With the NFL season kicking off a few days from now a lot of last minute fantasy drafts will be taking place. Many leagues draft close to kickoff so almost all transactions are complete on the waiver wire and injuries from the pre-season are all cleared up. The clearest picture we’ll have of the entire season is around now so this is the best time to figure out who to draft. These sleeper picks are the ones I believe can have the biggest impact well out of their rankings on many draft boards. Obviously these picks involve some serious risk, but great risks can bring great rewards.
Ezekiel Elliott may have been the ultimate sleeper if one of your drafts was prior to kickoff week. Many people were nervous to take him because of the potential to miss 6 games. We’ll know for sure if that’s true Monday or Tuesday. If your draft is after the decision is made on Zeke then he can still be considered a sleeper pick. Last year he was a top 3 running along with David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell who are ranked 1 and 2 on most fantasy draft boards. His ranking because of the suspension is much higher than it should be, especially if he is going to play. If all signs point to Zeke playing this year he could be a major pickup in the second round. Many people will be hesitant to pick him even if things look good so this could be a major risk/reward scenario where going balls to the wall could pay off this year.
When Spencer Ware went down in the pre-season Hunt became the clear #1 to take over in the Chiefs backfield. The Chiefs have focused on the run game for the past decade or so, there’s a lot of hoopla about Reid being a great fit for hunt, but the reality is the Chiefs have just been a RB friendly team. Jamaal Charles started the trend off and Hunt could be in for a major year. Hunt wasn’t ranked at all because of Ware’s hold on the starting job so he isn’t going to be in the general list on most fantasy sites. He’ll most likely need to be searched for in order to grab him.
Unfortunately many people have picked up on Hunt’s potential this year, but it’s possible on draft day that your opponents will forget. Obviously Hunt needs to be picked in a smart round though, despite the fact he could be a steal he is only a steal if gotten in the right round. A 5th or 6th round pick on a potential RB1 is a great deal.
When Julian Edelman went down the Patriots recievers immediately received a huge rankings boost, especially Hogan. For some reason Cooks is being widely considered the #1 WR on the Patriots and very high ranked on all draft boards, but it’s hard to imagine the main target isn’t going to be Hogan. Prior to Edelman getting injured I still believe Hogans rankings were extremely off, but now it’s very obvious he should be picked much sooner than he’s ranked. Hogan was a WR2 without question, but now he is a borderline WR1/2 with huge upside. Make no mistake about it Cooks could be the focus of the offense, especially if he builds rapport with Brady, but Hogan could just as likely be in the same position. In PPR leagues he is a must have and can definitely be found at a bargain price.
Josh Gordon can be the biggest sleeper of the year if grabbed with the last pick in your fantasy draft, I would even imagine second to last pick could even be somewhat logical. The odds of Gordon playing again are 50/50 and he’s one of the best wide receivers in the league. For anyone damning picking up Gordon on social media they’re not realizing it is literally a 50/50 chance he comes back, it isn’t a huge uphill battle for him. He has taken the right steps to come back in going to rehab and was already denied reinstatement once before. How many times can the NFL stop someone from playing football when the public mostly doesn’t view his offenses as a big deal?
Gordon is a young guy who’s made some mistakes off the field, nothing horrible or crazy, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he deserves a chance to do things right now that he’s attended rehab and had a long lenth of time to think about his future. Goodell could say no, but he could also say yes, it’s an up in the air possibility that no one has any idea about. If Gordon is reinstated he’s a potential top 10 WR in PPR leagues and if he’s not a nothing pick would have been used on him.
There’s obviously an argument to be made with all that where any bench spot could be used for him and that’s up to the fantasy player, but for me one of the last picks or two is a serious no brainer. Potential top 10 WR or a spare kicker? I think the answer is obvious.
Other Notable Sleepers
- Pittsburgh Steelers (DEF): Defense isn’t a top priority in the draft but I think the two clear cut defensive teams to take this year are the Patriots and Steelers. The Steelers though look like the possible #1 with the moves they’ve made right before kickoff. Picking of Joe Haden and JJ Wilcox were both splash pickups that immediately upgraded a defense that was already looking like a top 5. When the defenses start going off the board, the Steelers are ranked high enough where you can get a steal.
- Marquise Goodwin (WR): The 49ers cutting Jeremy Kerley could be a major boost to his numbers. While he 49ers aren’t the best team, Hoyer can definitely throw the ball and even he wasn’t a huge detriment to DeAndre Hopkins numbers on the Texans. If Garcon is frequently getting double covered that could leave a lot of openings for Marquise Goodwin this year. I did a draft 2 weeks ago and picked him up off waivers when Kerley was cut, so he’s definitely a great pick to look at very late in the draft.