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10 early fantasy football sleepers

Get aboard the Jamaal Williams bus before it leaves the station.

BYU v Michigan State Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Spring is still making up its mind about whether or not it should be here and Summer hasn’t even hit the snooze button on its alarm yet but gosh darnit I want it to be September. I want some football.

This happens every year like clockwork: The NFL draft comes, I get way too excited about all the incoming rookies and about football, and then I’m stuck watching NFL highlights for the next three months just to get my fix. I even have to wait until August for Madden 18 to come out. (Brainstorm: EA Sports should release Madden right after the draft. Who says no!?)

At least I can take pleasure in watching Chris Sale light the entire baseball world on fire. And then immediate displeasure in the lack of run support the Red Sox give him.

All of that is just a perfect preamble to looking at some early fantasy football sleepers. These are guys—mostly rookies/young guys—who I could see breaking out into the fantasy world thanks to a sudden shift in the depth charts.

Also, I don’t have quarterbacks on the list because I don’t really feel like you can have a sleeper quarterback. Can you? Is Jameis Winston really a sleeper if I’ve been spending every waking breath talking about how much I love him this year? If I were to pick a sleeper QB, we all know it’d be Deshaun Watson. So there. There’s your sleeper QB. I’m counting that in my 10.

RB Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers

It seems Ty Montgomery will still be making the full transition to running back but don’t let that stop you from buying low on Jamaal Williams. While Montgomery showed flashes of running back ability, his sample size was very small—only 77 carries—and he doesn’t bring the power that is needed to run between the tackles. Williams does. He is a bruiser who will get you a yard even when there’s not a yard to be gotten. This will have a huge impact to the Packers offense as they were often unable to run the ball on short yardage situations, particularly in the red zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams quickly fills the hole left by Eddie Lacy and has similar success (similar success to early Eddie Lacy, not later Eddie Lacy).

WR ArDarius Stewart, New York Jets

At the end of my wide receiver rankings I listed a few rookie receivers to keep eyes on leading up to the NFL season. Stewart headlined that list because simply he’s on the New York Jets and the New York Jets don’t have much else at the receiver position. I know a receiver is only as good as his quarterback and the Jets also don’t have a quarterback but with Stewart already drumming up hype in rookie mini-camps and not a lot of competition at the position, he could quickly become a go-to-guy in New York.

RB Samaje Perine, Washington

I don’t pretend to be alone in this sleeper pick. Perine is bully at running back, who runs with power and can take on any sized workload that’s handed to him. Washington’s backfield does have the likes of Fat Rob Kelley and Matt Jones but neither of those backs have proven themselves to be the bellcow in an offense that’s searching for one. Add in that head coach Jay Gruden thinks he’s the “total package” and you’re looking at a guy who’s going to get his chance sooner rather than later.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s not secret the Steelers offense is a) a fantasy gold mine and b) very very crowded, especially with the return of Martavis Bryant. However, with all that being said, Smith-Schuster could find himself battling Eli Rogers for the slot role in the Steelers offense, and winning. Rogers played 13 games last year and averaged 6 fantasy points per game so clearly there is still production out of the Steelers’ slot role. Plus with Bryant’s history, who knows if he’ll be playing a full season. I for one am definitely keeping eyes on Smith-Schuster.

Someone from the Patriots backfield

Will it be Rex Burkhead? Will it be Mike Gillislee? Will it be Dion Lewis or James White? Who knows. All I know is that one of these four will somehow finish the year top 20 in fantasy scoring among running back and we’ll have no idea how it happened. If you need a name, I’m thinking Gillislee. I think he’s going to be their goal line back and we all know what kind of fantasy production that can bring.

WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns

I experienced the Corey Coleman rookie season first hand as I thought he’d be a sleeper last year and snuck him onto my team in the late rounds. Well, he had one good game for which he was on my bench. Then he got injured. Not a great rookie season. However, Coleman is the number one guy in that offense in every sense of the word now that both Terrelle Pryor AND Gary Barnidge are gone. The passing offense will fall upon his and David Njoku’s shoulders so get ready for endless targets, baby.

TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

Piggybacking off of what I was saying with Coleman... I don’t know if Njoku is technically a sleeper at tight end but I think he could be a much better fantasy player than people expect from day 1. I mentioned this on twitter, but don’t be surprised if he ends up having a better rookie season—fantasy speaking (though maybe real life as well)—than O.J. Howard simply because the Browns’ offense looks like it’s going to rely on him heavily.

RB Jeremy McNichols, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why not replace one small Boise running back with another small Boise running back? On paper, the Buccaneers seem to have a very crowded backfield but don’t forget Doug Martin’s future with the team is very much up in the air—and he starts the season on a three game suspension—and both Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers have shown they can’t carry a starting workload. Enter McNichols. There is one hiccup in my otherwise perfect plan and that is that McNichols recently had shoulder surgery. We’ll see if he’s ready for training camp and how that hinders his production.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Yea, bet you didn’t expect to see this guy on the list, did you? Now it might be mildly cheating, it might be stretching the definitions of what is “a sleeper” but hear me out. After a horrible season last year, I think people are starting to think a little less of Hopkins and aren’t remembering how much of a monster he was just a season ago. And I mean like a full fledged, Dr. Frankenstein mixed with the Wolf-Man, mixed with Dracula, mixed with Charlize Theron kind of monster. Hopkins was the 10th best fantasy player—not just receivers, player—in 2015 scoring 220 total points. Brock Osweiler sucks, but he’s gone now. You can believe in Hopkins once more.


Which sleeper are you buying?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Jamaal Williams
    (137 votes)
  • 6%
    ArDarius Stewart
    (25 votes)
  • 44%
    Samaje Perine
    (177 votes)
  • 9%
    JuJu Smith-Schuster
    (39 votes)
  • 5%
    Jeremy McNichols
    (22 votes)
400 votes total Vote Now