Prime drafting season has arrived in the world of fantasy football. All of the preseason games are complete, and the start of the new NFL campaign is just days away. In turn, it’s time to put the final touches on fantasy preparations.
One common mistake made by fantasy owners is relying too heavily on any singular resource during draft prep. It’s always important to take a few different opinions into account before settling on your own forecast for how the season is going to play out.
With that in mind, let’s check out some of the numerous ranking sources available from around the web. That’s followed by a deeper dive into some notable sleepers worth considering on draft day. All average draft position (ADP) details are courtesy of ESPN.
Draft Rankings and Cheat Sheets
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Sleepers at Skill Positions
QB: Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)
Taylor was always the most intriguing quarterback option in Buffalo from a fantasy perspective. How accurate and consistent he’ll be is a major question mark, but when you combine his arm strength and rushing ability with the Bills’ weapons, there’s a lot of potential there.
A quarterback who can put up good numbers with his legs is always worth a look because it’s an advantage over most of his counterparts. Aaron Watson of numberFire provided one example of a lackluster passer still holding fantasy value:
Taylor is going to put up his fair share of points on the ground. Now consider some of the names who surround him on the Bills offense: LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay. It’s an impressive group.
He’s probably going to have some clunkers, as most inexperienced quarterbacks do. That said, when you consider his skill set and the players at his disposal, he’s certainly worth a late flier as a backup QB with the hope he can put it all together and exceed expectations.
RB: Alfred Blue (Houston Texans)
It’s a bit surprising Blue hasn’t generated more attention. Texans starter Arian Foster is sidelined with a groin injury, and while there’s been some talk about a potential return in late September, a clear target date isn’t yet set.
That means Blue should receive every opportunity to shine in the early weeks. And, at a period when committees rule NFL backfields, any back who’s going to get consistent touches deserves strong consideration. Foster’s injury history means he could miss more than just the early weeks, too.
The backup averaged just over three yards per carry last season in a more limited role. Those results obviously need to improve for him to excel as a fantasy option, but he believes the experience he gained will help, as noted by Terrance Harris of the Times-Picayune:
Just getting that experience last year and knowing he kind of gets nicked up a little bit so just having that mindset that at any given time you can be in there carrying the load. I was trained that when your number is called, seize the moment, seize the opportunity and make the best of it. I try to approach each and every game like that.
Currently, his average draft position places him as the No. 40 running back. Taking into account his opportunity at the beginning of the season and Foster’s struggle to stay healthy, there’s a high probability he outplays that draft placement by year’s end.
WR: Markus Wheaton (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Wheaton is going to garner some extra targets during the first quarter of the season with Martavis Bryant suspended for the first four games. By the time Bryant returns, there’s a good chance the third-year wideout will be entrenched in the No. 2 receiver role.
He made minor strides last season when he caught 53 passes for nearly 650 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But there’s still room to grow, and he should get plenty of looks as teams shift more defensive resources toward the seemingly uncontainable Antonio Brown.
Wheaton, the No. 50 WR by ADP, has also done enough during training camp to believe the major uptick in production some were expecting one year ago is finally going to arrive. Count Jeremy Fowler of ESPN among those who are predicting a big season:
As long as Brown remains healthy, there will be a cap on how much Wheaton can accomplish. He’s not going to post monster, top-10 receiver numbers. But he should be a consistent No. 3 wideout or flex option, especially during the weeks Bryant is out.
TE: Eric Ebron (Detroit Lions)
Rob Gronkowski is a fringe first-round fantasy pick in part due to the overall weakness of the tight end position. There are a lot of question marks beyond the New England Patriots superstar, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen, which makes hitting on a sleeper at the position even more valuable.
Ebron failed to make much of an impact as a rookie. He made just 25 grabs for a shade under 250 yards and a touchdown. It’s important to not place too much emphasis on those numbers, however, because rookie tight ends historically struggle to make a serious fantasy impact.
Now, along with the experience, he’s also had an entire offseason to prepare for a larger role. There should be a fair number of targets available behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and quarterback Matthew Stafford is pleased with the tight end’s progress, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
“He’s important,” Stafford said. “Obviously, he’s a tough matchup guy for teams, whether it be a safety or a linebacker. We feel we have an advantage there. I haven’t thrown a bunch of balls, so that’s kind of maybe one of the reasons he maybe hasn’t gotten a bunch of them. But he’s had a good camp.”
If Ebron can build off those strong practice performances, he has the physical tools to become a key piece of the Lions’ offense, especially in the red zone. Given the uncertainty at the position, he provides plenty of upside as the No. 25 tight end off the board.
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