With fantasy football reaching massive popularity in a golden era for information, true sleepers rarely exist.
This is a new world where everyone collectively freaks out after Ameer Abdullah's eye-opening preseason display. Sorry to say, but the Detroit Lions rookie is far from a hidden gem. Instead, he'll vault into a top-25, perhaps top-20 running back by the end of the month.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell debunked the sleeper label, pointing out the lack of uncovered talent when everyone in the league is also digging:
It’s going to be awful hard to come up with that one player in 100 whom nobody else is considering. It’s even tougher given how many sleeper candidates fit the same archetypes. The vast majority of sleepers are young, often in their first or second year as a pro. Many of the others have switched teams, schemes, or both. If it’s a player whose role seems likely to open up as the season goes along, like Carlos Hyde last season, virtually everybody in your league is going to be aware that’s the case, most notably the person who drafted the incumbent (in this case Frank Gore) a few rounds earlier.
But hey, talking sleepers are fun. All drafters know the studs, but many are playing catch-up to the other guys fighting for mid-to-late slotting.
As Barnwell noted, nobody can properly identify this season's true sleepers now while they cower under the covers. Nobody drafted C.J. Anderson, but many managers correctly anticipated a breakout campaign from DeAndre Hopkins. For now, these are the type of sleepers studied below, after running through position-by-position rankings.
|2015 Fantasy Football Rankings|
|1||Aaron Rodgers||Le'Veon Bell||Antonio Brown||Rob Gronkowski|
|2||Andrew Luck||Adrian Peterson||Demaryius Thomas||Jimmy Graham|
|3||Russell Wilson||Eddie Lacy||Julio Jones||Travis Kelce|
|4||Drew Brees||Jamaal Charles||Dez Bryant||Greg Olsen|
|5||Peyton Manning||Marshawn Lynch||Odell Beckham Jr.||Martellus Bennett|
|6||Ben Roethlisberger||C.J. Anderson||Jordy Nelson||Delanie Walker|
|7||Matt Ryan||Jeremy Hill||Calvin Johnson||Julius Thomas|
|8||Tony Romo||Matt Forte||A.J. Green||Jason Witten|
|9||Cam Newton||DeMarco Murray||Randall Cobb||Antonio Gates|
|10||Eli Manning||LeSean McCoy||Alshon Jeffrey||Zach Ertz|
|11||Tom Brady||Justin Forsett||Mike Evans||Owen Daniels|
|12||Ryan Tannehill||Frank Gore||Emmanuel Sanders||Josh Hill|
|13||Philip Rivers||Alfred Morris||T.Y. Hilton||Dwayne Allen|
|14||Matthew Stafford||Lamar Miller||DeAndre Hopkins||Jordan Cameron|
|15||Teddy Bridgewater||Mark Ingram||Andre Johnson||Larry Donnell|
|Rankings for standard scoring|
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Average Draft Position (ADP): No. 15 QB, No. 105 Overall
Teddy Bridgewater should fall squarely into the "sleeper who's not really a sleeper" column. After the whole league snoozed on him during last year's draft, the rookie made them look foolish by posting a 64.4 completion percentage and 7.26 yards per attempt.
According to Pro Football Focus, his accuracy percentage—which accounts for drops and throwaways—ranked third behind Drew Brees and Alex Smith. Before claiming they're all short dink-and-dunks, he also rated eighth in deep accuracy.
|2014 Accuracy Percentage Leaders|
|Pro Football Focus|
Over the season's final five games, he notched a 72.1 completion percentage. That led Mike Clay to sing his praises on ESPN.com back in March.
"For good measure, Bridgewater was truly terrific down the stretch last season," Clay wrote. "Our team of analysts graded him as the league's top-performing quarterback over the final six weeks of the regular season. During that six-week span, Bridgewater was 10th in fantasy points at the position."
He also gets a full year of Charles Johnson and Adrian Peterson, so all signs point to him as a high-upside No. 2 quarterback capable of infiltrating the top 10. Yet the support hasn't followed.
Frequenting every sleeper list in the galaxy, Sam Bradford probably won't stay a bargain when someone ignores the health issues and reaches for the scheme. Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill have mortgaged a monopoly on the breakout brigade, leaving Bridgewater firmly stuck in the middle.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
ADP: No. 45 RB, No. 140 Overall
No, you haven't heard wrong. Rookie running back David Johnson is currently dealing with a hamstring injury, as reported by Fox Sports' Mike Jurecki:
It's serious enough that the Arizona Cardinals have reached out to free agent Chris Johnson, according to ESPN's Dianna Marie Russini:
Mike Jurecki @mikejurecki
David Johnson grade two hamstring injury, likely out another week. Hasn't been able to practice in full pads. https://t.co/H6ZGBVNRSA8/11/2015, 1:36:41 PM
Not exactly what anyone wants to hear in August. The roadblock will cause his stock to plunge, creating an opportunity for thrifty drafters to take a late gamble.
Back in May, running back coach Stump Mitchell gushed about the Cardinals' third-round draft pick on Doug and Wolf Thursday at Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, via ArizonaSports.com's Vince Marotta.
He’s a guy who has a lot of confidence in his ability to play. He’s coachable. He’s a smart young man, he’s physical. He’s going to make Andre (Ellington) pick up his game when given the opportunity. He has excellent hands and he’s a bigger target to throw the ball to. He’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle before this season is said and done.
A huge breakout candidate entering 2014, Ellington folded, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. An explosive rusher in small doses the previous year, the 5'9" speedster shrunk in a bigger role. If healthy, the younger Johnson should eat into Ellington's touches and make a dent down the stretch.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
ADP: No. 35 WR, No. 87 Overall
Dianna Russini @diannaESPN
The Cardinals are pursuing RB Chris Johnson. They have offered him a 1 year deal per sources. Stay tuned to see if he says yes. #Cardinals8/11/2015, 12:26:08 PM
Ranked as a low-end No. 3 wide receiver, Jarvis Landry is fairly priced in most cases. In points-per-receptions leagues, however, he's a viable No. 2.
During his rookie campaign, Landry led the Miami Dolphins with 84 receptions and 111 targets. Over the final half of the year, he averaged 6.75 catches and nine targets per game, giving him Pro Football Focus' No. 16 overall grade at wideout.
All that's missing are the touchdowns. He mustered a mediocre five scores. While it's dangerous to read much into preseason results, his two-yard score in Miami's first exhibition bout serves as a reminder of how much end-zone visits fluctuate.
ESPN's Matthew Berry commented on a hopeful precursor of more scoring opportunities:
His role shouldn't change drastically as Kenny Stills takes Mike Wallace's spot, but more progression from the 22-year-old receiver and Tannehill will continue 2014's late surge. If all goes well, Landry could corral 100 catches.
ADP info obtained from FantasyPros.