Deep PPR Fantasy SleepersFor those in the fantasy community who choose to participate in leagues with a PPR scoring format, the strategy on draft day is a much different animal. Players that would normally get tossed under the rug in standard format leagues due to inefficiency in the red zone, or inconsistent touchdown production, suddenly rise the ADP boards due to the targets they will receive on any given week. Both consistent wide receivers, and heavily targeted running backs become immensely valuable, especially in the case of last year in which we saw a ridiculous number of injuries to starting position players across the NFL. Consistency is the name of the game in PPR formats, which is easy to find in the early rounds of fantasy drafts, but plucking late round PPR gems can prove overwhelmingly difficult from year to year. Here are a few players to get you on the right track.
RB | Atlanta Falcons
The Devonta Freeman hype-train isn’t going to appreciate this first one, but it’s become more and more evident that Freeman will not see as many carries as he did last year. Tevin Coleman, who was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, was the projected starter coming out of training camp last year prior to his rib injury. It was because of this injury that Devonta Freeman was able to take over and establish himself in the primary back role for the Atlanta Falcons. Momentum and improving trust in Freeman worked against Coleman all last season, and he also struggled with the typical rookie growing pains of fumble management and defensive personnel recognition.
With the injury behind him, and with a full year in the NFL under his belt, Coleman should be able to step into a larger role with the Atlanta Falcons. They have already come out and said that they expect Coleman to return punts and kickoffs this year, which could add to his value in particular fantasy formats. In addition to this, however, he should be able to see his share of touches, and could poach red zone carries from Freeman. An analogous running back group in the NFL would be the Buccaneers with Doug Martin and Charles Simms. With freshly acquired Mohamed Sanu being the only real pass catching talent in Atlanta besides Freeman and Julio Jones, a juicy role is Tevin Coleman’s for the taking. Not only does Coleman have PPR value with Devonta Freeman active and ahead of him on the depth chart, but he also offers the possibility of high RB2 upside if Freeman were to go down for any reason. Going in the 9th round in 2016 drafts, Coleman is a little pricey, but the upside is there in PPR formats for those willing to take a chance.
WR | Tennessee Titans
The situation in Tennessee this year is the farthest thing from ideal from a fantasy standpoint. Mike Mularkey has come out to the media multiple times saying that he intends to establish a smash-mouth, run-first team. This statement was backed by action with their signing of Demarco Murray, and then their pick of Heisman winner Derrick Henry in the 2016 NFL draft. With this said; however, their defense is far from where it needs to be for a run first approach to truly work in Tennessee. Being in a division with such high scoring offenses as the Jaguars, Colts, and Texans, you can fully expect the Titans to be playing from behind a large portion of the time. Mularkey will be forced to call pass plays to close the deficits late in games, and therefore there will be targets to go around.
Marcus Mariota is so far unproven but is a confidence inspiring quarterback who has great mobility both in and out of the pocket. Coming into his second year in the NFL, Mariota should be able to extend plays a little better with an improved offensive line in front of him. Combine this with the fact that Dorial-Green Beckham is gone, and that Kendall Wright has proved to be the definition of inconsistency; you have a winning formula for Rishard Matthews. Rookie Tajae Sharpe appears to be getting some first team reps in training camp thus far, but his expectations need to be held in check. Being a rookie on a run-first offense is not usually the best recipe for success. Matthews is easily the best route-runner on the team, and has the most experience by a mile, which could prove helpful in developing an early rapport with Mariota. As a young quarterback, Marcus is going to be looking for a receiver he can trust and develop confidence in. Entering his fourth year in the league, Matthews could prove a sneaky play that is going near the 14th round of fantasy drafts. He has his chance to prove the critics of Tennessee’s receiving corps wrong in 2016, and an opportunity to make you look excellent in your upcoming fantasy season.
WR | Los Angeles Rams
Tavon Austin has no business being on this list after he proved to be one of the best ‘do it all’ utility players in football. Austin had 907 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns last year that came on an exact split of 52 rush attempts and 52 receptions. However, despite this solid performance, some defenses are being taken off the board before this guy in 12 team PPR redraft leagues.
Currently, with an ADP of 123rd overall, Austin is going in the back of the 10th round. There is little to no competition for Austin at the receiver position in Los Angeles, and he is the best non-rookie receiver on the roster by a mile. Especially with Todd Gurley having proved himself out of the backfield during his own rookie campaign, the Rams shouldn’t have to lean on any of their newly drafted receivers this year, and thus they will offer very little competition to incumbent Austin. If you are in a PPR league, and you have the opportunity to snag Tavon Austin past the 10th round, you should immediately take him. Jeff Fisher will find ways to get this skilled utility player the ball, and your fantasy team will undoubtedly benefit from it at a ridiculously good price-tag.[wlm_nonmember]
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RB | Minnesota Vikings
This one may have you scratching your head, but now more than ever with Teddy Bridgewater out for the season, the Vikings will need someone to make plays out of the backfield with their hands.
The Minnesota Vikings have been Adrian Petersons’ team for the past decade, and he’s still a dominant force. This monster ran for 1485 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Yet now at 31 years old, Adrian Peterson is approaching an age milestone that has slowed down nearly every great running back in NFL history.
Father time is catching up to this elite back, and despite his best efforts, at some point he is going to start losing his edge. The management in Minnesota knows this, and at the end of last season we got a glimpse of what much of this season will look like. McKinnon had only 21 receptions on the season last year, but it is interesting to note that 13 of these receptions came after Week 13.
McKinnon has proven that he can be an explosive asset when called upon, and has looked quite impressive when given the chance to carry the rock in Minnesota. If Adrian Peterson starts to get dinged-up in any way, the Vikings are going to throttle back his carries. There is a lot of confidence within the Minnesota organization as a whole in both their offense and defense, and they are fully confident that they will make a playoff run this season after falling just short last season. It is because of this that they should not want to use the little tread that Peterson has on his tires just getting through the regular season. This should give McKinnon more than enough opportunities in this offense, both passing, and rushing, that will spring him into PPR sleeper contention. Also, as with before-mentioned Tevin Coleman, he offers the intriguing upside of being an every week starter if Peterson does run into any trouble.
WR | Buffalo Bills
2016 is a new year however, and things look like they might finally be lining up for this so far unlucky receiver. Tyrod Taylor earned himself a new contract this offseason, and looked like the real deal at the tail end of the 2015 season. Finally having consistency at QB will allow more members of the Bills’ offense to reach their maximum potential. Sammy Watkins is also far from the pinnacle of health either, and if this star receiver is forced to miss any time, Marquise Goodwin is looking like their only other option at the Y-receiver position.
While Buffalo is a run-first team, their defense has taken a lot of rough blows already this offseason with injuries and suspensions. This means that Buffalo will be forced to play from behind more often, and their receivers should offer substantially more value than people are initially perceiving. Marquise Goodwin is going undrafted in almost every single league, and for good reason, as he’s very unproven. This is just another receiver to monitor very closely on the wire all season, and if healthy, he offers very sneaky value.
WR | Jacksonville Jaguars
Rashad Greene has been turning heads in Jaguars training camp thus far. This second-year receiver out of Florida State University is speedy and elusive, and offers the potential to fill the slot role. There were talks earlier in the offseason that Allen Hurns would move into the slot role, leaving Allen Robinson on the outside, however, this has not been the case at training camp so far. Both Hurns and Robinson have been playing on the outside in three-wide sets, which makes a lot of sense given both of their ability to stretch the field. This situation leaves a juicy role for the taking, and Rashad Greene has been putting forth his best effort to win it.
Marquise Lee is the only other solid competition for the Jaguars’ WR3 position, but he is a bigger, lankier receiver who isn’t an ideal candidate for a slot receiver role. Greene is unproven, but between Blake Bortles’ 606 pass attempts last year, and their defense still being a bit of a question mark, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to catch more than a few targets. Greene is a very sneaky play right now in deeper leagues, and is also another one of the players who is going completely undrafted.
TE | San Francisco 49ers
The Chip Kelly offense has had a fascinating track record in the NFL thus far. While in Philadelphia, Kelly’s coaching success was faded out by personnel and character problems alike. However, this is not to say that his system was a complete failure for fantasy purposes. His high-paced offense allows the players within it to receive an enormous number of snaps and targets, which leads to higher ceilings for your fantasy players. The question is: How will this system perform in San Francisco?
As said before, while the quarterback situation for the 49ers is far from solidified, there is a silver lining. There are a few names on the roster that are a tier above both athletically, and regarding experience. There’s Carlos Hyde, who is expected to be the three down back and bell cow for the Chip Kelly offense. You also have Torrey Smith, who is the only proven receiver on the roster by a mile, and should offer consistent value for fantasy drafters in the later rounds of drafts.
Then there’s Vance McDonald, who had a quiet emergence at the tail end of last season (for 2015 49er standards, that is). He averaged more than 10 YPR, and flashed big play potential on several occasions. Chip Kelly has been very kind to his starting tight end so far in his NFL career. In particular, tight end Zach Ertz excelled during Kelly’s short tenure with the Eagles, averaging 56 targets and 675 yards per season over a three-year span. There isn’t much competition behind Vance McDonald for this juicy position in Kelly’s offense, so he should be someone you watch on the waiver-wire throughout 2016.
WR | Carolina Panthers
Devin Funchess wasn’t your typical breakout rookie his first season in the NFL. While being on one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL in 2015, this freshman struggled throughout the course of the season to carve out a significant role behind pass-catchers Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. Many had previously thought with the absence of Kelvin Benjamin with a torn ACL, that this first-year player would emerge as a target favorite, but the college to pro learning curve definitely got the better of him.
Now, coming into 2016, Benjamin is due back from his season-long injury hiatus, which will take a lot of pressure off of the others in the Panthers’ receiving corp. Ted Ginn, while effective in many situations last year, had brick hands, and dropped many wide-open looks down the field. With another year under his belt, Devin Funchess should be in line to take these WR2 duties away from Ginn. If Benjamin can bring his production back to rookie year levels, it should create opportunities and mismatches for the physically dominant receiver out of Michigan. On the other hand, if Benjamin falters in any way, Funchess will have all the opportunities in the world to take Carolinas’ WR1 slot. Expect Cam Newton to continue improving his already dominant production from 2015, and thus be able to continue spreading the ball around efficiently. Even if Olsen and Benjamin do gobble up targets as many are predicting, Funchess will still get his fair share of looks in that proficient offense. Keep an eye on his progress throughout training camp if you’re drafting late, as he could be worth a late-round flier. If you are drafting early, or have already drafted, just be sure to keep tabs on him.
[/wlm_ismember] Thanks for reading!