Fantasy Football: One Deep Sleeper Candidate From Every NFL Team
Every Sunday night, NFL audiences are graced by the presence of country music superstar Carrie Underwood as she sings whatever rendition of the theme song the network picks for her that year. While I listen to zero country music and couldn't care less about the song itself, it's easy to appreciate Underwood's talent. But what I am always inclined to remember is how the female star actually become a star.
Perhaps no show more defined American ideals and culture during the 2000s than American Idol. The show dominated the ratings like few ever have, promising to turn every-day Americans into pop icons. And somewhat surprisingly (especially considering the failures to do so of other singing shows such as The Voice), they actually succeeded! Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson went from promoting Red Bull energy drinks at a movie theater in Burleson, Texas to becoming one of the biggest pop stars in America. Underwood worked at a zoo and waited tables at a pizzeria before dominating the country music charts. Jennifer Hudson went from being an unknown to winning an Academy Award.
There is something special about watching someone rise from obscurity to become highly successful. For many of us, it is a picture of what makes America great, and it's probably also the reason we spend way too many hours watching meaningless NFL games every August. Each year without fail the NFL sees several players buried deep on the depth chart who "rise from obscurity" to become immensely valuable in fantasy football. And often these stories begin their ascension during the preseason.
For example, before the 2010 season, very few people had heard the name Jimmy Graham. He was a mid-round draft pick who was more basketball player than tight end.
That year, he posted a modest 31-catch, 356-yard, 5-touchdown line that put him on the radar. But if you were in a dynasty or keeper league, it was probably too late. In 2011, he broke out with a 99-reception, 1,300-yard, 11-touchdown campaign and claimed the title as fantasy football's premier tight end.
The key is finding these players a year too early rather than a year too late.
You have similar stories with players such as Travis Kelce, Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas. And it's not just the tight ends. Thomas Rawls, Dion Lewis, Latavius Murray, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris, C.J. Anderson, John Brown, Allen Hurns, T.Y. Hilton, Pierre Garcon, Victor Cruz, Marques Colston and Russell Wilson would all qualify as being deep sleepers before their breakout years.
In 2016 we identified breakouts like Ty Montgomery, Tyrell Williams, Jay Ajayi and Dak Prescott. More importantly, dynasty owners had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of players whose value has only climbed -- such as Robby Anderson, Paul Richardson, Zach Zenner, and Chris Conley.
To find these players, you look for a certain profile. Perhaps off-the-field issues, inexperience, or health caused them to fall off the radar, but their size, speed and ability suggest that they can really explode with the right development and opportunity. These are the guys you target late in drafts or keep tabs on throughout the season to see if opportunity might come their way. Far from just being role players, these individuals possess the talent to be season-changers if the opportunity presents itself. In deep leagues or keeper and dynasty formats, finding them plays a big role in separating the good owners from the great ones.
So who do we see becoming the next generation of NFL Idols? Let's take a look at the top prospect on each team.