Fantasy Football 2015: Breaking Down Sneaky Sleepers and Player Rankings

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2015

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry (14) scores a touchdown as he's hoot by Chicago Bears free safety Brock Vereen (45) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Chicago, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

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.

 

Rankings

2015 Fantasy Football Rankings
RankQBRBWRTE
1Aaron RodgersLe'Veon BellAntonio BrownRob Gronkowski
2Andrew LuckAdrian PetersonDemaryius ThomasJimmy Graham
3Russell WilsonEddie LacyJulio JonesTravis Kelce
4Drew BreesJamaal CharlesDez BryantGreg Olsen
5Peyton ManningMarshawn LynchOdell Beckham Jr.Martellus Bennett
6Ben RoethlisbergerC.J. AndersonJordy NelsonDelanie Walker
7Matt RyanJeremy HillCalvin JohnsonJulius Thomas
8Tony RomoMatt ForteA.J. GreenJason Witten
9Cam NewtonDeMarco MurrayRandall CobbAntonio Gates
10Eli ManningLeSean McCoyAlshon JeffreyZach Ertz
11Tom BradyJustin ForsettMike EvansOwen Daniels
12Ryan TannehillFrank GoreEmmanuel SandersJosh Hill
13Philip RiversAlfred MorrisT.Y. HiltonDwayne Allen
14Matthew StaffordLamar MillerDeAndre HopkinsJordan Cameron
15Teddy BridgewaterMark IngramAndre JohnsonLarry Donnell
Rankings for standard scoring

 

Sleepers

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Average Draft Position (ADP): No. 15 QB, No. 105 Overall

Tom E. Puskar/Associated Press

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
RankPlayerACC %
1Drew Brees80.2
2Alex Smith79.8
3Teddy Bridgewater77.3
4Matt Ryan76.4
5Ryan Tannehill75.9
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:

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

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:

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

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.