As we begin to settle into this off-season, our team here at DFF has decided to tackle a list of sleepers at each position. Today, I’ll lead off with wide receivers, because year in and year out it seems like wide receiver is a spot with the most potential Sleepers and the most surprises as the season goes on. We know not every fantasy league is offense-only so this 7-part series won’t be either. We will thoroughly cover IDP Sleepers as well. In fact, J.T. will provide us with a list of defensive backs tomorrow and then we’ll move on to Quarterbacks, Running backs, Tight ends, Defensive linemen, and Linebackers.
I’ve covered a handful of wideouts that I felt were on the cusp of a big 2017 here, but for now, we’ll dig a little deeper and go over a few guys who should be on your radar heading into next season.
Bruce Ellington, San Francisco 49ers:
In case you don’t remember, Ellington was on everybody’s short list of Sleepers heading into 2016. Unfortunately, ankle and hamstring injuries in the pre-season ended his season before it ever started. Everything everybody loved about him last year still applies, he’s fast and shifty and should be the 49ers primary weapon out of the slot. As an added bonus, if your league uses kick return stats as well, Ellington is one of the best kick returners in the league and may handle both kick and punt return duties next season. He’s entering a contract year at age 26 and should be poised for the breakout we were expecting last season. The 49ers’ decisions at head coach, offensive coordinator and general manager will all have some impact on how Ellington is used, so keep an eye on any 49ers’ news as the off-season progresses if Ellington is the guy you are targeting.
Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (free agent):
In 2015, the Ravens lost both Steve Smith Sr and Breshad Perriman to injury and thrust a young Aiken into the #1 wide receiver role on the team. How did he respond? He led the team in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and first downs. How did Baltimore respond? They brought in Mike Wallace, featured Steve Smith Sr and bumped Aiken down to fourth on the depth chart behind Perriman. After his breakout 2015, he was displeased with his usage, to say the least. He has been quoted as saying he is looking forward to testing the market in free agency and he believes he should be a starter in the NFL. Obviously, his landing spot will be key, but he’s already proven himself over a full season against opposing #1 cornerbacks, there is no reason he can’t thrive in 2017 as a team’s #2.
Chester Rogers, Indianapolis Colts:
He’s in a crowded receiving corps in Indy behind T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett, but don’t let that dissuade you too much. Dorsett has been a disappointment thus far & Moncrief has had trouble staying healthy. In my opinion, Rogers outplayed Dorsett in 2016. With about 50% of the snaps Dorsett had, Rogers had relatively equal production. If you spend an early pick on Hilton or Moncrief, it probably in your best interest to handcuff them with Rogers with one of your late round picks and don’t be shocked if Rogers is the clear #3 in this offense at the end of the season. Although the undrafted free agent rookie out of Grambling State never reached the end zone, 13 of his 19 receptions went for first downs, showing Andrew Luck has trust in the first year man.
Michael Floyd, New England Patriots (Free Agent):
He’s not a traditional sleeper in that most casual fans have probably heard of him. A 1st round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, he was unceremoniously released by the team mid-season after getting a DUI. In the luckiest of breaks, he was signed by the New England Patriots. This Sleeper prediction is entirely based on the hope that he re-signs with the Patriots. A little back story: Floyd was a 5-star recruit out of high school and left Norte Dame as the all-time leader in receptions, yards, 100-yard games and touchdowns, so the pedigree to be an unquestionable WR1 for fantasy production is there. If he stays in New England, I think the upside is huge. Looking at our very own ADP data Floyd is currently being taken at the end of the 10th round. Tom Brady hasn’t had a receiver of this caliber since Randy Moss, and although I don’t expect Floyd to replicate Moss’ 23-touchdown, 1,500 yard season, I think we could see a legit chance at Floyd being the overall #1 WR in fantasy … not too shabby for a guy you can grab in the 10th round or later.
Paul Turner, Philadelphia Eagles:
Turner came to most people’s attention during the pre-season when he led the Eagles in receiving and was 8th in the NFL. He spent most of the year on the Eagles’ practice squad and was finally called into real game action at the end of the season. Jordan Matthews has a solidified role on this team, but the others ahead of Turner on the depth chart – Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor – both have had mixed results thus far in their careers. There is tremendous upside to both if they can get everything together, but if they can’t (or if injuries hit any of the three), Turner is a guy you can expect to come in and fill the vacant role. As your drafts come to a close a few months from now, there is no harm in throwing a dart on Turner in the last round or two.
Every new NFL season brings with it millions of predictions and projections for real life and for fantasy. 2017 will be no different. With the 2016 fantasy season over and the draft and free agency yet to come, every move will impact multiple players across all positions. This list is a work in progress, but as of today, these are a few players to keep an eye on during the off-season and might be worth grabbing when draft day rolls around.