As the 2015 NFL season approaches and more importantly the fantasy seasons of over 33 million people, many are looking for that diamond in the rough. Who will be that late round draft pick that will yield first round production and lead your roster to victory and ultimately glory? Well look no further gentlemen, the following will give you confidence going into your drafts and gain you respect amongst friends and enemies alike.
The first key to picking a sleeper is confidence. Without it you’ll end up like Jeff who has been suckling the teet of Matthew Berry’s top 300 since your league's inception. All rankings should be a guideline and something to fall back on should your draft take a turn for the worse, or should you consume one to many shots of 1800 tequila. To find top tier talent during the draft you must zig when others zag. Were the first 6 picks of the first round all running backs? Then take a top tier wideout and target some tier two backs with your second pick. Finding sleepers is an easy process when you have the equation, which is as follows. You're looking for players with great offensive lines and quarterbacks. Every year some no name wideout will start catching balls from Peyton Manning and end up becoming a weekly stud. According to last year the top three offensive lines were Dallas, Seattle and New England, all which had some additions and losses this offseason which may make for potential sleepers.
1. Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Randle is a back with two years of experience with the Cowboys who has been working hard to earn their trust. He was slated to be the number two behind Darren McFadden until McFadden took his favorite position on the IR. Randle has chemistry with the Dallas offensive line already and looked good taking over for Demarco Murray last season when he needed a break. As of this writing Randle has a strained oblique and that may drop him a couple spots from his projected 4th round draft stock, but picking up a guy like this in the 4th is a steal and a pick with high upside, just ask Murray owners last year after he had 392 rushes. McFadden isn’t becoming a threat anytime soon and with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant commanding the respect of the defense Randle will have opportunities to flourish.
2. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
No, not that Lockette. This one can actually catch a 5 yard slant route without looking weaker than a mixed drink after midnight. Lockett was a stud the last two seasons for Kansas State in both the receiving and return game before being drafted with the 5th pick in the 3rd round by the Seahawks. While he may not have prototypical size, he is the most polished route runner in this year’s draft. Watch his highlights if you don't believe me, this kid has a knack for finding open space and with 4.4 40 speed he can turn open space into the end zone. Don't let his lack of size scare you, he is on a team whose top two receivers last year were Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse both hovering around six foot. Lockett isn’t even projected to be drafted in most fantasy leagues making him an excellent 15th or 16th round pick and someone with huge upside.
3. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
When thinking of the Browns you rarely think of fantasy studs. More than likely you think of the unimpressive careers of Jordan Cameron and the infuriating Josh Gordon. That is all about to change my friends. The Browns have one of the best O-lines in the league and number one in the AFC. Last season we saw impressive performances by Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West, which unfortunately came crashing down after Alex Mack was injured. Duke Johnson has a chance to get the majority of the Browns touches on a team who wants to take as much pressure off the Quarterback as possible. Johnson set all types of records at Miami and that university boasts an impressive group of stud running backs such as Frank Gore, Willis Mcgahee, Lamar MIller and Edgerrin James. Duke Johnson holds the all-time rushing record over all of them. Currently he is projected to be drafted somewhere around 7th or 8th round. I wouldn't be scared at all to take him at the top of the 7th.
4. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Can a 4th overall pick in the NFL draft ever be considered sleeper material? Why yes they can. Coopers collegiate career speaks for itself, what I’m more interested in is Derek Carr and the Raiders offensive line. Last year the Raiders had the 2nd best offensive line based on sack percentage, with 4.4%, tied with the New England Patriots. With the lack of competition at the wideout position in Oakland, Cooper is far and away the number one with huge upside. The Raiders pass the ball a lot, they were number one in the league last year passing on 66% of all plays. Remember that's to guys like James Jones, Rod Streater and Kenbrell Thompkins. Imagine what a supreme talent like Cooper could do with balls coming his way that frequently. Cooper is currently projected to go around round 9 or 10 in most leagues and that is a travesty. Take this guy round 8 or 9 with confidence and watch as he tears a hole in your flex position.
Well that about wraps things up. Things to remember, don't trust anyone but yourself. You have to make your own picks based on your own research. Every year Matthew Berry predicts some sleeper that ends up being a bust, Toby Gerhart and Cordarrelle Patterson for example. If you’re going to make a ballsy pick do it with your own balls not someone else's. The above picks are just a starting point and you should continue to look for players who can thrive on a roster already surrounded with talent. With that in mind go boldly into your drafts in the upcoming weeks, and try to stay sober until the 12th round at least. Nobody wants to wake up the next morning and see they drafted Blair Walsh in the 9th.