As the NFL season is on the horizon, fantasy football owners are scrambling to find every bit of research possible. While the obvious studs will go in the early rounds, handcuffs are just as important. Pending injuries or sudden declines, certain late-round draft picks (or even undrafted players) have the ability to bring a fantasy owner to their respective championship. With that, here are a few handcuff sleepers that should be available in most leagues:
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
While drafting backup quarterbacks seem insane to an extent, stashing Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson on your bench may be worth the risk. Through the summer, there has been ongoing talks about Jackson being promoted over veteran Joe Flacco if the Ravens head south.
While correlating the play of college football to the NFL is difficult at times, Jackson is one of the most electric players at his position. Rushing for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in 38 games at Louisville, Jackson could go from undrafted in 2018 fantasy draft boards to a top ten quarterback option in 2019. Regardless of his current status on the depth chart, Jackson is the best overall handcuff among quarterbacks this season.
Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles)
After playing the hero role for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, Nick Foles becomes quite the attraction for upcoming fantasy draft boards. Averaging 274 passing yards per game, it is entirely possible that Foles will be forced to fill in for Carson Wentz pending any other future injuries in 2018.
For fantasy owners holding onto Wentz, the addition of Nick Foles may become a given in the later rounds. While drafting an alternative veteran is one option, Foles has the ability to keep fantasy rosters afloat. As games began to heat up in the postseason, Nick Foles appeared to be one of the best in the league. These numbers will most likely not repeat themselves, but he is a name to keep in the back of your mind.
Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
The ongoing debate between Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield seems to be coming to a close, as 71% of The Athletes Hub community believes Taylor will receive the starting job heading into 2018. With that said, Taylor’s leash will be as short as ever.
After finishing 16th among quarterbacks in total fantasy points, Taylor will be faced with an entirely new system in Cleveland. Based on the media’s perception, rookie Baker Mayfield is considered the player of the future for the Browns, as he should be. Especially in dynasty leagues, Mayfield needs to be selected in the later rounds of any draft board. With the offensive weapons that Cleveland currently holds, any quarterback under center should witness success in select weeks.
Matt Breida (San Francisco 49ers)
Based on the inefficiency history of Jerick McKinnon, the expectation is that Matt Breida will see his reps with the San Francisco 49ers. With 126 attempts as a backup under Carlos Hyde, it should be noted that McKinnon is the one coming into a new system.
While Breida holds issues with getting through contact (1.66 YAC), the most attractive part of his game involves the situation he is in. McKinnon has averaged less than 4.0 YPC (yards per carry) in both 2017 and 2016, while Breida ran for 4.4 YPC in his rookie campaign. With Joe Williams also on the active roster, these two players should both be on the radars of fantasy owners.
Chris Ivory (Buffalo Bills)
The investigation surrounding LeSean McCoy essentially makes Chris Ivory the most underrated backup on the market for fantasy owners. Although the legal process takes some time, 2017 was only the third time in eight total seasons where McCoy played a full season. That means either McCoy is primed for another sidelining injury, or Ivory will need his fair share of reps in order to keep McCoy healthy throughout the next season.
While the Bills hold more promising running backs for pass-catching circumstances, Ivory has shown that he can hold a large volume of reps himself. Since his rookie debut in 2010 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ivory has averaged 11.7 attempts per game. Once fantasy owners begin to fill their bench slot, Chris Ivory should be a name that is circled by many.
Doug Martin (Oakland Raiders)
Based on the notations in the camp of the Oakland Raiders, the praise has continued to be directed at veteran Doug Martin. While his numbers over the last two seasons may be a deal-breaker for most, those with a keen taste in sleepers will keep their eye on Martin.
After Marshawn Lynch, the next running back listed on the Raiders depth chart is none other than Doug Martin. Based on the inconsistency from Lynch in 2017, there is a fair chance that Martin will be called upon. The system under Jon Gruden is a complete boom for running backs, as Gruden (from the years 1998-2008) ran the ball 44% of the time. In 2017, only ten teams ran the ball above 44% of the time, and most of those teams produced top-tier running backs. In addition, during Gruden’s previous tenures as a head coach, he allowed running backs to catch the ball 32.1% of passing plays, which was only 18.8% less than his own wide receivers.
Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons)
After being drafted 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018 NFL Draft, Calvin Ridley could be utilized often by an offense that was eighth in passing yards per game last season. On the current depth chart, Ridley is behind both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Pending any injuries, Ridley should be an every-down featured asset for Atlanta.
If he gains traction in the NFL, Ridley has the upside to becoming a high-end WR3, or even a low-end WR2. In PPR and dynasty leagues, Ridley should be considered a bench piece. While there are no promises that Ridley breaks out at any point this season, his potential is top-tier among rookie receivers.
James Washington (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Plugged into one of the most complete offenses in the NFL, James Washington should make an almost-immediate impact for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Seeing that Antonio Brown and second-year stud Juju Smith-Schuster are the only ones above him in the depth chart among receivers, Washington should be battling for consistent targets.
Seeing what Smith-Shuster accomplished in his rookie campaign gives enlightenment to how Pittsburgh develops their wideouts. With Martavis Bryant out of the picture, Washington could improve as the season runs its course. if Washington is available in the later rounds of a fantasy draft, I would snag him for safe keeping.
Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
This perhaps might be the most underrated pick of your upcoming draft. With the current roster holding a variety of options in receivers, running backs, and tight ends, Chris Godwin may not be drafted in a majority of leagues. On the other hand, look at what Godwin did last season: When playing 70% or more snaps with Tampa Bay, he was a top seven receiver in fantasy.
Granted Chris Godwin only played 70% or more snaps in three different weeks, the Buccaneers will see his potential over time. Predicting for an injury to occur to Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson isn’t a bold bet, and if that time comes, Godwin is sure to make the most of his fantasy ceiling.
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