2017 NFL High-End Sleepers

With Fantasy Football creeping closer and closer, we’ve fielded a ton of questions on twitter and through emails. One that has come up a lot is who to target in the first round that could outperform their ADP, in other words, a high-end sleeper.

Here are my two favorite high-end sleepers:

Julio Jones l WR l Atlanta Falcons

Current ADP in standard leagues: 4/5

I’m here to implore you that you should highly consider drafting Julio Jones as the WR2 and possibly even the WR1 in your draft. You certainly are, or should be, drafting him as at least the WR3/4, which is where he is being drafted currently, but I would argue that he could easily return numbers that would place him at the top of the receiver rankings in terms of fantasy points. Here’s why: 

Not only did the Falcons choke away probably their best chance they will have in a while at bringing home a Super Bowl ring to the ATL but they also performed at a level they will not replicate this season. Finishing atop the NFC south last season at 11-5, the Falcons surprised many before getting embarrassed by Tom Brady’s heroics in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl. Players like Devonta Freeman, Taylor Gabriel, Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu all had seasons that more than likely will regress in 2017, with an exception to Freeman. The odd player out last season, while having missed 2 games, was Julio Jones. Now, by no means did he have a bad year as he still managed 1,400 yards on 83 catches and 6 TDs.

However, since the 2014 season, this was his “worst year” in total yards, catches and TDs. He also saw 75 less targets than last season. Let’s look specifically at his full 16-game 2015 season which was the best season of his career thus far (136 REC, 204 TGTs, 1,871 Yards and 8 TDs). While Julio had a career year, the Falcons went 8-8 finishing 2nd in the NFC South behind the Panthers.

Again, he did play a full season in 2015, which he has only done twice in his 6 seasons, but the Falcons made it a point to consistently force him the ball. They needed to do this not only because they played more games from behind, but also because other players on the team (Roddy White, Eric Weems, Justin Hardy, Tevin Coleman) simply didn’t produce like the role players this past season did. So, Julio saw less production last year simply because they didn’t always need him to win the game for them.

They established a deadly two-man running game with Freeman and Coleman and found gems in Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu who made it so they didn’t need  Julio to put them on his back time and time again. Not to mention, Matt Ryan had a career year as well throwing for over 4,900 yards with 38 TDs, numbers he won’t repeat this season and will find himself back on earth.

If the Falcons regress say to the tune of 2 more losses or 7 total,(Vegas has them projected at 6 losses), which is entirely possible, the Falcons will be forced into more situations to feed  Mr.Jones the ball similarly to the way they had to in 2015 when Julio led the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Don’t be surprised when he does it again this season barring any injury setback.

LeSean McCoy l RB l Buffalo Bills

Current ADP in standard leagues:5/6

Similar to Julio, at his current ADP of 5/6, LeSean has a very good chance to return some nice value in the first round. It is tough to say that he will produce at the RB1 level because he obviously has some serious company in Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson to beat out. While I am not entertaining the thought that Shady will out perform those two players, I do think that he gives them a run for their money and could potentially sneak into the RB2 ranking by the end of the season. Here’s why:

Before I get into why I like him more this season than in the past, I do want to remind everyone that while he certainly doesn’t look it, he is 29 years old. Age 30 is generally the time when running backs begin to see some decline and is really the only knock I have against him heading into this season.

LeSean will be running under a new offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison, who is a huge west coast offense advocate that will allow McCoy to fully expose his potential, something he wasn’t able to do with Rex Ryan at the helm. McCoy has certainly found success in his 2 years with the Bills but we have yet to see that breakout similar to his 2013 season in Philadelphia where he had 2,146 all purpose yard and 11 TDs. Dennison brings with him a zone blocking scheme that will allow Shady to use his extremely effective shiftiness and vision to it’s full potential.

As we have all been blessed with seeing before, when he gets the chance to get into the open field, which is what this system will provide him with, he is arguably the best runner in football. It is also important to recognize his willingness and excitement for Dennison’s offensive scheme because players, especially of his caliber, aren’t always the most welcoming to change. McCoy mentioned Arian Foster as a player who he looked up to because of his huge success and versatility in both the rushing and receiving game. Who was the offensive coordinator for the Texans through Foster’s 3 best years you ask? You guessed it, Rick Dennison.

Dennison has proved the knows how to fully utilize these multi Heading into this season, Pro Football Focus ranks the Bills O-line as 10th overall who allowed Shady and Mike Gillislee in 2016 to have plenty of running room and overall success. Gillislee has since been shipped off to New England which leaves no clear cut handcuff for McCoy, yet another positive.

Some have expressed worry about the offense in general due to Sammy Watkins being traded and Anquan Boldin retiring, but I’m not worried about this affecting Shady, in fact I think it may help him. They replaced Sammy with another big, athletic wideout in Jordan Matthews and drafted 2nd round pick Zay Jones, an emerging rookie receiver out of East Carolina who has been impressive this preseason. They clearly don’t have the most exciting group of receivers for Tyrod to throw to but that will only force him to rely on LeSean more and the offensive line is good enough to combat any box stacking that may go on by opposing defenses if the QB situation gets hairy.

Shady is one of my favorite first round picks in this draft and assuming he stays healthy, has a great opportunity to return MVP-like statistics. Bovada even has him ranked as the 12th best chance to win the MVP with 100/1 odds.

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