The early bird gets the worm.
It may only be mid-March, but fantasy football is getting closer with every passing week. In a month we will have a whole new crop of NFL players. In turn, we’ll have a great deal of sleepers.
Though we may lay awake at night pondering the idea of where all these new talented players will end up, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are still a ton of talented players in the NFL waiting to get their opportunity to make a name for themselves.
As we try not to forget about a few players who had their chance, the saying ‘What have you done for me lately?’ comes to mind. Many NFL players go through a year-long injury, then find themselves trying to play catch up.
Yet, we must not forget about the players who are still trying to find their mojo in the NFL. In this article, I’ll bring up a few names of players that could be sleepers in 2018, who you might have forgotten about, or maybe who you glanced over this early into the new season.
Mitchell Trubisky – CHI: Just a quick reminder, when entering his second season Jared Goff was also a sleeper that no one had high hopes for. Then a new, young offensive-minded coach took over, similar to the the Bears of this year. Another similarity between the two teams is the Gurley and Howard comparison. The 2017 Rams and 2018 Bears seem eerily similar. However, It’s more than that. Trubisky, along with adding Coach Nagy, is adding superstar receiver Allen Robinson and Super Bowl hero Trey Burton. If Chicago goes and gets a talented offensive lineman in the first round (i.e. trade up for Quenton Nelson), then the sky’s the limit. Trubisky had his ups and downs last season, but showed competitiveness similar to that of Matt Stafford in his early days with Detroit. Trubisky tried to play smart in his rookie year, not throwing the deep ball often. When he did, he completed it 36.7% of the time, which was 11th-best of all quarterbacks. He threw fairly well off of play actions, as he completed 63.4% of those passes, which was good enough to finish 16th.
Peyton Barber – TB: Barber showed up as the Buccaneers starting running back in 2017. Unfortunately for Barber, the Buccaneers were a dismal team last season. That left Barber in an uphill battle. Digging deeper, Barber finished 14th in the NFL in yards created per carry (1.52), which is the yards created after the first evaded tackler. He finished 36th in the NFL with 186 yards created, and he only started in four games. He had six goal line carries and eight carries inside the 5 yard line. He’s a powerful runner who is now only battling a player who isn’t even on the team yet for the starting running back spot.
Kenny Stills – MIA: Stills, a speedster who takes the roof off the defense, had himself a big fantasy season last year, recording over 847 receiving yards and six touchdowns, both second-best of his career. However, one stat that had always been top-notch was his yards per reception, which saw a decline to a career low of 14.6. That may have to do with Cutler, who’s no longer with the Dolphins. However, even with the ypr decline, Stills was still able to finish ninth in the NFL in air yards, according to airyards.com (the total amount of yards the ball travels through the air during complete and incomplete passes). Stills’s 1,547 air yards were just enough to finish ahead of Marquise Goodwin and just under Marvin Jones. His NFL rank of 19th in production premium (+14.0) is no joke, either. Production premium, in layman’s terms, gets rid of all 2 minute drills and garbage time to measure players’ productivity in similar situations. I’ll be stashing Stills on my bench this year at a late round expense.
Jared Cook – OAK: Let’s dive right back into air yards. Tight end air yards plummet quickly after the first couple. Only four tight ends had over 1,000 air yards last season (Gronkowski, Kelce, Walker, Engram), compared to the 35+ receivers who finished with over 1,000 air yards. However, before I digress more about this stat which will be coming in future articles, the sixth-highest tight end in air yards was Jared Cook (781). Derek Carr, starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, is a big fan of Cook, having targeted him 86 times last season; Cook turned that into 54 receptions and 688 yards. One major drawback was his lack of scores, finishing 2017 with just two touchdowns and one red zone reception. That’s not going to get any easier with the addition of Jordy Nelson, who’s a red zone machine. Yet, in the tight end world for fantasy, you can’t live and die with touchdowns. Get players who consistently get targeted and catch balls. That’s Jared Cook.