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…
- 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 Ingram left the Saints for the Ravens in the off-season, and has been replaced by Latavius Murray.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.
- 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.
- 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!