Every fantasy league has that one guy. You know the type. The guy who has a great draft but loses his starters to injury and never recovers. We'll call him Brad. I've been Brad before, and it's never a good feeling. On the other hand, there's always that other competitor who has an ok draft, but looks like a middle-of-the-pack team early in the season, only to go on and contend for the title thanks to smart waiver claims and late round picks. We'll call her Janet. I've also been Janet in some leagues, and it's fun. If you want to be a Brad, don't read any farther. If you want to be a Janet, let's continue.
The road to fantasy dominance is paved with sleepers and overlooked players. Some great players play for overlooked teams like the Browns, and may see their draft stock slip because of it. Others are in good situations, but with an element of risk involved. These are the players that can win you a title if you hit on them. It's the beginning of July, so it's still early. A lot of things will change between now and the beginning of the season. That being said, here are some guys that I like more than you right now, and who should at least be tucked away in the back of your head on draft day or as potential waivers claims. Good luck, and happy drafting!--Mike B.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles will likely get drafted far later than he should this year due to concerns with his throwing mechanics. That being said, he is rumored to have fixed those issues, and the Jaguars just added a dominant running back to take some pressure off of him. Bortles could be in store for a big season.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals. Don't let Cincinnati's down year last season make you sleep on Andy Dalton. The Bengals just added some big weapons for Dalton with John Ross and Joe Mixon. Consider last season a bad year for Dalton, and take a gamble on him this year, especially if you can snag him at a backup price.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills. Taylor's not an elite passer, but he's a dual-threat guy that will win you matchups with his feet. He's been under-drafted so far in his career, so you may be able to get a bargain on him. Well worth a late target.
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers. Conner is the best contingency plan in all of fantasy football at running back. Do you trust Le'Veon Bell to stay healthy this season? Do you really? The guy misses a ton of time, and Conner is likely the next in line in the Steelers backfield, making him roster-worthy in all but the shallowest formats. If Bell goes down for a long period of time or gets suspended, Conner could be a guy that wins your league.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns. Isaiah Crowell is a Brown, which means he gets no respect. Last season, however, he showed that he is capable of producing starter-worthy numbers. This year with an improved offense, he could be one of the surprise players of the season. Well worth a grab. He may ultimately lose carries to Duke Johnson, but early in the season he should be big. Draft him, and if he starts to lose touches, trade him while his value is high.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens. Dixon's value will drop due to his 4 game suspension. That being said, you don't win a fantasy title in the first four games. He's a guy that could put up starter-worthy numbers down the stretch, so if he's there late, give him a shot. He was one of the better backs from his class, so there's potential value here.
Todd Gurley, LA Rams. The guy had a bad season last year after showing he could dominate as a starter as a rookie. If the Rams can get something going in the passing game, Gurley is a huge bounceback candidate who could win your league for you. He should be on your radar.
D'onta Foreman, Houston Texans. Foreman's value is heavily dependent on Lamar Miller's health. That being said, Lamar Miller has a history of injury issues. He's a guy that's worth a late stash.
Paul Perkins, New York Giants. This year, while everyone is throwing darts at Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley, sit back, wait, and draft Paul Perkins. He could emerge as the lead back in New York (Jersey) this year. Well worth a late grab.
Bilal Powell, New York (Jersey) Jets. My bold prediction for the season: Bilal Powell will be the top running back in the Jets backfield this year. Given the lack of a starting caliber quarterback anywhere near the Jets roster (unless you count Eli Manning since he plays his home games in the same stadium), Powell could put up some nice numbers this year.
Zach Zenner, Detroit Lions. On paper, Zenner is third in line for carries in Detroit behind Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. That being said, Abdullah is injury-prone and Riddick is mainly a pass-catching guy. Zenner has shown he is capable of being a workhorse, and with another solid preseason (he led the NFL in rushing yards in the preseason his rookie season to secure his roster spot), he could take over the top role in the Detroit backfield.
Kamar Aiken, Indianapolis Colts. Aiken is one of those guys that gets a ton of hype. That being said, he might live up to the hype this year in Indianapolis. He's the type of player that Andrew Luck enjoys throwing to, and he could outperform Phillip Dorsett this season. Worth a late look.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are still in the process of a rebuild. That being said, Garcon is a talented, experienced receiver in an empty offense. He could put up some big games.
Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans Saints. The Saints no longer have Brandin Cooks, which means there are going to be a lot of opportunities for other players to go around. Ginn is never going to be a #1 guy for your fantasy roster, but he does have both the talent and the situation to put up numbers worthy of bye week and matchup-based starts. He's going to be hit or miss, but he could pay off for a week or two.
Andrew Hawkins, New England Patriots. Everyone forgets about Hawkins now that he's spent time with the Browns. In Cincinnati, he used to put up occasional starter-worthy games. His value is touchdown dependent of course, but he has the talent to thrive catching passes from Tom Brady. Probably won't be a guy you'll start, but he's definitely fill-in worthy depending on how he fits.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars. Blake Bortles has a new coach and allegedly has fixed his throwing mechanics, which means that Hurns could see a nice uptick in production this year. He's touchdown dependent, but he could be in for a big year if the Jaguars can get something going on offense.
Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins. Stills had a quietly productive season last year. This year, he could also play a nice role in the Dolphins offense. He's a dart throw that I love with a late-round pick. Keep in mind that the guy scored 9 touchdowns last season. He can play.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears. White's value has slipped in recent years for obvious reasons; the guy has not been healthy in two seasons in the NFL. That being said, he's in a position to steal the #1 role in Chicago with both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery out of town. He's a huge injury risk, but if he pans out, he's a potential top ten receiver. Target him accordingly.
Robert Woods, LA Rams. Who is the top WR in LA this year? If you look at Woods' contract, it might be him. Tavon Austin is not a #1 receiver, and the Rams just paid Woods like one. Look at him as the potential top receiver for the Rams.
Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons. I expect Austin Hooper to break out in 2017. He's not a household name yet, but he showed flashes last season. He could put up top ten tight end numbers this season. If that's the case, he will easily outplay his draft position.
Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers. James is quietly emerging as one of Roethlisberger's favorite redzone targets, which makes him fantasy relevant as a tight end. He's a fill-in caliber guy most of the time, but he's also a guy that could potentially be starter worthy depending on how his role develops heading into the season. Watch him closely.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers. Kittle is a rookie who many people have never heard of...which means he'll likely be there in the last round of your draft. Rookie tight ends tend to take a while to develop in the NFL, so don't draft him as a starter. However, early looks suggest that he could carve out a major role in the 49ers offense. Take a chance on him with your final pick, and you could have a stud on your hands.
Adam Shaheen, Chicago Bears. Shaheen's value is potentially more next season than it is this season as a small school tight end transitioning to the NFL, but he's shown some great things in college. He's a big gamble, but one who has the talent and ability to pay off.
Erik Swoope, Indianapolis Colts. Swoope is a dart throw, but the Colts love two tight-end sets, and Swoope showed some great things last season in very limited playing time. He could emerge as a potential bye week starter this season, at least. He average 19.8 yards per catch in limited playing time, so there's potential here.
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