Draft These Fantasy Sleepers, Win Your League
(We are using standard 12-team ESPN non-PPR scoring as the basis for these rankings.)
Derek Carr - Oakland Raiders
With an average draft position (ADP) at QB of 13, according to Fantasypros.com, Carr can be had in the final rounds of your draft – or even via the waiver wire. He threw for 32 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards in just his second full season last year. He's also never missed a start. Carr also faces the Broncos in Week 17 – meaning if your fantasy league wraps things up in Week 16 as is the standard, he'll only have to face the defending champs once. He also gets to face the very beatable Chargers and Colts in Weeks 15 and 16 – the fantasy playoffs for most leagues. Non-divisional matchups against the Saints, Falcons, Titans, Jaguars and Bucs are also very favorable. There's a chance you nab a Top 5 QB in your league's final round with Carr. The Raiders also have an assortment of weapons at their disposal, with wideout Amari Cooper coming into his own in his second season.
Duke Johnson - Cleveland Browns
Johnson only started 7 games for the Browns after Isaiah Crowell failed to generate much for the Browns. Sure, Johnson only averaged 3.6 yards on the ground himself – but he quickly evolved into one of the best pass-catching backs and a PPR monster in his rookie year with 61 catches for 534 yards and two TDs. They have Hue Jackson running things in Cleveland now and he always commanded a great run game during his time under Marvin Lewis in Cincy. Robert Griffin III is the starting QB for the Browns, meaning there should be a lot of opportunities for Johnson to run the ball and also get it dumped off to him on short pass routes. They'll also be playing from behind a lot, meaning he'll be in there to catch passes. He has a running back ADP of 27 and you can get him around the late sixth-early seventh round. Taking a flier on him could pay off big.
Jay Ajayi - Miami Dolphins
Yeah, yeah, Arian Foster is getting all that hype but the injury threat is real. Ajayi has a RB ADP of 28 despite potential to be the Dolphins' lead running back. Ajayi didn't get much of a sample size in his rookie year last year, putting up modest numbers – but this came behind the league's worst-rated run blocking unit. New head coach Adam Gase arrives with a pretty good history of commanding a running game as an offensive coordinator in Denver and Chicago. If Gase can get a solid season out of Knowshon Moreno (1,038 yds, 10 TD in 2013) – there's no telling what he can do with Ajayi. It's been reported that Ajayi and Foster will more-or-less split carries, but Ajayi is atop the depth chart at the current time.
Rishard Matthews - Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota flashed brilliance on the field in his rookie year at quarterback and now that they've shored up the offensive line and added DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry at running back, the Titan’s offense is poised for a major leap. With Dorial Green-Beckham having been shipped off to Philadelphia, the WR field in Tennesee is wide open with one less mouth to feed. Matthews should be the most targeted receiver amongst a corps that is really dominated by the presence of their tight end Delanie Walker and has a great high ADP, WR2 upside trade off.
Dwayne Allen - Indianapolis Colts
Allen is atop the Colts' depth chart for the first time in his career with Coby Fleener headed to the Saints. If Andrew Luck returns to his 2014 form, Allen could benefit more than anyone. If you can find yourself one of the three main pass-catchers from a productive Luck, that's worth taking a shot on. His TE ADP of 12 means you can grab him right before your kicker. He might be the best late-round fantasy pick you can take in your draft.
Top Rookie Sleepers
Sterling Shepard - New York Giants
While Giants fans can't expect an Odell Beckham-like rookie season from Shepard, he's coming into a fairly good situation in his first year. We have no clue what kind of production Victor Cruz will bring after missing so much time and Shepard could easily make the most of limited early opportunities. With no real big threats at TE, Shepard should see a lot of field time even as a third receiver. He's available in the seventh or eighth round according to his WR ADP of 40.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Just like Hansel, rookie wide receivers are so hot right now. With a pass-happy offense and Drew Brees at the helm, the looks and opportunities for Thomas to make an impact are high. Thomas has freak size (6’3”, 212 lbs) and should be a great complement to the smaller, faster Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, especially in the red zone.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens
Veteran Justin Forsett is the current RB1 but he’s coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, so the door is wide open for carries from Dixon in what appears to be a RB by committee situation in Baltimore. Add in the fact that Dixon is incredibly sure-handed (34 receptions for 467 yards and seven touchdowns in his final college campaign in 2015) and will play in a system that loves pass-catching RB’s, Dixon should have great PPR league value.