by Michael Nazarek
Editor's Note: Below you will find a portion of our Fantasy Football Sleepers for 2018. If you'd like to read about all 48 sleepers, please click HERE to order our 2018 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
Everyone knows about Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley, and Antonio Brown. The top 50 players taken in most fantasy 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 sleeper lists of players at each of the key fantasy positions. Consider each and weigh them against your league competition. I will list 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 three summer's ago. It just goes to show you that sometimes these 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…
Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco) - Garoppolo is my favorite obvious sleeper QB for 2018. He took the helm late last year and led the 49ers to wins in all five of his starts. He returns as the unquestioned starter in a system that uses his abilities to produce the best possible result. He also gets a healthy WR Pierre Garcon back from a serious neck injury. His upside is high, and you can draft him as your fantasy backup in the middle rounds of your draft, so you won't have to rely upon him immediately to help your fantasy team get off to a good start. It's a win-win situation all around! Update 8/16: All is good here. Garoppolo is having a good camp, so his obvious sleeper status remains intact. That said, he is a popular player in drafts, so he won't come too cheap. Update 8/30: Nothing has changed here, as Garoppolo remains an obvious fantasy sleeper this summer.
Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) - Goff started to come into his own last year, and while he wasn't a consistent fantasy producer every week, he showed great maturity and the ability to learn and adapt as the season progressed. The Rams added veteran WR Brandin Cooks to the roster to help further Goff's potential, so don't be surprised if he becomes a solid week-to-week fantasy starter in the near future. Best of all, Goff is still viewed as a fantasy backup, and can be drafted in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts this summer. Update 8/16: Goff remains a solid obvious fantasy sleeper, one you should consider taking as your fantasy backup, one with upside. Update 8/30: No change here at this time.
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee) - Mariota disappointed in a big way last year, throwing many more picks than usual and struggling to throw TDs. That should change in 2018 with new coaches in place that promise to shift the offense to cater to Mariota's strengths, including his running ability. Expect less picks, more TD passes, and plenty of QB runs this season, making him an obvious sleeper that can be had at the cost of a decent fantasy backup QB pick in drafts this summer. Update 8/16: Mariota has been solid in camp, so he maintains his current obvious fantasy sleeper status. Update 8/30: No change here at this time.
Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) - Believe it or not, Bortles was on this list this time last year and he produced a surprisingly good season. Here is what I said about him... "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." It appears that Bortles did get the message and he actually helped me win my FFPC $250 satellite league with big numbes in the second half of 2017. Not much has changed, which is a good thing. Even without A-Rob, Bortles produced with WR Marqise Lee, WR DeDe Westbrook, and WR Keelan Cole leading the way. They all return along with new addition WR Donte Moncrief. Best of all, you can still wait until the latter rounds of your draft to select Bortles as a cheap fantasy backup! Update 8/16: All is good here too. He's working well with a young, but deep set of WRs, and ASJ doesn't hurt him either. This is one player you can grab as your fantasy backup very late in drafts this summer. Update 8/30: Bortles has lost WR Marqise Lee (torn ACL/IR) for the year, but the corps is deep enough that he should be OK. As a result, he remains an interesting latter round sleeper, one sliding a bit further in drafts due to Lee's injury.
Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago) - Trubisky has the talent to produce, only he had a poor supporting cast around him in 2017. Well, not only has that changed, but so has the coaching staff. The new Bears coaches want to see Trubisky succeed, so they beefed up the roster. Enter WR Allen Robinson, along with WR Taylor Gabriel, and TE Trey Burton. A new offensive system with better receiving talent will help Trubisky become the QB the Bears need him to become. As a result, he could surprise when it comes to weekly fantasy production. As for ADP, sitting in the 14th round comes as quite a bargain. In fact, you could even draft him as a #3 fantasy QB if you like. Update 8/16: This ia a neutral update, as Trubisky has been up and down in camp. That said, he still has some upside, so we'll keep him listed here for the time being. At least you can wait until nearly the end of your fantasy draft to take him if you like. Update 8/30: No change here at this time.
Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) - Mahomes is the true wildcard from the group of young QBs in 2018. He inherits the starting QB job after the team traded QB Alex Smith to Washington. There is no doubting the talent around Mahomes is good enough for him to succeed, but until we see him on the field of play, questions will arise. Is he accurate enough to hit the very fast WR Tyreek Hill for the long plays. What about new Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins? Can he consistently get the football to TE Travis Kelce? Can he scramble when needed to get the key first downs like Smith did? Well, that last one may not be required, but his potential certainly makes him a sweet darkhorse fantasy sleeper in 2018. I just hope he can live up to most of the hype he is getting! Update 8/16: Mahomes has struggled with picks in camp, but still has upside to his play. That said, fantasy owners are no longer grabbing him as their sleeper starter, but he's sliding in drafts and should only be considered for a fantasy backup slot. Draft him accordingly. Update 8/30: Mahomes is playing better, so he remains firmly a solid darkhorse fantasy sleeper this summer.
Josh Rosen ® (Arizona) - Rosen was viewed by many as the "most NFL ready" rookie QB to be drafted in 2018. That said, he must beat out QB Sam Bradford to start for the Cardinals. If healthy, that would be a tough thing for Rosen to do, but if Bradford pulls up lame again, all bets are off. Either way, it's clear that Bradford is the stop-gap QB to bridge towards Rosen. The only question here is when will the change take place? Drafting Rosen late as your #3 fantasy QB is a nice bet to make, since I don't think Bradford can stay healthy all of 2018, much less at least half of it! Update 8/16: Rosen is seeing a fair share of reps in practice, but QB Sam Bradford is healthy and is currently solid as the starter. That said, one injury is all it takes and we would likely see Rosen leading the team. Update 8/30: Rosen is still playing behind a currently healthy Bradford, but remains on this list since you can draft him at the end of your draft as your #3 QB.
Josh Allen ® (Buffalo) - Who starts for the Bills come September? Allen or unproven QB A.J. McCarron? Odds are good that it won't be Allen, but much like Rosen, it likely is only a matter of time before the kid gets his chance. That makes him an interesting long-shot fantasy sleeper, one you can take at the end of your draft this summer as your #3 fantasy QB. Update 8/16: Allen has been up and down in camp, but so have the other QBs on the roster. We'll keep him listed here, but I'd only consider him as a #3 fantasy QB at the end of my daft. Update 8/30: Allen has been up an down and is currently dinged, but remains a good shot to play early in the season if not start in week #1. That keeps him listed here at this time.
Sam Darnold ® (New York Jets) - Deja vu. Who starts for the Jets come September? Darnold or aging QB Josh McCown? Odds are good that it won't be Darnold, but much like Rosen, it likely is only a matter of time before the kid gets his chance. That makes him an interesting long-shot fantasy sleeper, one you can take at the end of your draft this summer as your #3 fantasy QB. Update 8/16: Darnold has been the most impressive player at QB in camp, so it appears he will not only start this week's preseason game, but seems on track to start week #1, making him a very attractive #3 fantasy QB this summer. Update 8/30: With the trade of Bridgewater, the Jets have committed to starting Darnold, as he remains on this list.
Lamar Jackson ® (Baltimore) - At this time, veteran QB Joe Flacco is not in any danger of losing the starting job, but as rookie specialist John Holler says... "the Ravens must find a way to harness Jackson's talent, he has the ability to be the best of this draft class." That strong quote means that if Flacco begins to struggle, Jackson could get his chance this season. And if Flacco's back acts up again, all bets could be off. Don't bet on it not happening! Update 8/16: Jackson is still learning, but has flashed here and there in camp. That said, Flacco is having a great camp and is firmly entrenched as the team's starting QB. Update 8/30: Jackson continues to flash, but a healthy Flacco has looked good. That said, he remains my deep QB sleeper for his potential if something bad happens to Flacco at any time this season.
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