The start of the NFL season is less than a week away, and to better prepare those of you who still have drafts this weekend, three of our writers have their sleepers and busts selections for the 2015 season. Each writer has selected one sleeper, and one bust at each of the four main positions. The writers who contributed to this were, Clark Barnes, Nick Petraccione, and myself, Robert Keeley.
QB- Cam Newton
A few weeks ago I wouldn't have been able to put Newton down here as a sleeper, but alas injuries occur. Kelvin Benjamin is out for the season, and people now think Newton will fall off the map. Last year weren't people saying the same thing at this time? I remember people saying since he lost Steve Smith Sr., that he was going to be awful, as there was no way he could succeed with a rookie leading his receiving corps. Well Kelvin Benjamin turned out better than we expected, and I think Newton had something to do with that. I am not counting out Newton this year, as I still have him ranked as my 8th best QB, and would love to get him in the late rounds as my starting QB. The rushing stats will keep his floor relatively high for you on a week to week basis.
RB - Ryan Mathews
If there is one thing I know, it is that Chip Kelly's offense is a fantasy goldmine, and you should try to get a piece wherever you can. Insert Mathews as that guy, outside of Bradford, who could have some great value on draft day. The only thing standing in the way of a top 10 fantasy season for Mathews is DeMarco Murray. After all of the touches Murray had last year, and the constant injuries he has had over the years, I feel confident in saying he won't be playing in every game this season. Now Mathews has injury concerns himself, but the potential value you could get out of someone being taken outside the top 30 RBs is too good to pass on. He should also be involved in the weekly gameplan gettting around 12 touches a week in that high octane offense, making him a FLEX consideration if you need it.
WR - DeVante Parker
If you read my top 200 rankings, you would have noticed that I am in love with DeVante Parker. Watching his gametape from college it is hard to not be impressed with his skills. He has a big catch radius, amazing athleticism, and great hands. Now this pick won't be one that is going to help you from week 1, but after the Dolphins bye week in week 5, I expect Parker to be fully healthy, and fully implemented into the offense. Last year they desperately needed a deep ball threat who they could trust, sorry Mike Wallace, and I think they have found that in DeVante Parker. He has the skills to be a true number one some day, and while that may not be this year, I don't see any reason why he can't be well on his way to a top 20 season for the time being.
TE - Charles Clay
I am going to keep this one brief. I like the skillset that Clay has, and having Tyrod Taylor as his QB could mean more opportunities for Clay to get targets. Taylor can extend plays, and when he does so, he won't be looking too far down the field, which leaves Charles Clay in his eye sight. A sneaky good PPR pick he could end up being, or just like with most TE's this late in the draft, he could be TD dependent. Throw your dart and see what happens.
All ADP Data pulled from MyFantasyLeague.com drafts occurring after August 15th.
QB - Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer is being drafted as QB19 according to MyFantasyLeague.com. Palmer is a great fit in Bruce Arians' system out in Arizona. The Cardinals are stacked at wide receiver with veteran Larry Fitzgerald acting as elder statesman for an impressive group of youngsters led by John Brown and Michael Floyd. With Andre Ellington poised to break out, especially catching passes out of the backfield, Palmer looks to be cleared for takeoff this year
RB - Andre Ellington
Andre Ellington is currently RB21, going after Latavius Murray, Alfred Morris, and Melvin Gordon. Ellington was hampered by injury last year, but is fully recovered to start the 2015 season (he went into the 2014 season with a foot tendon injury and still performed like an RB1 in PPR). Getting Ellington to lead your running back committee (for you wait on RB guys), or drafting him as your flex in the early fourth is just stealing.
WR - Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin, currently WR23 in ADP, is the best receiving option for a Chiefs team that garnered historic lows from its receiving corps last year. Maclin will likel not repeat his performance from last year when he played for the Eagles, but what world are we living in where Sammy Watkins, who plays for the Bills, you know, the Bills, is ahead of him in ADP?
Extra WR sleeper
John Brown. Get on board folks, this guy is awesome. Clark isn't the only one who feels this way, as I completely agree he will be a big breakout star this year.
TE - Kyle Rudolph
I know it's just the preseason, but, are people seeing how Kyle Rudolph is being used? He's a solid pass catcher for a nice, young, developing quarterback. Rudolph isn't especially tall, fast, or quick, but he's a good enough mix to take advantage of a boat-load of volume. He'll see that volume this year and finish as a top 5 TE by year's end.
QB - Sam Bradford
We all know that Bradford has had a lot of injury woes in the past. But, I think he has found a great home in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly's explosive offense. In week three of the preseason, Bradford went a perfect 10/10 with 121 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. It's a small sample size, but the 2010 number one overall pick is exactly what Chip Kelly is looking for. If he can stay healthy, I can see Bradford break the top-ten QB list.
RB - Duke Johnson
Although Duke Johnson is behind Isaiah Crowell in the depth chart, he still holds fantasy value for two reasons. First, if Crowell gets injured, Johnson is next in line. Second, I really think Johnson has a chance to steal the job from Crowell. The Browns drafted Johnson in the third-round of 2015 for a reason, they weren't satisfied with the running game they currently had. If by midseason the Browns are not happy with their rushing production, I can easily see them giving the reins to Johnson.
WR - Brian Quick
In 2014, Quick was on his way to a pretty respectable year before a season-ending shoulder injury. Don't forget, he was mainly catching passes thrown to him by Austin Davis for eight weeks. In the offseason, the Rams really upgraded their QB situation by bringing in Nick Foles from Philadelphia. Quick is the number one receiver in this offense and could be primed for a breakout year.
TE - Eric Ebron
If you read my tight end preseason PPR rankings, you would already know that my sleeper is Eric Ebron. Yes, he had a pretty disappointing rookie season to say the least, but that has been true for all rookie tight ends since Jeremy Shockey came into the league. He has worked extensively this offseason building chemistry with Matthew Stafford. Ebron has the size and skillset to become a top-15 TE this season.
QB - Ben Roethlisberger
I actually think Roethlisberger will have a good season, but he is being drafted too high. It isn't even that he is being drafted too high amongst his position, but rather that he is being taken too high in drafts overall. You are having to spend a 5th or 6th round pick to get him as your QB, where you could just wait another 5 rounds and get someone like Tannehill, Romo, or Newton. Those three guys will have maybe slightly lesser seasons, but not nearly enough to justify a 5 round gap between them.
RB - Alfred Morris
Morris has been a great back so far each season, but that will be changing this year. While the Redskins will be better off with Griffin III not being the starter, Alfred Morris won't. In 7 games where Griffin didn't play last year, Morris averaged 58 rushing yards, and had only 2 TD's over that span. Morris will suffer not having that mobile QB next to him. If he struggles to start the season, Matt Jones can be brought in to replace him, and that does it for his season.
WR - Golden Tate
I believe that Calvin Johnson will stay fully healthy this year, and the guy who takes the biggest hit from that is Golden Tate. Last year Tate's best games were with Johnson out, or limited. When both guys were healthy and on the field, Tate averaged around 67 yards and only had one receiving TD in those 11 games. Tate has to bank on a Calvin injury to be a useful fantasy asset every week, and I don't think we can bank on this happening.
TE - Outside Top 4 TE's
The same reasoning that I laid out in my Roethlisberger pick applies here. If you don't get one of the top 4 TE's, why are you taking one earlier than the 12th round. After that top tier, they are all going to be inconsistent, so why grab one in of the next tiered guys in the first 10 rounds? I gave this same advice last year, with Vernon Davis as the poster boy, and that seemed to work out. This year heed the same advice and don't reach for a TE not in the top 4 because you feel as though you need one in the first ten rounds.
QB - Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan, the most milk-toast of all the top 10 QBs by ADP, and yes, he should have a solid year. The real problem with Ryan is, why bother when you get Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, and Tom Brady so much later? I'll take my chances elsewhere and later in my 2015 drafts.
RB - LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy is still being drafted in the 2nd round of drafts. I can tell myself the story where McCoy rebounds, bolstered by playing with a rushing quarterback, and he reclaims his prowess as an unquestionable RB1 start. It's much easier to tell myself the story about Rex Ryan, the kryptonite of offensive production, helping father time strike down ole LeSean. McCoy, at least playing in Buffalo, will be who we saw early last year, and the Bills front office will spend the 2016 offseason lamenting another bad personnel move.
WR - Mike Evans
Mike Evans had an amazing rookie year last season, giving rise to him now being drafted at, or near his ceiling. I want to believe in Jameis too. But, I believe Winston is still a rookie playing for the team that had the fewest wins in the NFL last year, right? I like Evans long term, but he's facing a real uphill struggle this year on that awful Bucs team.
TE - Travis Kelce
You made me do this Fantasy community, you've gone too far! The love for Travis Kelce has, officially, gone too far. I think Kansas City improves this year, and I think Kelce has an unbelievable upside. But, let's slow down on crowning him Gronk Part Deux. I expect Kelce to take a big step forward, but his ADP is, now, just out of control.
QB - Drew Brees
If you're wondering, I still have Drew Brees in my QB top-ten. He had a down fantasy year in 2014, yet still finished sixth among his peers. It's not his skillset that I'm worried about, it's his weapons. His number one target, Jimmy Graham, left for Seattle and Kenny Stills moved to Miami. This leaves him with a younger group of wideouts led by Brandin Cooks. To add to the offseason moves, the Saints acquired Max Unger and C.J. Spiller, hinting that a more run heavy offense could be seen this season. Like I said, Brees will be in the top ten, but near the bottom. I don't think he is worth his current ADP.
RB - Jonathan Stewart
Ever since DeAngelo Williams left for Pittsburgh, a lot of fantasy owners are quick to jump on the Jonathan Stewart bandwagon. Yes, he finished out last season strong, but there are still question marks surronding him. Stewart is very injury-prone and it's hard to say he can play all 16 games with a starters workload. In my opinion, Stewart's asking price is too high in the draft and he won't live up to expectations.
WR - Andre Johnson
There is no question Andre Johnson has dramatically upgraded offenses from Houston to Indianapolis. However, there is uncertainty when it comes to his age and just how much he will be seeing the ball. Johnson will have to fight for targets with T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and even Frank Gore. Luck likes to spread the wealth around.
TE - Larry Donnell
I am not a big fan of the Giant tight end, not just because he failed me last season. With Victor Cruz coming back from injury, Odell Beckham Jr. emerging as a superstar, and Rueben Randle looking like a promising third option, Donnell falls to number four on Eli's list. ESPN has Donnell ranked as the tenth overall tight end, but I'm not buying.
That does it for our sleepers and busts. Check back over the next few days as some of us give our bold predictions for the upcoming season. Jacob Adler gave his bold predictions on Friday, and mine will be posted on Labor Day.
Let us know who you guys agree with here, and who some of your picks are for sleepers and busts.