Top Sleepers Part I | 2018 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano March 28, 2018

Top Sleepers Part I | 2018 Fantasy Football

BDGE's top sleepers for 2018 Fantasy Football (Part 1). We're looking at five of my favorite running back sleepers and wide receiver sleepers for the 2018 fantasy football season. Obviously, there's no such thing as a sleeper nowadays with all this technology, but these are guys whose current ADP (average draft position) according to the DRAFT app and FantasyFootballCalculator, is too ZAMN low. This'll be broken up into two parts, five sleepers now, five anotha time. Stay woke.

Top 5 Sleepers for 2018 Fantasy Football

1. Joe Mixon - RB (CIN)

Joe Mixon 2018 Fantasy Football

  • This is right about where Mixon was getting picked last year - only we know exactly what we're getting this time around.
  • Per Rotoworld, "Director of player personnel Duke Tubin told reporters at the Combine that the Bengals envision Joe Mixon as their "bell-cow" back for 2018."
  • No denial from my side of the computer screen, Mixon's rookie year was underwhelming, running for 3.5 yards per carry and scoring just 4 times. The Bengals gave him almost nothing to work with on the line, grading as the 9th worst run-blocking in 2017 per Football Outsiders, following the departure of all-world LT Andrew Whitworth.
  • But there are some big positives moving forward. 
  • Mixon was awesome in the receiving game, averaging 9.6 YPR and catching 88% of the balls thrown his way. They need to get him more involved in the passing game in 2018.
  • With Jeremy Hill's absence, we look at Mixon's splits last year with and without hill:Joe Mixon vs. Jeremy Hill Splits 2017
  • Numbers speak for themselves.
  • Mixon was 13th in the NFL in yards created per attempt (1.54) per PlayerProfiler. So, he was still good. The 3.5 yards per carry is tough to pin on him considering his line play and them never letting him get into the groove, he had double-digit carries in just 8-of-14 games last year. But, over Mixon's last 4 games, the Cincy back starting hitting his mojo and averaged over 5 yards per carry.
  • Mixon was already the goal-line back, he was the only back to have more than a single carry inside the opponent's 5-yard line in 2017, he had 6, Gio had 1. Those will all be his in 2018.
  • Addressing the offensive line will be key for the Bengals. They did so already by acquiring Cordy Glenn (LT) from the Bills in exchange for some pick swapping. Glenn is really good when healthy, but he's missed 17 games over the last 2 seasons. He's only 28 years old and is expected to be ready for OTAs, so if he can stay healthy it's a huge boost to this line who had arguably the worst LT play in the NFL last year.
  • One more thing to add - remember Le'Veon Bell's rookie year? A lot of people compare Mixon to Bell, and Bell was bad running the ball his rookie year, averaging 3.5 yards per carry too, behind a similarly bad run-blocking line so.
  • I think you're getting Mixon at a steal at this price - he's guaranteed a workhorse load. 

2. Larry Fitzgerald - WR (ARZ)

Larry Fitzgerald Fantasy Football 2018

  • Another easy one. The gawd getting disrespected once again? 
  • 109 catches in 2017, to go along with an NFL-high 108 in 2016, and 109 in 2015. Y'ALL SEEING A PATTERN HERE??? Word okay.
  • Fitz is 91 catches away from Tony Gonzalez as the NFL's 2nd leading receiver ever. 91 - that's the key number here. Expect it. Just based off that, he's a PPR monster.
  • Carson Palmer retired.. so what, he's been pretty much trash the last couple of years. He had his moments but terribly inconsistent. They signed Sam Bradford. People want to hate on this move - but don't we forget, Bradford is technically, and arguably, the league's most accurate passer ever! He broke the NFL completion % record in 2016 completing 71.6% of his passes. Obviously, it was because his aDOT of 6.6 was dead last in the NFL, but good news... that's Fitz's game... He doesn't beat guys deep, he hammers you over the middle and Bradford is the best guy for this spot, all things considered.
  • David Johnson comes back so expect him to EAT up targets. He had about a 16.5% target share in 2016. Last year, Arizona RBs had a 16% target share. John Brown is gone. Jaron Brown is gone. Fitz will be fine in the target department. 
  • His 7 targets inside the opponent's 10-yard line were a big dip for him too. He had 12 each of the previous two years prior to 2017. I expect this offense to improve at least a little with DJ back, so I think Fitz looks down there will too.
  • People also love to argue the fact that since he's old, I ain't arguing that shit, he slows down at the end of the year. While the statistics sided with that argument in 2015 and 2016, 2017 told a different story. Look at Fitzs' fantasy numbers over the L8 Cardinal games compared to their first 8.Larry Fitzgerald 2017 Stats
  • Safe to say that argument is off the table.
  • I'm all aboard the Fitz train AGAIN. 

    3. Rex Burkhead - RB (NE)

    Rex Burkhead 2018 Fantasy Football

    • Gets a 3-year, $9.75-million ($5.5M GTD - a lot for the Patriots)
    • A big reason I think the Pats let go of Dion Lewis, obviously they wanted to keep him, but Flex Burkhead and Lewis share a ton of the same assets to this offense.
    • I mean just look at Burkhead's numbers last year in just 10 games. He had 518 total yards, 30 catches and 8 touchdowns.. in just 10 games. Over a 16-game szn that paces out to 830 total yards, 48 catches and 12.8 touchdowns -- would have been RB13 (0.5PPR) right behind Jordan Howard. He earned his way to the point where he made Gillislee and James White pretty much redundant. 
    • Burk also had the 2nd most rush attempts (7) inside the 5, just behind Gillislee (8). They brought in Jeremy Hill, but I think it's the same story, they trust Burkhead down there around the goal-line. More importantly, maybe, he didn't lose any fumbles last year.
    • I'm not expecting a Dion Lewis, down the stretch type breakout, but I think Goathead is going to be a monster value in PPR leagues in '18.

    4. D'Onta Foreman - RB (HOU)

    D'Onta Foreman 2018 Fantasy Football

    • A lot of this has to do with the fact that I don't think Lamar Miller finishes this season as the Texans starting running back. Foreman's ADP is shot from recency bias but I expect it to jump up once camp buzz starts floating around.
    • In 2017, for the 4th consecutive szn, we saw Miller’s YPC decrease to a new career-low of 3.7. Miller looked sluggish carrying the rock at most points. His 3 receiving scores were a new career-high, but he only found pay-dirt by way of his legs 3 times…
    • It was clear from a usage standpoint that by the end of the szn they didn’t see Miller as their featured back, he was almost phased out of the position tbh. Over the last three weeks of the regular szn, Miller saw 27 carries to Alfred Blue’s 46. Blue even out-targeted Miller 6-5 during that span, the passing game was arguably the only aspect of Miller’s game that he had a leg up on the other Houston backs. At the moment Blue is an UFA.
    • Enter D’Onta Foreman. He tore his achilles in Week 11 of 2017, but all reports have him ready for training camp. Prior to the injury, Foreman was the B to Miller’s A. The former Longhorn stood pat with a 4.2 ypc average, a half yard higher than his “starter” and scored just one fewer rushing touchdown than Miller despite receiving 160 fewer carries and playing in nearly half as many games.
    • Foreman’s built like a tank, to say it conservatively. A 2,000-yard rusher at Texas, Foreman stands 6-feet tall, weighing 233lbs and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, putting him in the 94th percentile of weight-adjusted speed score. Before going down with the injury, Foreman was averaging double-digit touches over his last 8 games, and I expect him to compete for, if not steal the starting job outright in the summer.
    • Miller has proven inefficient with a big workload. They don’t use him near the goal-line, evidenced by his lowly 4 rushing attempts inside the opponent’s 5-yard line in 2017 and they have talent behind him to replicate and surpass that production. Had Foreman not gotten hurt, I think the backfield would’ve been a concrete 50/50 touch split or completely in favor of the rookie by the end of 2017.
    • Foreman's a guy with heavy, heavy upside, no pun intended.

    5. Emmanuel Sanders - WR (DEN)

    Emmanuel Sanders 2018 Fantasy Football

    • People are really out here just completely forgetting about Emmanuel Sanders after a bad 2017. 
    • I'm really willing to chalk this up as injury related. And QB related. He dealt with a bum ankle a large majority of the szn. Here's how we know that.
    • We look back at 2016, he played in 15 games (technically 16 but he left the last week after like one snap). Of those 15 games, he played in more than 80% of snaps in 13.
    • Last year, he played in 12 games. He only played on 80% if the snaps 5 times. And it's not like he was getting phased out obviously, they have nothing else there, he just wasn't healthy.
    • The awful QB play in Denver was obvious too. According to PlayerProfiler, only 75% of Sanders' 92 targets were even deemed catchable. We also take a look at his aDOT over the last few years:Emmanuel Sanders 2018 fantasy football
    • Sanders is typically the deep threat on this team, but couple his ankle injury with terrible QB play and we see how much it affected things in 2017.
    • Now we have Keenum throwing the ball, which if nothing else is a major upgrade to what they had last year between Siemian, Osweiler and Paxton Lynch. In my eyes, Sanders can be Keenum's Stefon Diggs this year.
    • I would 100 million X prefer taking Sanders at pick 100 then Demaryius Thomas at pick 60 or wherever he's going right now.

    _________________________________________________________________________

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