These are the top 6 fantasy football sleepers of the 2016 NFL season. Make sure to use these guys early on draft kings and fan duel!
Top 6 Fantasy Football Sleepers
QB – Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Despite the loss of All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson to retirement, you can still except big things in 2016 from the Lions QB. Stafford’s play really took a step forward after Jim Bob Cooter took over as the play caller, calling for more conservative plays and not relying on Stafford to chuck the ball deep down the field.
The Lions still have Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, and newcomers Anquan Boldin and Marvin Jones to haul in passes, all of whom should elevate their play in Johnson’s absence. The key could be whether their young offensive line (RT Riley Reiff is the veteran of the group with 5 years experience) stays healthy is able to jell. If so, all of the pieces are in place for Stafford to surprise many and become a viable week-to-week starting fantasy QB.
RB – Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Since Bill O’Brien took over as head coach in 2014, the Texans have been one of the most run-heavy offensive units in all of football. That trend should continue this season with Miller, who comes over from the Dolphins, where he was curiously not featured as much as most top-tier running backs are around the league. Despite not missing a game, Miller only accumulated over 200 carries in one of the previous three seasons (216 in 2014).
With the Texans being led on offense by the inexperienced Brock Osweiler, expect O’Brien to continue to rely on the run game quite a bit to help take the pressure off of the young QB. Miller should be good for 25+ carries each week and finally be able to put his full talents on display. He’d be a good pick at the end of the first round, and a great pick if you’re able to get him in the middle of the second.
RB – Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
Injuries and ball security issues derailed most of his rookie season, but the second year Gordon is a talented back who looked to be getting back on track after Sunday’s performance against the Vikings. That included a 39-yard touchdown run that showed an impressive amount of burst for a guy who is coming off offseason knee surgery.
While he likely won’t have much of an impact on third downs (that role belongs to Danny Woodhead), the goal line carries appear to be up in the air now after the gruesome injury fellow running back Branden Oliver suffered in that same game on Sunday. If Gordon is able to correct his fumble issues, and remain healthy, he should provide much higher value than his current 6th-7th round draft position usually does.
WR – Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
Another Lion on this list, but I believe it’s time that the fifth-year receiver out of Cal finally busts out and emerges. There will be lots of plays to be made in this offense, especially given their questionable running game (did Ameer Abdullah really show you all that much last year?).
While Tate and Boldin will likely catch most of the underneath and intermediate passes from Stafford, they’ll rely on Jones to take the top off the defense and provide the big-play spark. He has a chance to become the #1 receiver in Detroit for the first time in his career, and his 8th-round draft status makes that upside too good to pass up.
WR – Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans
The 5th-round rookie out of Mass has had an impressive training camp, and reports out of Titans camp are saying that he could be penciled in as a starting outside receiver sooner than later. As has been the case in recent years, head coach Mike Mularkey prefers to lean on a run-heavy offense early in games, as evident by their offseason investments in RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
But given that Tennessee will likely be playing from behind in a lot of games this season, you can expect them to be needing to air it out to catch up. The 6’2 Sharpe has shown he’s had a nice connection with QB Marcus Mariota early in camp and in the preseason, and is typically being taken towards the end of drafts (if at all). Snag this guy and stash him on your bench early, and expect big things late.
TE – Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
McDonald really came on strong late last season after Blaine Gabbert took over as the starter from Colin Kaepernick. In his final six games of the season, McDonald had 3 with 60 yards and a TD. The situation is even better for him this season, given Chip Kelly’s reliance in Philadelphia on the TE in the passing game.
The former 2nd-rounder should benefit from the 49ers’ lack of offensive playmakers, and could be primed to bust out if Gabbert can hold onto the job. He’s going undrafted in many leagues, but he’s a guy that could be claimed by many on the waiver-wire if he has a big Week 1.
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