Fantasy football is built on sleepers. Of course, you have your Antonio Browns, Le’Veon Bells, and Todd Gurleys of the NFL who you know are going to produce. But the hallmark of a great fantasy player is the ability to find sleepers who will act as stars. Who is this year’s DeShaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, or Adam Thielen? When discussing these players, I will be mentioning ESPN’s preseason fantasy rankings that you can view right here. Hopefully, this article will help your success this fantasy season.
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
ESPN Ranking: QB19
Mitchell Trubisky had a decent rookie season, tallying 2,193 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Trubisky struggled a bit with his accuracy but flashed well in the running game, recording 248 yards and two scores on the ground. The Bears may have had the best offseason of any team this season. They added a myriad of weapons, including Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, and rookie Anthony Miller. Trubisky has the talent around him to truly flourish in 2018 and could be excellent value late in your draft.
Royce Freeman, Broncos
ESPN Ranking: RB20
The Broncos spent a third-round pick on Royce Freeman, the bell cow back out of Oregon. He isn’t overly dynamic but is a tough, gritty runner with good vision who will rack up a ton of carries in Denver. After the departure of C.J. Anderson, his competition is slim in Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson. If he can impress in camp and preseason, Royce Freeman has a great chance to vulture the full time running back job in Denver. He’s a player that I’m looking to draft in every league I will play in late in the draft.
D’Onta Foreman, Texans
ESPN Ranking: RB47
Foreman flashed good speed and power last season before going down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in December. He looks to make a full recovery by camp, making him ready for the season. Lamar Miller isn’t getting any younger and didn’t have a spectacular season. Even if Miller keeps the lead back role, Foreman has plenty of opportunities to contribute as many teams use two running backs extensively. I believe he has the talent to become Houston’s feature back in H-Town.
Nyheim Hines, Colts
ESPN Ranking: RB67
The Colts’ running back room is very open, with Marlon Mack projecting to be the feature back in this offense. The Colts added Hines in the fourth round; he is an extremely dynamic back with home run potential. To make matters better, Hines is an excellent receiver and he has impressed with his receiving ability during rookie minicamp. Marlon Mack is very talented but may not have the ability to be a bell cow. Colts’ head coach Frank Reich used a running-back by committee approach in Philly and he could utilize Hines in the same way he used Corey Clement last season.
Corey Davis, Titans
ESPN Ranking: WR36
The Titans make Davis a top pick in last year’s NFL draft and he underperformed in nine games started, only catching 35 balls for 375 yards. Davis, though, has all of the talent in the year and the Titans haven’t addressed the wide receiver position in a significant way this offseason. Bringing in former Rams’ offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will be a big boost to this offense and Davis is primed to break out with Marcus Mariota this season.
Robby Anderson, Jets
ESPN Ranking: WR48
I had Robby Anderson on my sleepers article last year and he makes it again this year. Despite his excellent 2017 campaign, recording 941 yards and seven touchdowns, he is still quite a bit undervalued in my eyes. The Jets don’t have a clear number one receiver once again but I feel Robby Anderson will be that guy. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will need a reliable target to throw to and Anderson could be that guy again in 2018.
Dante Pettis, 49ers
ESPN Ranking: WR102
I wouldn’t exactly call Jimmy Garoppolo a sleeper given the excitement around him. However, he has no clear number one target to throw to. Pierre Garcon is a solid veteran and Marquise Goodwin is a speedster but neither players look like stars at the receiver position. Pettis is a sure-handed receiver with great route running ability. His consistency could allow him to be a very reliable receiver and Jimmy G’s top target in his rookie season. Pettis should go undrafted in most leagues, so scooping him up in free agency is a must.
Deon Cain, Colts
ESPN Ranking: WR129
The Colts’ receiving corps aside from T.Y. Hilton is sub-par, to say the least. Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers both have some upside but are not proven commodities at the receiver position. The Colts drafted Cain in the sixth round, which is a steal in many’s eyes. If it weren’t for his inconsistent hands and off of the field issues, Cain very well could have been a second or third round pick. Cain’s great size, speed, and route running could be a major asset for whoever plays quarterback in Indianapolis. Like Pettis, Cain will go undrafted in almost all leagues making him a must pick up for a team in need of receivers.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars
ESPN Ranking: TE20
Seferian-Jenkins is a very talented receiving tight end whose career hasn’t gone to plan. He’s bounced around the league, most recently playing with the Jets. The Jaguars don’t have many viable targets for Blake Bortles at tight end or wideout. Jenkins will likely be the top tight end come the beginning of the season in Jacksonville and could be a big fantasy player in 2018.
Jake Butt, Broncos
ESPN Ranking: TE32
Butt is another player who featured on my sleepers article last season. The Michigan product still hasn’t played an NFL snap but I am still a believer. His talent as a receiver is undeniable. Butt’s has some competition in Jeff Heuerman and rookie Troy Fumagalli but neither is insurmountable. If he can win the battle and become the TE1 in Denver, he could be a major fantasy sleeper this year
Kalen Ballage, RB, Dolphins
ESPN Ranking: RB91
Ballage isn’t a player on most NFL fans’ radars but he could be a major sleeper at the running back position. He is a powerful runner and a player who I believe is more talented than Kenyan Drake. They form a powerful “thunder and lightning” backfield duo. Look for Ballage to vulture quite a few touchdowns from Drake this season.
Dylan Cantrell, WR, Chargers
ESPN Ranking: WR160
Cantrell isn’t a name that most people are familiar with. The 6’3″230-pound wide receiver ran a blistering 4.4 40 and recorded a 41 inch vertical at his pro day. The sixth-round pick has a long way come in the Chargers’ crowded wide receiver room but the Chargers have been excellent in receiver development and aren’t strangers to injury. Cantrell is a longshot to make an impact in his career but is a player worth keeping your eye on as the season approaches.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts