This is one of our favorite times of the year. After working hard to produce content all off-season, we can finally look forward to the 2015 Fantasy Football season in our beloved dynasty leagues – that means it’s time for our annual fantasy predictions. We gathered a ton opinions from the DLF Team and compiled eight different articles for the upcoming fantasy year. The categories were as follows:
We’re covering the fantasy sleepers today and will bring you another category every day until the season starts. Trust me, it’s better this way. Otherwise, you’d have a 45-page, 17,500 word novella to go through this morning and that’s a lot, even for avid DLFers. If you’re really into sleepers, make sure you check out our annual Summer Sleeper series, where we chose a sleeper from each and every team in the NFL.
Let’s get to the sleepers!
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Ryan Mathews, RB PHI
Mathews is good. I don’t care how many times he’s burned you, he’s still a talented player. DeMarco Murray was fragile before last season and then he was then ridden into the ground in Dallas. Even if Murray lasts the whole year, Mathews will be a solid flex play. The Eagles ran it the seventh-most times last year and Mathews will get plenty of work.
Eddie Royal, WR CHI
To be a true fantasy sleeper in my book, you need to have an ADP in the 15th round or later in 12-team leagues. Royal definitely fits that bill. With all the issues the Bears are having at receiver, I think Royal is going to be a bit part this year. He should approach 75 receptions and 1,000 yards this year, assuming the injury bug doesn’t bite him, too.
Tyler Eifert, TE CIN
With the tight end position as murky as ever after Rob Gronkowski, Eifert has the potential to finish inside the top five at the position. He played just eight snaps in 2014 before dislocating his elbow and missing the season. He is the legitimate second receiving option on the Bengals and a safety valve for Andy Dalton. If you’re looking for this year’s Greg Olsen, check him out.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR TEN
I feel like I’m going out on a limb with this one. If you aren’t going on a limb for a sleeper, you aren’t doing it right. Green-Beckham has more raw talent and size then most players can dream of. If he puts it all together he could really break out as soon as this year.
Eddie Royal, WR CHI
With 7th overall pick Kevin White slated to miss some time, Royal is the WR2 in Chicago for now. The “training camp MVP” will look to build on a 2014 season that was his best since his rookie year in 2008, back when we all rode on dinosaurs.
Devonta Freeman, RB ATL
This may be a major dart, but if I’m picking a sleeper, I’m picking a real sleeper. Atlanta drafted Tevin Coleman in the third round this year, but I happen to believe Coleman, though talented, is a poor fit for Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Freeman, on the other hand, has a good deal of experience in a scheme much like Shanny’s from his time at Florida State. I don’t think he ever got a real shot last year and I believe he could really surprise people.
Jonas Gray, RB NE
A week 11 hero in 2014 with a 200-yard, four touchdown performance against the Colts, Gray was barely heard from again after he overslept and missed a practice. He will start week one against the Steelers because of the one game suspension for LeGarrette Blount. It’s impossible to predict what Belichik is going to do week-to-week but Gray could play himself back into his coach’s good graces with a big performance against the Steelers.
Zach Zenner, RB DET
At some point, Detroit will realize Zenner is not only healthier and less prone to getting dinged up than Joique Bell, but he’s also a much better inside runner with some gaudy collegiate stats. While this is a bit of a homer pick (Zenner and I share an alma mater), I dare you to watch tape (either collegiate or preseason) of him and not get at least feel a tinge of excitement.
Ryan Mathews, RB PHI
It seems most fantasy players want to wash themselves of Mathews after many injury riddled, disappointing years of failed expectations. For less than 24 hours, it looked like Mathews would be the starting running back for the Eagles, but that hope was squashed when DeMarco Murray was signed the next day. Mathews is a talented running back and could still get enough touches to be a viable flex play. If Murray gets injured, Mathews would be an instant RB1. Mathews is the RB41 per MFL ADP and RB44 per DLF ADP. There’s not much to lose in taking a flier on Mathews at those prices.
Bishop Sankey, RB TEN
What are we looking for in a sleeper? In this day and age, there are no more players who owners haven’t heard of (thanks DLF!), so a forgotten, disrespected and under-appreciated sophomore fits the bill for me. I was higher on Sankey than most as a rookie (1b to Carlos Hyde’s 1a), and while one of them has remained in the top 50 without doing anything at all, the other has dropped out of the top 100 in a year where he was thrust into a terrible situation. I believe Marcus Mariota’s impact on the Titans will be huge and extend to the running game. We have also seen backs like Sankey (LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook) start slow and pick it up after having time to develop.
Allen Hurns, WR JAX
Quick, which rookie receiver led the Jacksonville Jaguars in yards and touchdowns? Nope, it was Allen Hurns (don’t pretend you knew that). With Cecil Shorts gone and Marqise Lee struggling to adapt to the professional game, Hurns could be a viable bye-week option and he’s practically free in some leagues.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB BAL
The recent knee injury has taken Taliaferro completely off the map and raised the profile of Buck Allen. While I like Allen, I don’t see him as ready to assume lead back duties if anything happens to the 30-year old Forsett. Taliaferro acquitted himself well in limited action last year and reportedly looks slimmer and more explosive this fall. He is one of my favorite late round/low auction dollar values.
Bishop Sankey, RB, TEN
Currently sitting at an ADP of 102(!), Sankey is my candidate for a major sleeper. All but lost in most running back conversations, he has looked electric in the preseason so far. I worry not about David Cobb and think they are committed to Sankey leading the team in rushing. I’m looking for him to make the next step.
Eddie Royal, WR CHI
Eddie Royal’s August ADP placed him as the WR88, sandwiched between Jeff Janis (WR87) and Duron Carter (WR89), the second of which will likely spend 2015 on a practice squad. With Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett around, he’ll have competition for targets but given the Bears’ terrible defense, he should garner plenty of targets this year and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he finishes as a top 24 fantasy wide receiver.
Latavius Murray, RB OAK
His ADP is 65 and he’s the 22nd running back off the board. Why? Somehow, some folks can look me in the face (what that really means is Twitter) and say, “I’d rather have CJ Spiller or Gio Bernard over Murray.” How?! Latavius is a three down back with no competition for primary duties in an up and coming offense with tremendous physical upside. He legitimately has the potential to be a to -five dynasty running back. Every year players make the leap into RB1 territory and out of all the players currently sitting outside the Top-12, I actually think he’s the best bet to make it. To illustrate how easy it can be to make the jump, TJ Yeldon is currently in the Top-12 and he hasn’t had a meaningful NFL snap, not to mention he plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Murray isn’t just sleeping, he’s hibernating. Go wake the bear and let him get that honey.
Devin Funchess, WR CAR
Last season, Kelvin Benjamin was the Panthers only real receiving threat outside of Greg Olsen. According to FF Calculator, his final ADP prior to the season ended up being pick 7.12 in PPR leagues. With Benjamin out, Funchess now steps into his role as the team’s WR1. Funchess’ ADP is currently pick 9.02 in PPR leagues. Grabbing him in the seventh to ninth rounds could provide you with amazing value for a player with the potential to finish as a WR2 for fantasy.
Brian Quick, WR STL
Another category. Another nomination for Quick. He has very good athleticism for his 6’4″ 220 pound frame, including a 40 in the 4.55 range, and an exceptional first step. He is big, physical, and finally, after three seasons, developing into an NFL caliber receiver. After starting the season on a 84/1,288/12 pace over the first four games, Quick’s targets inexplicably dried up before his year ended with a significant shoulder injury. Now healthy, I expect him to pick up where he left off.
Jeff Levy (Jeff Miller’s brainwash victim?)
Brian Quick, WR STL
I would like to pick one of my two favorite late-round rookie running backs here, Zach Zenner or Josh Robinson, but they’ve both generated a lot of buzz, so I’ll avoid the easy picks and go with Quick. Last season I believe he was actually throwing the ball to himself before his injury, yet still was on pace for almost 900 yards before his shoulder injury. And that’s with two games of ten yards mixed in! Nick Foles may not be confused with anyone in the Manning family any time soon, but he’s a massive upgrade at quarterback. Combine that with Tre Mason and Todd Gurley keeping defenses honest (nearly all of Quick’s 2014 production came with Zac Stacy lining up in the backfield) and Quick has a lot of upside relative to his ADP of 110.
Charles Johnson, WR MIN
I have enjoyed watching Teddy Bridgewater this preseason and it appears Charles Johnson is the direction Bridgewater likes to go. This looks like another case of developing a quarterback and wide receiver together to me. Johnson is a great story of a player beating the odds and becoming a star, as he has been kicked around more than a used tire.
Leonard Hankerson, WR ATL
Amazing what a change of scenery and change of quarterback can do for a wideout. As a Redskin, Hankerson flashed potential. His success being directly proportional to that of Robert Griffin’s, the wideout was never able to breakout. His best season was Griffin’s rookie campaign, when he parlayed 57 targets into 38 receptions and 543 yards, scoring three times on the year. Seeing the writing on the wall, Hankerson made a fantastic career decision, taking a one year “prove it” deal to play with Matt Ryan and the Falcons. There, he will truly get to display his skills on a team with a quarterback who will deliver the ball accurately and on time, and an uber-elite wide receiver to draw the away the tough coverage. The diminishing health of Roddy White is another major plus for Hankerson’s odds of a starring role. As I am writing this, White is recovering from elbow surgery; the most recent in a growing list of maladies that have side tracked his stellar career. While Quintorris Lopez Jones (you can call him Julio for short since only his Momma calls him Quintorris) has only played an entire season once in his four year career and never started a full 16, there’s a very real possibility Hankerson winds up being a major cog in the Falcons offense. Forget about ADP, he won’t even be drafted in most leagues. So you can wise up and get ahead of the curve or suffer in succotash on the week two waiver wire, when that dude in your league who scavenges all the good free agents scoops him up. I’m talking to you Sal.
P.S. If I’m wrong about Hankerson, it’s only because rookie Justin Hardy rose up and stole the show.
Kony Ealy, DE CAR
Here we find another young defender whose situation is a perfect storm for fantasy purposes. The 4-3 defensive end is perhaps the most coveted and most difficult to acquire position in all of IDP. Ealy is in prime position to become a strong week-in, week-out player. Unfortunately his veteran teammate Frank Alexander recently suffered a torn achilles tendon and will miss the entire 2015 season, leaving the door wide open for Ealy to make his impact. He has been violent and incredibly active thus far in the preseason. His arrow is pointing straight up.
Doug Martin, RB TB
This has become a pretty sexy pick in the last week with Martin flashing his old 2012 self in a pre-season game against the Bengals. I think the offense is right in Tampa to finally showcase the muscle hamster. His current ADP is like stealing.
Kenny Britt, WR STL
So cheap, still young at 26 and finally healthy. Arguably the most talented player outside of Todd Gurley on the St. Louis offense, Britt will build off his second best season with the best quarterback he’s ever had.
Aaron Dobson, WR NE
The signing of Reggie Wayne creates the illusion Dobson is blocked by a bunch of talented receivers. He is the best receiver on the team at stretching the defense. He demonstrated he has the ability to be a productive wide receiver during his rookie season. Dobson can flash again this season, all he has to do is get healthy.
Jeremy Maclin, WR KC
When I bought my first copy of Madden, one of the notes included was, “Just because a guy is fast doesn’t mean you have to throw it deep every time. You can throw it shallow to a burner and let him run.” That’s a strategy the Chiefs can employ with Maclin and earn you plenty of points.
Keenan Allen, WR SD
Why shouldn’t this be his year? Antonio Gates will sit four games due to PED use and Philip Rivers is still going to sling that ball all year long. Allen could be a WR1 but usually is taken on a fantasy team’s WR2 or WR3 spot.
Chris Ivory, RB NYJ
Trust…the…usage. I don’t care about preseason statistics, but I definitively care about discerning coaches’ preferences, especially when they’re fresh to the job. Todd Bowles doesn’t seem like one to mess around and when it comes to Ivory, mess around he hasn’t. Ivory has exerted a virtual monopoly on first team usage, even catching a few passes here and there. He’s long been one of my favorite players and now with Brandon Marshall and Devin Smith in the fold on a Chan Gailey-led offense, he actually has some competence to work with. He’s a sneaky bet for top-15 production, but can be had for a fraction of that price.
In case you’re counting, that gives us the following votes:
Eddie Royal (3 votes)
Ryan Mathews (2 votes)
Bishop Sankey (2 votes)
Tyler Eifert (1 vote)
Dorial Green-Beckham (1 vote)
Devonta Freeman (1 vote)
Jonas Gray (1 vote)
Zach Zenner (1 vote)
Allen Hurns (1 vote)
Latavius Murray (1 vote)
Devin Funchess (1 vote)
Brian Quick (1 vote)
Charles Johnson (1 vote)
Leonard Hankerson (1 vote)
Doug Martin (1 vote)
Kenny Britt (1 vote)
Aaron Dobson (1 vote)
Keenan Allen (1 vote)
Chris Ivory (1 vote)
…and a shout out to Kony Ealy from Tyler, who went outside the box to take the IDP angle for us this year.
So, who do you predict will be this year’s fantasy football sleeper? Let us know in the comments below.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
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