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10 Deep Dynasty Sleepers to Target for 2016

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Deep Dynasty Sleepers

There is an undeniable youth movement in dynasty football. While I understand the mindset on the surface it still heavily contradicts the basic principle of fantasy football, so eloquently enunciated by Herm Edwards: “You play to win the game!” The “youth truther” strategy of punting the present for more stakes in the unproven and uncertain future is beyond me, but nonetheless, rampant in the industry.

Whether you agree or disagree with the youth movement, every owner still needs to stash rookies annually and is looking to find long-term value diamonds in the mid- to late-round rough. Here are 10 potential deep dynasty sleepers worth stashing.

Jerick McKinnon | Age 24

Running Back | Minnesota Vikings

McKinnon enters his third season, slated behind Adrian Peterson for the foreseeable future. As a rookie, Jerick was catapulted into the starting role thanks to Peterson’s off-the-field issues. The results were relatively unimpressive, as the newly converted running back was wildly inefficient in 8 games as the team bell cow. But 2015 told a different story. With only a 28% snap share (driven down more so by usage during those plays), McKinnon managed to accumulate 444 yards and 3 TDs on just 73 touches, an impressive 6.08 yards per touch, good for a top-12 finish in the league. He also boasts the best athletic profile of any running back seen to date, setting the running back bench press record at the combine (32), while also finishing as the top performer at the position in the 40 (4.41 seconds) and 3-cone drill (6.83 seconds).

With only two years left on Adrian Peterson’s massive contract, with the assured expectation he’ll want just as much money moving forward, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a Minnesota team embracing the “youth movement” to move on from, at that point, a 33-year-old AP. McKinnon, at 26 with limited mileage on his legs, would be the lead candidate to fill that role. Jerick is a nice option to have in the event AP were to be sidelined at some point as well.

Phillip Dorsett | Age 23

Wide Receiver | Indianapolis Colts

I want to let you guys and gals in on a little secret. Phillip Dorsett is the third wide receiver on the Colts depth chart right now. That’s a pretty big deal. Coby Fleener is gone. Andre Johnson is gone. Dwayne Allen is ineffective. Frank Gore had 46 receptions over the last 2 seasons. Oh, and Andrew Luck is back. What does all this mean? Well, Phillip Dorsett is suddenly in line for the third most targets on a team that throws between 600-700 times a season. Would you say that’s a pretty notable statistic? I think so.

Realistically, Dorsett could be looking at around 80-100 targets in 2016. With 4.33 speed (tied for 10th best among wide receivers in the last decade), elite agility scores and a college yards per catch of 24.2, it is pretty safe to say this guy could do some damage for Indy in 2016. Don’t hold Dorsett’s 2015 season against him.

Terrell Watson | Age 22

Running Back | Cleveland Browns

We know very little about Terrell Watson. Up until now I had never even heard of his alma mater, Asuza Pacific. What I do know is that he was absolutely dominant there. It might be a D-2 school, but his production cannot be overlooked. Watson was a 2-time Great Northwest Conference Player of the Year and ran for 2,153 yards and 29 TDs as a senior (Al Michaels voice: He did what?!)!! At 6’1” 242 lbs. he is built like LeGarrette Blount, but more closely compares to Steven Jackson athletically. It should also be noted that Hue Jackson lured him away from Cincinnati and took him with open arms in Cleveland. With Isiah Crowell fresh off of a highly inefficient season for Cleveland, Watson checks all the boxes to be a deep dynasty sleeper target to complement Duke Johnson in the Browns offense.

Michael Campanaro | Age 25

Wide Receiver | Baltimore Ravens

Michael Campanaro is a similarly dominant college player that hasn’t shown us anything at the next level yet. While at Wake Forest, Campanaro accounted for 60% of his team’s receiving offense according to Player Profiler, which ranks him in the top-10 of that category in the last 10 years, joining names like Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Vincent Jackson. He also comps most closely to Julian Edelman in both size and agility, as evidenced by his 6.77 second 3-cone drill and 4.01 second 20-yard shuttle. Not to mention he’s markedly faster with a 4.46 second 40, which would indicate he’s a stronger vertical threat than Edelman. So the question is: Why hasn’t Campanaro done anything in two years with Baltimore? The answer: He can’t stay on the field.

Campanaro opened up his NFL campaign with back-to-back trips to the IR. Now, buried deep in the Ravens depth chart, there was talk he could struggle to even make the team this year. With that said, the best thing he has going for him, is the fact that he fits best in the slot; a position very much there for the taking in Baltimore. Breshad Perriman, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken might be ahead of Campanaro on the depth chart, but they are all built to play outside. With Baltimore’s new training program, if Campanaro can finally stay healthy, there’s a good chance he can finally show us he’s a match-up nightmare at the NFL level.

Devin Funchess | Age 22

Wide Receiver | Carolina Panthers

Devin Funchess Fantasy FootballThe results of early MFL dynasty drafts have Kelvin Benjamin and Keyarris Garrett going way ahead of Devin Funchess. While I too bought a ticket for the Keyarris Garrett hype train, I can’t help but think Funchess is being wildly undervalued.

Devin has one of the more impressive athletic profiles for his size (6’4” 232 lbs., 33 ½ arms), very comparable to his unproven rookie in waiting (Keyarris). Funchess was nowhere near as productive in college as Garrett and Benjamin in their final years at school, but he did play a major role in Michigan’s passing game, which was stifled by a Brady Hoke offense struggling to find its identity and the limitations of quarterback Devin Gardner. He was also the youngest of the three finding production in college. In fact, coming into 2016, Funchess at 22, will be much younger than Garrett (almost 24) and Benjamin (25).

For dynasty youth chasers that is a notable fact. To further support Devin’s case, Kelvin was pretty inefficient his rookie season and is coming off a major knee injury and Keyarris is still buried on the depth chart, with a chance he might not even make the team. Recent reports indicate Funchess appears to have made a leap in camp as well. All in all, there is plenty of reason to believe he could emerge as one of Cam Newton’s top targets in the next few years.

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Jeff Janis | Age 25

Wide Receiver | Green Bay Packers

Jeff JanisJanis already has a cult following, but he might still be relatively unknown to new members of the dynasty community. The 6’3” 219 lb. receiver out of Saginaw Valley College is the love child of all fantasy metrics and analytic freaks. He ran a 4.42 40 (unheard of at his size) and clocked 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle scores in the 90th percentile. He also had back-to-back seasons of 1,500 yards and three straight seasons of 14 or more TDs in college. Athletic profile? Check. College production? Check. Phenomenal quarterback? Check.

What befuddles people is the lack of time on the field (39% snap share) and the lack of attention he receives from Rodgers (3% target share). How could someone so athletically gifted, with a proven track record like Janis be snubbed for Davante Adams? Janis couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity with Jordy Nelson going down last year. Only he didn’t produce. Rodgers attributes it to a lack of chemistry and trust in Janis running routes. But the playoffs gave us a glimpse of Jeff’s potential. Janis caught seven of 11 targets for 145 yards and 2 TDs, including the game-tying Hail Mary in the Packers NFC Divisional matchup with the Cardinals. Janis backers are still riding the high from that game. With Davante Adams having played himself out of a starting role, Janis has a great shot at emerging as Rodgers’ third option in 2016. Finally, we can see what he’s worth.

Tyler Ervin | Age 22

Running Back | Houston Texans

Ezekiel Elliott is the clear-cut No. 1 running back in this class, but the second spot remains up for debate. One candidate that should not be overlooked is Tyler Ervin. For those infatuated with C.J. Prosise’s upside (guilty), it is interesting to note Ervin bettered him in all combine categories they both participated in. He’s also more proven as a running back with just under 1,200 yards from scrimmage his junior season and over 1,900 yards his senior season. Not to mention he’s one of the better receiving backs in this class, having posted back-to-back 300+ yard seasons through the air. On top of that he is the best returner in this class with over 2,500 return yards and 5 TDs over the course of his college career.

Jon Moore of RotoViz wrote about the hidden value of special teams stats a few times over the last two years, evidencing how it could be a good indicator of fantasy upside when a player’s athletic profile is otherwise lackluster. Antonio Brown, Wes Welker, Demarco Murray and Karlos Williams were the focal point of that study (pretty good company). Given the fact Ervin has the athleticism, all-purpose collegiate production and a pretty good situation behind a quality offensive line, he is worth a stash in dynasty backing up Lamar Miller.

Ricardo Louis | Age 22

Wide Receiver | Cleveland Browns

Ricardo Louis’ lack of production in college deterred analysts from believing he could be the true No. 1. The good news is he doesn’t have to be. He fits the mold of the flanker receiver and carries a tremendous athletic profile. Corey Coleman is sure to see a lot of attention on the other side of the field, which is likely to give the 6’2″ 215 lb. receiver some favorable matchups on Sundays. Not only is Louis a big body, he also has exceptional speed, clocking a 4.43 40 at the combine and tremendous burst, exhibited by his 38″ vertical and combine best 132″ broad jump; a combination that is right on par with what we saw at the combine from Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Andre Johnson (not terrible company either). I’m willing to give Louis’ 46 receptions for 716 yards & 3 TDs the benefit of the doubt, playing in a brutal Auburn passing offense. Watch out for Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns offense next season. We may see a similar fantasy spike we saw from Jacksonville last year.

Mike Thomas | Age 21

Wide Receiver | Los Angeles Rams

Mike Thomas, not to be confused with Michael Thomas (New Orleans), might have just the right fit with the Rams to find success at the NFL level. As it currently stands, Thomas is sitting behind both Kenny Britt and Brian Quick for a starting job. Both possess characteristics that indicate they would find success at the NFL level, but Britt has been in and out of trouble and seen his fair share of injuries and Quick has been riddled with injuries as well and dealt with his fair share of bad quarterback play. Enter Mike Thomas, at a time when the Rams are embracing youth talent, playing alongside a rookie quarterback still in search of a safety net. Thomas could very well be that guy. He brings a ton of college success (producing at SMU at a young age), performed above average compared to his peers in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception against multiple coverage schemes and if he were to bulk up, would be a great fit to split out wide for the Rams. Anytime you can get a guy with youth, college production and opportunity in the late rookie rounds for dynasty, it is kind of a no-brainer.

DeAndre Washington | Age 23

Running Back | Oakland Raiders

DeAndre Washington is a solid prospect. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he doesn’t do anything poorly either. He’s also a quality receiving back, which can never be overlooked, as it should get him on the field at an early age. The biggest thing Washington has going for him though is opportunity. He basically starts his NFL campaign as the No. 2 back in Oakland. And the only player he has to supplant is Latavius Murray. Murray is coming off RB14 numbers, but those were stats accumulated based on quantity of opportunities, not quality. Murray averaged 4.2 yards per touch; good for 68th best in the league. He also averaged .67 fantasy points per touch, which also kept him outside the top-60. If Washington can be productive in the passing game and run with greater efficiency than Murray, he could be in line to steal a starting role with the Raiders.

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About the author

Bob Talbot

Bob, a Quinnipiac grad, is an avid sports fan and fantasy enthusiast. Currently resides in the professional sport-less state of Connecticut, but will never forget his roots in the great state of New Jersey.

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