Top 10 fantasy football sleepers for 2016
Dec 6, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (17) dives into the end zone to score a touchdown after a reception during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 42-39. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football will be here before owners know it. Everyone knows the stars, but who are the top 10 sleepers that’ll get you over the top?
While the talk of the town will be who do you draft with the first overall pick, Adrian Peterson or Le’Veon Bell? Spoiler alert, that decision won’t be the reason you either win or lose your fantasy football championship.
Related Story: Top 10 fantasy football quarterbacks for 2016
No in fact, the difference will be what you do in the rest of the fantasy football draft, in-particular, the later rounds.
Make no mistake about it, these sleepers will be some of the main reasons why fantasy owners will be on top of their respective leagues. From having high yardage games to even some with several touchdowns, they will be difference makers in 2016.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 fantasy football sleepers you should keep an eye on come draft day.
Next: 10. A tight end who doesn't get enough credit
Aug 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) makes a catch during warmups before the start of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
10. New York Jets: TE, Jace Amaro
Now this is the sleeper, of sleeper picks in the 2016 fantasy football draft. Jace Amaro of the New York Jets is entering his third season in the NFL and has all the potential in the world.
He didn’t get to play last year due to a shoulder injury, but he’s been looking great in camp thus far. The Jets had one of the worst statistical cumulative tight end numbers of all time last season.
They can flip the script in 2016 with the big bodied Amaro, especially as a red zone threat. The tight end pool is top heavy with Rob Gronkowski and a bunch of other players.
In terms of value, you won’t find a better tight end than Amaro. He’s worth a look at the tail-end of your fantasy draft and should be available in the last several rounds. Amaro could provide north of 40+ receptions with 500+ yards receiving and five to seven touchdowns as a floor.
Next: 9. Often injured, often forgot about
Dec 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs for a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
9. Miami Dolphins: RB, Jay Ajayi
What other running back has the opportunity that Jay Ajayi has here with the Miami Dolphins? Very few is the answer to that question, the Dolphins are looking for a bell cow and Ajayi is their guy.
Lamar Miller is gone and new coach Adam Gase has a good track record with running backs. Obviously Ajayi’s injury history is a red flag, but should bounce back in 2016.
The Dolphins drafted rookie running back Kenyan Drake from Alabama in the third round to compete with Ajayi. Drake was already injured early on in the offseason, which gives Ajayi an even bigger chance to create separation.
Ajayi is a low-end RB2 headed into next season, with potential to be very solid. Expect Ajayi to be the goal-line back and the starter on the first two downs.
Next: 8. Shake and Bake can be found in aisle four
8. New York Giants: RB, Paul Perkins
When the New York Giants selected Paul Perkins in the fifth round, he instantly became the most talented back on the roster. Due to that fact alone, Perkins will have a chance to be the lead ball-carrier for big blue this season.
With quarterback Eli Manning set to break passing records with wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, the box will be light for Perkins. His best trait is his ability to shed off defenders and that means more fantasy bang for your buck.
Speaking of fantasy buck, Perkins draft stock has been all over the place early on in fantasy football season. Perkins can be had in the middle tier rounds of your draft, with RB2 potential as a ceiling, and starting flex week in and week out as a floor.
Arguably, Perkins should be higher on this list, but the depth at the position (five experienced backs plus Perkins) is unnerving. The Giants could slip into a running back by committee approach which would diminish Perkins’ value significantly.
Next: 7. One of the best mobile quarterbacks in the game
Dec 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws the ball prior to the Bills
7. Buffalo Bills: QB, Tyrod Taylor
The curious case of Tyrod Taylor, a career backup with the Baltimore Ravens finally got his chance last season with the Buffalo Bills and took advantage. He missed two games with injuries in 2015, but had spurts of fantastic fantasy production.
Overall, he averaged 19.33 fantasy points per game in 2015, which extrapolated to 16 games would have netted Taylor a whopping 309.28 fantasy points. Which would have placed him in the top-five of fantasy quarterbacks last season.
Obviously you can’t simply just deduce that Taylor could have kept that production over the entire 16 games, but it reveals his potential. The only concerns are Sammy Watkins‘ rehab from his broken foot.
Taylor is the perfect quarterback for your roster, if you draft your fantasy starters late. He had great numbers last season and should improve in year two.
Next: 6. Riddickulous?
6. Detroit Lions: RB, Theo Riddick
Why is Theo Riddick on this list? Well Ameer Abdullah has fumbling issues and that is concerning. Riddick is an all-purpose threat who can supply your fantasy football team with an intriguing dynamic of PPR potential and a scoring punch.
Last season, Riddick was the team’s best passing-downs back, grabbing 80 of 99 targets for 697 yards and three touchdowns. But he had just 43 rush attempts on the year, that is where the ceiling has room to grow.
Riddick didn’t get ample opportunities rushing the football last season, nor has he through his young career. Even with the addition of Stevan Ridley, Riddick has the potential to be scary in PPR leagues and is worth a flier in the double digit rounds in all fantasy football formats.
Riddick’s potential all lies in the hands of second-year prospect Abdullah. If Abdullah is great, Riddick will be thrust into his usual passing-downs role. But if Abdullah struggles like he did last year, there’s a clear path for Riddick to gain more work.
Next: 5. The next Megatron?
Nov 15, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (17) prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
5. Tennessee Titans: WR, Dorial Green-Beckham
This guy could be number one on this list, that is the kind of talent and potential he has. Dorial Green-Beckham, former second-round pick, has a Calvin Johnson Jr. body frame.
With a pretty high ceiling, he has to work on the routine plays, because he showed last season he can make spectacular catches. It’s just putting it all together and expect him to do that this upcoming season.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota showed flashes as a rookie, and the Titans built up the offensive line to better protect their franchise passer. The acquisition of two promising running backs will balance the offensive approach.
Green-Beckham had a measly 32 receptions paired with four touchdowns last season, look for those numbers to double easily. The Titans may not win a ton of football games in 2016, but their offense is set to have one of their best years in franchise history.
Next: 4. The beneficiary of a great situation
Jun 2, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
4. New Orleans Saints: WR, Michael Thomas
For former Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas, it’s all about situation here with the New Orleans Saints. Not to discredit his raw talent and potential, but having a Hall of Fame quarterback tossing you the football certainly boosts your fantasy value.
Especially with tight end Jimmy Graham out of the equation, there are plenty of footballs to go around. Thomas has the potential to be a high upside WR3 in this potent Saints’ offensive attack.
The easiest comparison to make is that of wide receiver Brandin Cooks who is entering his third year in a Saints uniform. In his rookie campaign, Cooks had 50+ receptions for 500+ yards and three scores.
But in year two, he exploded for over 1,000 yards with 84 receptions and tripled his scoring average. Thomas is going to be better than Cooks was in year one, expect 60+ receptions with 750+ yards receiving and at least five touchdown receptions.
Next: 3. Finally stepping out of the shadows
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: TE, Ladarius Green
Out with the old and in with the new, that’s the slogan for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. After 11 seasons with the black and gold, Heath Miller announced his retirement.
That wasn’t the only offseason news to affect the offense for the Steelers this fall, Martavis Bryant, their star wideout has been suspended. Which should open up even more opportunities for free agent acquisition Ladarius Green.
Green has been playing in the shadow of one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history for four seasons. Although last season, when Antonio Gates was forced to miss time, Green took advantage.
Green will be the Steelers’ second option on offense, one of which that has the ability to be one of the most potent in all of football. You can grab Green in the middle to late rounds of your fantasy football draft and he’ll return the favor being one of the top-five tight ends in all of fantasy football. 850+ yards with double digit touchdown production isn’t out of the question for Green in 2016.
Next: 2. The new king of 8-mile
Dec 27, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (15) gives thumbs up to a fan during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field. Lions win 32-17. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
2. Detroit Lions: WR, Golden Tate
So with one of this generation’s best play-makers hanging up his cleats, no one has more to benefit from it than Golden Tate. When Calvin Johnson Jr. had to miss time over the last two seasons, Tate showed that he can handle the rock.
Even with the offseason addition of Marvin Jones, Tate is a high-end WR2. If Jones can legitimately step up as a second option in the passing game, Tate’s ceiling as a fantasy star rise even higher.
Tate can be had in the middle rounds and you’d be crazy not to spend a pick of that magnitude on him. Look for Tate to break the 100 receptions mark for the first time in his career, with 1,400 yards and double digit scores (also for the first time in his career).
Current projections have Tate slotted to go between the seventh and ninth rounds in fantasy football drafts, which is crazy. Tate is the No. 1 receiver on an offense that isn’t afraid to sling it around with quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm.
Next: 1. The top fantasy sleeper in 2016
Jan 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
1. Green Bay Packers: WR, Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb finished the 2015 season as one of the biggest disappointments in all of fantasy football. The injury to wide receiver Jordy Nelson was supposed to help his value, but it ended up drastically decreasing it.
Cobb had his chance to prove he’s a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the league and he folded under the pressure and consistently struggled against the NFL’s top cornerbacks. In a season in which he accumulated less than 900 yards with only 6 touchdowns, he was often invisible in the Packers’ offense.
With Nelson returning for the 2016 season and the Packers’ offense set to return firing on all cylinders, Cobb should be back. He will go back to his more comfortable role playing second fiddle and should be in for a 2014-esque season where he finished with about 1,300 and 12 touchdowns.
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Projected to be a fifth-round pick in fantasy, Cobb could finish as a low-end WR1 and will be a major draft bargain in the middle rounds. You don’t have to trust Cobb, just trust one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the game, Aaron Rodgers.