Fantasy Football: Sleepers and Reachers

In every relationship there is a settler and a reacher… wait. Wrong blog. Sorry.

In every fantasy football draft there are owners who rely on sleepers, defined as players with high value that will be productive despite their selection being during later rounds. And there are owners that will reach for a player whom I like to call reachers, defined as owners who draft players in early rounds whose production will not justify their high selection. Now, you may be wondering, “Why should I listen to some rando writing a blog who has no impressive credentials whatsoever?” You’d be right to be skeptical… in most situations. Take my word for it, I am entering my thirteenth year of fantasy football and after learning from countless mistakes I made as a teenager, I am now a mature and experienced fantasy football owner who has finished in the top four in each of my three leagues in the last three years. And in each of the last three years I have entered the playoffs as a 1 seed or a 2 seed in each league, winning twice and placing second twice. Some say, “It’s better to be lucky than good,” but I say, “It’s better to be better than good.” Trust me. Without further ado, let’s get into the players you should not reach for and the players you should not sleep on.

Reachers

  1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Wait, I can’t be serious. Drew Brees? First ballot hall of famer Drew Brees? Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees? 2008 and 2011 Offensive Player of the Year Drew Brees? Yes, that Drew Brees. Do NOT reach for the New Orleans Saints QB. Here’s why:

Last year, Brees failed to eclipse 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2005. From weeks 13 to 16, Brees killed playoff hopes for some teams scoring only an average of 11 points per week. He also had 4 rushing touchdowns last season, the highest total of his career that he is unlikely to replicate. Now, is Brees’ talent declining? Absolutely not. He’s still as sharp as ever, however in 2005, his running back was Hall of Famer, LaDanian Tomlinson who rushed for over 1,400 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. With Mark Ingram gone, the reigns have been taken completely off Alvin Kamara who is projected to be the third best fantasy running back this season. Expect the saints to stick to their dominant running game. DO NOT reach for Brees.

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Now this one is interesting as well because Gurley is likely going in the first or second round. Say he falls to mid-to-late second round or third round, by all means take him. His talent is undeniable and his ceiling is incredibly high IF HE IS HEALTHY. There was some speculation earlier this year that Gurley’s knee injury was arthritis which would be a nagging injury that would definitely soften his workload which is what we saw happen when the Rams began giving carries to C.J. Andersen late last season. Even if Gurley is healthy enough to play, be wary of his workload. There is a good chance that he will not return to his bellcow role he had in 2017. Expect rookie, Darrell Henderson, to have a role in the backfield.

3. Any San Francisco 49ers Running Back

The talent combined in this backfield might be the among the best in the league. Jerick McKinnon is coming back after a season ending injury suffered in preseason last year. Matt Breida is back after a breakout season. The Niners are also welcoming Tevin Coleman into their backfield this year. This crowded backfield is a good problem to have for Kyle Shanahan and offensive coordinator, Curtis Modkins. But for fantasy owners, this should be a red flag. On any given day, one of these running backs can go off for a hundred yards and a touchdown but it’s risky having one of them in your lineup when the Niners are feeding the hot hand in this Running Back By Committee scheme (RBBC). The smart play here if you do draft one of these backs is to draft them late when you are drafting your bench spots and stash one of them on your bench in hopes that they emerge as the favorite back. But the risk is too high for the reward here. Stick to running backs who you know will receive a decent amount of touches.

Honorable Mentions: Devonta Freeman, Kenyan Drake, James Conner, Eric Ebron, Damien Williams, Corey Davis

Sleepers

  1. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

At first glance you might think that the Bears are in the same situation as the Niners when it comes to running backs. They currently have Mike Davis, Tarik Cohen, and Montgomery on their depth chart. But if you look closer, Tarik Cohen shouldn’t interfere too much with Montgomery’s touches. Currently, Cohen is the most talented back on the roster and him and Jordan Howard were able to co-exist while they played together, both putting up serviceable numbers. Montgomery is also a different type of running back than Cohen. While Cohen is shifty and agile, Montgomery has more of a ground and pound style to him despite coach Matt Nagy praising his hands out of the backfield. Mike Davis is also the least of my worries when it comes to sharing touches, he’s shown flashes in his career but nothing consistent enough to be a three-down back. David Montgomery may not produce right away but he is worth drafting because of his upside.

2. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yes, Winston served a three game suspension to start last season and yes at one point lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he scored 196 fantasy points in just 11 games last season. If that was prorated to 16 games then he would have been among the top 15 quarterbacks. In the two of his four seasons where he played all 16 games he threw for over 4,000 yards and for an average of 25 touchdowns per season. Winston is currently being taken in the 10th round on average in most fantasy drafts and if he falls to you at that point in the draft, I suggest you take him. If Tampa Bay can finally figure out their atrocious running back situation, it could help Winston even more.

3. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Kupp is a player I have loved ever since his days at Eastern Washington. Unfortunately, in the middle of his breakout season he tore his ACL. But the good news is that he was a full participant in training camp and is expected to start the season fully healthy. Kupp was averaging nearly 12 fantasy points per game and scored 6 touchdowns before going down with the injury in week 10. He is currently the 24th wide receiver taken in drafts on average which to me is too low for Kupp. But take advantage of the people overlooking Kupp and make him the steal of your draft. With Gurley’s knee banged up, Kupp can see an increase in red-zone targets with his 6-2 frame.

Honorable Mentions: Miles Sanders, Curtis Samuel, James Washington, Devin Singletary, Tre’Quan Smith

Written By Jon Dula

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