Over the next few weeks, myself and @DFF_JamesH will be bringing you a potential sleeper pick (both offensive and IDP) and a player to avoid for every team in the NFL. I will be focusing on the NFC, while James focuses on the AFC.
If you find this useful, please check back regularly for the next division.
The Falcons showed just how lethal their offense can be in 2016; and without choking away a 28-3 lead we’d be talking about them trying to repeat as champions this season. Their offense was almost unstoppable last year and I expect more of that this year even without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays. I’m looking for Austin Hooper to take the next step and provide a big-time target for Matt Ryan in the middle of the field. Like most rookie tight ends, Hooper struggled to make an immediate impact in year 1. After finishing as TE37 in 2016 I see him as top 24 tight end when the 2017 season ends. With so many weapons and another offseason, Hooper should be in line to at least double his 27 targets last season.
The player I’m looking to avoid for the Falcons is Matt Ryan. After putting together a career year in 2016 and winning the MVP award, it will be hard for him to repeat that in 2017. Entering his 10th season and having just turned 32, his price tag is too high for my liking right now. If I owned him I’d be looking to move him before his price drops as his age rises.
At linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, I love what De’vondre Campbell brings to the table. As a Minnesota Gophers fan I was begging for my Minnesota Vikings to draft him and keep him in state. I would have loved to see what Mike Zimmer could have done with this freak, however, they passed on him and the Atlanta Falcons selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. After an impressive rookie season for a 4th round linebacker, I see Campbell being much more involved in the defensive scheme each week. Campbell will help round out an already athletic linebacking corps who drafted Duke Riley to play on the weak side. This will allow Campbell to play strong side this year and also be asked to play in nickel packages. I think that Campbell becomes a household name after the 2017 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m taking Cameron Brate here who continues to get no love this offseason. Even before drafting O.J. Howard, I still believe that Brate can be a threat in this high-powered offense. Brate tied for TDs in 2016 and finished 12th in catches in his first year as the starting TE. If the Buccaneers play their cards right they’ll run a ton of two tight-end sets and take advantage of mismatches. Howard is currently sitting at 63 while Brate is 108 for April ADP on Dynastyfootballfactory.com.. Although I’m a huge fan of Howard going forward, I like Brate going forward as well and especially at his cost.
I just can’t bring myself to get behind Doug Martin these days. Besides the 4 game suspension looming over him, he doesn’t appear to be a 3-down back in this league. I also like Charles Sims going forward and assume him to have third down locked down, which cuts into Doug Martin’s season points. His ADP appears to be just about right, sitting at 130, but I still will be avoiding him in the 2017 season and beyond. Martin has only played a complete season in 2 of his 5 years and will fail to do so in 2017.
Noah Spence has shown flashes on the football field in 2016 but I think the 2017 season is where he begins to show his dominance. After being drafted in the second round by the Bucs, Spence amassed just 22 combo tackles but did show his ability to get to the QB with 5.5 sacks. If Spence can continue to improve his run stopping from the DE position, he could put up serious fantasy stats with his ability to take down opposing QBs. I’m expecting a more versatile Spence in 2017, one that can be counted on to play all 3 downs.
New Orleans Saints
I’ve jumped on the Alvin Kamara hype train and really love his landing spot in New Orleans. Every year the fantasy community is abuzz with rumors of how Mark Ingram is going to break out. Ingram has been an RB1 in PPR the last 2 years finishing 12th in 2015 and 8th in 2016 according to Fantasydata.com.. The addition of Adrian Peterson doesn’t do much for me because he’ll be splitting time on first and second down with Ingram. Peterson is a liability on third down who struggles pass blocking and can’t catch the ball out of the backfield. This opens the door for Kamara to be the main pass catcher out of the backfield and therefore racking up fantasy points in PPR formats. Long term I think Kamara has a chance to take over as the starter if they decide not to re-sign Ingram when his contract comes up.
My player to avoid goes hand-in-hand with my sleeper this year. I’m avoiding Adrian Peterson this year and beyond with his age and his inability to play three downs. Peterson, maybe the greatest runner in NFL history has always struggled to pass block and catch passes which keeps him off the field and hurts his points in PPR leagues. Even before his injuries last year, Peterson didn’t appear to have “it” anymore and this could be his last rodeo.
This player is one of my favorite IDP sleepers of the season after having a monstrous rookie campaign followed by a sophomore season in which he frequented the coach’s doghouse. Stephone Anthony ended up in the doghouse in 2016 playing just 133 snaps after playing over 6 times as many in his rookie season. With a new defensive coordinator in New Orleans, Anthony has another chance to prove him as a huge playmaker on a defense that desperately needs one. Anthony finished his rookie season with 112 combo tackles and I see him putting up similar numbers in the 2017 season. He’ll have competition but I think that will bring out the best in Anthony and he’ll be the starting MLB for the Saints in week 1.
Just like the Saints pick, I’m taking a rookie running back to be the sleeper pick in the Panthers offense this year. I’m expecting a big year from Christian McCaffrey right away with his ability to play all over the field and even special teams. McCaffrey could be a matchup nightmare for defenses when he lines up in the slot as a receiver. I have him as my rookie of the year and think that he changes the dynamic of the offense and makes them go. With Davis, Cook and Fournette all going sooner in April ADP, I like the price on McCaffrey and think it pays off.
This was a tough decision, on which underachieving WR do I want to avoid for the Panthers this year. I think Benjamin gets back in shape, maybe not elite shape, but fit enough to beat out Devin Funchess. I don’t trust Funchess and don’t see him ever being a viable option in this offense or any other offense for that matter. In 31 games in his first 2 seasons with the Panthers, Funchess has totaled a pedestrian 54 catches for 844 yards. Experts always claim that the third year is the year for the light to come on with WRs but I just don’t see Funchess taking that next step.
Even though I think he was drafted too early by the Panthers in 2015, I think this is the year we see more from Shaq Thompson. Being a late first rounder, he was expected to come in and contribute right away but that didn’t happen as planned. Thompson did show some consistency down the stretch of the 2016 season by recording 7 tackles against SD and another 11 tackles against Atlanta. I think he increased his playing time and with his versatility he should be able to increase his stats this upcoming season.