It’s reached that point in the draft. Most of the names on cheat sheets have been scratched off, and it is now time to find a hidden gem that will impress all owners in a league when their name is selected. There’s nothing more satisfying in fantasy football than identifying a deep sleeper who actually pans out come the regular season. That’s the entire premise of this article, as I will provide five names to secure in redraft and dynasty leagues this summer that are currently slipping under the radar.
Find out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s sleeper picks for 2018 by purchasing the Ultimate Draft Kit.
As the 9thoverall pick in 2017, it’s safe to assert that John Ross disappointed fantasy owners as a rookie last season. He failed to record a single reception on 2 targets and battled injuries for a majority of the calendar year. With a lack of playmakers on Cincinnati’s roster outside of A.J. Green and Joe Mixon, the Bengals will desperately need Ross to emerge as a sophomore. Remember, the Washington product posted an 81-1150-17 receiving line during his final college season in 2016. He even spent this offseason training with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, which should help the dynamic 22-year-old’s development moving forward in the NFL.
While Jerick McKinnon’s hype train is full steam ahead, fantasy owners are ignoring the fact that Kyle Shanahan traditionally implements a committee approach at the running back position. For a closer look at how the coach has distributed tailback carries since 2014, view the table below:
|Cleveland Browns - 2014||Atlanta Falcons - 2015||Atlanta Falcons - 2016||San Francisco 49ers - 2017|
|Terrance West - 171 Carries||Devonta Freeman - 265 Carries||Devonta Freeman - 227 Carries||Carlos Hyde - 240 Carries|
|Isaiah Crowell - 148 Carries||Tevin Coleman - 87 Carries||Tevin Coleman - 118 Carries||Matt Breida - 105 Carries|
As indicated above, Shanahan rarely utilizes a featured back as both a rusher and receiver. This trend is doubtful to change in 2018, making McKinnon a risky investment at his current ADP of the second-round in redraft leagues.
A more appealing and cheaper option comes in the form of Matt Breida, who already showcased his ability to succeed in Shanahan’s system in 2017. To recap, Breida earned 105 carries for 465 yards and two touchdowns. He even added 21 receptions for 180 yards and one score for good measure as a receiver alongside Carlos Hyde. A similar situation could present itself in 2018 with McKinnon and Breida, but don’t be surprised if Matt establishes a prominent short yardage role based on Jerick’s adept receiving ability. Former fourth-round pick Joe Williams also figures to be in the mix for volume in San Francisco, but Breida is a safer option at this point given his output as a rookie last season.
Despite his fifth-round draft stock in the NFL, Jordan Wilkins is becoming a popular name on sleeper lists for 2018. At 6’ 1” / 216 pounds, he profiles as a logical replacement to Frank Gore for the Indianapolis Colts. Even in a crowded backfield mix consisting of Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and the recently suspended Robert Turbin, Wilkins has an excellent chance to contribute as a rookie. The 23-year-old ran for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns at Ole Miss in 2017, in addition to accumulating 26 receptions for 241 yards and a score as a receiver. With an ADP near the fourteenth-round in season-long drafts, Wilkins could be one of this year’s best values at the running back position.
As a fourth-round pick this offseason, Keke Coutee has generated next to no buzz in the fantasy landscape outside of deep dynasty leagues. Sure, he will be overshadowed in Houston by DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Even so, the Texans desperately need an upgrade at slot receiver. Coutee should fill that void at 5’ 10” / 181 pounds and is coming off of a 93-1429-10 receiving line in 2017 at Texas Tech. Disregard his 26th-percentile SPARQ score from the NFL Combine, as Coutee’s 4.43 speed makes up for his lack of overall athleticism. It’s also a promising sign that Houston’s coaching staff views Keke as an upgrade over Braxton Miller, so the rookie could earn snaps in three-receiver sets immediately in 2018.
Despite being the last player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Trey Quinn managed to lead the NCAA with 114 receptions in 2017 at SMU. He earned the honor of being named this year’s Mr. Irrelevant among rookies, but Quinn was extremely relevant during his time in college. In fact, he tallied 1,236 yards receiving and thirteen touchdowns in 2017 alone. For context, realize that his former teammate Courtland Sutton’s best career receiving line at SMU was 76 catches for 1,246 yards and ten touchdowns in 2016. Quinn is less talented than Sutton, but a case can be made that Trey is being overlooked despite his dominant collegiate output.
If Quinn continues to impress Washington’s coaching staff this offseason, then a path to fantasy relevancy is well within reach for 2018. Head coach Jay Gruden has already praised the wide receiver’s skill set in OTAs, and he appears to be a virtual lock to make the team at this point. It’s also worth noting that Quinn faces little competition on the Redskins depth chart for snaps outside of Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson.