Drafts are drawing near and everyone knows for the most part who they want in the first couple rounds — the “Must Haves” of the fantasy season. Beyond that, though, many of us are in the same boat – see who’s there and go with your gut. I’m not casting doubt on your decision-making – or your gut – but keep in mind the following three players as the draft wears on. Don’t necessarily reach for these guys, but don’t be afraid to take them when others may not even be thinking about them. (Always check out ADP prior to your draft so you have an idea of where certain players are going to ensure you don’t take a player in the 4th round that you could easily have picked in the 8th.)
Here’s my three sleepers based on value of the 2016 fantasy football season:
I wasn’t sold on Mariota coming out of Oregon at first – Chip Kelly/Oregon QBs don’t exactly have the greatest track record of success in the NFL. But last season, I found myself using Mariota at the position for a couple weeks as I streamed my quarterbacks throughout the year. The young man did not disappoint.
In addition, Mariota has the ability to run with the football – and in fantasy, that’s huge for a quarterback. Head Coach Mike Mularkey saw this ability and went with it – Mariota rushed 24 times in 7 games with Mularkey as interim coach last season, compared to just 10 times in 5 games with Ken Wisenhunt at the helm.
Mariota’s passing numbers have the potential to explode as well. With DeMarco Murray in the backfield, an improved offensive line, and receivers Dorial Green-Beckham and Rishard Matthews in the mix, Mariota will have options all over the field. Not to mention, tight end Delanie Walker has established himself as one of Mariota’s favorite go-to targets and a top tier player at his position.
And the beauty with Mariota is that you can wait. Let Cam and Rodgers and Brees and all those guys fly off the board (probably earlier than any QBs should). When the dust settles and you’ve stockpiled at the positions that matter most – RB and WR – the Tennessee signal caller should be there for you. He’s currently going in the 15th round on average.
After Coleman went down injuring his ribs in Week 2, Devonta Freeman never let him back into the mix and forced him into a secondary role for the Falcons. But we cannot forget that what the Falcons front office and coaches saw in Coleman last season to name him the Week 1 starter still exists. While Freeman will begin the year as the starter, Coleman will be given every opportunity to earn more carries as the weeks go on. Freeman did suffer a concussion near the end of last season and had ball security problems.
Coleman, the former Hoosier, has all the attributes of a starting running back in the NFL – speed, can break tackles, has the ability to run in between the tackles while also breaking to the edge. Third round picks don’t typically get discarded that easily in the NFL – especially if they’re running backs. Expect Atlanta to give Coleman many chances to re-take some carries – splitting time between the 2 RBs can only serve to help the Atlanta offense. Coleman could be a great RB to have on the bench – and possibly move into a starting role as time goes on. His ADP puts him in the 11th round.
Recent reports of Ajayi missing some Dolphin practices due to a knee issue may actually help his status as a sleeper. No report is very clear with respect to the severity of this ailment, but the running back says it’s nothing to worry about and the team hasn’t behaved in any way that would sound alarms.
Head Coach Adam Gase has earned a reputation as a “Quarterback Whisperer” of sorts over the past few years in Denver and Chicago. One reason for this is how the offensive-minded Gase uses his running backs. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for over 1700 yards from scrimmage with Gase running the O, and last season, Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford both earned praised in the Bears’ offense – accounting for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns.
The Dolphins are looking for Ajayi to replace Lamar Miller’s 1300 total yards and 10 touchdowns he accrued as the Fins’ top RB last season. With Miller now in Houston, Ajayi has been given the reigns – the signing of Adrian Foster should only help to give the former Boise State back a breather and keep him fresh throughout the year, especially if this knee issue ends up being something more. Fantasy owners could realistically expect Ajayi’s 2016 output to mirror Miller’s from 2015 – perhaps even better it due to Gase and the fact quarterback Ryan Tannehill is another year experienced. In addition, Miami does have pass-catching weapons in Jarvis Landry, DeVonte Parker, and Jordan Cameron. Gase will be sure to optimize all he can out of them – which in turn should help to create running room for Ajayi out of the backfield.
Ajayi’s ADP has him going off the board in the 8th round.
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