Pinpointing Fantasy Football Sleepers & Avoiding Traps
Normally, the uncertainty that exists in football is enough to make it hard to project fantasy stats. 2020 is anything but a normal year and the NFL is no exception to the impacts of a global pandemic. Limited offseason workouts and contact with teammates and coaches, along with a general sense of confusion around offseason activities have made already difficult tasks like understanding a team’s depth chart nearly impossible. However, certain rules of thumb that have shifted fantasy performance remain and can be applied even to an upcoming season as crazy as this one. Those guidelines will be listed below along with a pair of sleepers who fit the category, plus a potential trap option.
Find the Vacant Touches and Targets
This is a relatively easy concept. Teams see turnover due to retirement, free agency, injury, and other player movement every season. Finding those potential opportunities can then narrow down some talented sleepers who can step up their contributions to an NFL offense. Whether they are new to the offense and team, or are holdovers seeking a bigger role, this is usually a great source of sleeper potential. Last year, I pointed to James Washington and Mike Davis as possible late sleepers and Golden Tate as an avoid. That didn’t work out too well as the Steelers passing game imploded, Davis never gained traction behind David Montgomery, and Tate was a wash at best post-suspension. Let’s see if this year proves more fruitful.
Sleeper: David Johnson, RB - Houston Texans
There are several reasons to like Johnson this season but it should start with the increased opportunity present in Houston, an offensive upgrade over Arizona last season. The team managed to help Carlos Hyde reach his first career 1,000 yard rushing season and he finished as the RB27 in half-PPR leagues despite catching just 10 passes. Hyde had 255 touches last season and in 2018, when Johnson last had that kind of volume, he finished as a top-12 running back. It is safe to assume Johnson crushes Hyde’s reception mark, even with Duke Johnson still in tow, and his current RB27 MFL ADP presents an intriguing floor to buy. Our 4for4 rankings have him finishing as the RB16 in such scoring formats and a season of good health gives him true top 12 upside.
Sleeper: Blake Jarwin, TE - Dallas Cowboys
Unlike Johnson, Jarwin did not switch teams this offseason. Instead, he watched long-time Cowboys staple Jason Witten move on and leave his 83 targets and TE12 finish behind from 2019. That, along with Randall Cobb’s 83 vacant targets could be enough availability for both Jarwin and incoming rookie CeeDee Lamb to have a seat at the Cowboys passing table. Jarwin is currently the TE18 in recent MFL drafts, which feels like a reasonable floor with room to threaten the top 12 with good health. By comparison, 4for4 has Jarwin finishing as the TE14 in half-PPR scoring.
Trap: Brandin Cooks, WR - Houston Texans
Honestly, someone on this receiver depth chart is a trap but it isn’t easy to single out who it might be. I hate to pick on Cooks because I’m a fan, but he is on his fourth team already, has a concussion history, and doesn’t look like the most likely option to inherit the vacant targets (150) that DeAndre Hopkins left behind. His MFL ADP has him as the WR38, not a terrible price, but it makes him the most expensive Houston wide receiver. 4for4 has him projected as the WR50 and sees Will Fuller as the more likely top fantasy producer out of Houston.
Offensive Play Calling Upgrades
Every year we see changes to offensive play calling for better and for worse. This offseason was particularly hot with 11 new offensive coordinators (10 really as Doug Pederson is assuming the role in Philadelphia), that range from inspired to just plain lazy. These changes can cause drastic shifts in offensive play philosophy - see the 2019 Cardinals - that can help some and hurt others. We are looking for the former while avoiding the latter, obviously.
George outlines 12 more sleepers and traps with support cast upgrades, strength of schedule and potential bouncebacks!
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