SportsGuyRy’s 2018 Fantasy Football Hot Takes
Thank you for joining us today for our Sleepers article.
Every year, there are a handful of guys that you have a gut feeling about that is going to do well that traditionally wouldn’t be considered a high pick. I’m excited to share with you all my sleepers for this year and how you could target these guys in the mid to late rounds this year and hopefully find steals for your team.
These aren’t ranked in any order, just providing you with 10 names to keep an eye out for.
Chris Carson – RB – Seattle Seahawks
*Photo provided by The Seattle Times*
By every account so far this pre-season, Chris Carson is going to be the guy to start the year as the starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks, beating out Rashad Penny so far this pre-season. That partially has to do with injury to Penny’s hand, but let’s not short change Carson.
Ranked as the 82nd best fantasy running back in 2017 seems low. However, he only was able to play in 4 games in 2017. In those games, he rushed for 208 yards. He added 59 receiving yards on 7 receptions and one receiving touchdown. That made him good for 5.5 fantasy points per game. He was electric, fast, strong and shifty in his 4 games. Averaging 4.24 yards per carry far and away was the best YPC on his team.
Against the Chargers in the 2nd pre-season game, he rushed 9 rushes for 34 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and against the Colts in the 1st pre-season game, he took 4 carries for 26 yards (6.5 yards per carry).
I feel Penny will likely get a shot to take the job away at some point this season, especially if Seattle struggles, but Carson should be the lead dog to begin the season and could really make an impression there. The line isn’t significantly better than last year but it is better. He’s looks impressive as an undrafted guy from Oklahoma State, further proving it’s not worth drafting RBs high. Currently, his stock has gone up since Penny’s injury but is still being drafted in the 8-9th round range.
Corey Clement – RB – Philadelphia Eagles
*Photo provided by Eagles Wire – USA Today*
I feel there may be a situation in the Eagles backfield that traditionally we see out of the Patriots backfield, which is a lot of timeshare. However, with only two legitimate rushing backs on the roster in Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, it may just be a two dog race here.
I have Clement as a sleeper due to this abilities he showed last year, both running the ball and catching the ball. He is dynamic and in this offense, Doug Peterson was able to utilize all of his skills and showcase them schematically.
As the 3rd RB option in the Eagles backfield last year, he still finished 45th in points as a rookie with 68 points. After not being used at all in the first two games, he was able to take this 74 carries for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns. He added in 10 receptions for 123 yards and 2 additional touchdowns. A 6 touchdown rookie campaign getting the lesser part of a 3 back committee is very impressive. Exit LeGarrette Blount, he should get much more opportunity this year. He was able to take 5 carries for 30 yards in his first pre-season game. He was held out of the second pre-season game with a lower body injury but he’s expected to be fine going into the regular season.
Let’s add in the fact that Jay Ajayi is the lead guy and he doesn’t have the best injury history in the world. If Ajayi were to fall to injury, Clement would immediately propel into RB2 conversation. For a guy going in mid-to-late rounds in fantasy mock drafts, that could be great value. Current projections are showing him as a 9-10th round guy.
Ty Montgomery – RB – Green Bay Packers
*Photo provided by Packers Wire – USA Today*
Ty Montgomery has gotten over looked since last year. Heading into the 2017 season as the starter, an injury really pushed Montgomery’s value down this year. With the emergence of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones in their rookie years, Montgomery is seen to be the 3rd option in the Packers RB rotation.
I don’t think so.
Montgomery has shown tremendous chemistry with Aaron Rodgers in the past. He is a dynamic guy who can really make people miss, is sneakily powerful and tough and lastly, can catch the ball extremely well, being a former receiver.
Jones is suspended for the first few games for a violation of league rules and Williams was adequate yet semi-underwhelming in his rookie year. I think this leaves Montgomery with an excellent chance to be the lead back in this committee.
Going back to his last healthy season, he played in 15 games and started 6 but didn’t go moved to a RB until week 6. From then on, he took 77 rushes for 457 yards (5.94 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. He added in 44 receptions for 348 yards. That gives him a total of 805 yards total. I think he could repeat some of these numbers, if not expand on them with a full healthy season. With folks being scared off by the committee, he’s being drafted in the 9-10th round.
Carlos Hyde – RB – Cleveland Browns
*Photo provided by Sporting News*
If you go back and look, Carlos Hyde had a sneaky great season last year. Ranked as the 11th best fantasy back last season with 158 fantasy points, Hyde might be one of the most overlooked RBs this season.
The reason? He’s going into a situation with a highly drafted rookie in Nick Chubb and an already established 3rd down back in Duke Johnson. Seeing what I’ve seen in the pre-season, I’m putting Hyde firmly ahead of Nick Chubb for early down work as he’s looked extremely underwhelming so far this pre-season.
While he is going to a situation with a good not great offensive line and some revamped offensive tools around him, he could be in for a good year. Hue Jackson, for being an awful head coach, does typically have productive RBs in his system and in 16 games last year, Hyde put up 938 yards (3.91 per carry, which is lowest of his career) and 8 touchdowns while adding in 350 receiving yards. Hyde’s big fault has been his health, last year being his first fully healthy season. In 2016, he actually had more rushing yards in 13 games for a 4.55 yards per carry. If he can keep up the pace of these last two years with a presumed better line and receivers around him, he could have a great season as long as he keeps Chubb at bay. His value has increased some since pre-season started but still being drafted as a 7-8th round guy.
D.J. Moore – WR – Carolina Panthers
*Photo provided by 247Sports*
As I head into the receivers part of my sleepers, most of these guys are going to be rookies. We will start with who I feel will have the most successful rookie campaign. D.J. Moore is someone I would like to have on every one of my fantasy teams this year. His average draft position in a 12 man league is around 120, making him a 10th round pick. In my opinion, that’s going to be a steal for folks who even chance him in the 9th.
Moore was absolutely dynamic in college, playing for the Maryland Terrapins. In his junior year, he amassed 80 receptions for 1033 yards and 8 touchdowns, adding in 61 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Given the make-up of the Big 10, traditionally a power run conference, that’s great numbers. In his career, he produced 2027 receiving yards on 146 receptions for 18 total touchdowns. He reminds me of a mix of Percy Harvin and Stefon Diggs. Shifty and a good route runner who can lay the wood and make it tough to bring down after the catch.
Moore got drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round, giving Cam Newton his second dynamic receiving option behind Devin Funchess. With the opportunity to run in the WR2 on his own team, he could really carve out a great role there. In his first preseason game, he showed his abilities to work with the ball in his hands, taking 4 receptions for 75 yards. It should be interesting to see how things play out but with all the opportunities he is going to have, he should be in for a good season.
Christian Kirk – WR – Arizona Cardinals
*Photo provided by Sports Illustrated*
Talking about all the opportunities to take advantage of great playing time, Christian Kirk is going to be a player to do so as well. Playing for the Arizona Cardinals who has pretty much nothing behind Larry Fitzgerald, Kirk is primed to take advantage of, what should be, plenty of targets behind Fitzgerald and David Johnson.
Kirk played in the SEC where defenses were tough and competition was huge. He played for Texas A&M where in three years, he stood out as one of the nation’s best receivers year after year. Totaling 234 receptions for 2856 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns made him a consistent contender for nations best receiver in college football. Although his freshman year was his best year for yardage, his senior year was his best year for touchdowns. That led the Cardinals to draft the 5’11” 200LB receiver in the 2nd round with the 47th overall pick.
More of a shifty, slot style receiver who can run crisp routes, he’s got some wheels on him with his 4.47 speed. In his second pre-season game, he took 4 receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown over the Saints. Competing with Chad Williams for the WR2 role has been a good one as Williams has done well also. As this competition plays out, I see Kirk separating himself and making a stake for some WR2/Flex consideration in 12-14 man leagues. Currently, he’s being drafted as a 14-16th round player.
Michael Gallup – WR – Dallas Cowboys
*Photo provided by Cowboys Wire – USA Today*
Another rookie with tons of opportunity to do well this year is Michael Gallup. Somewhat overlooked during the draft process, CTP contributors @MylesGorham85 and @JReidNFL really turned my attention to him. Playing for Colorado State in the Mountain West isn’t going to give you tons of credit but when you look at how well he fared, it’s tough to ignore. In two seasons, the 6’1” 200LB receiver produced 176 receptions (including 100 his senior year) for 2690 receiving yards (1418 his senior year) and 21 total touchdowns. His touchdown production was cut in half from his Junior year to Senior year but that Is still impressive.
That’s what got him drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 3rd round, 81st overall. So far in pre-season, he’s taken 3 receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown over the snaps he’s been given. With only Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns (typical WR2’s), there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for targets and touches behind Zeke Elliott in this offense. Gallup has all the tools to take advantage of those and that was showcased on the 30 yard touchdown over a more than capable Jimmy Ward in the first pre-season game. Currently, he’s being drafted as a 12-13th round player.
Kenny Stills – WR – Miami Dolphins
*Photo provided by Bears Wire – USA Today*
As we shift away from rookie receivers, let’s look at a receiver who consistently gets overlooked each and every year he’s been in the league. Kenny Stills is a player that I feel is in for a big year in 2018. Ranking as the 26th best receiver last season, Stills went undrafted in most fantasy leagues last season. He took in 58 receptions on 106 targets for 847 yards and 6 touchdowns. This was with Cutler at the helm and with Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker in the fold. Enter in Tannehill and exit out Jarvis Landry and his 160 targets, there’s going to be plenty of those targets needing to go somewhere and Stills is a prime target for them.
With an expected jump in Parkers production, I can see the biggest jump being with Stills. Known traditionally as a deep ball threat coming out of Oklahoma, he has refined his game more to learn more of the route tree in the NFL and has also been very sure handed on his way to 26 career touchdowns. Only missing one game in his NFL career, he’s show to be very reliable as well. Coming off the two best years of his NFL Career, I see a trifecta in the works as well as his best season to date with the 160 targets vacated by Landry now available. He’s got the highest value of anyone on this list so far, being projected in the 7-8th round range.
David Njoku – TE – Cleveland Browns
*Photo provided by Browns Wire – USA Today*
If you haven’t read my blurb about David Njoku already, please check out my Tight End Rankings. As you’ve noticed in this article, I’m high on Njoku going into his second season, for multiple reasons.
The first reason I’m excited is I believe there will be a jump in production as the transition from college to the NFL at the tight end position is one of the tougher transitions to make and rarely do rookies have phenomenal first seasons. Only producing 386 total yards and 4 touchdowns seems like a bad year but when you factor in the mix of DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler throwing him the ball and it being his rookie year in that anemic offense, it actually couldn’t have gone much better.
The second reason I love Njoku this year is his surroundings now. Before, he was working with the likes of Kizer, Higgins at WR1 and some other slaps at the receiver position. Now he has Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon for a full season, Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield, and some competent running from the aforementioned Carlos Hyde.
Lastly, the types of QBs he has at the helm. Tyrod Taylor is a safe QB. He isn’t always going for the big play and often goes to his safety net more often than taking a shot. This bodes well for Njoku as TE’s typically are safety nets for their teams. If they do insert Baker Mayfield, rookie QB’s also seem to check down more often than not. I know Baker is more of a gunslinger which may have him take chances down the field, but typically rookie QB’s love their TE’s. This could be a great pairing for years to come. Njoku is currently projected in the 11-12th round range as a low-end TE1, high-end TE2.
Patrick Mahomes – QB – Kansas City Chiefs
*Photo provided by The Denver Post*
I feel Patrick Mahomes is the ultimate risk/reward type QB this season. With similar tools to Cam Newton, he has the ability to be a fantasy king. With many weapons around him, you can see why folks are high on him. however, through mock drafts I’ve seen, he’s currently being mocked in the 11-13th range as a backup QB.
That is warranted given the fact he’s never played a meaningful NFL snap so far in his career. As I mentioned in my QB rankings, he’s in the prime QB2 range for me with very high upside. I love the upside because of multiple reasons.
First reason being he has all the tools and gunslinger mentality that make great fantasy QBs. He’s going to take risks, has the ability to run as needed and a rocket arm to throw the speedy Tyreek Hill 70 yard quick strikes like he did in the last pre-season game.
Second reason is he has an amazing supporting cast around him. With Kareem Hunt at RB, a great TE in Travis Kelce and a pair of solid receivers in Hill and Sammy Watkins, he’s set up to succeed.
I feel all of this potential and the great situation he’s in, getting him that late in the draft is a steal on his potential alone.
That wraps up my article around some of the sleepers I’m high on this year. Please provide me with feedback if you feel some of these are out of line or if you agree! It’s always good to hear that feedback. You can do that @sportsguyry on Twitter!
Thank you for reading and have a great day!