 spot in Green Bay. This is a very good thing for him.

Ty Montgomery, the converted WR and current RB1, is dealing with a soft tissue injury, is fumbling in the preseason, and is struggling with pass protection. This all adds up to Jamaal Williams getting his chance. Williams had a solid, if not stellar career at BYU, where he showed he was a capable runner and receiving back. The Green Bay coaching staff has also praised Williams pass protection ability.

Montgomery played well last year. But, he only carried the ball 77 times. He has not proven that he can shoulder the load as a true RB. If he continues to struggle in pass protections, or if his body cannot withstand the punishment dealt out to NFL RBs, Jamaal Williams is in line to take over the starting role. I want the primary back in an Aaron Rodgers offense. Period. Williams is a good grab and stash candidate at his ADP of #131.

Bonus Sleeper: Theo Riddick — DET (PPR)

Bust: Lamar Miller — HOU

Lamar Miller currently has a price tag of #29 overall. While he is the undisputed RB in Houston (and that does go a long way in fantasy), the price tag is still too high.

Two years ago, many Lamar Miller fantasy owners were complaining he was being woefully underused in Miami. In 2015, Miller tallied a total of 1,269 yards (872 rushing, 397 receiving) on 241 touches (194 rushes, 47 receptions) while scoring 10 touchdowns. Texans GM Rick Smith must have been one of those 2015 Miller fantasy owners. He traded for the RB, and in Houston, Miller’s touches increased to 299 total. Miller, however, did less with more. He had a posted a total of 1,261 combined rushing and receiving yards and scored only 6 touchdowns with the 58 extra touches.

Houston used their 3rd round pick to select D’Onta Foreman of Texas. Foreman will be used to spell Miller. While this may help Miller stay fresh, the lead back will also cede goal line work to the bigger Foreman. I foresee Miller being a low-end RB2 or a good flex play, but we think you can do better at his current price.

Wide Receiver

Sleeper: Tyrell Williams— LAC

Tyrell Williams ended 2016 as the #13 WR. Not only did he produce, Williams also looked impressive while producing.

Keenan Allen is healthy (for now) and will be the WR1 on this team. Hunter Henry has also earned a bigger piece of the pie, Melvin Gordon will get his ~300 touches, and Antonio Gates will be back. So, Tyrell is likely due to a regression. I, however, do not foresee a regression to validate his current ADP of #120 overall and the #43 WR. Jump on him at this price.

Bonus Sleeper: Devante Parker — MIA

Bust: Sammy Watkins — LAR

I am going to break our own rules with this one. After his trade to the Rams, Watkins fell just out of our self-imposed bar of #48 or lower. As of this writing, Watkins sits at the #53 overall and the #23 WR. He is still not worth that selection and you don’t want him as your WR2.

Do not get me wrong, Watkins is talented. There is an alternate universe that exists where Watkins overcomes his seemingly unending foot issues, Jared Goff becomes the QB the Rams thought he was, and together they team up to become an outstanding fantasy duo. There is also an alternate universe where planet X completes its fatal collision course with Earth in the 4th Quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl. At this point, I perceive the chances of both of these events coming to fruition to be equally likely.

Avoid Watkins’s risk this season. Even if he stays healthy, Jared Goff has shown us nothing to make me believe he will enable Watkins to have a viable fantasy season this year.

Tight End

Sleeper: Jack Doyle — IND

Doyle is entering his 5th season in Indianapolis. He was trapped behind the likes of Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen for the first three. During those years, Doyle was targeted only 43 times. Doyle’s time came in 2016. Last season, the Colts’ TE caught 59 receptions on 75 targets for 585 yards and 5 touchdowns. He finished the season as the #12 TE in PPR formats and #13 in Standard.

The Colts released Dwayne Allen in the offseason, and they signed Doyle to a contract extension. While QB Andrew Luck’s return is not set in stone, the Indy signal caller is known for featuring his TEs in his passing game. Thirty-two percent of all his TD passes have gone to TEs. Doyle is being drafted as the #13 overall TE and #121st overall. If you, like me, tend to target TEs later in the draft, Doyle has upside and strong potential at his price tag.

Bonus Sleeper: Eric Ebron — DET

Bust: Rob Gronkowski — NE

There are only 3 Tight ends who have an ADP of #48 or lower — Rob Gronkowski at #20, Travis Kelce at #37, and Greg Olsen at #45. Of these three, Gronk has the highest ceiling and is also the biggest risk.

Travis Kelce is entering his 4th season in the NFL. He played in all 16 games in his first three, never going below 67 receptions, 860 receiving yards, or 4 TD receptions. Greg Olsen is an 11 year vet and the last time he played less than 16 games was his rookie season. Although he is 32 years old, 2016 was Olsen’s second best year of his career. The Panthers’ TE hauled in 80 receptions on 127 targets for 1,073 yards. One would expect Olsen to slow down a bit this year, but he is still a feature of Carolina’s offense.

Gronk on the other hand has missed at least 1 game every single season except in 2010 and 2011. Last year he played in 8 and he only suited up for 7 in 2013. If Gronk takes the field, he is the best at his position may ever. That is a big if. Gronk has an injury history as long as some players’ rap sheets. Most recently, Gronk suffered a slipped disc in his back in week 10 of last season. He underwent season ending back surgery.

Gronk is one of the greatest players and personalities in the NFL and we hope that he can continue his tear in this league. He is, however, a gamble at the price of a second round pick. You need consistent, high level production from your top-2 picks to win your fantasy league. Rob Gronkowski is too big of an injury risk for us to advocate taking him with your 2nd round pick. Here is to hoping he proves us wrong.

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