The All-Sleeper Team
August 19, 2016 | Jackson Safon
What even is a sleeper anymore?
The fantasy football industry has exploded in recent years and with it, so has the amount of fantasy football analysis. You can find articles for and against almost every player. You can find articles detailing coaching trends. You can even find articles on guys you’ve never heard of with names you can’t pronounce (hello Quincy Enunwa and thank you RotoViz).
So the idea of a “sleeper” is basically dead. Out goes the word sleeper and in comes the word “value” which is now the headliner of your new favorite fantasy football drinking game, although I would not advise playing this game if you value your health.
So while sleepers are mostly gone, value always exists. Here’s a complete fantasy roster of players who are currently being drafted as non-starters according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Non-starters meaning outside the top-12 QBs, 24 RBs, 36 WRs, and 12 TEs, as those would theoretically make up starters in a 12-team league.
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With that, here’s the 2016 All-Sleeper Team.
QB: Matthew Stafford (ADP: QB16, 11.10)
For a while, Stafford was an overrated fantasy quarterback riding on the coattails of one incredible season in 2011. Now, he’s transitioned to the polar opposite. After arguably his best season since 2011, in which he threw 32 touchdowns and finished as the QB9, Stafford is being drafted as the 16th QB off the board.
Detractors of Stafford will point to the Megatron in the room…or no longer in the room. Calvin Johnson has retired and many are screaming about how much worse Stafford is when Johnson is not on the field. Since 2011, that is absolutely true. Stafford is averaging 4.5 more fantasy points per game with Johnson playing since 2011.
However, over the past two years it’s a bit of a different story. In this time, the Lions added Golden Tate and Johnson experienced some decline as well as some injury. In games where Johnson has received more than four targets – i.e. he was not a decoy – the numbers are remarkably similar for Stafford, with him actually scoring more points without Johnson.
Stafford is shaping up to be an incredible value (drink!) this year, as the public is discounting him for something he shouldn’t be discounted for.
RB: Frank Gore (RB31, 7.06)
This one is borderline comical. Gore is being drafted as the 31st running back off the board following a season in which he was the RB14?! That’s like suspending Tom Brady four games for allegedly deflating a football after suspending Ray Rice two games for beating a woman: it’s happening, but it just doesn’t make any sense.
In a sort of lost season for the Colts in which Andrew Luck only played seven games, Gore still managed strong RB2 numbers. Plus, Gore has historically low fumble numbers but had two inexplicable goal line fumbles last season. Take those away and Gore jumps up to the RB10 on the season.
With Luck back, the Colts offense should rebound. Drafters seem to think this will be the case as Luck is being drafted as the QB3 and T.Y. Hilton is being drafted as the WR13, but Gore is still coming at a massive discount.
With the only competition for touches being rookie Josh Ferguson, who is not a good goal line runner, Gore is a virtual lock for 260 touches in a dynamic offense. I’ll repeat it until it changes: RB31, RB31, RB31, RB31…
RB: Charles Sims (RB35, 8.07)
Another head-scratcher. Sims finished as the PPR RB17 last year in his second year in the league and his ADP is double that. While Doug Martin got an extension in the offseason, there’s no reason to think Sims’ role in the Tampa Bay offense will change. Why? Because he’s really good at it.
Last season there were only three players to receive over 100 carries and over 70 targets:
Sims improved a lot from his rookie year and his 2016 outlook looks even better as Pewter Report’s Mark Cook “really believes” Charles Sims will see an increase in carries and new Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter called Sims “an every-down back, if need be”.
Plus, I expect the Buccaneers to target their running backs more than last year. Koetter is still calling plays and in his three years as offensive coordinator of the Falcons, his running backs totaled 124 targets, 146 targets, and 119 targets (averaging 130) while the Buccaneers gave their running backs 117 last year.
Need more evidence? Game script still looks really good for Sims. According to Bovada, the over/under for the Buccaneers win total is 7.5 this season after hitting 6 in Jameis Winston’s rookie year. They’re non-division schedule includes the Cardinals, Broncos, Panthers, Chiefs, and Seahawks. While the team is moving in the right direction they’re pythagorean win expectation is only about six wins, so they will still be losing in the majority of their games and as that happens they’ll need to keep Sims on the field.
Plus if Martin goes down with an injury, as he’s done in half of his seasons, Sims has top-15 upside.
WR: Kevin White (WR37, 7.08)
White is a de facto rookie after missing the entirety of his first season, and much of his low ADP can be attributed to the unknown factor with him. But let’s remember back to the summer of 2015 when there were people arguing that White should be taken ahead of Amari Cooper in dynasty rookie drafts.
This is because White is big (6’3”), fast (4.35 40-yard dash), has a great draft pedigree (7th overall pick), and had great college production.
The Bears receiving corps is pretty weak after Alshon Jeffery so White won’t have much competition for targets. Add in the departure of Martellus Bennett and there’s plenty of volume for White to capitalize on.
Like the Buccaneers, the Bears are only predicted for 7.5 wins and will be throwing a lot without a true lead running back. White has a chance to really outperform his ADP and be a huge value (drink!) this season.
WR: Marvin Jones (WR40, 8.07)
Can you tell I’m bullish on the Lions passing game? Fantasy players have taken into account the departure of Calvin Johnson in regards to Matt Stafford, but they haven’t made the same adjustment in terms of receivers. Golden Tate is being drafted as the 22nd receiver and Jones is going off four rounds later as the 40th.
Someone has to fill the role and take over the targets that departed with Calvin Johnson. Even if you don’t think Jones is all that good (I would disagree with you), the volume and opportunity are there. Last year, Johnson and Tate combined for almost 44 percent of Detroit’s 632 targets.
Even if Tate receives a whopping 24 percent of Stafford’s 2016 attempts, which seems high considering A.J. Green’s 26 percent last year, that would leave 20 percent available for Jones.
Quick math will tell you 20 percent of 632 is 126.4. Even if you say that’s a little aggressive and give Jones 115 targets next year, Jones is in for a more than solid season.
Applying his catch rate and touchdown rate from his last two healthy seasons, on 115 targets Jones would finish with: 72 receptions, 948 yards, and 9 touchdowns for 221 fantasy points. Last year, that would’ve been good for a WR20 finish.
WR: Devin Funchess (WR57, 12.11)
This mostly boils down to the fact that Kelvin Benjamin isn’t very good and Funchess might be. Benjamin’s great rookie season was due mostly in part to getting an extreme amount of targets that isn’t likely to be replicated.
While I’m not necessarily a Funchess fan, he stacks up pretty nicely to Benjamin in terms of athletic profile.
Here are the two player’s statistics in their age 21 seasons:
While the statistics are pretty darn close, there’s one key element to look at. Funchess did this at the NFL level while Benjamin did this while at Florida State.
However, even though at a glance Funchess looks like the better player, Benjamin is still the WR1 on the Panthers and will receive the targets of such. So this is not to say Funchess will take over that role. It is to say that he will continue to improve and has a chance to reach 100 targets, which would lead him to massively out-produce his WR57 ADP.
TE: Dwayne Allen (TE15, 12.08)
As I said in the Frank Gore portion of this program, I’m expecting a major bounce back from the Colts offense. That, along with the departure of Coby Fleener to New Orleans means Dwayne Allen could be in line for a strong season.
With Fleener gone, Allen will assume the majority of the tight end targets. In only 13 games each, Fleener and Allen combined for 113 targets last year. Because of that, if Allen plays all 16 games, I would say 100+ targets is definitely a possibility and perhaps a likelihood.
In addition to raw targets, Allen has a chance to receive some in a very valuable location: the red zone. Allen is 6’3”, 255 pounds while the Colts starting receiver duo in T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief average out to 5’1”, 200 pounds.
Allen is easily the biggest and strongest Colts receiving option, and he’s already proven to be an efficient touchdown scorer, with 13 touchdowns on only 147 career receptions for a TD rate of 8.8 percent. For comparison, Tony Gonzalez’s rate is 5.7 and Antonio Gates’ is 8.2.
A 65/800/10 season seems totally feasible to me, which would’ve landed Allen at the TE6 spot last year.