Identifying deep sleepers can legitimately be the difference between winning and losing your league. Just looking back to final ADP for running backs last season, if you grabbed Ajayi in the 10th round, Ware in the 12th, Riddick in the 13th, or Jordan Howard in the 16th you were likely sitting pretty at the position.
The same can be said for every position (Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Tyrell Williams, Rishard Matthews, Tyreek Hill, Terrelle Pryor). Identifying players going in the late, late rounds that could eventually become a starter and focal point for their team can be tricky, but we are here to give you a few names that should be on your radar as we head into camp.
Deep Sleeper Quarterbacks for 2017 Season
Quarterbacks rated outside of the top 20 for the position.
Blake Bortles – Current Ranking: 20
I think we may be slightly overreacting to Bortles awful season last year… at least from a fantasy perspective. While I certainly wouldn’t want him as the number 1 QB on my roster, as the 20th QB off the board he’s a ridiculous steal. Despite being terrible last season, Bortles once again finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback, and keeping Doug Marrone on as HC was the best case scenario for the fourth year QB. The receiving corps is still loaded here, and the addition of Leonard Fournette should help protect Bortles from having to drop back 600 times per season.
Trevor Siemian – Current Ranking: 33
I was so torn between my two QB-man-crushes here, Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff. Both players are going to open a ton of eyes this season. Too many people are underestimating just how bad the Rams offensive scheme was that Goff was running last season. However, when it comes to 2017 specifically, Siemian just has too big of an advantage given the talent around him. I like the Rams young receiving corps, but Siemian still has Thomas and Sanders, and added Carlos Henderson, Isaiah McKenzie, Jake Butt and Jamaal Charles this offseason. That porous line he played behind in 2016? It’s been completely revamped, and will run a new power scheme under new o-line coach Jeff Davidson. Of his starts last season, only 4 were what we would even consider above-average matchups, and yet Siemian managed to average 19 PPG in his first year as a starter. He will give you zero as a runner, but could be one undrafted fantasy QB that ends up having a Philip Rivers type season passing the ball.
Deep Sleeper Running Backs for 2017 Season
Running backs rated outside of the top 40 for the position.
Jamaal Charles – Current Ranking: 53
Charles will be a tough player for fantasy owners to peg this preseason as he finds himself in a RB competition with C.J. Anderson who looked great last season, averaging 4.5 YPC. As great as that is, Charles is still the NFL’s all time YPC leader, and even after the ACL injury will be a much more explosive player than Anderson. Even given a potential 50/50 split in Denver, I would lean towards Charles doing more with his snaps.
Jamaal Williams – Current Ranking: 50
While we don’t expect an Eddie Lacy type rookie season (1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns), Williams is in line to have a substantial role in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Given fellow rookie Aaron Jones is essentially the same style RB as TY Montgomery, Williams is Montgomery’s only real competition for early-down and goal line work. Should Montgomery not hold up to a full season at the RB position, Williams would be the feature back for the Pack, not a bad steal in the final round or two of your draft.
Alvin Kamara – Current Ranking: 53
We will beat the Kamara drum all preseason, and while I don’t think he’s still ranked outside of the top 40 by the time your fantasy draft rolls around, you need to have him on your radar. Last week we listed Kamara as one of our top rookie running backs available for dynasty leagues, but he has immediate value in New Orleans. AP will clearly not be used in any sort of 3rd down role, and early reports out of Saints camp is that they view Kamara as a perfect fit for Sproles’ joker role. A role that saw Sproles average over 77 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 7 touchdowns per year in his time in NO.
Deep Sleeper Wide Receivers for 2017 Season
Wide receivers rated outside of the top 50 for the position.
Marvin Jones – Current Ranking: 51
Of the buy low targets in this range, none have the upside that Marvin Jones has. The clear #1 receiver in what has been one of the best passing offense in the NFL over the past 6 seasons, and you are getting him as the 51st receiver off the board? Not only do I expect Jones to rebound in year 2 with Stafford and in year 2 of Jim Bob Cooter’s system, but he is guaranteed to see an increase in volume given Anquan Boldin and his 100 targets and 8 touchdowns are gone. Couple that with the fact that the Lions will finally, for the first time in Stafford’s career, have an offensive line that can protect the quarterback, and I think Jones sees a nearly 100% bump in every statistical category in 2017.
Curtis Samuel – Current Ranking: 74
We know rookie receivers are going to emerge from anywhere in the 60-150 range. There are plenty of rookies ranked lower than 60 in the position group that you should be paying attention to throughout the offseason and preseason: Ross, Jones, Kupp, Samuel, Stewart, Golladay, Reynolds, Godwin, Henderson… Of the group, I think Samuel may be the safest bet. We know Benjamin, Olsen, and McCaffrey are going to dominate targets, but Samuel is a guy that could do considerable damage without a ton of targets. Given the number of weapons Carolina has, and the fact that you have to spy Cam, Samuel should see plenty of 1 on 1 matchups and I will take this guy in space over just about anyone.
Michael Campanaro – Current Ranking: 121
With Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken leaving in the offseason and Dennis Pitta now unlikely to return, Campanaro looks like he will fill the role of possession receiver that Aiken and Smith split over the past few seasons. Those two combine for 99 receptions on 150 targets last season, and 121 receptions on 200 targets the year before. If Campanaro is able to carve out a possession receiver type role, and stay healthy, he could be a PPR monster in 2017 and will likely still be available in the final round of your draft.
Deep Sleeper Tight Ends for 2017 Season
Tight ends rated outside of the top 20 for the position.
Evan Engram – Current Ranking: 25
The Giants didn’t spend a first round pick on Engram to use him as a blocker or paper weight. He is going to see the field, and going to see targets. Given OBJ and Marshall are on the outisde, Engram will either see a safety, linebacker, or a nickel corner for most snaps and will always have an advantage. For those that aren’t aware, Engram’s 4.42 at the combine was by far the fastest 40 time ever put up by a tight end. He gives Eli a versatile weapon with the ability to get himself open and fill a multitude of roles. He reminds us a lot of Travis Kelce, and should be just what the Giants hope for when drafting him 23rd overall.
Jesse James – Current Ranking: 31
We expect to hear plenty of buzz around a pair of number 2 tight ends in this range: in Indy, Erik Swoope, and in New England, Dwayne Allen. However it’s James, an undisputed number 1 tight end, on one of the most prolific offenses in the league, that catches my eye. The fact that the Steelers didn’t add a tight end in the draft or free agency, has to provide some confidence that they believe the 6’7″ James is ready to take another step forward. He isn’t going to rack up big yardage numbers, but if he can carve out a red zone role and give you a fraction of what Heath Miller did here for years, James could end up a top 15 tight end by year’s end.