What does it take to find a fantasy football sleeper? We at The Fantasy Takeaway have our methods, but like so many things related to fantasy football, each analyst, owner, and outlet has their own tips & tricks for finding undervalued late-round guys that carry them to championships each and every year. This is the first installment in the new Fantasy Takeaway Tips & Tricks series. We’ll be producing episodes like this one all offseason and releasing them right up until it’s time to start putting out in-season content come late August. If you’d like to be alerted when new Tips & Tricks episodes are released, click here to sign up to receive email alerts. Don’t worry, we won’t spam your inbox with a bunch of ads and unrelated content; this list is just for delivering you all the best Tips & Tricks to dominate your leagues in 2019 and beyond.
“Here’s my deal with sleepers. The internet has killed the idea of sleepers over the years. There's way too much fantasy football coverage out there and unfortunately, guys who might have a good opportunity, guys who have a ton of talent, guys who might actually be sleepers, end up becoming the opposite because they get so much attention. What happens is a guy like say a James Washington who might have a good opportunity with the Steelers this year in the vacuum of Antonio Brown, should that happen. What happens then? Well, what should be a WR3 gets talked and hyped enough that he ends up becoming a WR2, and then when you have to take guys a couple of rounds earlier, they're not sleepers anymore. They have to become Mainstays. They have to return on investment. So my recommendation is to look for team sleepers. And what I mean by that is, look at offenses that are on the uptick. Last year the Cleveland Browns were an offense I talked about quite a bit, and they certainly gave you some performances from Baker Mayfield from Nick Chubb. They were starting to be on the upswing and helped you win weeks.
I would also look at, this year, Bruce Arians and the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston’s there. Evans is there. You got Howard, and if they can figure out one running back, whether it’s Ronald Jones or somebody else. If somehow Bruce Arians can figure out a way to get Winston to make less mistakes–and I think that he can–this is a very potent potential offense. Yeah, last year they put up some points too, but they also made a ton of mistakes. That's what you look for in Sleepers. You look at teams collectively on the upswing. To me, that's what I would look for it. That's how I would identify them. I try to move those guys up your draft board a little bit instead of worrying about guys were down the depth chart who may possibly could should make an impact. Instead, what you do is take the guys that are right on that precipice of being good but undervalued and take them where you should her take them a little bit ahead of time and that way you are in on the next “big offense” to take a step forward in 2019.”
No sleepers!? C’mon Joe! You can’t come on to talk about sleepers and then tell us they don’t exist! All kidding aside, Joe makes some excellent points. If you can identify the next offense to take that leap into the upper echelon, you’re one step ahead of the game. We’ve talked ad nauseam about the potential locked up in that Buccaneers offense for 2019, but there are a few other teams that could be poised to make big strides this season. The Arizona Cardinals, under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, could be ready to show off the true potency of Josh Rosen, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and the rest of the weapons donning cardinal red in the desert this season. Another team that could be ready to make big strides this fall is the San Francisco 49ers. Having lost basically every offensive weapon last year, Kyle Shanahan deserves a mulligan for 2018, but watch out if guys like Jimmy G, Jerick McKinnon, and Marquise Goodwin can stay on the field this year. Dante Pettis is an elite route runner out of the slot and with some healthy NFL caliber talent around him to keep that offensive attack balanced, the sky's the limit. Don’t sleep on the 9ers in 2019.
“…The number one thing that I use to identify wide receiver breakouts is to look at team situations, and the number one thing that I use to identify which team situations are going to be most conducive to production is to look at what I called concentrated offenses. What's a concentrated offense? Well, a Concentrated Offense, to me, is an offense with three or fewer pass catchers that are really going to be a drain on the overall target distribution of that group. What I mean by this is let's look at the Houston Texans for example. On that team you have DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee, but you don't necessarily have a running back that's going to command consistent targets–Lamar Miller is not going to get that done for you–and you don't have a Tight End that's really going to do the same thing.
So the majority of those targets are going to be funneled to those three guys at the receiver spots. For that reason, I mean it's easy to assume that DeAndre Hopkins going to have a WR1 season, but I think it's also a pretty safe bet to go with one of either Keke Coutee or Will Fuller as a WR24 or better candidate. In fact, I wouldn't be so surprised to see both of those guys in the WR24 or better conversation and to see all three of those guys as viable fantasy options. Again, that's just because there's nobody else in that offense to really pull targets from them. So they're just going to basically get their own volume.
So again, just a quick recap. We're talking about wide receiver breakouts. Number one thing I used to identify Wide Receiver breakouts is to look for concentrated offenses. Number one example of that concentrated offense is the Houston Texans for the 2019 season assuming they don't add a guy like Le'Veon Bell that's just going to throw a spanner in all the works here. But, For now, that's exactly what I'm talking about. Go out, go stock up on Keke Coutee, go stock up on Will Fuller. Go find those other situations with only a few really heavily targeted pass-catchers and go dominate your leagues.”
Awesome stuff as always from @FF_Wonderkid. Two other offenses that fit in that category for 2019 could be the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Chargers. Sure, the Packers will likely sign someone to help draw some of the attention away from Davante Adams, but even if a Golden Tate or John Brown lands in Lambeau, the Packers will still only have a few guys garnering meaningful volume at the wide receiver position. For the Chargers, Tyrell Williams' departure means more opportunity for Big Mike Williams. Concentrated offenses mean big production for secondary receivers.
“My tip or tips to find sleepers or pick out sleepers is to look at their contracts or the contracts of the teams. My ‘for instance’ is Albert Wilson for 2019. Danny Amendola (released since Sam recorded his clip) has a six-million-dollar cap hits but he has zero money towards the dead cap if he's cut. DeVante Parker also has zero dead cap hit it if he is cut. So those two could likely be gone from the Dolphins in 2019. So Albert Wilson would almost de facto become the WR1 this offseason. Now, obviously, the Dolphins aim to sign a free agent wide receiver or they could pick one in the draft. But we aren’t playing that game right now. We are saying that Albert Wilson, if these two players are cut, would be in line for a lot more Targets in 2019. This comes after a 2018 where he had a very efficient season. He had the most targets per game that he's had in his career. He had the most fantasy points per game he's had in his career. Moving into 2019 he sees an uptick in targets, you could definitely see him finishing as a WR3 or even a WR2 and you're probably getting him for like WR5 numbers or ADP. So, take a look at a teams cap situation and that includes how much money they have this next season in terms of cap space. What contracts are coming off the books that could affect a given player. Go to places like Spotrac, check on players salary cap hits, dead cap hits, the cap space for a given team and then check out how that could affect a given player’s standing in the next season.”
I (Joe) am a contract nerd. I find the business side of football fascinating. If you’re like me and want to dig into every detail of each organization’s financials, make sure you know about Spotrac and Over the Cap. They’re incredible resources for researching player contracts and team cap situations. If you’re not, stay tuned to the show all offseason. We’ll have plenty of contract talk during our Reading the Offense series starting May 1st and going through the month of June. In the meantime, check out what’s going on with the Carolina Panthers. They’ve got a measly $15 million in cap space, Torrey Smith has a $5 million cap hit with $0 dead cap and Devin Funchess is a free agent. Get you some D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. If the Panthers don’t bring in a big name in free agency, those guys could have huge breakouts in 2019.
“When it comes to identifying Sleepers, for me, it starts with research and it starts with research right now. I like to make a top 25 or a top 50 depending on the position right now while last season is still fresh for me. It gives me a chance to dig in and do some final rankings and stats what I remember kind of what happened during the season, but I really like to dig into performances over the last 5 Games. I feel like it gives a good indicator of what might happen with the next season and you can kind of look for trends that might carry over to the following Season. A guy who’s jumping out to me right now is Dalvin Cook. Cook was the RB 29 if you look at 2018 as a whole but if you just look at those last five games, he was the RB6 and I feel like he's a guy who is going to go a little bit later in drafts than where I think he could actually finish and that's exactly what a sleeper is. After you’ve made your rankings, you're going to start looking as draft season rolls around at consensus top 25 lists and consensus top 50 lists and more importantly start digging into average draft position. What you're looking for are guys that you have ranked higher than where they're going in drafts. Guys that you feel are going to outperform their draft position like the soon to be RB1 Dalvin cook. Those are sleepers guys and it's going to start with digging into what you have at your disposal right now, and that's what I do to find a sleeper.”
But where can you find rankings for just the last five games of the season? Well, FantasyPros has an amazing tool for finding fantasy scoring and rankings for a given set of weeks (totally free). We at The Fantasy Takeaway love FantasyPros. Whether you pay for a subscription or not, those guys put out some of the best tools and content in the industry.
Another phenomenal site you can use to find trends for fantasy football is FantasyData. They have a tool on their Fantasy Stats Page that allows you to see trends for players over their last 4, 5, 6, (insert number here) games played. That means you can see how players stack up without worrying about guys slipping through the cracks because they missed a game or two at the end of the season. You’ll need to sign up for a paid subscription to see meaningful data on this one, but I promise you it’s worth it. FantasyData is our go-to source for raw fantasy stats, projections, ADP, snap counts, red zone stats, and so much more. With the Promo Code: TAKEAWAY, you can get 20% off your monthly subscription. Full disclosure, if you sign up using these links for a paid subscription to either of these sites, we’ll get a kickback, but it doesn’t cost you anything (in fact, in the case of FantasyData it saves you $2 a month on a football subscription) and it helps keep the lights on here at The Fantasy Takeaway.
“… I typically like to target what are referred to as ‘Post Hype Sleepers’. So basically, that's someone that everybody predicted to break out last year and they fell flat either due to just bad performances or injury. So going into 2019, guys I'm targeting are the players like Jerick McKinnon and Leonard Fournette who were lost to injuries during the year and underperformed the little bit we did see of them. Rookies that came out last year that people were excited about like Royce Freeman. And other guys that just didn't live up to what we had expectations for like Keelan Cole and John Brown and to a lesser degree Kalen Ballage or Ronald Jones who we didn't see much of for various reasons with
their teams. Also playing for upside. If teams have a set WR1, I like going after their WR2 because in case you hadn’t noticed, football players get hurt. So, looking at offensive pass-heavy teams, Trequan Smith with the Saints Michael Gallup with the Cowboys. Daesean Hamilton with the Broncos. They're all arguably their team's number 2–some number 3–and those are guys you can target who should see a decent amount of volume as their second option in the passing game. But if the number one of their team goes down they are in line for a huge uptick in Production.”
Pay attention Takeaway Nation. Post-hype sleepers are some of the best candidates to outperform their ADP. Recency bias usually means guys who underperformed in relation to their draft position last year will be underdrafted this year. John Brown won’t be hindered by a quarterback who can’t pass in 2019 (hopefully). Rashaad Penny has had a full year to learn how to be an NFL running back. The first place to look when trying to find sleepers and values is your notes from last year. Just because Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL in 2018 doesn’t mean you have to start over with your evaluations. They were solid evaluations then and they’re solid evaluations now. A good player is a good player. Don’t let lack of hype from the experts mean lack of faith in your process. Heck, Todd Gurley in 2017 was a post-hype sleeper. DAVID JOHNSON!!!! (sorry, I felt like I had to yell to get the point across)
“… First off, we all know the fantasy industry is just jam-packed with information. So make sure you know what a sleeper is. It's not somebody that nobody's heard about or that you're going to sneak into your draft and someone's going to ask you like “Woah, who is that?” Everybody knows everyone of these guys these days, whether you're a die-hard listener of offseason podcasts and you're prepping months before your draft, is that even the guy that picked up a magazine at his local drugstore 10 minutes before your draft has these names in front of them. There are no sleepers nowadays. So really what you're looking for some late-round value of some players that you think can be on your roster and be, at minimum, a bye week fill in. That’d be great. If they turn into an every-week starter,even better. But the fact that you can leave your draft with these players as opposed to having to pick them up off the wire is a benefit to you. Another thing that you should be doing is adjusting your view of a player is based off of their ADP. If you look at a player in Late July or August, yeah, you might love the. And when you factor in their ADP of a 9th 10th or 11th round, that's fantastic. Those are guys who should be targeting. But if you if you're drafting later in the month of August, closer to kickoff, and those guys have creeped into the 6th and 7th round, evaluate those players around those going around them. They might not be sleepers anymore, and they might not be worth the reach. So those are two things you should definitely be doing–being aware of the definition of a sleeper, and taking a look at the ADP as it gets closer to your draft day. If you're looking at the early August ADP, it's not to be helpful for you. One of the things that we like to do over The Fantasy Football Fellas is, we love the idea of sniping. Whether it’s waiver wire snapping in season or ADP sniping at the draft. Now, I love drafting live, but not everyone gets to. We are usually drafting on an online platform and those online platforms come preloaded with rankings and ADP and projections and stats. What you need to do to identify a great sleeper is, regardless of position, take a look at the rankings ADP on that specific site. I love going in and doing mock drafts on that specific site to make sure that I can identify the players that their experts have ranked to low in my opinion. Then you know that those names are going to be creeping to the top of the draft room for all to see. Yes, maybe you have to go around earlier than you might expect but heck you're getting the guy that you really believe in. You have to do this ahead of time. We call it ADP sniping over The Fantasy Football Fellas, and we take a look at all the major platform sites through the month of August to identify the players that we think are going to low. You should do the same. Take a look at your rankings, see the guys that you want to plant your flag on for this upcoming season, and see where a specific site has those players ranked a little bit too low.”
Keep an eye out for platform-specific ADP vs. ECR articles in the days leading up to your draft. The later in the draft you get, the less you should look at taking players a round or two early as reaching. Get your guys. Fantasy football is about being wrong just a little bit less than the next guy, and sometimes that means sticking your neck out a little bit on guys like Phillip Lindsay at the end of your draft. Don’t miss Joe’s appearance on The Fantasy Football Fellas Podcast that came out during the beginning of March. #NoMoreTEs
“There is not one concrete stat or analytic I can give you that will give you a stone cold lock sleeper every time. The stats, metrics, analytics, numbers. They all matter. But they do not mean anything if a player is not on the field. It's a combination of two things: progression of snap percentage the previous year, and projected path to touches the following season. That is how I identify a sleeper. I spoke in a recent article about Daesean Hamilton and Dede Westbrook. Two sleeper wide receivers I am projecting to have valuable and productive 2019 campaigns. Both players saw their usage and snap counts go up towards the end of the season, and are projected to be on a field for at least 70% of snaps next season. We saw it happen in 2018 with Marlon Mack, Tyler Boyd, David Njoku, Kenny Golladay, and many others for 2018. All the named players saw their usage increased towards the end of 2017. They're good play translated into roles in 2018 that put them on the field more and made them more valuable for Fantasy Football. You have to Encompass many things when identifying a sleeper, but a player is nothing in fantasy football if a player is not getting playing time.”
Steve hit it on the head with this take. Snap counts are one of the most important pieces of the sleeper puzzle. The easiest place to find snap count data is FantasyData, but you can also find those numbers (albeit in a slightly more difficult to digest format) over at literally my favorite site on the internet, Pro-Football-Reference.com. If you’re a stat nerd and you haven’t checked out their Play Index tool, you’re missing out. It’s incredible.
“Yeah. Time to wake up sleepy head… So let’s get rid of those eye boogies. It’s time to listen up, cause I’m gonna tell you how to find yourself a fantasy football sleeper. I’m gonna break it down into three easy steps and who knows? I might even throw in a bonus tip cause sometimes, that’s all you need. Look for bounce back candidates. Now let’s think about Todd Gurley in 2016. Jeff Fisher was the reason why Todd Gurley was horrible. You watch Todd Gurley in his rookie season? Dude balled out, okay? And then all you gotta think of is like, okay. New coach, new scheme, let’s get rid of Jeff Fisher. What happened? Todd Gurley, the top running back in 2017 and 2018. I think a sleeper to consider this year is Derrius Guice. One of the best running backs coming out of the NFL Draft in 2017. If you’re telling me Adrian Peterson can rush for over 1,000 yards as in a top 15 running back? All I’m saying is do not sleep on Derrius Guice. Second tip: Let’s look at opportunity. Let’s look at David Johnson in 2016. A super talented running back who had eight touchdowns his rookie year, and then got the full workload in 2016. Alvin Kamara in 2017 with the New Orleans Saints. An absolute monster of an athlete on a really talented offense. And then last, James Conner 2018. Le’Veon Bell decides not to show up, and James Conner absolutely balled out. 12 touchdowns on a really talented team. Opportunity is really important. Last, but certainly not least, watch the film, man. Watch Saquon Barkley. If you watch Saquon Barkley–I compared him to LaDainian Tomlinson and David Johnson. A freak of an athlete who was gonna get a ton of work. That’s why he put up over 2,000 total yards and he is rookie of the year. Also, watch the tape on players like Phillip Lindsay. Phillip Lindsay was a sleeper and if you watched the preseason you would’ve clearly saw that Lindsay was much more talented and diverse as an athlete than Royce Freeman. So just because all the reports are Royce Freeman? Hey, watch Lindsay. He’s a more talented back. Here’s your bonus tip: follow offseason news. Just cause it’s the offseason do not fall asleep on what’s actually happening. Keep ahead of your competition. An easy way to do that is to subscribe to Chat Sports on YouTube. Just cause it’s the offseason, don’t be sleepin’. Time to wake up!”
Enough said. Great clip. Great follow. Great guy. Here’s a tip. Follow Mitchell Renz. He’s one of the best in the business.
Thanks so much to Joe, Etan, Sam, Ryan, John, Kyle, Steve, and Mitchell for helping us out with our first Tips & Tricks episode. We couldn’t have done this without you, and we can’t wait to have you all back on the show soon.