Want a Deep, Deep Sleeper Running Back heading into 2016 fantasy football drafts? Here is one runner that needs opportunity to succeed, but he has some pretty awesome hidden appeal. The risk is super-low, if not near zero, yet the reward is extremely-high.
This kid is exciting. He runs hard and he has some monster stat lines despite the limited usage in 2016. Before we get into the details, look at these stat lines from 2015:
As you can see, the guy averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry in 2015, and that’s even if you included his rough outing in Week 17, where he rushed 24 times for only 28 yards. Take that game out and he averaged over 10 yards-per-carry. I know, it’s a small sample size, and you can play the “take out this game and then…” game all day long with all kinds of players, but the truth is, I admit there isn’t much at all go to go on here. It kind of reminds me a lot of when we talked up Michael Turner as a top 5-10RB entering his 2007 campaign. He was about to get traded out of San Diego, but in the final hour he didn’t. We had a small sample size to go on, but I saw elite talent in both his numbers and his footage. His per-touch production was just monstrous, and while we had to wait one more season after that 2007 season, he proved us right in 2008, as he became of the best fantasy football running backs in the game for a handful of years. I am not sure what kind of opportunity exists for Gillislee entering 2016, as we don’t truly know what that Bills’ coaching staff is thinking. We do know three things, though… 1) Karlos Williams is suspended for the first four games of the 2016 NFL season, 2) The Bills run over 30 times per game, 3) LeSean McCoy is oft-injured, and has concussion risk… That second part, where the Bills run 30+ times per game, this means that Gillislee, even with a healthy LeSean McCoy, has a big stage to perform on for the first 1/4 of the season. He is the current No. 2 in Buffalo. That’s nice production right out of the gate (while NOT starting). And, given his per-touch production, I believe we ‘could’ (I repeat ‘could’) see him make a bid for being the future of that Bills’ rushing attack. Now, one fumble or injury can squash this entire thinking, and coaches can ruin all kinds of hopes in these kinds of situations. This is a deep, deep call. The talent is there, my friends, I see it. However, talent doesn’t ALWAYS translate into fantasy dominance. Trade on the cheap for the guy in dynasty and scoop him up in all redraft leagues near the very end of the draft. His ADP is non-existent in most cases, meaning no one is really drafting him – yet. McCoy owners might (and should, so be sure to grab him if you own Shady), but his risk is zero and his upside is gigantic. He is a fun stash to own in 2016!
Each and every fantasy football season, a grip of big name players hold a ton of risk heading into the months of July, August and September. When does that risk outweigh the reward? Let’s dig into a handful of Risky Running Backs heading into 2016. Keep in mind, though, a player may be listed below and still be worth the risk, so read the write-up for each player!
Note: I’ve already written a ton on Devonta Freeman, a player that would normally top such a list. To read more on his 2016 value, click here.
With an ADP in the 2.01-2.04 range, there is a lot to like about Jamaal Charles (ACL). However, there is still a great amount of risk, as he is coming of ACL surgery and there are still a ton of solid and safer players to snag in that 2.01-2.04 range, players like Allen Robinson, Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller, etc… So, in redraft, is the risk worth the reward at an ADP near 2.01-2.04? I say no, not before players like Ezekiel Elliott, AJ Green, Doug Martin, Dez Bryant, Lamar Miller, Allen Robinson and maybe even Mike Evans. So, once you include all the obvious choices, like Gronk and everyone above him, you’re looking at about 2.06-2.08 before I start considering Charles and his red flags (two major knee surgeries in 2 years). He is still a second-round pick, though, and we are talking redraft still… in dynasty, I think he has a solid 1-2 years left (likely 2)… and that makes him very undervalued in dynasty. Trade for him if you want to win now and can get him dirt cheap… second- or third-round dynasty value is not considered cheap, so buy lower than that or not at all.
This is a tough player to call out, as he is on the Bold Predictions list. However, he was added last year when his value was silly-low, and back then, it wasn’t even sniffing 3rd- or 4th-round value. His value has since climbed to crazy-high heights, heights I recommended to sell-high on months ago… now his value continues to fall as injury concerns continue to swirl. So, as it stands now, his ADP is still near the very bottom of the second-round, which is still kind of high given the risks of both injury and his short resume. I maybe like him as a late 3rd-rounder, and I loved him when he cracked the Bold Predictions at value way, way below 3rd- and 4th-round value… that time is gone, and those who traded for him on the cheap in dynasty back when he cracked the Bold Predictions, nice work… but I say there is way too much risk buying him at even high third-round value, and that’s where he is currently valued even with the recent doubt/injury concerns. I like the kid, as he is on the Bold Predictions list for a reason (given the value he once sat at)… but, everything boils down to value, or risk vs. reward… in redraft, with a late second-round ADP, you’re talking about safer options like Amari Cooper and Matt Forte potentially being available. In dynasty, there is little chance Cooper will be available in the late second-round, but there are still safer options over Rawls in dynasty if you ask me. Draft safer.
I have come to the conclusion that DeMarco Murray will be overlooked no matter what happens heading into August/September, as he has a super-solid 4.06 in redraft right now. It just doesn’t seem to climb, there is so much doubt! And, his dynasty value is at least that, if not lower. That’s low-risk, because you’re talking about players like Golden Tate, Matt Jones and Doug Baldwin being slotted around him. Not that those types aren’t strong fantasy options, but Murray arguably still has top 5RB upside. I know the risk is huge if you’re expecting that kind of output, but at 4.06, there is more than enough risk built into the value, and even if he shares carries more than we’d like, earning 4.06-type value is still attainable. I am 50/50 on Murray being able to return to his elite self, but I’m closer to 100% on loving the odds when looking at it from a 4.06 draft selection. Trade accordingly (value-wise) in dynasty!
Eddie Lacy did look very undervalued heading into the very beginning of the 2016 fantasy football off-season. Since then, though, his ADP has climbed way too high, and we’re talking 2.05-2.08 range (for dynasty and redraft). That’s way too high if you ask me, as safer players like Doug Martin, Amari Cooper (in redraft), Mike Evans (in redraft) and Matt Forte (in redraft) are all likely to be available at Lacy’s draft slot. Sell on the high in dynasty, as his value is super good and you can get a much safer player in dynasty if you trade him in now. Even if he does rebound, remember, you’re getting a similar player that should work out as well, you’re just trading him in for a less risky player.
The dude comes with a lot of risk merely because his coach is Chip Kelly. However, at a current redraft ADP of 4.01-4.03 (near the same in dynasty), risk appears to be built-in! Given the players around this 4.01 slot, I like the upside vs. the risk. Just handcuff him to his back-up to play it safe (for now it’s Shaun Draughn but that could change quickly).
No one was likely more disappointed with Melvin Gordon as a rookie than I was. I had huge, huge expectations. I still love his skill set, and if he can pull in passes, hold onto the football, and make better decisions, I think he will have a big second season in the NFL. At a 6th- to 7th-round ADP in redraft (maybe a round higher in dynasty), I love the value. The risk is low, as you’re talking about players like Larry Fitzgerald, Frank Gore, and some TEs in that range.
At a 4.01-4.03 ADP, I love this value. There is definitely risk here, as Landford has a short resume and doesn’t have a super-lock on the starting running back job in Chicago. However, he is dynamic, I love what I’ve seen out of him thus far, and he currently does have the keys to the starting gig… I think top 10RB upside is possible if he stays healthy, so at 4th-round value, there is more to like than be concerned with! The key to this is ensuring you have the back-up, and that could be Jordan Howard or Carey.
Let’s be honest, you can’t rank and rerank the fantasy football rookies enough in the months of January through July. ADP Data changes by the week, sometimes by the day, and our own personal evaluations change extremely fast just by watching tape and reading current news. So, with that said, it’s time to start from scratch and rank/analyze this 2016 Fantasy Football Rookie NFL Draft Class. Enjoy.
He is the consensus 1.01 in any format. If you aren’t drafting him at the 1.01, let’s say due to team need, you’re making a HUGE mistake. He is the 1.01, conversation over. If you really feel you want to roll with a wide receiver, or another rusher, trade down and get a ton, because you will get a ton. Dallas is the perfect landing spot for Zeke, as he will now run behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and he has one of the best wide receivers on the outside (Dez Bryant) keeping defenses honest. Granted, a truly elite rookie season might require a relatively healthy Tony Romo, but even if injury strikes a touch at the QB position, even Dez Bryant owners now have a sense of production protection built into the situation, as Zeke will help that offense stay relatively balanced should it be without Romo for an extended period of time. All that said, Zeke owners need Romo in the lineup for truly elite numbers this upcoming season. If Romo stays relatively healthy all year, expect elite fantasy RB1-type numbers out of this on-the-rise rookie rusher.
Here is the deal, folks. No player in this 2016 NFL Draft Class even sniffs Elliott’s talent level, except Kenneth Dixon. Who would I rather have on my team if I was a coach? Elliott, no question. That said, the only reason this draft class is completely flat after the 1.01 is because not one rusher, other than Elliott, was drafted as the uncontested starter for his team. If Dixon had landed in Dallas and Elliott still went somewhere solid, like Miami, you’d have two-man tier in Elliott and Dixon, and even though Zeke would still be the consensus 1.01 in all formats, Dixon would at least command some consideration. That’s how good he is. He is a beast and his talent jumps out on tape. I mean JUMPS out! Watch below and see for yourself. Now, he is in a decent scenario, with only Buck Allen and Justin Forsett ahead of him, so don’t sleep on him as the second-best player in this 2016 NFL Draft class. Should you take him at 1.02? No, not necessarily. Use current ADP data all the way up until your league’s rookie-only draft kicks off. Here is a fresh look at Rookie-only ADP Data, where he currently sits at 1.05-1.06. Not to confuse matters with what I just said about ADP Data, but I will say this… this class is so iffy from 1.02 on down, I wouldn’t blame anyone for drafting Dixon at 1.02 just to ensure that they got Dixon.. I’ve considered it and will continue to consider it heading into a draft where I hold the 1.02. Sometimes it’s worth getting your guy, especially when the risk is low, and given this class is kind of flat, the risk is low spending a 1.02 on anyone you feel has the tools to be not just great, but elite. If starting, Dixon could absolutely be elite.
I’m changing my tune a bit on this kid. I have watched a lot of game footage this week and I am going to speculate that he puts my concerns to ease as he matures. My concern is lack of speed. That said, he is still young, and given his ability to go up and get a ball, and given the fight in many of his big plays after the catch, I think this kid will work hard and get quicker. Anquan Boldin, along with many other strong fantasy football wide receivers, have proven that speed isn’t a requirement for becoming elite. It’s definitely a red flag that needs to be considered at the rookie evaluation stage, sure, but the more film I watch on this receiver, the more I like him. I am not sure if he will ever be a top 5WR in fantasy, but he has enough talent in every non-speed category that he has a shot at eventually being a fantasy WR1.
I like Corey Coleman a lot. One reason is because he is in a good situation to be his team’s No. 1 wide receiver right out of the gate. If he isn’t, well, that means that Josh Gordon is back and I will be plenty happy with that news. Even if that happens, though, Gordon’s long-term future with the Browns, and NFL, is cloudy at best, so honestly, Coleman could be the WR1 in Cleveland for a decade, and it might take him 1-2 years to get settled anyway. Could he fail in fantasy? Sure. Might he not get enough targets? Sure. That said, with RG3 potentially setup to rebound in 2016, and with Josh McCown capable if need be, I think Coleman has a really productive rookie season and a bright future. I had Coleman as my No. 1 wide receiver coming out of this draft class until recently, which I address above under Treadwell.
I like his situation a ton in Washington, and that alone gives him an edge. Both Corey Coleman and Laquon Treadwell are in good situations in terms of being their team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but Doctson has the passer that has top 4-7 fantasy upside, which typically spells more targets. As weak as this rookie wide receiver class is, all three of Coleman, Treadwell and Doctson have the potential to be low-end fantasy WR1s. I don’t think all of them will be, much depends on how each matures. Good luck ranking these three receivers, it’s tough given all the variables.
He enters as the team’s backup, so don’t go drafting him above the players you see ranked above. However, don’t be shy about making him your 1.07-1.09 rookie-only draft selection on draft day. Most will take Henry above him, and you might want to consider that as well if given the choice. But, I rank Booker here because I think he has more ceiling. More risk, but more ceiling potential. He has a big obstacle in his way, though, and his name is CJ Anderson.
He landed in an awful situation. Awful. The Titans went after DeMarco Murray in the off-season, and they acquired him to be the workhorse. Will the team play smash mouth football using Henry 8-10 times up the middle? Absolutely, and he will be fun to watch in those situation. Like every rusher, Murray will need a break, and that’s all this is, unless Murray gets hurt. Then I think Henry plays very well, but for how long? A season? Murray, even if hurt badly, would return to start. And, if he didn’t, I honestly can’t see Henry holding up if being given a full-time workload for anything more than 1-2 seasons. Think Brandon Jacobs, but bigger. I have been wrong about players before, so trust your gut if he is your guy, but just curb expectations a bit, as he has a potential top 5-10 fantasy rusher ahead of him, and size that usually will not translate into an every-down rusher at that NFL level.
Sleeper Alert, folks! The Giants don’t exactly have a future stud at the position, as Rashad Jennings is not the long-term answer, and either is the dynamic third-down runner in Shane Vereen. Perkins will eventually get his shot, and if he excels, this could be that late first-round grab that turns into an unexpected gem. Don’t overpay on draft day, know your ADP data! But, don’t be shy about getting your guy either… once you get near the 1.06, just grab the players you want, don’t let ADP influence you too much, but we’re talking after that 1.06 range.
All three have low-end fantasy QB1 appeal, but all have risk. For more on these passers, read here.
I really like Keith Marshall as a boom or bust RB pick. If given a shot, he could thrive. I mean really thrive! Don’t overpay, as you don’t need to. His resume in college is super short, so the odds are kind of stacked against him, but clearly Washington sees something. I hope they let him loose at some point, he is dynamic and fast!!!
Both backs won’t be given an easy path to the lineup, as Thomas Rawls will get his shot, and he looked impressive last year. He did get hurt, so he has to prove he can stay healthy in 2016. If he does, it’s his job to lose. UPDATE: With CJ Prosise taking wide receiver reps in practice as of 5/9/16, and with all the recent coach praise, he looks like the sleeper to own in this backfield.
He has a big obstacle in front of him in Jeremy Langford, but Langford is no lock to excel. So, by default, Howard has very relevant fantasy sleeper appeal!
With Drew Brees tossing him the rock, what’s not to like from a sleeper perspective?
Someone has to emerge as the Rams’ top wide receiver of the future. I like this receiver as a late gem!
Sterling Shepard (WR)
Tyler Boyd (WR)
Will Fuller (WR)
Leonte Carroo (WR)
Wendell Smallwood (RB)
Daniel Lasco (RB)
Jonathan Williams (RB)
Braxton Miller (WR)
Malcolm Mitchell (WR)
Kenyan Drake (RB)
Christian Hackenberg (QB)
Deandre Washington (RB)
Hunter Henry (TE)
Austin Hooper (TE)
Looking for 2016 Fantasy Football Divisional Playoff Rankings? These rankings / cheat sheet are for fantasy football playoff leagues that play each playoff week separately, meaning you are not just drafting once for the entire length of the 2016 NFL Playoffs.
Rest of Playoffs | Divisional Only