The term "sleeper" is one of the most popular labels for fantasy fanatics to use leading up to a new season. It's not an easy task picking out a sleeper candidate, because normally once people figure out someone has potential, they don't remain a secret for long.
Sleeper can be defined in a variety of ways depending on the fantasy owner. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Allen Robinson will probably go off in 2015 or Martavis Bryant is a breakout candidate. Those are widely discussed topics (both of which I support) this year.
I've picked out a few players who offer significant value based on their average draft position (ADP). Most of these guys aren't even showing up in drafts so far, and you should be keeping an eye on all of them.
I promise the names from here won't be as renowned. I just couldn't pass up a chance to talk about Jackson. Last season was forgettable for the veteran. Only 11 percent of his fantasy points came from touchdowns in 2014, and he posted one of his lowest fantasy finishes since he became a coveted commodity in the industry.
Here are Jackson's last three PPR finishes:
Yikes. That's a bit of a drop-off. But Jackson's decline wasn't exactly his own doing. Poor quarterback play, and some bad luck if we're being honest, resulted in the poor season.
According to Pro Football Focus, only 56 percent of Jackson's targets were catchable. He saw 15 targets in the end zone but only scored two touchdowns. That 13 percent conversion rate is prime for regression.
Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter wants to use Jackson in the slot more. Jackson is a huge target who is easy to create mismatches, so this is the right move for Tampa's offense, and it's one that should beneficial for his fantasy value.
Koetter had plenty of success with Julio Jones and Roddy White in Atlanta. White finished as the WR9 and Jones finished as the WR11 in 2012. Last year Jones was the WR6 and White was the WR21. Jackson and Evans will get along just fine.
Jackson's ADP is hovering near Round 7 right now, putting him around the No. 30 wide receiver taken. Even with a rookie quarterback, Jackson should easily beat that mark.
They hype train has left the station for this guy. Hankerson stood out in OTAs, he continues to impress in training camp and reports suggest he's even pushing Roddy White for the WR2 job.
The latter might be a stretch, but Hankerson is making noise. The 26-year-old's career was subjected to injuries from the start, which is why he doesn't have much to show after four seasons in the NFL. Could this be the year he finally holds up?
Take a look at Hankerson's profile (via RotoUnderworld).
Impressive metrics. It's easy to see why some fantasy and draft writers are still in his corner.
Roddy White is 34. His knees are starting to give him more trouble. He needed one knee drained prior to minicamp, and he said there's a possibility that it'll need to be drained again during the season. Read his comments about the situation and tell me you don't come away at least mildly concerned.
Surely you recall Julio Jones' injury issues as well. I'm not promoting any sense of the "injury prone" notion, but I'm telling you Hankerson could explode if either White or Jones misses time.
Matt Ryan attempted 628 passes in 2014, second most in the NFL. The Falcons offense has proven itself capable of producing two players in the WR1 to WR2 range. Hankerson does not cost you anything at this point. Keep him on your radar in all formats.
Regardless of what site you're using to monitor redraft ADP, you won't find Aiken anywhere. According to MyFantasyLeague.com, Aiken has only been selected in 195 of over 2,700 best ball drafts.
You guys know Aiken is penciled in as a starter for Baltimore, right?
Breshad Perriman has missed double-digit practices in training camp. He's been under the day-to-day designation, but the fact that a rookie isn't getting on the field at this crucial point in preseason is concerning for his playing time going forward. He also struggled with drops during minicamp.
Aiken and Steve Smith were listed as the starters in the Ravens first depth chart of training camp. Smith, now 36, is about to begin his final NFL season. He caught fire to start 2014, but he only posted double-digit PPR performances in three of the final 10 games of last season.
So we're looking at an aging veteran who slowed down late in 2014 and a rookie who has been absent for training camp. That's not an ideal situation for any team, but it's one Aiken can take advantage of.
A 6-foot-2 wide receiver with a 40 time of 4.5 coming out of college, Aiken hauled in 24 of his 32 targets for 267 yards and three touchdowns last season. Marc Trestman is running the offense in Baltimore now, which means the team should be towards the top of the league in passing attempts. I like the combo.
Do I expect Aiken to hold off Perriman all year? Of course not. But when you're paying absolutely nothing for a guy who's competing with a 36-year-old and a rookie in a good system, you're looking at a possible great return on your investment.
You might not get excited about fantasy value from a Jeff Fisher offense, and I can't blame you. It's the opposite of a flashy offense, as the Rams ranked No. 30 in offensive plays per game in 2014.
So why should we even be talking about Stedman Bailey? I'll give you a few reasons.
1) The Rams receiving corps is a mixed bag of "what if" players. Kenny Britt has never lived up to his expectations. He showed promise in 2014, but he isn't as explosive as he once after suffering multiple injuries over his first six years in the league.
Tavon Austin is still a gadget player. Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has tried to talk about Austin so far in 2015. Bailey is still a better receiver. Brian Quick is also returning from a major shoulder injury.
2) Bailey led the Rams receivers in yards after the catch and broken tackles in 2014. He ranked No. 23 in the league in yards after the catch per reception.
3) According to Pro Football Focus, from Week 12-17 last year, Bailey ranked No. 31 in points per opportunity (carries + routes run). We're looking at numbers in the WR3 range.
Bailey's ADP is off the charts. I mean literally, you can't find him. He's free for any league. I've been targeting Bailey as a late-round pick in MFL10s, because if you're shooting for your sixth or seventh wide receiver, he offers all kinds of upside, even in a run-first offense.
An efficient receiver when given the opportunity, Bailey can do even more damage with Nick Foles under center. Foles should at least provide consistency to a position that was devoid of any for the Rams last year.
Here's the pride and joy of the #DraftTwitter. Janis boasts unreal measurables at 6-foot-3. He ran a 4.42 in the 40 and owned one of the highest SPARQ scores among all wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Janis absolutely roasted Logan Ryan in the Packers first preseason game, scoring a 26-yard touchdown and setting Twitter ablaze. That's what we've been hoping to see from the former Saginaw Valley standout.
While reports say he's still a raw project, he's had a year to work on his game at the NFL level, and he plays in arguably the best offense in the league. Some of the Packers writers seemed disappointed with Janis' early training camp play, but that highlight for the first preseason game is just a taste of what he's capable of.
Janis has to battle Ty Montgomery for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart, but he has the tools to do it. Again, when we're looking at potential opportunities, if Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Davante Adams ever went down with an injury, Janis would be in position to make a significant impact with Aaron Rodgers.
Other names to keep an eye on
Marvin Jones - 10 touchdowns in 2013. Might be limited in run-first offense, but the ceiling is high.
Nick Toon - a favorite sleeper pick this year, he's in position to see a big boost in targets.
Stevie Johnson - reports from San Diego are promising. His versatility in that offense gives him good late-round value.
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SB Nation archives: Rules to follow in your fantasy football league (2014)