by Michael Nazarek
Editor's Note: Below you will find a portion of our Fantasy Football Sleepers for 2017. If you'd like to read about all 48 sleepers, please click HERE
to order our 2017 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
Everyone knows about Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, and Antonio Brown. The top 50 fantasy football players taken in most fantasy football drafts will likely be the same group of players. What separates the men from the boys is knowing who will produce when they are not expected to produce. To this end, I will supply you with a best sleeper lists of fantasy football players at each of the key fantasy football positions. Consider each and weigh them against your fantasy football league competition. I will list the best fantasy football sleepers in three distinct categories… obvious, darkhorses, and long-shots. I have also offered my "deep sleeper" at each position. Note: The official projected statistics for these players were not posted, as they may change with each guide update.
The following DARKHORSE SLEEPER was posted on these pages two summer's ago. It just goes to show you that sometimes these fantasy football players pan out in a HUGE way…
Devonta Freeman (Atlanta) - Freeman made a minor impact as a rookie in 2014 playing behind veteran RB Steven Jackson, but with Jackson gone, Freeman ran with the first unit this spring and should start for the Falcons come September. That said, the Falcons remain primarily a passing team, and rookie RB Tevin Coleman will share touches with Freeman. In other words, Freeman will have to impress if he has any chance to win the starting full-time job outright and put Coleman on the bench. That makes him an interesting darkhorse fantasy sleeper this summer because he might have the talent to do just that.
Yeah, I’d say he has talent. And I drafted him myself in THREE leagues in 2015 including the FFPC! He was a big reason why I won $10,000! On to this year’s lists…
Eli Manning (New York Giants) - Manning has been listed in this category before, but not in recent years. That changes in 2017 with the arrival of veteran WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram. Both players are big targets, and the Giants did little to heklp out their anemic running game this off-season. As a result, Manning will be throwing early and often, leading to more scores via the pass and more fantasy production from a QB you can wait to draft until the middle rounds of your draft this summer. Update 8/15: Manning is having a solid, but quiet, camp, so his fantasy sleeper status remains intact, esepcially since he's sliding in ADP into the 12-14 round area of most 12-team drafts. Update 8/29: Manning looked better in the third preseason game even without OBJ and Marshall. He remains a nice sleeper pick as a starter you can grab in the latter middle rounds of your fantasy league draft.
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay) - Winston became somewhat of a decdent regular fantasy staerter for owners in larger leagues in 2017, but he would still have the occasional "off" game. Well, the Bucs made sure to surround him with more talent with the addiiton of veteran WR DESean Jackson and rookie TE O.J. Howard this off-season. Add them to the mix with WR Mike Evans and TE Cameron Brate, and the possiblities could be endless when it comes the Buccaneers' passing game. Certainly, Winston will draw more attention in fantasy drafts this summer, but all that means is that you might have to pay a higher price for this obvious fantasy sleeper. Update 8/15: No change here. Winston has looked good in camp, and should continue to develop into a near elite fantasy producer over the next year or two. Update 8/29: Winston has struggled for the big play this preseson, but he will be fine with his health and all the weapons on the roster. No change here.
Dak Prescott (Dallas) - Prescott surprised in a big way as he led the Cowboys to the playoffs starting ass a rookie after QB Tony Romo went down with anothe back injury. Romo is gone, so Prescott can start without issue in 2017, and the team pretty much remains the same. As a rookie, Prescott finished as the #11 fantasy QB, but more fantasy owners don't think of his name as an every-week starter. That should change, especially for owners in larger leagues. Prescott should produce fairly similar numbers in 2017 with a healthy WR Dez Bryant on board, if not a bit better. I'm not too high on him, but if you choose to wait until the middle rounds of your draft to take a QB, Prescott should certainly be on your draft list. Update 8/15: If RB Zeke Elliott sits the first six weeks, Prescott will be throwing even more than first planned, which is always good for fantasy. Update 8/29: Good vibes here whether Zeke sits or not. Prescott remains a very well known sleeper to target as your starter this summer.
Jay Cutler(Miami) - DEBUTS 8/29: The previously retired Cutler has taken over for the injured QB Ryan Tannehill (knee - IR) as the team's starter for 2017. He comes out of retirement, and has shaken off the rust that goes along with it. He's developed quick chemistry with WR DeVante Parker and is now working hard with the rest of the team, even WR Jarvis Landry. It won't be a perfect season with the gunslinger, but he has enough talent around him to produce solid numbers as a darkhorse fantasy sleeper. I would only target him as your backup fantasy QB if you choose to draft him.
Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) - REMOVED 8/29: I know, I know. How can you put Bortles on this list? Well, Bortles did manage to end the 2016 season as the #9 ranked fantasy QB despite regressing in his play and struggling with his mechanics. He's worked hard on them this off-season, and new VP Tom Coughlin believes he's corrected the many issues he's had. Only time will tell, but it may be now or never for Bortles as the Jaguars' starting QB. With WR Allen Robnson, WR Marqise Lee, and WR Allen Hurns still on board alongside rookie RB Leonard Fournette, this team has enough firepower to generate a lot of offense every week of the season. Believe it or not, Bortles still produced fives games of 25+ fantasy points in 2016, so the talent is there for some nice production. Just be sure to draft a solid alternative to pair at QB with Bortles in 2017 just in case he flames out. Update 8/15: Bortles has been up and down in camp, but is coming at such a late ADP, he maintains his current darkhorse fantasy status, for fantasy players who like to wait until the 15+ round area to grab your fantasy backup. Update 8/29: Bortles nearly lost the starting job due to poor preseson play. He will start the season on the field, but who knows how long it will last. As a result, he is removed from this list.
Carson Wentz (Philadelphia) - Wentz began his rookie season in 2016 with two good games out of three, but went on to struggle for much of the rest of the season. Part of the problem was the eyesight of Wentz, but he underwent laser eye surgery this off-season. He's also worked hard on his mechnics and the team went out and signed veteran WR Alshon Jeffery and WR Torrey Smith this off-season to boost the WR corps. Finishing as the #27 fantasy QB in 2016, Wentz is certainly flying under the radar. Heck, I drafted him as the backup to my starter, QB Aaron Rodgers, in the May FF Index Mock Draft. All I'm saying is that he has the potential to become a fantasy starter at some point, and you can wait until the latter portion of your draft to take him as your backup! Update 8/15: Wentz has been solid in camp. Even with the trade of WR Jortdan Matthews, he still has plenty of solid targets to produce nice darkhorse fantasy sleeper numbers in 2017. Update 8/29: Wentz impressed in the preseason, so he remains firmly on this list. He is one to target as a backup late in your draft if you draft an elite QB as your starter.
Sam Bradford (Minnesota) - Bradford was thrust into a role as the Vikings new starter after QB Teddy Bridewater went down to a serious knee injury last summer. Bradgewater is still rehabbing, so Bradford is expected to start once again in 2017. This time, he gets a full off-season to work with his receivers and teammates in Minnesota to hopefully become more than Mr. Dink and Dunk. With a healthy WR Stefon Diggs, a breakout WR Adam Thielen, and reliable TE Kyle Rudolph, there is potential for Bradford to improve upon his #22 ranked fantasy QB rating from 2016. Bottom Line: Bradford's potential as an interesting darkhorse fantasy sleeper to target late in your fantasy draft makes him an interesting player to watch this summer. Update 8/15: Bradford has been OK camp, nothing to write home about, but still maintains some fantasy upside with rookie RB Dalvin Cook emerging nicely and the receiving corps healthy. Update 8/29: No change here. Bradford remains a darkhorse sleeper, but he is one with only a bit of upside.
DeShaun Watson ® (Houston) - If you like to swing for the fences, then Watson is likely the guy to target late in your draft as your #3 fantasy QB. He's the highly touted rookie the Texans drafted in April to compete with QB Tom Savage for the starting job later this summer. While Savage enters camp as the starter, a big camp and preseason by Watson could change that in a heartbeat. Watson is very talented, and will come quite cheaply in non-dynasty league drafts this summer, making him a very interesting longshot fantasy sleeper. It also doesn't hurt him that WR DeAndre Hopkins is his #1 WR, if you get my drift! Update 8/15: Watson has surprised the team in a good way in camp, but remains the backup to QB Tom Savage. I still believe at some point this season, he will take over the starting job. Update 8/29: Despite the fact that Savage won the starting job, I still believe Watson will get his chance at some point in 2017, so he remains on this list as a nice #3 fantasy QB to target late in your draft.
Trevor Siemian (Denver) - Siemian is far from thrilling, but he does have a bit of potential with WR Demaryius Thomas and WR Emmanuel Sanders as his primary targets. Of course, he must first win the starting job this summer battling second-year QB Paxton Lynch. That is far from certain to happen, although he will enter training camp as the favorite to win the job. When he played lat year (missed a few games due to injury), he averaged just 17 fantasy points, but he did produce two 32+ point games, so there is some upside. Just keep in mind we are talking about a nice #3 fantasy QB with some potential, but only if he wins the starting job come September. Update 8/15: Siemian has maintained a slight edge for the starting job this summer, so that keeps him an interesting longshot fantasy sleeper in 2017. Update 8/29: Siemian has won the starting job, so he remains on this list even though I'm not crazy about him.
Mike Glennon (Chicago) - The Bears signed Gleenon to start after moving on from a disappointing QB Jay Cutler. Glennon has a big arm, and has shown to be a solid backup in Tampa Bay, but now becomes the 2017 starter for the Bears, a team that let WR Alshon Jeffery leave via free agency. Glennon does have a rising WR Cameron Meredith as his primary target, along with returning TE Zach Miller. The team also hopes that WR Kevin White can stay healthy, and they signed WR Kendall Wright, WR Markus Wheaton, and WR Victor Cruz to compete for playing time. There is some talent there, but it's probably a stretch to think Glennon can be a consistent fantasy starter in 2017. That said, he fills the bill for the role of longshot fantasy sleeper this summer. Update 8/15: Glennon looked bad in the team's first preseason game, but the Bears are standing behind him for now. But if he struggles this week again and rookie QB Mitch Trubisky has another big outing, things could change quickly. As of right now, we'll keep him on this list, but we'd avoid him in drafts until he turns things around. Update 8/29: Glennon looked much better in last week's preseason game, but he did lose WR Cameron Meredith (torn ACL) for the season, which will limit his upside. That said, he remains on this list due to his recent play.
Paxton Lynch (Denver) - REMOVED 8/29: The second-year Lynch has a bit of an uphill battle to unseat QB Trevor Siemian as the team's starter, although HC Vance Joseph says the job is wide open. Barring a big collapse, it is more likely that Siemian begins the season as the starter, but all bets are off once (if) he starts to struggle. The Broncos believe that Lynch can be their QB of the future, so his value is much higher in a dynasty league, but he could surprise and win the job outright if things break right for him come the preseason. As a result, he is my deep sleeper at the QB position for this summer. Update 8/15: Lynch is a bit behind Siemian in the race to start, but is still within reach if he outplays him this week and next. As a result, we'll keep him right here for now. Update 8/29: Lynch lost the startign job and now has an injured shoulder, so he's removed from this list.
DeShone Kizer ®(Cleveland) - DEBUTS 8/29: The rookie has been named the starter for the Browns. He is talented, but it's unknown if that will successfully translate on the field of play immediately. However, he will get his chance starting week #1, so that makes him a very interesting deep sleeper for fantasy owners in large leagues. If you like him, I'd target him as my #3 fantasy QB, one with an unknown amount of upside. Hey! The QB play in Cleveland can't get any worse, right?
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