2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Fantasy Football Sleeper: How to Spot One

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You’ve all heard the story. With the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots drafted an unimpressive quarterback from Michigan – Tom Brady. General managers and coaches would consider themselves lucky to find a role player at that pick, much less a franchise cornerstone. Since then, all Brady has done is rewrite the record books and make his stamp in history as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Not bad for a guy with man boobs.

This is all to say the Patriots have benefited immensely from absolutely nailing a low draft pick and any fantasy owner should be looking to replicate that. Unearthing a sleeper in the later rounds of the draft is a surefire way to gain an advantage over your opponents.

Sleepers become defined by their relative namelessness before the season and their unexpected production during it. It’s impossible to consistently find these performers, but most sleepers are a product of a perfect symphony of talent and opportunity. By looking at a few different factors, we can give ourselves a better chance of identifying these sleepers.

Jonathan Chan also teaches you How to Spot a Fantasy Football Bust

How to Spot a Fantasy Football Sleeper

Opportunity

No matter the talent a player has, they still must have the opportunity to succeed. You can’t score touchdowns while sitting on the bench.

The best thing a player can have going for him is opportunity. Whether that comes about through his own merit or through another player’s injury doesn’t matter. Two of 2016’s top 11 scorers at running back came from players who started the year second or lower on the depth chart – Jordan Howard and Jay Ajayi.

Next Man Up

Would Tyrell Williams finish as the #13 wide receiver in 2016 had Keenan Allen not been hurt? Unlikely.

While it’s impossible to predict who suffers injury during the course of a season, knowing who MIGHT is important. A helpful tool to do this is the Injury Predictor at www.sportsinjurypredictor.com. It uses an advanced algorithm calculating the percentage chance a player has of getting injured based on past history. For example, Sammy Watkins is listed as having a 94% chance of getting injured while Le’Veon Bell is at 75%. That let’s me know I may want to bump Zay Jones and James Conner up my draft boards because they will benefit significantly if either of those guys goes down.

Unconvincing Starters

Teams usually go into the season with their depth chart set, but situations change. If a player doesn’t perform for two or three games, coaches can’t take their time making a change. If you believe a starter won’t be productive, you might be able to get his backup at a lower draft cost.

Take advantage of Twitter to follow teams’ beat writers. They tweet opinions gathered from watching the team up close and speaking to coaches that they won’t put in articles. It’s the fastest and most direct way of gaining information on a fourth string running back or a late-pick wide receiver that you might not have ever heard about.

A Good Environment

One of the best things an offensive player can have going for him is a stable offense. More specifically, we would like for them to have an elite quarterback. A bad quarterback (I’m looking at you Brock Osweiler) can make even the best players look pedestrian. Both DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson are top-tier wide receiver talents but didn’t produce much because of inconsistent quarterback play.

Meanwhile, an explosive offense can put a marginal player in a better situation to put up huge and consistent numbers. Better offenses means more opportunities for yards, catches, and touchdowns on a week to week basis. Both Davante Adams and Michael Thomas finished as top nine receivers largely because they were able to step up in high octane offenses.

For running backs, the presence of a good quarterback is arguably just as important. Just look at Todd Gurley. The talent is evident, but if defenses don’t have to respect the quarterback, they can stack the box and limit that running back’s production.

Age and Injury Concerns

You can also use injury concerns to your advantage on draft night. Last year, a few players fell in drafts due to concerns about previous injuries. However, it turned out DeMarco Murray and Jimmy Graham were right as rain. They both finished among the top four at their respective positions. Taking a player under these pretenses requires you to take a bit of a risk, but it can be well worth the payoff.

Similarly, it seems like for years now people have been underdrafting guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Frank Gore, thinking: Yeah, this is going to be the year they fall off. And of course, legends never die. Great players have a way of defying time. Don’t be afraid to take a past-their-prime player just because of their age if they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Rookies

Another place you can find good value is with rookies. While there are bound to be highly drafted rookies that receive a ton of hype and go high in drafts, there are equally many who go under the radar and slip in drafts. Get to know which rookies fit offensive schemes well and have a legitimate chance of contributing. You might end up with a Michael Thomas or Jordan Howard late in your draft.

Don’t shy away from a rookie just because he was a late round pick. These days, teams are adept at finding players that fit their schemes and will be ready to produce right away.

About Kevin Huo

Kevin is a fantasy football writer for Fantasy Six Pack. He considers every angle - whether statistical or theoretical - when weighing his options and isn't afraid to be a contrarian. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinH_F6P

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