Five Fantasy Football "Sleepers" You Should Avoid
Some people think these five players are sleepers. We don't.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
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It's sleeper time.
Half the questions I get on Twitter are people asking about sleepers. Players like Cam Newton, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker were later-round draftees in 2015, and they paid off in a huge way. If you can find those guys' equivalents in '16, you've got a leg up on winning your title.
But looking over the current Average Draft Position (ADP) at FantasyFootballCalculator.com, I discovered five players a lot of folks consider sleepers this year who I believe I will stay asleep. Here's a list of guys you can let slip out of your hands, without fear that they'll come back and haunt you:
Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants. (ADP = 75 overall, RB31). All we've heard from the Gotham media is that the Giants appear ready to make Jennings their lead back, and that's turned Jennings into a sleeper. I don't buy it. I do buy that right now Jennings is a better player than Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and Paul Perkins. He's 6'1" and 231 pounds and can grind on the interior, he's got good top-end speed—even if it takes him a while to get into top gear—and he catches it well. I like him. But he's had ankle, knee, hamstring and concussion issues in just the past few years, is entering his age-31 season, and would be a lousy bet to stay healthy if he's given 250-plus touches. Jennings should certainly be drafted in all leagues, but if you're taking him in the sixth or seventh round, you're imagining him as an every-week flex starter. I think you can get higher-upside dudes like Ameer Abdullah, Justin Forsett, Jay Ajayi and T.J. Yeldon in Jennings's current neighborhood.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals (ADP = 81 overall, TE7). I don't freak out that Eifert's 13 TDs on 52 catches can't recur. I mean, they surely can't! The law of averages will dictate that the Bengals probably won't get quite so many opportunities from relatively in close: Eifert scored 11 red-zone TDs in '15 and his other two scores came from an opponent's 22. But Eifert will score. On film, I counted five TDs on which Cincy split him out wide, isolated on a nickel corner, and made him the first read, and Eifert put his man in the torture chamber with a series of posts and corners. He's not a fluke TD guy like Marcedes Lewis circa 2010. No, my hesitation with Eifert is the foot he injured in the Pro Bowl. It's dangerous to believe anything coaches say, but I give more credence when the words are negative, and the Bengals have told anyone who'll listen they think Eifert is shaky for Week 1. It's tough for me to draft Eifert as my fantasy starter and then have to draft another tight end to fill in for him. I almost never carry two TEs.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks. (ADP = 112overall, TE10). This one is all about name recognition. Graham scored nine-plus TDs his final four seasons in New Orleans and was occasionally considered a first-round fantasy pick, and the market just can't quit him. But you should. In a standard 12-team league, Graham should be nothing more than a late-round flyer. Why? Because he tore a patellar tendon in late November last year. And that injury is bad. It's the one that kept Victor Cruz out for all of 2015 and still has him questionable to begin the '16 campaign. Even torn ACLs pale in comparison to the patellar tendon. There just isn't a good history of receivers returning to their prior form: Cruz, Mark Clayton and Austin Collie number among recent players who've had their careers ruined by this injury. I know Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has occasionally sounded optimistic that Graham would be ready Week 1, but you must realize that Sunshine Petey could look at the ruins of Pompeii and tell reporters he was thinking of drafting the little stone guy in that glass case. Carroll is a walking-around illustration of why you shouldn't take things coaches say seriously. He's about motivating his players, not imparting wisdom to people who don't work for him. It's true that Graham was activated from the preseason PUP list, but that doesn't mean much; Cruz was never even placed on the Giants' preseason PUP list last year, and never played a down. I fully expect Graham to wind up on Seattle's regular-season PUP list, miss the first six weeks of the season, and then probably not play much after that.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington (ADP = 116 overall, QB14). Cousins is a trendy sleeper for those who wait to draft their fantasy quarterback. He's being taken ahead of Matt Stafford and Matt Ryan, two more established players I like way more than Cousins. Yes, Cousins got red hot the final few games of December and helped steal some '15 fantasy championships. But on film he reminds me of Nick Foles circa 2013: he should've been picked off more than he was, and he's not nearly as good as his numbers looked. On film, Cousins is a funky combo of West Coast conservative and wild at heart; he doesn't see receivers running open, and he often squeezes throws into spots he shouldn't, plus he's easy to fluster with pressure. Even his team wasn't ready to commit to Cousins: this winter, Washington opted to franchise tag their starting QB and never seriously entertained inking him to a long-term deal. They want to see him do it again against a first-place schedule. So do I.
Kamar Aiken, WB, Ravens (ADP = 119 overall, WR47). I may have started the Kamar Aiken sleeper hype way back in February, when I mentioned him on my podcast. After all, when the other options got injured in '15, Aiken took over the No. 1 job and was decent as a possession guy in the second half of the season. He's a good player. But he's miscast as a high-upside sleeper. He's slow. On film, I saw him try double-moves late in the year and defensive backs never came close to biting. In the best of all worlds, I think he's cast as a slot player, with guys like Mike Wallace and Steve Smith outside. (Remember the Ravens also hope to get something from oft-injured '15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman.) I agree that Aiken is the best bet among all Baltimore receivers to finish among the top 40 fantasy WRs. With Smith coming off a ruptured Achilles', Perriman no lock to play, and Wallace perennially disappointing, the steady Aiken has a clear path to decent work. But if I'm grabbing a guy for my bench in the ninth or tenth rounds, I want someone who could muscle his way into my fantasy squad's starting lineup, and with his limited ceiling, I don't think that guy is Aiken.
(Note: For fantasy football advice based on film review every single weekday from now until 2017, listen to the Harris Football Podcast at www.HarrisFootball.com)