DLF’s 2017 Predictions: Rookie Sleeper of the Year

Ken Kelly

Most rookie drafts are in the rearview mirror and the NFL Preseason is winding down. We’re all busy combing the news sites trying to keep abreast of all the important developments as we prepare for the best time of the year, the NFL season.  That can only mean one thing – it’s time for us to put a bow on those reams of off-season content with DLF’s 2017 Fantasy Predictions. As we do every year, we have several different prediction articles for you in the following categories:

  • Fantasy MVP
  • Fantasy Rookie of the Year
  • Sleeper Rookie of the Year (outside our top 24)
  • Bust of the Year
  • Fantasy Sleeper
  • Best Dynasty Buy
  • Best Dynasty Sell
  • Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year

We continue the series with our choices for Rookie Sleeper of the Year. Players selected for this category had to be outside the top 24 of our rookie ADP at the time of voting.

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Jonnu Smith, TE TEN

Since the preseason began, many rookies have put themselves on the dynasty map with their impressive play. The challenge for us, not to mention the decision makers on each NFL team, is figuring out if this high level of play is legit and can continue into the regular season. Looking down our current rookie ranks, players like Cooper Kupp, Jamaal Williams, De’Angelo Henderson and even the unranked Chris Carson have demanded our attention with their play and could be called sleepers.

I’ll go in another direction though, with Titans rookie tight end Jonnu Smith. We all know rookie tight ends rarely produce and we also know veteran Delanie Walker has been one of the most consistent fantasy options over the past few years. With that said, there’s just something about Smith that stands out and I think the Titans will have to find a way to get him on the field. He remains more likely to be a long-term investment, but he’s a dark horse sleeper option for 2017. – Ryan McDowell

Elijah McGuire, RB NYJ

With Matt Forte and Bilal Powell constantly banged up, McGuire has shined in camp. He can be a reliable three-down back if given the opportunity. There should be plenty of garbage time looks for the young back. Anthony Santigate

Wayne Gallman, RB NYG

I’m not convinced the duo of Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen have the confidence of the Giants coaching staff. While Gallman isn’t quite as talented as Vereen in the passing game, he’s a better runner than Perkins and could make an immediate impact if given the opportunity. Vereen has struggled with staying healthy and Perkins hasn’t shown much with the chances he’s been given. – Eric Dickens

Jamaal Williams, RB GB

This pick is predicated 100% on the concerns that I have over Ty Montgomery’s ability to stay on the field.  I love Montgomery’s game but seriously doubt that he knows all of the nuances of the game necessary to avoid taking big hits as a running back after his recent conversion.  Meanwhile, Williams is the best non-Montgomery running back on the team and is poised to gobble up the majority of the workload if Montgomery were to go down.  This offense will hum no matter who is in at running back, and Williams could be the beneficiary. – Trevor Bucher

De’Angelo Henderson, RB DEN

Henderson is a 5’7’’, 208 pound bowling ball with enough wiggle, speed (4.8/40) and athleticism to make him very dangerous, especially once he hits the second level. A Coastal Carolina darling, Henderson has questionable competition to overcome in order to carve out a major offensive role.  That questionable competition consists of an underwhelming and often injured C.J. Anderson, a second year enigma named Devontae Booker and the once great, now brittle relic Jamaal Charles. So basically we’re looking at a committee made up of fragile and faulty alternatives until Henderson takes the lead role. – Leo Paciga

Jamaal Williams, RB GB

The Packers are lacking a power back, that’s where Jamaal comes in with his bruiser style running.  I’m not a firm believer in Montgomery and can definitely see roles reversed where Jamaal takes care of early downs and Montgomery becomes change of pace back or lines up at slot receiver.  – Bee Salamat

Cooper Kupp, WR LAR

I’m going off-the-radar just a bit with this selection.  There are sexier picks with better odds here, but Kupp’s role is nearly guaranteed, the Rams have added a big name receiver (Sammy Watkins) and the new offense should should be a perfect fit for a safety-net receiver like Kupp.  I wont’ be surprised to see Kupp eclipse 70 receptions and six touchdowns as a rookie.  Either would be impressive for the young receiver. – Jeff Haverlack

De’Angelo Henderson, RB DEN

De’Angelo Henderson, a sixth round pick from Coastal Carolina is getting first team reps in Denver. He managed 54 yards and one touchdown in their first preseason game. I root for all UDFAs, but C.J Anderson continues to look more like Brandon Oliver circa 2014. Henderson’s an athletic player on a quietly uncertain depth chart with a 94th percentile College Dominator rating. Kenny Golladay gets an honorable mention. – Peter Howard

De’Angelo Henderson, RB DEN

After the NFL draft, Henderson was completely off of most people’s radar (including mine.) He’s made everyone notice since then with his preseason play. Between that, Booker’s injury and CJ Anderson’s inconsistency, there’s a clear path for fantasy relevance this season. . – Nick Canzanese

Jamaal Williams, RB GB

Once you get outside the top-24 rookies, it’s not easy to find a path to 2017 playing time for a lot of these players. With Williams, all it takes is either poor performance by or an injury (something which has already happened) to Ty Montgomery for the rookie back to see significant snaps in one of the NFL’s elite offenses. Opportunity is about 95 percent of the battle for running backs, and Williams could see big-time volume this fall. – Austan Kas

Cooper Kupp, WR LAR

Kupp is on track to win the slot wide receiver role in Coach Sean McVay’s pass-happy offense. The addition of Sammy Watkins on the perimeter keeps the middle clear of wandering safeties. Kupp scores six touchdowns to go along with 60 receptions. – Curtis Patrick

Trent Taylor, WR SF

Kyle Shanahan admitted that Trent Taylor was his “draft crush” from the recent draft. Taylor has been receiving a lot buzz in OTAs/minicamp and played well in his first preseason game. He even received first team reps when Jeremy Kerley was held out due to injury. Taylor is a solid route runner that fits Shanahan’s offense well. – Kyle Holden

Mack Hollins, WR PHIhollins

There was a steady drum beat for Hollins before the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills. Soon, it’ll sound like your next-door neighbor is having a rave. Hollins has every tool imaginable — size, speed, intensity, and a relentless work ethic — and three of the most inconsistent veterans, (Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, and Alshon Jeffery,) in his way. Carson Wentz will be looking for a new favorite wide receiver with Matthews out of the picture. Hollins will be that guy by season’s end. – Mo Brewington

Cooper Kupp, WR LAR

This is directly correlated with PPR leagues. My pick is Cooper Kupp. Goff is going to be looking for someone to dump the ball off to, and that will be Kupp. He always finds a way to get open, and the addition of Sammy Watkins should only help him. He has the opportunity to perform. He should beat out Robert Woods and be the security blanket Goff will need. – Mike Valverde

Matt Breida, RB SF

We know that Kyle Shanahan likes to use two backs.  Even if Carlos Hyde can play the full season, someone else is going to get touches as a change-of-pace back.  Breida has been getting great reviews and looked powerful and shifty in his preseason debut.  I think people are going to be very, very happy they spent a roster spot on him. – Tom Kislingbury

Mack Hollins, WR PHI

Hollins had a dominating play to start the preseason, breaking multiple tackles for a 38-yard touchdown. While that flash play has me excited, his college play and landing spot has me excited as well. The Eagles have their top two receivers on one-year contract in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, both of whom are injury prone. Nelson Agholor is said to be having a good camp, but he is a believe it when you see it guy.

It will only take one injury or disappointment from any of the top three receivers for Hollins to get thrust into a role he can immediately contribute. Hollins averaged 19.3 yards per catch and 24.8 yards per catch in 2016 and 2015 respectfully. His issue has been staying healthy but he has the body type, measurables, and big play ability of a receiver who can develop into a big threat. – Eliot Crist

Adam Shaheen, TE CHI

There is a growing buzz about Adam Shaheen in Chicago for good reason.  This Jimmy Graham clone has little in his way of competition, and the Bears’ quarterback will need a safety valve.  He has a soft schedule vs tight end defenses. – Bob Brannon

Wayne Gallman, RB NYG

Gallman was selected 140th overall by the Giants and will be competing with Paul Perkins for the lead back role. The Giants don’t have significant capital in Perkins to just hand the job over to him after drafting him 149th overall in the 2016 NFL draft. Look for Gallman to surprise people this year both with his talent and being able to take advantage of the opportunity ahead of him. – Kevin O’Brien

Cooper Kupp, WR LAR

I think way too many people are sleeping on Cooper Kupp. He’s 6’2 and 204 pounds on an offense begging for playmakers, even after the addition of Sammy Watkins. Kupp reminds me of Michael Crabtree who ironically never quite gets the respect he deserves. While Kupp probably won’t ever be a high end WR2 or better, he could deliver on high end WR3 production as soon as this year. I think McVay could use him like he did Pierre Garcon. – Eric Olinger

Samaje Perine, RB WAS

Talent? Check. Opportunity? Check. High-powered offense? Check. As far as 2017 production goes, Perine (a mid-second rounder according to DLF rookie ranks) has about as clear a shot as any player to huge production. – Steve Gill

Josh Reynolds, WR LAR

Trading for Sammy Watkins might cap his value, but before that trade, I’d tell you that Reynolds was the best receiver on that roster. He plays the ball well in the air and excels at contested catches.  – Doug Green

James Conner, RB PITconner

Most of the rookies outside the top 24 are there because they are projects and unlikely to do much for the next year or two. With that said, I think Conner has one of the biggest chances to see a significant gain in value. If he shows well this year when Bell is out, Conner could play himself into a big role next year. – Jacob Feldman

Donnel Pumphrey, RB PHI

He was very productive in college, rushing for 6,405 yards and 99 touchdowns during his four-year collegiate career. Pumphrey is an effective pass catcher out of the backfield who could receive some work in the passing game, equating to PPR success. The stability of Philadelphia’s backfield is in question and he could see a sizable workload later in the year. – Bruce Matson

Cooper Kupp, WR LAR

Kupp is exactly the player Jared Goff needed to help turn his career around. Kupp is a player that will excel in the slot with his route running prowess and has shown the ability to make acrobatic catches in the middle of the field with defenders draped all over him. It remains to be seen if he can play outside, but with Sammy Watkins in town, it’s unlikely he will need to. In terms of targets and receptions, I expect Kupp to finish behind only Watkins. – Matt Price

Taywan Taylor, WR TEN

Marcus Mariota is about to really “happen”, and you’ll want to pick up every piece you can in this offense. With question marks about Corey Davis in the short term because of injury, Taylor could immediately be thrust into a more prominent role, and he’ll make the most of it. For someone who was had the later rounds of rookie drafts, he could be a huge steal. – James Simpson

Josh Malone, WR CIN

The Bengals all of a sudden have quite a few options outside, which limits breakout appeal of their backup receivers.  But I like Malone’s talent and feel he could operate as a legitimate deep threat and offer an upgrade on the veteran Brandon LaFell as a role player in the offense.  While not at the same level, I would not be surprised if we saw some late season payoff a la Martavis Bryant from one of the more gifted fourth round receivers in recent memory. – Rob Willette

Mitch Trubisky, QB CHI

Perhaps a tiny bit of homer-ism here, but I’m very excited by what I’ve seen out of Trubisky thus far, and I just flat don’t see how Mike Glennon can possibly hold him off. He’s shown poise, athleticism, and a great arm already this preseason. I think a lot of the naysayers on this pick will be eating their words come next offseason. – Ryan Finley

Adam Shaheen, TE CHI

A highly athletic project at the right end position, Adam has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham. While I would bet against that ceiling ever coming to fruition, a long and prosperous career seems likely. – Dwayne Brown

Chris Carson, RB SEA

Go big or go home. Carson may not even make the team but has a massive opportunity if he does. I don’t trust Thomas Rawls to be consistent. I don’t trust Eddie Lacy to stay thin. I don’t trust CJ Prosise to stay healthy. Put that all together and you have a player who could carve out an important role on a team that likes to run the ball – not bad for a price tag nowhere near the top half of rookie drafts. – Ken Kelly

Mitchell Trubisky, QB CHI

My favorite rookie outside our top-24 in ADP is Jake Butt, but he isn’t likely to get much run until 2018. That leaves me with Mitchell Trubisky. Unfairly maligned due to the Bears paying a mint to move up when they probably didn’t have to, Trubisky could actually be really good. The lack of a deep college resume is a concern, but that is about the only thing that worries me with the rookie signal caller. It could be tough for him to get on the field, what with the stubborn John Fox insisting Mike Glennon is their guy, but if he does, I’m optimistic he will impress out of the gate. – Jeff Miller

Jamaal Williams, GB RB

Williams is able to be selected in the second to third round of most rookie drafts but he has the potential to take over a large chunk of the Packers’ backfield carries displacing Montgomery as the lead running back. Williams’ rookie ADP to potential production makes him a huge value not only this year but going forward as well. – The FF Ghost

ArDarius Stewart, WR NYJ

This was an easy choice for me. Stewart is exactly the kind of player you want when your receiver core is depleted or traded away and your starting quarterbacks are less than optimal. He’s a no-nonsense, in-the-muck, happy-to-take-a-hit safety valve receiver. I expect him to push for playing time early and crush in PPR leagues. – Adam Tzikas

Corey Clement, RB PHI

Philadelphia has as muddy a backfield as any team in the NFL, so it should be no surprise that there are rumblings that undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement may force the Eagles’ hand and push both Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount off the team. With only ancient receiving back Darren Sproles and pure scatback Donnel Pumphrey besides, Clement could be a big surprise. – Joe Redemann

Gerald Everett, TE LAR

Though Everett was selected in the second round of many rookie drafts, particularly more frequently as the weeks passed, he still sits outside the top 24 rookies in dynasty ADP. Given his draft stock from a new regime that loves using the tight end, especially when the team had much more glaring needs, Everett is my choice to lead rookie tight ends in targets. While the position historically takes longer to realize fantasy production, I’ll take his upside this season over those of his third round peers. – Jaron Foster

The Final Vote Count

  • Cooper Kupp – 5 votes
  • Jamaal Williams – 4
  • De’Angelo Henderson – 3
  • Wayne Gallman, Mack Hollins, Adam Shaheen, Mitchell Trubisky – 2
  • Jonnu Smith, Elijah McGuire, Trent Taylor, Matt Breida, Samaje Perine, Josh Reynolds, James Conner, Donnel Pumphrey, Taywan Taylor, Josh Malone, Chris Carson, ArDarius Stewart, Corey Clement, Gerald Everett – 1


ken kelly