Heading towards the upcoming football (fantasy football) season, you are going to read a lot about “sleepers,” and “busts,” or “breakouts.” Those words, though, can have different meanings, and they certainly do when you are thinking about DFS. Sleepers columns in most forums are going to be chock full of upside – of young guys just itching to bust out if their situation sorts itself out. For DFS, though, you can wait until those guys are in that starting role, or getting those carries, and then worry about it.
What we care about is how those pre-season conversations about different players are going to create value in week one prices. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger might be great values in your yearly-league, but they aren’t sleepers – so their values on a week-to-week basis will likely be pretty spot-on. Ryan Tannehill might have an incredible year – maybe – but with the hype he’s getting, he’s the exact opposite of a sleeper. So here is my attempt at reconciling all this different data and differing opinions to try to identify potential biases about particular players that will suppress prices, especially early on. I hope this helps you identify a few QB “sleepers” to consider for your early-season DFS lineups (no matter what you think about them in your yearly leagues).
5. Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals
Sure, lots of people know Palmer increases the Cardinals’ chances of being a legitimate offense. No surprise there. But let’s face it – there are only so many good quarterbacks with no significant injury risk and solid weapons around them, and they are called “the top 10,” not “sleepers.” But that’s for your year-long leagues, where the fact that Palmer almost certainly is going to miss some time, and maybe a lot of time, is a significant factor in his price. If he’s healthy week 1, the price is going to be diminished by all those preseason rankings on all those other sites anyway, even though they have nothing to do with DFS. Don’t be fooled – take advantage of the option while it exists, because it won’t last forever.
4. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick picked up Torrey Smith as an outside weapon this offseason, which is something he hasn’t had since Crabtree was healthy and productive a couple of years back. And even then, Crabtree was a lot closer to the Boldin/Vernon Davis mold than is Smith. Smith will give Kaepernick someone with whom he can test the outer limits of his arm strength, who will stretch defenses and create both throwing lanes for guys like Boldin as well as running lanes. He could be exactly the player needed to open up this offense so Kaepernick can start to show off the athleticism that had people so excited about his prospects a couple of years ago.
3. Jimmy Garappolo – New England Patriots
With Tom Brady’s suspension being removed, Jimmy Garappolo is no longer a sleeper option for this season
Yeah, I know – it’s an obvious DFS move, and he’s not worth talking about in terms of year-long leagues. But there are a few things I want to mention: they are playing the Steelers in week 1, and they’re probably going to want to win, Brady or no Brady. Also, they are playing the Steelers in week 1.
I kid, but this situation is very different from the usual circumstance of a backup stepping in for an injured QB. Any QB who found himself thrust into the starting role on a team with good weapons around him would be an opportunity for value. But most of the time they don’t have all of training camp and four preseason games to prepare. They aren’t taking all the first team snaps for weeks leading up to the game. And they don’t have Gronk.
2. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s a rookie and he’s on the Bucs. That about sums up the argument against. And while just being the #1 pick overall does not guarantee you success, by any stretch, here’s a trivia question for you: a greater percentage of quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL have successful careers than what other group of quarterbacks? You guessed it! The answer is: quarterbacks selected in any round later than 1! It’s always a crapshoot, but this guy has the arm, the build, and hopefully, the attitude to be more like the next Big Ben or even Cam Newton than like the Ryan Leaf’s and Tim Tebows of the world.
1. Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings
I think that he has been labeled a sleeper because a bunch of analysts wants to seem really smart. How many people calling him a sleeper does it take before he is no longer a sleeper? It’s the old “so many people calling him underrated that he’s overrated” for the fantasy realm. But it’s a compelling case: in his first season last year, the first round pick out of Louisville completed almost 65% of his passes, and managed to throw more touchdowns than picks, a leg up on most rookies. Oh, and they also “added” the best running back in the NFL, which is bound to take some pressure off the young QB, both figuratively (this is AP’s team) and literally (edge rushers better keep that contain!). They also added a serviceable second outside receiver in Mike Wallace, and last year, just one good receiver was enough. Charles Johnson never had more than 5 targets in a game until week 10 against Chiacgo, and from that point forward, Bridgewater had better than 70% completion rates in four of six games, a stretch that included 30+ point outbursts for the Vikings offense against the Panthers, the Jets and the Dolphins.