3 Sleepers to Target in your Fantasy Football Drafts

The NFL season is 2 weeks away. I know I speak for everyone when I say… IT’S ABOUT TIME! I’m sure many of you have your fantasy drafts over the next 2 weeks so let’s get into some sleepers…

  1. Latavius Murray – Saints, RB: When people think about the Saints, they tend to think Drew Brees leading a high powered offense that wants to throw the ball vertically down the field. But times have changed in New Orleans over the last 2 years. Last season, Brees had his fewest pass attempts going back to 2004 with the Chargers. The Saints are a team that wants to win with defense and running the ball. While there’s no denying Alvin Kamara is the leader in the Saints backfield, there’s still plenty of room for another successful RB, as Mark Ingram has proved the last few years. Ingram left the Saints for the Ravens in the off-season, and has been replaced by Latavius Murray. Ingram had 18 rushing TDs combined during the 2017 and 2018 season. He only played in 12 games last year, so the TD number likely would have been even higher had he played the full slate of games. If Murray can get north of 180 carries (Ingram had 230 two years ago), he could become a solid RB2. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to flirt with 1100 total yards and double digit TDs. Ingram had 1500 total yards and 12 TDs two years ago, despite the emergence of Alvin Kamara. Also, it must be noted that if Kamara gets injured, Murray could be a league winner.
  2. Donte Moncrief – Steelers, WR: Donte Moncrief has long been a favorite of mine going back to his days in Indy. He has all the tools to be a great receiver in the NFL. He has speed, athleticism, and height. He’s caught some bad breaks the last few years between injuries and bad QB play from Jacoby Brissett and Blake Bortles. He’s always been a presence in the red zone with his ability to go up and win a ball with his 6”2 height. All the stars are aligning for him this year in Pittsburgh. The Steelers threw the ball more than any other team in the NFL last year. Following the departure of Antonio Brown and Jesse James, the Steelers have a whopping 215 targets to account for. Somebody needs to step up as Big Ben’s 2nd favorite target behind JuJu Smith-Schuster. It looks like Moncrief is going to get the first crack. If he can quickly develop chemistry with Ben, Moncrief has a WR2 ceiling this year.
  3. Devin Funchess- Colts, WR: I have to preface this by saying Andrew Luck must be healthy for Devin Funchess to succeed, but I’m going to assume for arguments sake that Luck will be ready for week 1. Funchess had a very disappointing 2018 season following his 2017 breakout season in which he had 840 yards and 8 TDs. Some of his struggles can be attributed to Cam Newton’s inconsistency last year, but there’s no denying Funchess struggled at times. Funchess has a fresh start this year after signing a 1 year deal with the Colts. I think it’s important to note that Funchess’ average annual salary of $10 million was the second highest of any WR signed this offseason (only behind Tyrell Williams). While I think the Colts may have overpaid him a little, I think the contract illustrates that they have big plans for him this upcoming season and believe in his abilities as a player. Some of his buzz was redirected when Indy drafted speedster Paris Campbell out of Ohio St. Unfortunately for Campbell, he’s now missed over 2 weeks of practice with a hamstring injury and doesn’t appear close to returning to the field. Hamstring injuries for rookie wideouts are often very debilitating. Funchess is the perfect complement to the speedy T.Y. Hilton as a possession wideout.  Andrew Luck should target him often. Luck loves targeting big body receiving options in the red area (see Eric Ebron last year). I believe Funchess flirts with close to 1000 yards this year and 7 or 8 TDs, returning to his 2017 form. After all, he’s still only 25 years old.

Other Sleepers to consider:

  • Miles Sanders – Eagles, RB: The talent is undeniable. I expect him to be leading the Eagles backfield in carries by week 5.
  • Matt Brieda – 49ers, RB: Jerrick McKinnon doesn’t look like he’s going to be a factor for the 9ers this year. Tevin Coleman badly flopped in a lead back role with the Falcons last year, while Breida was 4th in the NFL with a 5.3 YPC… despite battling a high ankle sprain for most of the season.
  • Jameis Winston – Bucs, QB: Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, look primed for breakout seasons. Couple that with QB Whisperer Bruce Arians as the new head coach of the Bucs, if it doesn’t happen for Winston this year, then it never will.
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Packers, WR: MVS stands at 6″4 and runs a 4.37 40. He also has one of the best QBs of all-time throwing to him. Aaron Rodgers has praised MVS throughout the off-season. It seems as if he’s finally gaining Rodgers’ trust, something that didn’t always seem to be there in the 2018 season. He has a chance to make a big leap in his second year in the NFL.

I’m going to make it a point to do a Start ‘EM, Sit ‘Em column as much as I can throughout the season, so be on the lookout for those posts. Good luck in your drafts in the next 2 weeks!

5 Week One Fantasy Football Takeaways

  1. Dion Lewis is the RB to own in Tennessee, no matter if you’re in a PPR or standard league – This pains me to admit as a Derrick Henry owner in my 2 most competitive leagues, but Lewis is the back to own going forward. One of the reasons I was big on Derrick Henry was that I thought we’d see improvement in Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense as a whole. I know it was only one game, but this looked like the same old Titans offense. Mariota was injured and looked shaky while healthy. In the few drives they did have success, it was with Dion Lewis on the field making plays on the ground and in the passing game. Lewis is the far superior pass receiver and if the Titans fall behind in games, Derrick Henry could be rendered useless since he offers little to nothing in the passing game. Sunday was the perfect example as the Titans trailed for most of the game and Dion Lewis was in on 71% of the Titans offensive snaps, while Derrick Henry only got 29% of the backfield snaps. If the Titans offense continues to struggle, trailing in games could become a constant trend and Henry’s weekly output could be very hard to predict, while Dion Lewis will continue to hold more value.
  2. Emmanuel Sanders is a legit WR2 moving forward – Sanders was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season. He was drafted around WR36 in many leagues, while his teammate Demaryius Thomas was drafted about 2 or 3 rounds earlier. Sanders felt like the much better value in draft season, and he delivered big time on Sunday with 10 catches for 135 yards and a TD. It was easy to forget how good Sanders was in 2014-2016, after his down 2017 season. But let’s not overlook the fact he had a pitiful combination of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch throwing to him. Case Keenum, while not an elite QB in the NFL, is a major upgrade over the previously mentioned QBs. It’s clear that Sanders is as healthy as ever and has become Keenum’s favorite target. Their schedule is very enticing the next 3 weeks with a mediocre Raiders secondary, a Ravens secondary missing their best CB Jimmy Smith, and the Chiefs who may have the worst cornerback combo in the NFL. Buy stock in Sanders now.
  3. Joe Mixon is a top 10 RB moving forward – Mixon had a very rough rookie season. He only averaged 3.5 YPC, struggled with consistency, and lacked big play explosiveness as his longest run went for only 25 yards. He came into the season at 218 lbs., down 12 lbs. from the 230 lbs. he weighed last season. It’s always good to see a RB lose weight in an effort to get faster and quicker. The results spoke for themselves on Sunday as Mixon had 149 total yards, a TD and a long run of 27 yards (the longest run in his short career). Mixon was treated as a 3 down back as he handled 22 touches to Gio Bernard’s 2 touches. He was on the field for 76% of the snaps which was the 6th most among all RBs who played this past weekend. The talent has always been there for Mixon. He would have been a 1st round pick 2 years ago had it not been for off field issues. It looks like he’s ready to cash in on his talent this season.
  4. Phillip Dorsett is a thing – Dorsett generated a lot of buzz this offseason from Patriots beat writers. It was easy to overlook if you’ve followed Dorsett over his career. Dorsett, a former first round pick has looked like a bust and a one trick pony as only a deep threat option throughout his career. We saw some glimpses of his chemistry with the GOAT Tom Brady in the 3rd preseason game, as he had 4 catches on 4 targets for 35 yards… but still it was only preseason. After Dorsett’s 7 catch (on 7 targets) 66 yard TD performance in week 1, I think it’s time to buy stock in Dorsett. Brady clearly has trust in him. He actually looked like a polished route runner as well. With Julian Edelman suspended another 3 weeks, Dorsett should have value as a WR3/flex play the next 3 weeks… and may even have value after Edelman comes back.
  5. Dalvin Cook looks healthy and ready to eat – One of the biggest questions coming into week 1 was “how healthy is Dalvin Cook?” The Vikings were very cautious with him in training camp and preseason, coming back from his torn ACL. He only had 2 carries in the preseason for 1 yard. The coaching staff was noncommittal leading up to week 1 on whether Dalvin Cook would get a full workload. All questions were put to rest this past Sunday. While Cook didn’t light the world on fire, only rushing for 40 yards on 16 carries (while adding a respectable 6 catches for 55 yards), the major takeaway was that he looked healthy and could handle a full workload. Cook had 21 touches and was on the field for 80% of the Vikings offensive snaps. Minnesota looks like they could have their best offense since the Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss days. This should lead to a lot of scoring opportunities and success for a healthy Dalvin Cook.