Author: Chuck White

2015 Fantasy Football Sleepers

NFL training camp is approaching and the majority of rosters are mostly set, but now is the perfect time to look at potential fantasy football sleepers and late-round picks.

If done right they can make your team. Here are some players that can be fantasy football sleepers and might make it to the lower rounds or even the waiver wire that could end up with high level production.


 

Derek Carr, QB

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The second-year Oakland Raiders quarterback threw for 21 touchdowns last season. Decent. Now he is entering his sophomore year with a whole new set of weapons. They drafted wide receiver Amari Cooper in the first round and Miami tight end Clive Walford in the third. Michael Crabtree provides a legitimate second option at receiver and if Cooper comes close to expectations, Carr is a quarterback who is going to be available in the late rounds at the very least. A 30-touchdown year wouldn’t be crazy, making Carr a great low-risk, high-reward pick.

Sam Bradford, QB

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Early reports are Bradford looks healthy and is succeeding in Chip Kelly’s offense. This is the same Philadelphia Eagles team that made Mark Sanchez a 16-20 points-per-game quarterback last year. The fast pace will continue to allow a whole lot of chances for Bradford (or whoever starts) to put up big numbers. He won’t be a big name during your draft, but he could be a steal.

C.J. Spiller, RB

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Spiller was picked up by the New Orleans Saints in the offseason and is set to back up Mark Ingram. He is nothing near the early round pick like previous years and will look to fill in the Darren Sproles role. Expect almost as many catches out of the backfield as carries. Spiller still has big play ability and Ingram injury history could even lead to him having the main role at times.

Darren McFadden, RB

May 27, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs with the ball during OTAs at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

May 27, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs with the ball during OTAs at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

VIA RANTSPORTS.COM

Another veteran who’s disappointed fantasy players in the past, he enters this year on the Cowboys, with the best offensive line in the league. He did play in every game last year, even though he had poor production, maybe his injuries are a thing of the past. If he can regain even a fraction of his old speed behind that O-line, he should be productive and worth a late round pick.

Charles Johnson, WR

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson catches a long pass for a touchdown in the in first quarter  as the Minnesota Vikings play the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, December 7, 2014. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson catches a long pass for a touchdown in the in first quarter as the Minnesota Vikings play the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, December 7, 2014. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)

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Not to be confused with the Panthers pass rusher, this Johnson had the vast majority of his 475 receiving yards over the last seven games of the season. Now the Minnesota Vikings have added Mike Wallace and Adrian Peterson came back. The speedy receiver started to develop a connection with Teddy Bridgewater, and if Bridgewater makes strides this season it will only grow. Chances are Johnson will be going undrafted or in the last couple rounds, so it won’t take much to invest in him.

Allen Robinson, WR

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By the time the regular season rolls around, he might not be considered a sleeper. Robinson’s been generating hype for the Jaguars throughout OTA practices, with the team convinced he can be their true number one receiver. His size and leaping ability make him a red-zone target. Throughout his rookie season, prior to a leg injury, he had the best chemistry with fellow rookie Blake Bortles. If those two take the next step together, big fantasy numbers could come.

Ladarius Green, TE

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The San Diego Chargers backup tight end will be their started through Week 4, thanks to a four-game Antonio Gates suspension. Green did most of his damage in the first few weeks of last season with two 60-yard games. His speed may have San Diego play him more throughout the season, even with the aging Gates returning. Green’s been predicted to have a break out season by fantasy experts for the last two years, but Gate’s suspension could finally make it happen.

Jordan Reed, TE

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The Washington Redskins are hoping Reed can have his healthiest year as a pro. He’s been limited to 20 games over his two seasons, but has shown flashes of potential. Reed will have to win the starting tight end job in training camp, something that should happen. If he can spend this year on the field, he’s is going to receive a lot of targets from Robert Griffin III. If Reed’s available in the last two rounds it’s worth the pick.

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Surprise NFL teams for the 2015 season

The NFL offseason is in full swing and the normal cast of prospective playoff teams and underdog contenders are already being listed. For the majority of teams, going against the grain of national perception would be enough. But there are a few surprise NFL teams that will headline the 2015 season.

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Miami Dolphins

If Tom Brady’s suspension holds up, the Dolphins may have a chance to get a jump start in the AFC East. Already a great defense, they added Ndamukong Suh to pair with Cameron Wake. They revamped their receiving core by getting rid of Mike Wallace and adding Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Tight end James Cameron and rookie running back Jay Ajayi will also contribute, even if only in role positions. If the newly extended Ryan Tannehill takes another step forward as a quarterback, the Dolphins are football’s best chance to contend with the New England Patriots for AFC East crown.

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New York Giants

Tom Coughlin’s returning for another year and Eli Manning will be building on a great finish to the 2014 season, where he threw for 12 touchdowns against just three interceptions. much due in part to a talented pair of receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. The Giants will likely be overlooked behind the headline-grabbing Philadelphia Eagles and the division-favorite Dallas Cowboys, but if rookies Landon Collins and Owamagbe Odighizuwa can help turn around the defense (and Jason Pierre-Paul continues his upward trend) they may surprise people.

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St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams are hoping new quarterback Nick Foles can step in and be “the guy”. They need him to complement their stout defense, and I think he can do it. Todd Gurley is going to have to come back from injury, but if he can contribute early, I think they have a chance. As usual, the Seattle Seahawks are going to dominate any conversation in the NFC West (as they should) but with the San Francisco 49ers bottom falling out and Carson Palmer’s knee being a question mark to start the season for the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams have a chance to grab a Wild Card playoff spot. Last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald and the rest of the defensive line will have to make a bigger impact then they did at the start of 2014, but I think they have enough talent to do it.

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Oakland Raiders

David Carr will look to build on a decent rookie season and new head coach Jack Del-Rio seems to be the right guy to lead this young, underperforming team. For them to be a surprise this season, it doesn’t mean competing for a playoff spot. Anywhere in the range of six wins will surpass expectations, and I think they can do it thanks to Carr and his two new wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Running back Latavius Murray flashed brilliance last season, and the Raiders may have a respectable core on offense with those young pieces. The defense, which Del Rio is admittedly better at developing, is led by Khalil Mack, who had a good rookie year, and the ageless Charles Woodson. Watch out for the Raiders to pull a couple upsets this year.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Yup, I went there. The Jacksonville Jaguars are seen as a team on the upswing by many around the league and like the Raiders, will surprise people with six or seven wins. They’ve revamped their offensive line, signing Jermey Parnell and Stephen Wisniewski, is going to make life easier on second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. If rookie T.J. Yeldon performs up to expectations, Denard Robinson can provide a change-of-pace in the backfield, and Toby Gerhart can pound the rock late in close games, it’ll go a long ways towards the Jaguars grabbing some wins in a weak AFC South. Will they be in the playoff hunt in November or December? Probably not. But I think the days of three-win seasons are behind them.

 

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Are the Golden State Warriors the new NBA template?

The Golden State Warriors just won the title starting a 6′ 7″ center. They also had a crazy amount of depth and just the right number of veterans off the bench, but they’re playing small ball… and it worked.

Yes, a lot of the NBA is going small, but with the Warriors winning a title in six games, does that make them a template for success?

The San Antonio Spurs were that template for the last few years — slash-and-kick with constant passing to create open looks. The Atlanta Hawks followed that and won 60 games this year. Even the Miami Heat title teams were based upon slash-and-drive. Now with the Warriors and their amazing year, will post play be undervalued in following years?

Draymond Green was great, notching a triple double in the game-clinching win, but he’s not a back-to-the-basket player.

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David Lee, arguably their second best player prior to this year, was benched for Green and it worked out amazing for Golden State. Players like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala defend multiple positions and can knock down open shots. That was more important that a traditional post game like Lee had. They were right and Green and Iguodala made all the difference down the stretch against Cleveland.

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What if Memphis had held their 2-1 lead against the Warriors in the second round? Would anyone be asking if post play might be a thing of the past? What if the Cavs had Irving and Mozgov along with Thompson rebounded how they did leading to a Cavs win?

True centers and power forwards are not going away. Teams will model themselves after Golden State, but it’ll be insanely hard to have the personnel to do what they did. You aren’t going to win a championship starting five guys under 6′ 9″ unless you have two of the league’s best shooters, and three or four crazy versatile players to go with that.

There are just to many centers and post players around the league for this to happen. Lamarcus Aldridge, both Gasols and Griffen, the list can go on. This doesn’t mean that teams aren’t going to go small down the stretch of games, but it’ll be hard to go as small as the Golden State Warriors have gone.

The three-point shot has already taken over the NBA and if teams are going to copy the Warrior’s success formula, that’s going to be the way it happens. But the post game isn’t going away. Golden State got through the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Rockets, all who had formidable centers and post play. Just because it was the Warriors year and they joined the long list of teams who’s luck (mostly injuries) broke their way, doesn’t mean it’s going to win like they did.

The Warriors are one of a kind.

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Steph Curry with signature Game 5, continues to demolish records

Steph Curry has made 95 three-point shots this postseason. The previous record was 58 by Reggie Miller, and Miller did that in 22 games. Curry’s played in 20 so far. He might only play in 21.

Unreal.

He’s made 22 three-point shots this series, already breaking the record of 17 that was done in a seven-game series.

Game 5 on Sunday night marked his signature performance of the finals. Curry had 37 with 7 three-point shots, but did the most damage answering a Lebron James onslaught, who hit a 34-foot bomb to put the Cleveland Cavaliers up two…

…but then Steph answered with this.

Just your average behind-the-back fadeaway three on one of the most important possessions of the game. His splash brother Klay Thompson added another three to go up five points, and Curry would add a couple more bombs to close out the game.

The Cavaliers (and Lebron) can’t keep up with an offensive explosion like that. He can only do so much. His 40-point triple-double was the first in the NBA Finals since Jerry West did it in the late 1960’s. Curry hadn’t played poorly in any games, besides game 2. He just hadn’t exploded like we’ve been used to him doing.

But this is why Steph Curry won MVP. Look at this. It’s unstoppable.

I am speechless. I am without speech.

If Lebron James is going to give one of the greatest NBA Finals performances we’ve ever seen, these are the types of things that Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors have to do to neutralize that. Now they’re just one game away.

Curry broke his own record for three-point shots during a regular season this year. He’s shattering these playoff records and just made his best plays of the finals during the biggest moments. With one or two more 30 plus point games with timely shooting, he’ll set himself up to win NBA Finals MVP.

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Dante Fowler injury won’t derail Jaguars defense

Let’s just get this out of the way… Yes, the Dante Fowler injury suffered in the first hour of Jacksonville Jaguars practice is sickening. It’s terrible luck. He didn’t even make it an hour.

But it’s not the end of the world. I’d even go so far as to say it isn’t a giant blow to the defense.

Why is the loss much less significant than, say, one to rookie running back T.J. Yeldon? Because the defense was respectable last season.

Yeldon, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson… those injuries are a much bigger blow. The offense lacked depth last season, but the defense, and especially the defensive line, did not.

Fowler’s injury affects 2016 more than it does to 2015. He looses out on a year of experience but for this year the pass rush should be deep enough. Andre “The Windmill” Branch has it covered.

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With Branch entering his fourth season and Ryan Davis entering his third, there should be enough youth to go along with veteran Chris Clemons. Branch only has 10 sacks in his career and had three in limited action due to injury. So far, he’s looked good through OTA practices and entering a contract year he may be in line for a break out season.

Branch or Clemons were the two Leo’s whose jobs were in jeopardy when the Jags selected Fowler. His injury has opened this season back up to them, and we might see more windmills this season.

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Ryan Davis is the obvious breakout candidate. He had 6.5 sacks last season in limited time. He is in line to see the most playing time of his short career this season. A practice squad rookie who had one sack and one interception in 7 games (each game sealing plays against the Texans), played in all 16 games and made his presence felt. He often lined up along the interior, but he may see more outside opportunities this season.

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Red Bryant, Chris Clemons’ teammate from the Seattle Seahawks, may be gone, but he is still here and ready to be the veteran presence on the line. Clemons didn’t attend the OTA practices, but it’s not a big deal in the Jaguars locker room. He’s a veteran, he knows how to get in shape, he’s expected to be present for the mandatory practices, and his absence means younger, less experienced guys get more reps in practice.

He had games where he was everywhere last season (three sacks against the Indianapolis Colts late in the season) and he had days where he made little impact. He’s not the long-term impact answer at pass rusher for the Jaguars, but he’ll fill several gaps nicely.

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Dan Skuta might be a big X-factor in the pass rush. The linebacker from San Francisco had 5.5 sacks last year, with a few coming from the outside end position. The Jags have been putting him in the LEO in certain situations during OTA practices, hoping he can play the role that last years OLB signing Dakota Watson failed to make an impact in.

And don’t forget Chris Smith, who had a few sacks and pressures filling in for the injured Andre Branch.

It’s basically the same group of pass rushers coming back, with an added Dan Skuta to the mix who could play a nice role at OTTO linebacker and edge pass rusher.

Don’t get me wrong, Fowler’s injury is devastating. When your top pick goes on injured reserved less than an hour into organized practice, it sucks. But it’s not the worst thing that could have happened to this team and it shouldn’t damage the upcoming season to the degree we fear it could.

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