Fantasy Football 2019: Cheatsheet for Sleepers and Busts Heading into Your Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2019

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown speaks to reporters after an official team activity at the NFL football team's headquarters in Alameda, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

When it comes to winning your fantasy football draft, there are two basic goals to keep in mind. Get maximum value for your draft picks while avoiding the dreaded draft bust. Successful drafting requires more than just grabbing notable names in the early rounds.

Both of these goals seem simple in theory. However, the NFL is a complex and ever-changing league. Getting ahead of the curve requires more than just guesswork. Research and knowledge will help you identify which players are primed to explode and those who could potentially fall off in a big way.

Here, you'll find a little bit of help in the form of sleepers and potential-bust lists, along with some relevant updates to help in your draft preparation.


2019 NFL Fantasy Sleepers

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

Tyrell Williams, WR, Oakland Raiders

Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Houston Texans

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns

Cody Core, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions


Potential 2019 NFL Fantasy Busts

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Jared Cook, TE, New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers


Darwin Thompson Making Strides

Ed Zurga/Associated Press

Early in the offseason, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy stated that running back Damien Williams was set to be the team's starter. This immediately led many to believe that he would be a quality fantasy option based off the Chiefs' offensive potency.

According to Yahoo Fantasy, Williams' average draft position (ADP) is still 25.1.

The problem is that while Williams has been dealing with a hamstring issue, another running back has been shining—rookie sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson. The speedy Utah State product carried the ball five times for 22 yards and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass in Kansas City's preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Thompson emerging and guys like Darrel Williams and Carlos Hyde also on the roster, the Chiefs are likely headed toward a committee approach at the running back position.

"I did a little bit of that when I was in Philadelphia, a kind of running back-by-committee deal and we had some success with it." head coach Andy Reid told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "We'll do that here."

Committee backfields make for tricky fantasy situations. Having one in Kansas City makes it impossible to justify drafting Williams within the first three or four rounds.


The Antonio Brown Helmet Drama Continues

If Antonio Brown were healthy and still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he'd be a viable candidate for the first round of your fantasy draft. He's coming off a 1,297-yard, 16-touchdown campaign and remains one of the most talented pass-catchers in football.

However, Brown is dealing with frostbitten feet and is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. He doesn't have the chemistry with Derek Carr that he once had with Ben Roethlisberger, and he's been missing out on valuable practice time because of his injury—and another issue.

Brown wants to play with the same helmet he's used during his entire NFL career, one deemed too old by league safety standards. He has even threatened to not play without it, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

And now this: Raiders’ WR Antonio Brown has told team officials that, unless he gets to wear his old helmet, he will not play football again, per league sources. And more....

Even if Brown does agree to wear a new helmet, the drama isn't likely going away. An unnamed source told The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan that Brown would seek legal action against the league if he is injured while wearing a new helmet.

There is simply too much uncertainty surrounding Brown's situation to consider him a surefire early fantasy pick. However, the possibility that he doesn't play or isn't up to speed early in the season does give Tyrell Williams the potential to emerge as Oakland's No.  1 receiver—so some sleeper value could emerge from the situation.


Cowboys Gaining Confidence in Pollard

Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press

While Brown has been away from Raiders camp because of his helmet grievance and injury, running back Ezekiel Elliott has been away from the Dallas Cowboys while trying to leverage for a new contract. This has given rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard an opportunity to shine.

The Memphis product carried the ball four times for 16 yards in Dallas' preseason opener and has started to earn the confidence of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

"I certainly thought he had a good account of himself," Jones said, per David Helman of the team's official site. "He looks confident out there, we know he's inordinately understanding of what he does and can do. We've seen him do it, we know he's capable of, if he really needs to, carrying the whole load."

Do the Cowboys feel confident enough in the rookie to head into 2019 without Elliott? That's the big question. Elliott is an elite running back, but if he isn't in the lineup in Week 1, he obviously can't help your fantasy team. This entire situation makes the running back a potential bust, but it does make Pollard worth a late-round flier and a potential sleeper.