Fantasy Football Cheatsheet: Early Draft Advice and Sleeper Picks

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to throw the ball during an NFL football team practice Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Orchard Park N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

While NFL teams take a break from scheduled practices, fantasy football managers should scour reports following mandatory minicamp. We shouldn't rely on spring workouts for tips, but managers can tab early sleepers and breakouts in June.

Typically, veterans coming off an injury or down seasons and second-year players looking to improve on quiet rookie campaigns should list atop your sleepers category.

The running back headed toward the wrong side of 30 years old may have one or two more productive seasons left in him. The wide receiver hoping to carve out a No. 2 role with a high-end quarterback should catch your attention in the middle rounds. How about the tight end who underwhelmed last year but didn't lose a step physically?

Based on 12-team point-per-reception leagues, we'll take a look at the top 10 sleepers on offense and delve into draft tips.


Sleeper Cheat Sheet

QB Philip Rivers, LAC (10.08)

QB Josh Allen, BUF (12.03)

RB Rashaad Penny, SEA (7.02)

RB LeSean McCoy, BUF (8.12)

RB Carlos Hyde, KC (10.05)

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB (10.07)

WR DeSean Jackson, PHI (10.12)

WR James Washington, PIT (11.04) 

TE Jimmy Graham (13.12)

TE Noah Fant (14.07)

Average draft position courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator 


Start to Consider Drafting Todd Gurley Late 2nd Round 

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 03:  Todd Gurley II #30 of the Los Angeles Rams warms up prior the Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After watching Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley log 14 carries for 45 yards in his last two appearances, fantasy football managers should have reservations about taking him early in the draft.

Furthermore, Travelle Gaines, his trainer, confirmed the 24-year-old has an arthritic condition in his knee on the CBS' Pick Six NFL Podcast with Will Brinson:

"Everybody knew when Todd came out of Georgia that there would be some kind of arthritic component to his knee, which is part of every surgery whether it's a shoulder, a knee, an ankle. If we can pound him less in the offseason while keeping his weight down, working on his strength, working on his agility in short areas, that's going to give him a better chance to be healthy Weeks 14 through 17 when they really count."

Assuming the Rams lighten up on Gurley's workload, he's not a first-round pick. General manager Les Snead selected running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of this year's draft and matched the Detroit Lions' offer to keep tailback Malcolm Brown, which indicates the backfield will feature something of a committee. 

Nonetheless, Gurley, who's registered the most yards from scrimmage (3,924) over the last two years, won't just vanish into the fantasy football ether. He's still going to receive touches in an offense that featured him since head coach Sean McVay's arrival in Los Angeles.

At the end of the second round, in a snake-pick format, managers should roll the dice on Gurley. He'll probably run the ball 12-14 times and catch five passes per contest in a decent role—that's RB2 territory for PPR leagues.


Don't Sleep on QB Josh Allen's Fantasy Value

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball in the second quarter during NFL game action against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field on December 30, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

As a passer, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen's accuracy will come into question; he completed just 52.8 percent of his attempts last year.

The front office didn't add big names at wide receiver, with John Brown and Cole Beasley arriving, but Allen sat down with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to iron out play-calling wrinkles, per John Murphy of the team's official website.

"This year, I sat down with 'Dabs' and went over what I like, what I didn't like," Murphy wrote. "And he's trusting me in that mindset. If there's a play that he wants to call, and I don't like it, he's not going to call it. So, it's developing that trust."

Perhaps Allen's chat with Daboll helps the Bills offense make strides in the upcoming season. His legs give managers something to bank on. He led the club in rushing yards (631) and touchdowns (eight) last season.

Although McCoy (projected as a sleeper above), Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary will carry the rushing load, Allen's ability to gain yards on the run will show up in his game.

The strong-armed quarterback should land on your draft radar in the middle rounds because of Brown's big-play ability, Beasley's reliable hands (70.9 percent career catch rate) and his threat to rack up rushing yards in the open field.


TE Jimmy Graham Primed for Bounce-Back Season in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 02: Jimmy Graham #80 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by David Amerson #38 of the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of a game at Lambeau Field on December 02, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/G
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' connection with Graham got off to a slow start last year. The pass-catching tight end registered 55 receptions for 636 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. He also broke his thumb in Week 11 and dealt with an ailing knee.

Graham expects to put together a better season as a pass-catcher, per NBC26's Kelly Price.

"I'm completely focused on putting my best foot forward and being the player that I am: Scoring in the red zone and being that big threat on third down. I mean, I gotta get back to that. And I take it serious," Graham said.

The Packers allowed wide receiver Randall Cobb to walk during free agency, so Rodgers will open the year with a young inexperienced wide receiver corps behind Davante Adams. 

ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky expects Marquez Valdes-Scantling to win the No. 2 wide receiver job, which explains why he's listed as a top-10 sleeper going into the 2019 term. However, if the 24-year-old struggles or needs time to adjust, Rodgers may lean on a big-body veteran tight end to move the chains. 

Based on Graham's comments and his experience, he's primed for a bounce-back year—take him a few rounds before his average draft position (13.12).