Like hundreds of other fantasy football sleeper articles, this one must begin with a philosophical query of whether sleepers exist.
Big fan of Trey Burton? Cool. So is everyone else. The Chicago Bears tight end can't be considered a sleeper if most drafters are wide awake to his breakout potential.
Gamers crave an upper hand, which has led to an influx of information and insight. This means most sleepers have already been touted in dozens of other sleeper columns. Perhaps you've already read some, which means you won't want to ready any more praise for Burton, Marquise Goodwin or Aaron Jones.
Others have undoubtedly penned prose about these players as well. If they're not sleepers in the truest sense, at least they're cheap. Each of them falls outside the top 150 of FantasyPros' consensus average draft position (ADP).
There's some buzz, but not enough to derail their value with inflated prices. Any of these players would make a strong addition late in the draft.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
Just when I thought I was out, an encouraging preseason and absurdly low price brought me back aboard the Bilal Powell bandwagon.
A popular breakout selection last season, he failed to meet the hype with 942 total yards and five touchdowns. The problem? The New York Jets limited him to 178 carries and 33 targets.
Yet as Pro Football Focus' Scott Barrett noted, early signs point to an expansion in his playing time and pass-catching involvement:
Last season's lack of receiving opportunities is particularly difficult to understand, as Powell had caught 58 of 74 targets for 388 yards—replicating 2015's yardage tally—the previous year. Although Isaiah Crowell could complicate his rushing involvement, the 29-year-old is far superior as a pass-catching back.
The underutilized Powell has registered 4.4 career yards per carry with a 69.2 catch percentage. A meatier and more balanced role would catapult him to no worse than a flex play.
Then again, he already merited that label last year, finishing 26th among running backs in Yahoo's standard half-point-per-reception scoring system. He's ranked outside of the site's top-50 backs, so take the easy value.
Other RB Sleepers: Chris Carson, SEA; Peyton Barber, TB; Jordan Wilkins, IND.
Ryan Grant, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Anybody want a starting wide receiver in a pass-heavy offense? In a standard 12-team draft, Ryan Grant can be your last skill-player selection.
Earlier in August, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich told Andrew Walker of the team website that T.Y. Hilton and Grant "have really separated themselves" as the team's starting receivers. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni also commended the former Washington wideout, who has since started alongside a returning Andrew Luck during the preseason.
"Ryan has done what we ask guys to do on a consistent basis, and that's just improve every single day— fight to improve every single day. And we just see that in Ryan."
When healthy, Luck has averaged 37.9 pass attempts per contest, which prorates to 605 over 16 games. Tom Brady's 581 pass attempts led the NFL last season.
Nobody is going to confuse Donte Moncrief for Randy Moss, but he amassed seven touchdowns in nine games as Luck's No. 2 wideout in 2016.
While Grant needed four full seasons to tally 84 receptions for 985 yards and six touchdowns, he should garner a brighter spotlight in a high-volume aerial game. He's not a league-winning pick, but the 27-year-old should add nice depth as a matchup play and bye-week replacement.
Other WR Sleepers: Chris Godwin, TB; Tyrell Williams, LAC; Geronimo Allison, GB.
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Vance McDonald's best performance with the Pittsburgh Steelers did not count in the overwhelming majority of fantasy formats.
After concluding the regular season with 14 catches for 188 yards, the tight end secured 10 of 16 targets for 112 yards in the AFC divisional-round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although this came in a 45-42 shootout in which Ben Roethlisberger attempted 58 passes, his heavier involvement could carry over into this season.
This time last year, McDonald was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers did not acquire him until Aug. 29, affording him little time to learn a new playbook. As a result, he didn't record his first reception until Week 6.
He gradually began to factor more into Pittsburgh's passing offense with consecutive four-catch, 52-yard showings in December. Strong blocking will keep the 6'4", 267-pound tight end on the field.
Carving out a role in last year's No. 3-ranked offense could make McDonald a top-12 option. It's not a high-probability play, but he won't get drafted in some leagues.
He's worth an end-of-draft dart-throw for someone who punted the volatile position. At least be sure to monitor his early returns if he slips to the waiver wire.
Other TE Sleepers: Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI; Benjamin Watson, NO; Nick Vannett, SEA.
I already made my case to pick a meaningful team name rather than a generic pun found via a Google search. So this time, let's skip the judgment and just offer some suggestions:
- Hey Darnold!
- Pickle Fitzpatrick
- Sharpe Objects
- Good Kareem Hunting
- Keelan Cole, Bay Bay
- Jake Jortles
- Breaking Bradford
- Les Cousins Dangereux
Just don't name your team It's Always Sony in Philadelphia. It makes no sense; Sony Michel doesn't play for the Eagles. Go with Golladay Man or Kittle Mittons. Or just shorten it to Always Sony. The full title exceeds Yahoo's 20-character limit anyway.