Fantasy Football 2018 Sleepers, Positional Rankings and Top Values

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 31, 2018

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 29: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers runs for yardage against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Little Caesars Arena on December 29, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sleepers and value picks make or break fantasy football seasons every year.

Last year's biggest sleeper was arguably New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who started as the team's third-string running back before taking the reins and amassing 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns on just 212 touches.

Kamara was likely the NFL's best value pick as well, but sometimes there's value to be had even in the front end of drafts.

For example, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley's average draft position was No. 17 last year, per the Fantasy Football Calculator. Those who picked him in the second round reaped the rewards as he accumulated 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, marks that earned him the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year award.

For this piece, we'll take a look at a set of top-10 rankings for quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. The sleepers listed are those picked to most outperform their average draft position relative to the writer's personal overall ranking.

As for values, they are limited to the top-10 groups, with a player in each section picked to most outperform their average draft position relative to ranking. You can also find write-ups on three of the players listed below.

All average draft position rankings are via Fantasy Football Calculator and based off point-per-reception leagues.

                 

Top-10 Positional Rankings

Quarterback

1. Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

2. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady

3. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

4. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

5. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

6. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

7. Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck

8. Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

9. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

10. San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Top Sleeper: New York Giants QB Eli Manning (ADP: 160.7, Writer Ranking: 117)

Top-10 Value: Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (ADP: 116.8, Writer Ranking: 71)

                            

Running Back

1. Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell

2. Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson

3. Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley

4. New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara

5. New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley

6. Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

7. Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

8. Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt

9. Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette

10. Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon

Top Sleeper: Green Bay Packers RB Jamaal Williams (ADP: 66.4, Writer Ranking: 36)

Top-10 Value: Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (ADP: 13.0, Writer Ranking: 9)

                            

Wide Receiver

1. Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown

2. Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins

3. New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.

4. Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones

5. New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas

6. Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton

7. Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen

8. Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams

9. Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs

10. Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green

Top Sleeper: Miami Dolphins WR Kenny Stills (ADP: 108.7, Writer Ranking: 74)

Top-10 Value: Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (ADP: 27.6, Writer Ranking: 20)

                         

Tight End

1. New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski

2. Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce

3. Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz

4. Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham

5. New York Giants TE Evan Engram

6. Chicago Bears TE Trey Burton

7. Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen

8. Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle

9. Tennessee Titans TE Delanie Walker

10. Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed

Top Sleeper: Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard (ADP: 155.7, Writer Ranking: 124)

Top-10 Value: Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle (ADP: 117.7, Writer Ranking: 90)

                               

Top Sleepers

New York Giants QB Eli Manning

True, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning did not fare well last year, finishing with his lowest yards-per-attempt average since his 2004 rookie season. He's also never been a fantasy superstar, as he sticks to the pocket and doesn't throw for a litany of yards and touchdowns like others.

But there are reasons to believe the 37-year-old may have a resurgence this year, including the return of superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the additions of game-changing running back Saquon Barkley, dependable left tackle Nate Solder and the solid offensive mind of new head coach Pat Shurmur.

The coaching change may be the biggest reason for Manning's success. Commenting during the QB's start against the New York Jets in Big Blue's third preseason game, Dan Schneier of 247Sports and CBS Sports thinks improvement is on the way:

Granted, it was just a preseason game, but Manning looked sharp, completing 17-of-23 passes for 188 yards against the Jets' first-team defense without Barkley or Beckahm on the field. Manning also showed an excellent rapport with Sterling Shepard, who hauled in seven catches for 78 yards in one half.

Manning likely won't slip into a top-10 list of best quarterback fantasy producers this year, but if all goes well, he could be a low-end starting QB option in 12- or 14-team leagues or a high-end backup.

                   

Green Bay Packers RB Jamaal Williams

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams split time with teammate Aaron Jones at the position at the end of last year, but with Jones suspended for the opening two games, the former BYU star has a chance to take a hold on the starting position and never look back with a strong set of opening performances.

Williams, 23, didn't enjoy an efficient rushing season last year (3.6 yards per carry), but he did show pass-catching chops, hauling in 25 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns.

It's also important to note the Packers offense largely sputtered after future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 5Williams saw 10 or more touches in seven games, and Rodgers was only the quarterback for one of them. 

With Rodgers back in the mix, the Packers offense should be a machine once again, which should only help Williams as he looks to improve his rookie season.

It also helps to have the head coach in his corner, as the Packers' Mike McCarthy recently remarked that "(Williams) is really poised to have a big year." He also thinks people will be "talking about (Williams) at the end of the season as a second-year player that's made the jump."

That could be the case this year. It's hard seeing Williams cracking a top-10 list of fantasy producers at running back, but he could be an excellent second option at the position.

               

Top Value: Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

Fans only need to watch new Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes' 69-yard dime to wideout Tyreek Hill in a preseason tilt with the Atlanta Falcons to understand why he could be a top value this year:

Mahomes, 22, has a cannon for an arm and could be hitting deep threats Hill and Sammy Watkins consistently for massive yardage and game-changing scores. That's a massive asset in today's NFL, as noted by Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports:

"The importance of the deep ball in today's NFL goes beyond looks. It's also a matter of practicality. The field has been the same size for decades, yet athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than ever. That would favor defenses, if it weren't for the league-wide crackdown on physical play that has occurred over the past decade. Yet, there is one saving grace for defensive players and coaches alike. And everyone knows what it is."

It also helps to have one of the best tight ends (Travis Kelce) and running backs (Kareem Hunt) to throw shorter routes to as well. To put the entire Chiefs' skill-position corps in perspective relative to NFL history, Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight compiled a list of the best in history based off their Sports Reference Approximate Value over the past three seasons. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Chiefs rank 12th overall (and first since 2007).

Lastly, Mahomes showed what he can do in a limited sample last year. The 12th overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft sat for almost all of last season behind ex-starter Alex Smith but snuck in a Week 17 game at the Denver Broncos in which he went 22-of-35 for 284 yards (no touchdowns, one interception) in a 27-24 win. 

Those numbers are more impressive when considering Hill and Kelce didn't play, Watkins wasn't on the team yet, Hunt touched the ball just once for a 35-yard touchdown run and the Broncos allowed the third-fewest yards per game last season.

All things considered, this could be a massive year for Mahomes and the Chiefs.

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