Fantasy Football Sleepers and Busts at Each Skill Position

The mayhem is back, welcome! The time of year that all wives, girlfriends, and anyone not concerned about football, hates. It is the time of the year where us men are incumbent to spend our Saturdays and Sundays on the couch, fixed to the TV. The only four-month stretch where not only Saturday’s are for the boys, but Sunday’s as well. We get to yell and scream until our voices are gone, and all of the beer in the fridge has vanished. Saturday’s we’ll root on our Alma Matter, and Sunday we’ll hoot and holler for anyone and everyone boasting someone we’ve drafted to a mythical team we’ve created through our computers, and send vulgar and explicit text messages back and forth with our opponents. Any and every top-flight fantasy football general manager knows the importance of finding those lowly sought-after players who have a high ceiling and potential to have a huge year. Equally as important, it is crucial to avoid the players who have generated hype but could experience some serious regression due to the situation they’re currently in. Whether that is an OC change, upgraded offensive weapons playing alongside them, or even a new quarterback. To help guide you to the FF promise land, a land where you have unlimited freedom to bust your boys’ chops and hoist the FF championship trophy for an entire year, we’ve comprised together a list of fantasy football sleepers and busts for you to pounce on and avoid. Draft the former, and you’ll be on your way to glory. Draft the latter, and you’re in for a four-month stretch full of Sunday F-bombs and pillow screaming. Your fate is your choice. Now, just so we’re clear, just because someone is listed as a bust or a sleeper, that does not mean we are saying they will be the best or the worst at their position. It just simply means that we predict they will be better or worse than their average drafted position. Sleepers are generally players you can find later on in your draft, who can provide a serious punch to your stat-line. A bust is someone who generally gets drafted early on, but it turns out there are better options on the board that you can draft later on. Below you’ll find the players who will make or break your season. You can thank me later for bringing the fantasy football championship hardware to your living room and your wife being annoyed at your most prized position sitting on her coffee table for an entire year.

QUARTERBACKS – SLEEPERS

Marcus Mariota – QB – Tennessee Titans

Just two years ago Mariota was considered one of the best young fantasy players in the game, and his dual-threat ability created chaos for the defense. This past season, however, was a different story, Mariota struggled early and often, finishing the season with more turnovers than touchdowns. A large percentage of Mariota’s struggles are credited to medieval play calling, something HC Mike Vrabel has been adamant on adapting. OC Matt LaFleur has vouched to tailor the offense to Mariota’s skill set, and in return, Mariota will shine.

Philip Rivers – QB – Los Angeles Chargers

It’s becoming a common occurrence these days in the Fantasy Football for Philip Rivers to go undrafted. Since being the full-time starter for the Chargers in 2006, there hasn’t been a season where Rivers has failed to throw for at least 20 touchdowns. Not one. Rivers has been up and down the past few seasons as far as consistent production goes. However, a large part of his struggles has to be credited to the lack of weapons he had in his arsenal. That’s no longer the case. The Chargers are loaded! Melvin Gordon is one of the premier backs in this league. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have potential to be one of the most dynamic duos at the wide receiver position, and Virgil Green is a very talented TE. Expect a huge year from Rivers in his new city, Los Angeles.

Patrick Mahomes – QB – Kansas City Chiefs

Ladies and gentlemen, I now introduce you to the strongest arm in the NFL. Mahomes can flat out let it air. Don’t believe me? Check out the clip of his 69yd bomb he threw in his second preseason game. A bomb he later said he “short-armed.” Yes, we’re aware it is his first season as a starter in this league. But, for virtually your last round selection, he’s worth a draft and stash, as he touts tremendous upside. If Mahomes can remain patient, and play within Andy Reid’s system, he could put up huge numbers, making a late round steal. Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreke Hill might be the most explosive RB/WR/TE trio in the NFL. You get those guys the ball, and they’ll do the rest. Mahomes’ statistics will be the beneficiary.

QB – BUSTS

Cam Newton – QB – Carolina Panthers

Since Cam’s Superbowl run and MVP finish in 2015, he’s been regarded and drafted as a top-flight QB by most of all fantasy GM’s. However, his numbers don’t back that theory up. In 2015 Newton put up 45 total touchdowns and was the most prolific fantasy option at the QB position. Since then, he hasn’t eclipsed 26tds in a season. After multiple concussions, Newton has tapered his running habits. Newton’s arm was never his strength, however, his dual-threat prowess made him a matchup nightmare. With Newton scrambling less and less, defenses are keying in on his arm and forcing him to make throws into tight windows; something Cam struggles to do consistently. Cam is still an effective fantasy player, but no longer should be regarded as a top-tier player.

Dak Prescott – QB – Dallas Cowboys

Prescott is solid NFL quarterback. He’s a gritty player who will leave it all on the line and grind out wins for your ball club. That’s the issue, he’s a gritty, grinder, and those type players aren’t necessarily fantasy football studs. Mix that DNA with the lack of weapons, and it’s easy to see Dak finishing low 20s for production at his position. The Cowboys won’t ask Prescott to do too much, and in return, his statistics will follow suit. Don’t let one anomaly of a performance pull you into the trap. Do not draft Prescott.

Carson Wentz – QB – Philadelphia Eagles

Had Carson Wentz not suffered a season-ending knee injury this past year, there’s a good chance he was going to go on and win the MVP. His explosive arm combined with his pocket presence and ability to escape pressure reeked havoc for defensive coordinators last year. Wentz catapulted himself to the top of the FF QB pecking order, and with good cause. However, fresh off a serious knee surgery and missing the past 8 months, we advise you to draft cautiously. There is a good chance that Wentz hinders his scrambling habits a bit and it is also highly likely he has accumulated some rust. Wentz will have a solid season, but not a top-5 fantasy production like his average draft position is predicting.

RUNNING BACKS – SLEEPERS

Rashaad Penny – RB – Seattle Seahawks

Penny was an absolute monster during his senior campaign at San Diego State. He led the nation in rushing racking up more than 2,200 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, and also led the nation in yards per attempt with over seven yards per carry. A projected 3rd round pick, Penny found himself getting drafted number 27th overall by the Seattle Seahawks. Since the parting with current Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle has struggled to find any production on the ground, and have been forced to rely solely on Russell Wilson. With HC Pete Carroll determined to get back to becoming a run-first football team, Penny should be in for a heavy workload. Penny is regarded as a 2nd to 3rd RB, but a heavy workload and finding the end zone could produce RB1 type numbers for the rookie. Don’t shy away; Penny has the talent and skill set to be a very dynamic player right out of the gate.

Kerryon Johnson – RB – Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions rushing struggles have been well documented. The Lions haven’t had a 100 yard rusher in a single game since 2013, and Stafford has only had a 100-yard rusher a total of seven times in his career. Detroit, welcome Kerryon Johnson, your 2nd round draft pick, who is here to break the spell and deliver some huge games. The coaching staff has already raved about Johnson’s 3-down ability he’s been displaying throughout camp. The former Auburn Tiger and All-SEC RB has the size, speed, and strength to be an every-down back in the NFL, something the Lions desperately need. Theo Riddick is a great receiver, and LeGarrette Blount is too old to carry the rushing load himself nowadays. As the season wears on, the Lions will rely more and more on the rookie Johnson. You can find him available late in your draft, much like Alvin Kamara of the Saints from this past season. Draft and stash Johnson, and as the season wears on; you’ll be extremely satisfied that you did.

Jerick McKinnon – RB – San Francisco 49ers

Last season’s midseason trade for Jimmy G made the 49ers relevant again, as he went 7-0 to end the year. This offseason San Fran has made it a primary focus to bring in more skill players for Jimmy G to utilize. Insert Jerick McKinnon here. McKinnon has consistently shown the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, and also produce electrifying plays when he’s given a chance. However, he’s been the victim of playing in a crowded backfield, and never really had the opportunity to be the number one back. San Fran believes in the hype as they signed him to one of the most lucrative running back contracts in the league this offseason. Mckinnon’s ADP is currently slotted as the 15th running back drafted. Playing alongside Jimmy G, and under a great offensive mind in Kyle Shanahan, look for Mckinnon to put up fantasy running back tier-1 numbers. His dual-threat ability as a pass-catcher and a rusher will cause nightmares for defenses, and his heavy workload will only strengthen his production. Draft him early and often in PPR leagues and standard format.

RB – BUSTS

Jay Ajayi – RB – Philadelphia Eagles

It was not long ago that this Boise State product busted into fantasy football relevance with his back-to-back 200yd rushing performances for the Miami Dolphins. After receiving a considerable workload as the primary back in the Miami for two seasons, he was traded midseason last year to the Philadelphia Eagles. With chronic knee problems and a crowded backfield, don’t expect much from Ajayi this season. Being drafted as an RB2 on average across all leagues, we advise you to stay away. The Eagles have immense talent in their backfield, and the emergence of last year’s rookie Corey Clement will steal the spotlight from Ajayi. While he may still be worthy of the short yardage carries and in the red zone, we don’t expect much else from Ajayi. Stay away.

LeSean McCoy – RB – Buffalo Bills

If you look at the past eight seasons as a whole, McCoy has been one of the most dominant backs in the league. His agility and explosion have been among the best at his position, and his ability to cut on a dime has had defenders diving at open air. However, McCoy’s first years in the league he was a part of an ultra-explosive offense in Philly, and then a large workload the past few seasons in Buffalo. McCoy is coming up to that age where running backs generally start tailing off hard, and McCoy being smaller, already has a history of battling with injuries. He’ll be the workhorse on one of the worst offensive units in the NFL this season, the workhorse on a team who has probably the worst crop of quarterbacks in the entire association. While McCoy still probably has some gas left in the tank at 30yrs old, defenses are going to stack the box and force Buffalo to beat them through the air. A shaky injury history, small frame, and a stacked box don’t vouch well for Shady’s ability to stay healthy or productive for an entire season. McCoy is being selected at 26th overall on average. You can find better there.

Marshawn Lynch – RB – Oakland Raiders

While we expect Marshawn to have a solid season, we do not expect for him to live up the hype many analysts are predicting. I guess a change at the HC position and the drafting of two offensive linemen can turn around Father Time these days. The reality is that Lynch is now 32 years old. He’s never beaten his opponents with speed or elusiveness, but rather with brute force and sheer power. At 32 it will be tough for Lynch to manage the workload he once did in his younger days, and his body won’t handle the punishment an NFL running back absorbs from game-to-game the same. Lynch is being drafted as an RB2; we advise you to stay away and only draft him if he’s available when you’re picking your RB3.

WIDE RECEIVERS – SLEEPERS

Corey Davis – WR – Tennessee Titans

Last year’s number 5 overall pick had about as big of a disaster a rookie season as one could have. From battling injuries all season long to playing in an offense that lacked any innovation, Davis could never quite get things going, nor could the offense as a whole. With a new coaching staff in the office, and a more up-tempo, spread style offense, Davis will flourish. If Davis can stay healthy, he should wind up as Mariota’s number one option. Davis has the NFL frame, speed, and ability to thrive in the right system. Any time you can draft a potential number one weapon late in the draft, you have to do it, and Corey Davis is that guy this season.

Josh Doctson – WR – Washington Redskins

The former collegiate all-American and nation’s best receiver came into the NFL with loads of hype and expectations. An Achilles injury caused Doctson to miss almost his entire rookie season. This past season started off slow, but by the end of the season, Doctson showed his incredible ball skills and red zone ability that led to the Redskins drafting him in the first round of 2016 as he reeled in 6 touchdowns. With new QB Alex Smith in town, expect a breakout year from Docston. Smith is a more accurate, and smarter red zone quarterback than Cousins was, and Docston will benefit mightily from that.

Kenny Golladay – WR – Detroit Lions

Golladay will be lining up on Sunday’s in one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. Stafford has never been afraid to throw up jump balls for his receivers to have a shot at bringing in, and at 6’4” 220lbs, Golladay will have his fair share of opportunities. With Eric Ebron out, Golladay has real potential to become the Lions primary red zone threat. If he can stay healthy, ten touchdowns are for a player you can find late in the draft is not an unrealistic achievement. Swing away, and reap the benefits, this guy is a physical freak.

WR – BUSTS

Jarvis Landry – WR – Cleveland Browns

Jarvis Landry is very talented. He’s the record holder for the most catches by anyone ever in their first four seasons. While no one will deny Landry’s talent, one can confidently say that he will not receive the same amount of opportunities as he did in MIA. Let’s face it, he has far more talent around him here in Cleveland to spread the wealth around to, and he also is now playing alongside a QB in Tyrod Taylor who will not force nearly as many throws as his former Miami quarterbacks did. Landry will have a solid season, but he won’t put up WR1 numbers as his ADP predicts. Use the pick on someone with a higher ceiling, and only risk a pick on Jarvis if he’s available still when you’re ready to draft your WR2.

Adam Thielen – WR – Minnesota Vikings

Thielen exploded onto the scene down the stretch of the 2016 season, and then followed that up with a stellar 2017 season. Thielen is being drafted on average as the #11 overall receiver. With two other top-10 fantasy position teammates on the roster in Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph, along with budding superstar Stefon Diggs playing alongside him, expect his 2017 numbers to regress. Also, the new sheriff in town, Kirk Cousins, will spread the ball around more than Case Keenum did. Thielen will have a solid season in 2018, but you can find more productive with the 11th receiver taken, and we advise you to take that route.

Michael Crabtree – WR – Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco hasn’t exactly been an offensive guru from the QB position as of late, and one of the worst red zone quarterbacks overall throughout his career, a spot on the field Crabtree has thrived in throughout his. Crabtree has never really been considered a down the field threat, but his ability to be a primary red-zone target and decent position receiver have kept him relevant in fantasy value. You can do better than an aging wide receiver playing alongside a lousy red zone QB as your WR2 fantasy receiver.

TIGHT ENDS – SLEEPERS

OJ Howard – TE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Howard is a physical freak who has no weaknesses in his game. It took him a little bit to get acclimated to the NFL as a rookie last season, and he was playing behind a fellow stud in Cameron Brate. Coming into camp this year as the number 1 option, and on the receiving end of a QB who isn’t shy to throw the ball, expect Howard to put up top-10 fantasy numbers this season. He finished the final eight games of last year with five touchdowns. Expect him to catch closer to 10 this season, and emerge as Jameis Winston’s security blanket underneath.

Virgil Green – TE – Los Angeles Chargers

Hunter Henry would have anchored our second TE sleeper spot, but a torn ACL in training camp will sideline him for the entire 2018 season. So, insert his teammate, Virgil Green. Philip Rivers has a history of having a strong connection with his TE’s. Just ask Antonio Gates, he only holds the NFL record for most TDs by a Tight End with 112. Gates played his entire career with Rivers. For a guy who is going undrafted in most leagues, Green could be a big sleeper after acquiring the starting job. Rivers will air it out, and Green will be operating in the middle of the seams, somewhere Rivers loves to throw often. Green could wind up as that fantasy dark horse by default. Don’t miss your chance to scoop him up while you can.

Trey Burton – TE – Chicago Bears

Burton made some key plays last season along the Eagles Championship run, including his touchdown pass to QB Nick Foles in the Superbowl. Burton has always shown the skill set to be a #1 TE option; the problem was that he played alongside all-world TE Zach Ertz. The move to Chicago could see Burton blossom, as he will be coached by Matt Nagy, who was Kansas City’s OC for past few seasons. Nagy’s offense features TE Travis Kelce heavily, something we should see the same of in Chicago with Burton. Nagy has already publicly spoken, saying he plans to use Burton all over the field this season, and you saw that in their preseason game against the Broncos. Burton could be in for a huge year.

TE – BUSTS

Jordan Reed – TE – Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed’s issue has never been a lack of talent. If we ranked players on skill alone, Reed would be one of the top two or three Tight Ends in the league; the guy can flat out do everything. The issue with the former Florida Gator product is his health. Reed has struggled in just about every season of his professional career to stay healthy. Take that into account, along with hall-of-famer Vernon Davis on the roster and Reed might see a setback in the production asked of him this upcoming season. The Redskins are expected you use him more sparingly to try and avoid injuries, and that game plan will directly reflect his season stats. Don’t draft him on his talent; draft him on what is expected. He is not a top-10 TE this season.

Evan Engram – TE – New York Giants

Engram had the best fantasy numbers of any rookie TE in the last 30yrs this past season. Engram is a matchup nightmare, capable of exploding at any moment. However, with OBJ back and healthy, and the addition of Saquon Barkley, the opportunities are simply going to decrease. Beckham Jr. has a career average of over 10-targets per game, and Barkley is expected to be utilized heavily in the passing game. While Engram’s talent warrants a top flight TE selection, his expected workload says he’s a borderline top-10 player.

Jack Doyle – TE – Indianapolis Colts

Doyle needed 108 targets last season to produce a mediocre 690 yards and four touchdowns. The addition of Eric Ebron from the Detroit Lions this offseason hinders Doyle’s 2018 outlook significantly. Ebron and Doyle are virtually the same type of player, except Ebron has more size, speed, and strength. We expect Ebron to emerge as the #1 TE for Luck and this Colts offense, leaving Doyle to take the backseat. A backup TE you play on a week your starter is on a bye may be suitable, but nothing more for Doyle this season.

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