Fantasy Football Sleepers and Reachers

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) carries for yardage in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

It’s never too early to talk fantasy football right?  The season is quickly approaching, teams are wrapping up their minicamps, and training camp starts next month.  Here I will be discussing what I believe are fantasy football sleepers and reachers, based off their current Average Draft Position (ADP) in Standard scoring as presented on https://www.fantasypros.com/nfl/adp/overall.php.  In this article I will outline players who I believe are sleepers, whose ADP is too high right now, and should be drafted earlier.  And players I believe are reachers, whose ADP is too low, and should be drafted later.

First I’ll start off with the reachers.  These are players where you should wait for them to come to you in your drafts, or supplement with another player.  The five players I have outlined as reachers are: Mike Evans, Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Leonard Fournette, and Sammy Watkins.

Mike Evans (ADP 8, WR4): If you had Mike Evans on your roster last season, I’m sure you are eager to draft him again.  He carried most teams to fantasy football greatness.  But I’m here to tell you this will not be the case in 2017.  Evans’ 3 seasons in the league have all brought over 1000 yard seasons and 12 TDs in his first and third season.  Evans’ second NFL season brought an astounding 1206 yards, but only 3 TDs.  With Evans’ stats varying year to year, this season could be seen as a toss up.  Everyone knows Evans is QB, Jameis Winston’s favorite target, but the Bucs have also added a ton of talent this offseason.  With the addition of DeSean Jackson in free agency, and OJ Howard in the draft, I think there are simply too many weapons for Jameis to be confident in picking Evans this high in the draft.

Melvin Gordon (ADP 10 RB5): Here is another player who had a great 2016 season.  After an extremely disappointing rookie season where he failed to reach the end zone, Gordon came back with 997 rushing yards, 419 receiving yards, and 12 total TDs.  A great rebound season for the young sophomore talent.  Looking at the 2016 season, PPR monster Danny Woodhead went down early in the season with an ACL tear, giving the team no true 1-2 punch.  This made Gordon the guy, and his stats show as such.  But by the end of the season, Gordon did not play in the final two games due to injury (sorry to those of you who needed him in your fantasy championship games like I did).  The running back proved it is still iffy whether he can stay healthy.  I think the Chargers organization will take this into careful consideration heading into the 2017 season in their new LA home.  The Chargers realize the talent they have with Gordon after his 2016 performance but will have to determine if giving him as many touches as he was given last year is worth risking the injury.  Let Gordon come to you in the early to middle second round.

Jay Ajayi (ADP 17 RB9): Here is another player who had a great 2016 season… against 2 teams.  Ajayi finished the season with 1272 rushing yards, 151 receiving yards, and 8 TDs.  The rushing yards are clearly eye-opening, but 50% of these rushing yards and TDs came in 3 games, against only two teams.  Ajayi opened eyes in the 2016 season after he ran for 204 yards and 2 TDs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Whose defense last year was patchy at best, a problem they focused on in the Draft by picking TJ Watt.  Ajayi coupled this performance with a 214 yard and 1 score performance the following week against the Buffalo Bills.  Ajayi was held relatively in check for the next 7 games until he played, you guessed it, the Buffalo Bills.  In a must-win game for the Dolphins, Ajayi ran for 206 yards and a score.  Ajayi clearly owned the Bills last season, and offers upside this year as they play the Upstate team twice every year, but can you justify picking an RB who got half of his performance last year in 3 games?  Yes, you most likely won those fantasy weeks by a big margin, but isn’t consistency more important than putting up a big number in one week?  Ajayi is a huge reach here at the middle of the second round.  Wait, wait, wait.  Ajayi is too inconsistent to warrant a draft pick this high.

Leonard Fournette (ADP23 RB12): Leonard could be seen as one of the biggest unknowns heading into this NFL season.  The RB has all of the intangibles, the raw skill, and the potential to be a perennial great.  But will this make him a solid fantasy RB?  After last year’s emergence of Ezekiel Elliott, fantasy owners will be quick to grab Fournette’s young talent.  The difference between Zeke and Fournette… the offensive line.  Dallas has the best offensive line in the league, which parted holes at the line of scrimmage big enough to move a Mack truck through.  The Jaguars do not have this same luxury.  Fournette will be tasked with using his vision and power to gain yards, while Zeke just had to use his speed to get into space.  Taking Fournette in the late 2nd round/early 3rd round is a risk, that I’m not willing to take.  Fournette brings an uncapped ceiling, but a clearly unidentifiable floor.

Sammy Watkins (ADP 39 WR17):  Can he stay healthy?  The million dollar question for the Buffalo Bills organization and fans.  Sammy has the potential to take the top off any defense and also streak across the middle as a possession receiver.  One of the most promising young talents in the league just hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his 3-year career.  After the Bills declined his 5th year option, Watkins clearly has something to play for this season.  But what comes out of it is still TBD.  Could Sammy come out and ignite the Bills offense in the first couple weeks?  Of course he could.  But he could also try to do more than he is capable and end up getting hurt again.  At the 39th pick, I think there are much safer options in your 4th round.  You can find a player with a lower ceiling, but a higher floor who will serve you well throughout your season.

Next I will discuss the sleepers, these are players whose ADPs are too high and deserve to be picked earlier in drafts than they currently are.  If you’re in a position to pounce on one of these players, do it.  The five players I have outlined as sleepers are Rob Gronkowski, Alshon Jeffery, Allen Robinson, Spencer Ware and Tevin Coleman.

Rob Gronkowski (ADP 21 TE1): Gronk is the best Tight End in NFL history, it’s just that simple.  And to have a player of this caliber currently getting drafted in the middle of the second round?  Absolutely blasphemous.  Gronk brings with him top receiving ceilings while offering an extremely reliable floor as Tom Brady’s top target.  I know Gronk has battled injuries over the years, making him risky, but he is by far the best TE in the league and needs to be drafted higher.  Gronk is a top 12 player in fantasy and he will make and roster infinitely better.  Coming off a full recovery from a herniated disc, Gronk has something to prove that he can still be a dominant force.  I’m gearing up for Gronk to have a monster year.  Go after him early in your draft.

Alshon Jeffery (ADP30 WR14): Alshon is the epitome of a hot and cold player.  Some seasons he’s hot (2013- 1421 receiving yards, 7 TDs) and sometimes he’s cold (2016 – 821 receiving yards, 2 TDs).  So which Alshon will we be getting in the 2017 season?  My money is on the 2013 Alshon.  After heading to free agency this year, the 6-year veteran was eyeing up contracts similar to those of Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.  The only problem?  He isn’t nearly as consistent as these two.  He’s too variable to warrant a franchise shelling out that kind of money just for him to be a dud.  Jeffery’s solution?  Sign a 1 year – 14M contract with the Eagles as a chance to prove himself.  If the season goes well, Jeffery could be in the ballpark of getting that 70M contract.  With a young arm in Wentz, this connection will be coming early and often.  Jeffery is poised to have a great season as the team’s #1 wideout.  Alshon should be at a minimum WR10.  If he’s there, make a move.

Allen Robinson (ADP 37 WR16): Have we already forgotten Robinson’s 2015 season?  1400 yards and 14 TDs was a monster year for the second year player, but his production lacked in 2016.  His QB, Bortles struggled last season as he was left to scramble every play with such disarray at the O-line.  Two of the Jags biggest needs coming into this season was a running game, and an offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback.  The Jags added a great talent in Leonard Fournette and a very talented Offensive Tackle in Cam Robinson.  Robinson who was projected to be a 1st round pick snuck out to the early picks of the second, where the Jags snagged him.  With a reliable running game and Bortles having the time to make solid throws, I think Robinson is ready to come back with a big year.

Spencer Ware (ADP41 RB17): The production is there.  With a total of 1368 yards from scrimmage last year, Ware has clearly set himself up as the Number 1 in KC.  Not to mention, who’s going to be the QB?  Are the Chiefs going to do one last push with Alex Smith?  Or will rookie Patrick Mahomes will be given the reigns to attempt to take the Midwest team to the promise land?  If Mahomes is they guy, expect for Ware to get the ball often to soften the load on the young-gun.  If Smith is the guy, Ware could put up similar numbers to what he did last year.  One of my only qualms with Ware is he gets his red zone touches poached by Charcandrick West.  With that being said, if Ware starts to get into the end zone more often, watch out, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Tevin Coleman (ADP 59 RB24): 11 TDs last year, as a second option.  That is all that needs to be said about Coleman.  The Falcons 1-2 punch is the real deal and gives an opportunity for fantasy owners to open up their rosters.  Coleman currently running as RB24 puts him as an RB2 in 12-man leagues and a Flex play in 10-man leagues.  The opportunity for a score a week coming out of your flex play?  That’s a no-brainer.  With the Falcons coming into this season with a chip on their shoulders, watch out for this offense to close the deal this time.  Freeman is still the top guy, but Coleman gets the opportunity to prove himself too.  Try to make a move for this guy on draft day.

This article wasn’t intended for you to bypass Mike Evans in the second round, or draft Gronk number 1 overall, but was written to notify players I believe are currently overvalued and undervalued.  Best of luck on your fantasy seasons, I hope you are able to claim Fantasy Football Glory.

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