The recent emergence of daily fantasy leagues has caused an avalanche of information for the already over-saturated market of fantasy football. If 12,000 different sites claim to have “sleeper picks” for 2016, are any picks truly unexpected? Of course not.
With everyone trying to find the next Allen Robinson or Devonta Freeman, why not set your sights a little lower? Not every late-round pick is going to be the one that wins you the league, but you could at least grab some quality starters worth a plug-and-play, or some depth players your friends will be begging to trade for once their starters get hurt.
Below are a few players I have a good feeling about this season. Some of them probably won’t even be drafted in your league, but they’ll be worth keeping an eye on. These players may not be the ultimate sleepers, but by midseason, they’ll likely emerge as attractive options over most of your garbage rosters. So, instead of calling them sleepers, let’s just say they’re “nappers.”
2016 Napper Picks
Tevin Coleman, RB; Falcons
With Devonta Freeman emerging as the lead fantasy bust candidate, this pick becomes less of a napper pick and more of a screw-over-your-buddy pick. Coleman is headed towards an increased workload this season after just 392 yards on 87 carries in 2015. A bigger back than Freeman, he should steal some red zone work, and could put up a pretty solid season overall.
Whoever drafts Freeman in your league should be looking to handcuff him. If you swipe Coleman first, not only will you draw his ire (which is hilarious), but you’ll also land a backup capable of becoming a quality starter this year.
Christine Michael, RB; Seahawks
Thomas Rawls was the presumed starter heading into this year, but a bum ankle has kept him from getting much work in camp. That opening has allowed Christine Michael to flash some of the promise that caused Seattle to take him in the second round in 2013. Rawls should still be the starter when he returns, but there’s no guarantee he stays there.
The run game is integral to what the Seahawks do on offense, so if Rawls is at all slowed by his ankle, Pete Carroll will be quick to replace him. Even if Rawls can handle a normal workload, there should still be carries for Michael. Even though he has zero touchdowns in his three-year career, he’s worth having for the first few weeks, just to see how this backfield situation shakes out.
Willie Snead, WR; Saints
There are rumblings that Michael Thomas is the Saints receiver to watch this year, but I’ve heard Drew Brees pump the tires of a rookie receiver before, and to this day, I still have trust issues with Brandin Cooks. Realistically, when Brees is throwing for 4,500-plus yards, all New Orleans receivers should have solid years; but Snead is the one that could really flourish. Slot receivers continue to be more and more productive across the league, and Snead earned Brees’ trust last season, catching 68-percent of his targets. Look for him to have a season worthy of a WR3.
Rishard Matthews, WR; Titans
Dorial Green-Beckham getting shipped out just confirms that Rishard Matthews should be a starter for Tennessee. Injuries caused the Titans to work with a mishmash of receivers last season, and Marcus Mariota never really developed a connection with anyone besides Delanie Walker. Matthews is the type of weapon the sophomore QB will love: he caught over 70-percent of his targets in Miami last year and over a third of his yardage came after the catch.
With Tennessee transitioning to a run-heavy attack, there will be opportunities for Matthews to make big plays in the play action game. He may be a boom-or-bust option to start, but he should eventually emerge as the top option outside the hash-marks for Tennessee.
Zach Miller, TE; Bears
Bears tight ends combined for 878 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and now the whiny Martellus Bennett is gone. With no other capable tight ends on the roster, most of that production should fall on the lap of Zach Miller. The 31-year-old had half of a breakout season last year after Bennett was injured, and he earned Jay Cutler’s trust by making a few incredible plays.
Miller does come with injury concerns, but what’s the bottom of the draft for if not taking high-upside white guys with stylin’ hair?
Alex Smith, QB; Chiefs
There are only 32 starting QBs in the league – and only two-thirds of them are any good – so it’s hard for any to be a napper. But Alex Smith only ever seems to be viewed as a game manager, and never a viable fantasy option, despite finishing fourth among quarterbacks in rushing last season with 498 yards.
This year, the Chiefs offense will have to do more heavy lifting as the defense deals with some key losses. With Doug Pederson off to Philadelphia, Brad Childress will once again be running Andy Reid’s offense. The two were in charge in Philly when Donovan McNabb had his best season as a passer (2004), and Smith could be in line for similar production as the run-heavy Chiefs try to get more vertical with their passing game.
Photo Credit: Mike Morris (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.