Jason Wheeler- 2015 Fantasy Football “Sleepers”

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Hey there everyone! Welcome to my Fantasy Football Blog with Life and News. This is a weekly blog that will discuss match-ups I think are interesting for the upcoming week. I am going to stay away from individual leagues and teams because it is really hard for me to give absolutes without any context. I will talk about things that happen in my leagues if I feel that they are newsworthy.

First, a little bit about myself. I am 24 years old, graduated college with a degree in Math, and I’ve won my fair share of fantasy leagues. I also play baseball professionally for the Minnesota Twins, and have been since I was drafted in 2011. Enough about me, let’s get down to business.

This post is about guys that I think will greatly exceed their average draft position (ADP). We’ll call these guys “sleepers.”  I will be using the ADP of players found on ESPN at http://games.espn.go.com/ffl/livedraftresults. Remember that these are for “Standard” scoring leagues (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 D/ST, and 1 K, non point per reception), and the reason I use these is because this format is the most commonly used format in Fantasy Football.

Quarterbacks
You will find out that I am not a proponent of taking a quarterback early in drafts. There are numerous studies that have been done to prove this point, but the tool I like to go back to is Value-Based Drafting. This basically tells us how valuable players are with relation to where they are picked and the roster construction of your league. Anyways, with regards to quarterbacks (and tight ends), it tells us that a “replacement level player” that you can find on the waiver wire is much closer to your starter’s projected points than at the other positions of importance (running backs and wide receivers). So basically a quarterback (and a tight end) would need to have an historic season just to be in consideration of being worth the value of a first round pick. Now this is not to say that quarterbacks these days cannot put up historic numbers. Just that as I am drafting, I do not like to “bank” on the fact that a guy will put up an historic season. It is too risky, and too many things can change in a 17 week season. With that said, here are my quarterbacks that I think you will get good value from if you wait in your draft:
1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
I think Matt Ryan is going to have a monster year and leap frog his way into the top-5 fantasy quarterbacks (which he has never done in his career). He is being drafted as the 7th highest QB behind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson. Now I know it is not a huge jump from top-7 to top-5, but this was just a way to let you guys know that I am all-in on Ryan this season.
2. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
Bradford obviously has injury concerns regarding his ACL (twice-surgically-repaired-in-a-ten-month-span-ACL that is), but I believe the sky is the limit for him in the Eagles offense. They are going to put up points like no other team and there will be plenty of opportunities for him to throw the ball. He is the 14th QB going in drafts as of right now and that is too low for me. (Fun fact: I took him in a draft ahead of Cam Newton (QB10) the other night). If Bradford can stay healthy, and that is a big IF, then I think we see him inside the top-8, ahead of guys like Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Matthew Stafford.
3. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer is another guy that has had some injury problems throughout his career, including last year. But the Cardinals are going to throw the ball a lot this year, and they have some good weapons there. John Brown is an emerging star and Larry Fitzgerald never drops anything (according to Pro Football Focus, he has only dropped two passes of the 147 catchable targets he has seen over the last two seasons). Palmer is being drafted as the 25th (!) QB this season. In games that he started and finished last season, he never put up under 16 fantasy points (4 point TD) and the Cardinals were a top-10 passing offense under his watch. I’ll gladly take him over about the ten guys ahead of him to get into the top-15 this year.

Running Backs
Now this is where leagues are won and lost. The running back (and wide receiver, even more so in point per reception leagues) field is very volatile. There are always guys that come out of no where (undrafted in leagues) and turn in top-20 seasons, and of course, there are always injuries to your top RBs that can crush you if you are not prepared with proper depth and handcuff players.
1. Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Finally Chris Johnson is gone and Ivory can become the true bell cow back that we know he can be. Now don’t go and draft him as a top-4 round pick because he still will not be on the field for every passing down. But he should see his involvement in the passing game pick up this year. We have already seen glimpses in the preseason, and let’s face it, Bilal Powell (who is the “passing-down back”) just is not as good of a runner as Chris Ivory is. He is being drafted as the 29th RB and that is just crazy to me. The Jets have had a good running game for a while now, and with what should be an improved offense, he should see more scoring opportunities and more volume in general. I like Ivory to finish with more points than guys like Melvin Gordon (RB 17), Joseph Randle (21), and Joique Bell (24) just to name a few. I think Ivory is a top-20 running back this year, and he is being drafted almost 3 rounds after the 20th RB (Latavius Murray).
2. Ryan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
Can you tell yet that I kind of, sort of like this Eagles offense? Matthews is going to get double-digit touches in what is going to be one of, if not the most explosive offenses this season. Sign me up! That offensive line is great, and Chip Kelly is a master at getting his best runners in the open space. He is being drafted as the 34th RB and I believe we will see him finish around the top-25 range this season.
3. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
Woodhead is not going anywhere without a fight. The Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon in the first round to be their running back of the future, but it does not seem like the future has gotten here yet. The Chargers offense has just looked much better with Woodhead on the field as opposed to Gordon. Woodhead will be in on almost every passing down, and he sees his fair share of goal line work. He is by far the best value in the San Diego backfield, and that only increases if we are talking about a point per reception (PPR) league. Right now he is being drafted as the 42nd RB, but I have him finishing the year in the top-30 to 35 range in standard scoring, and top-25 in PPR leagues.
4. Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
We all know Alfred Morris is the bell cow RB in Washington, but what you may not know is that the Redskins are just not that good of a team. Okay, maybe you knew that too. But did you know that Alfred Morris is in a contract year? And that the Redskins love Matt Jones? There is a good chance that we see his workload increase as the year goes on. He has looked great this preseason, and should see a decent amount of time on passing downs early in the season. I would not be surprised if the Redskins start to phase out Morris if their season looks lost after the halfway point. Jones is being drafted as the 65th RB right now (virtually undrafted in smaller leagues) but he is a must-have if you own Alfred Morris, and worth a late flyer even if you don’t have Morris on your team.

Wide Receivers
1. Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings
Johnson is the Vikings WR that you want, and he is currently being drafted behind his teammate, Mike Wallace (WR27). Johnson will be Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target throughout the year, and Norv Turner is creative in how he can get the ball into his playmakers’ hands. The Vikings offense should be much improved from last year due to a number of reasons (they got some guy nicknamed “All Day” back; that has to be a good thing, right?) and we should see their scoring chances increase by a wide margin. As of right now, Charles Johnson is the 34th WR off the board, but I’m willing to bet he will flirt with top-25 numbers this season.
2. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
See Palmer, Carson for my real feelings on this guy. Anyways, he is quick, plays a lot bigger than he actually is, and is an unbelievable runner in space. Like I said, this offense is going to throw the ball a ton, assuming Palmer is healthy, and Brown will be their leading target-getter (is that a word?) He is listed as the 39th WR right now and that is just crazy. I can easily see him passing up guys well ahead of him, like DeSean Jackson (20), Sammy Watkins (25), and Eric Decker (31) to name a few. I would not be shocked at all if John Brown finishes the season as a top-20 Wr, especially in PPR formats.
3. Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears
Royal’s value skyrocketed when it was announced that Kevin White was going to miss the first part of the season (and maybe the whole season). People may not remember this, but Eddie Royal played with Jay Cutler in Denver before they went their separate ways. 2008 was Royal’s rookie year, and he caught 91 passes for 980 yards and 5 touchdowns that season, which was easily his best season in the NFL. While I do not predict he will get that many yards again this season, I don’t see why he won’t be able to get back to that touchdown mark with Cutler. Royal has 15 touchdowns over the last two years in San Diego, so he is no stranger to the endzone. He is being drafted as the 51st WR, but I’m drafting him well ahead of some guys in the top-40 range. His upside is someone that can produce top-35 WR numbers and I will take that any day from someone I can get in the double-digit rounds.

Tight Ends
Back to the overvalued, overhyped positions I guess. Just like with your quarterback, I either want to be the first guy to take a tight end, or the last. And VBD tells us not to be first, so sorry Gronk lovers, but he will not be on any of my teams this year. There are probably 5 tight ends that have separated from the pack this year (with Rob Gronkowski obviously separating himself even from that pack), but once you get to the 6-15 range, they are all kind of the same guy to me. You’ll be happy if they score a touchdown, and if they don’t, well then you should have picked a better one off the waiver wire that did score one (I’m kidding, sort of).
1. Delaine Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker fell into the role of “go-to guy” last year for the Tennessee Titans (but really, how valuable can that be? That offense was bad last year). There is a narrative here that young quarterbacks like to lean on their tight ends more as safety valves, and I’m partially considering that, but even if you take that out, Walker is a playmaking tight end. He plays a lot of snaps, and runs a lot of routes (something overlooked by the average Fantasy Footballer). Tight ends in general do not see very many targets, so give me a guy that is on the field early and often. He is being drafted as the 11th TE, but I see him finishing in the top-7 ahead of guys like Jason Witten (5), Jordan Cameron (7), and Julius Thomas (8).
2. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings and Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
I am lumping these two together because I have been treating them as basically the same guy. They are both very talented pass-catchers coming off of injuries last year, and should become more involved in their teams’ improving offenses. Rudolph (15) and Eifert (17) are in that middle-class of tight ends but I’m willing to take a flyer on these guys over other tight ends, such as Antonio Gates (13, 4 game suspension), Zach Ertz (9, health issues and does not play a ton of snaps), and Vernon Davis (14, saw only one redzone target last year).

Those are my sleepers for Fantasy Football this season. Feel free to let me know if there are any players/teams/situations you would like me to go into more depth on for future posts. Thanks for reading and good luck this year with your drafts.

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