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Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Breakouts

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Fantasy football season is here and I will be giving you my players to target and avoid in this year’s draft. Here are some sleepers, busts, and breakout players coming into 2018:

Sleepers

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Eli Manning

Coming off of a 3-13 season in a year that was plagued with injuries, all of the spotlight has been on #2 pick Saquon Barkley this offseason, but one player flying under the radar is their veteran QB. Eli Manning has been mostly avoided in past fantasy drafts due to his high turnover rate and inconsistent play, but part of that is attributed to his lack of running game and pass blocking in recent years. With a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, along with the additions of Will Hernandez, Nate Solder, and Patrick Omameh on the offensive line, and a running game that now consists of Saquon Barkley and Jonathan Stewart, this is arguably the most complete offense Manning has ever had around him since 2012. I see a bounce-back year for the Giants this season and a possible top-12 finish at QB for Eli Manning.

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Royce Freeman

With CJ Anderson being shipped off to Carolina, Devontae Booker finds himself as the projected starter, but Royce Freeman is the running back to own in Denver. In two years with the Broncos, Booker has a career average of only 3.6 YPC and has shown a lack of explosiveness with only one career run of 20+ yards. He also has a career 46 rushes for a mere 99 yards in the red zone and actually has more career attempts than yards inside the 5. Meanwhile, the 229 lb RB, Royce Freeman, is a downhill runner with a nose for the end zone, compiling 64 TD’s in his career at Oregon, and averaged nearly 3 YPC after contact. With Denver expressing that they plan on giving Freeman double-digit carries in week one, I see “Rolls Royce” stealing the starting job as early as week two and finishing the year as the bell cow back with double-digit touchdowns.

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Nyheim Hines

Another rookie running back that currently finds himself second on the depth chart in Indianapolis, Nyheim Hines is an explosive player with sure hands, and is someone I can see being a major contributor in PPR leagues. With Andrew Luck expected to be back for week one, the Colts offense will be predicated on the pass, and with Hines being seen lining up in the slot and even out wide during offseason minicamp, Indianapolis plans to get him a lot of work in the passing game. Hines is a versatile weapon, very similar to Darren Sproles, who could end up being a very useful asset in your FLEX spot and a draft day steal.

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Chris Hogan

In 2017, Chris Hogan compiled 439 yards and 5 TD’s in the first half of the year before being sidelined with a shoulder injury and was the fourth-best fantasy WR through the first five games of the season. Now with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola leaving in the offseason, and Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension, Chris Hogan is the man to own in New England. With the lack of weapons surrounding Brady compared to previous years and Rob Gronkowski forcing defenses to double cover him, Hogan, who is on a contract year, is someone I see being a viable WR2 option in fantasy.

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Cameron Meredith

After a breakout campaign in 2016, in which Cameron Meredith led the Bears in receiving yards and receptions despite the QB carousel, he found himself on the sidelines for the 2017 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason. Now a member of the New Orleans Saints, and playing alongside a future HOF QB in Drew Brees, 2018 has all the makings of a bounce-back year. With Mark Ingram being suspended the first four games of the season, and Alvin Kamara being on a usage limit during that time, the Saints are expected to rely heavily on the passing game early. Meredith is someone you can get as late as the 14th round and can give you cheap WR3 production.

Other Possible Sleepers: QB Alex Smith, RB Peyton Barber, RB Chris Thompson, RB Matt Brieda, RB Nick Chubb, WR Cooper Kupp, WR Will Fuller, WR Trent Taylor, WR Christian Kirk, WR Keelan Cole, WR Taywan Taylor, TE Ricky Seal-Jones

Busts

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Kirk Cousins

In 2017, the 7-9 Washington Redskins put a lot of responsibility on Cousins’ shoulders, ranking outside the top 20 in total defense and dead last in the NFL in rushing. That led to Cousins throwing an average of 34 attempts per game, and 4 of their 7 wins coming via fourth quarter comeback. Now Cousins finds himself in Minnesota with a much more well-rounded offense and a defense that ranked #1 in the NFL last year. Because of that, he will be asked to do a lot less this season, which hurts his fantasy stock. He is currently ranked as a top 10 fantasy QB, but expect roughly 100 fewer pass attempts in a year in which Cousins fails to throw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career as a starter, and finishing outside the top 12 at his position.

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LeSean McCoy

With fantasy drafts only weeks away and a possible suspension looming for LeSean McCoy, fans are holding their breath while they wait for a verdict. Even if he is cleared, I am staying away from “Shady” this season. During the offseason, the Bills lost three major contributors on the offensive line after Richie Incognito and Eric Wood retired and Cordy Glenn was traded to the Bengals. Another big hit to the Bills running game was the loss of Tyrod Taylor, who helped McCoy find open space and kept defenders on their heels with his ability to run the read option. Combine that with the fact that he just turned 30 in July, a death sentence for most running backs, and no true #1 at QB, and I expect a down season for McCoy. I predict he finishes outside the top 15 at his position with less than 1,000 rushing yards in a down season for the Bills.

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Jerick McKinnon

With a new home and a starting gig in San Francisco, along with a third-round ADP in fantasy, expectations are high for Jerick McKinnon this season. After Dalvin Cook tore his ACL last year, McKinnon took over and had a career-high in scrimmage yards and catches and was very productive in PPR leagues. McKinnon however lacks efficiency, averaging 3.4 YPC in 2016 and 3.8 YPC in 2017, and with Matt Breida on the roster, I see him being more of a change of pace and passing down back. His catches will keep him afloat for most of the year, but I see McKinnon being no more than a FLEX player and will be someone I will be avoiding in the 3rd-4th round.

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Julio Jones

A top three WR in the NFL and a consensus first-round pick in past drafts, Julio Jones is someone I’m actually avoiding in the first round this year. If you look at his numbers his last three years, they have steadily declined, averaging 8.5 REC PG, 116.9 REC YPG and 8 REC TD in 2015, 5.9 REC PG, 100.6 REC YPG and 6 REC TD in 2016, and 5.5 REC PG, 90.3 REC YPG and 3 REC TD in 2017. It is clear to see that OC Steve Sarkisian’s system does no justice for the Pro-Bowl WR, especially in the red zone, and now the Falcons have used their first-round pick on rookie WR Calvin Ridley who plans on cutting into Jones’ targets. If Brown, Beckham, and Hopkins are off the board in the first round, address RB instead and target someone like Thomas, Allen, Green or Adams in the second round.

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Tyreek Hill

Coming off a season in which Hill had 1,183 yards and 7 TD’s, along with 9 catches of 40+ yards, fans have high expectations for him this season, being projected as a third round pick. With Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and the addition of Sammy Watkins, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Kansas City. It wouldn’t be much of an issue if Alex Smith were still there, but with first-time starter Patrick Mahomes at the helm, who has struggled in camp, there will be a lot of question marks for this offense. I would expect Tyreek Hill to be a week-to-week boom or bust option.

Other Possible Busts: QB Tom Brady, QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Devonta Freeman, RB Carlos Hyde, RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Allen Robinson, WR Josh Gordon, WR Alshon Jeffery

Top Breakout Candidates

Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports
  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo
  • QB Derek Carr
  • QB Jared Goff
  • WR Amari Cooper
  • WR Marquise Goodwin
  • WR Stefon Diggs
  • WR Corey Davis
  • WR Michael Gallup
  • RB Joe Mixon
  • RB Dion Lewis
  • RB Tarik Cohen
  • RB Kerryon Johnson
  • TE Trey Burton
  • TE David Njoku

 

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