As you get ready for your fantasy football draft, you have a pretty good idea how the first several rounds will pan out.
Star players obviously will be off the board quickly, so you won’t have a chance to draft Antonio Brown or David Johnson unless you have one of the first few selections.
And while it’s easy to put your roster together when the field still is wide open, drafting becomes progressively more difficult as the crop of household name narrows. That’s when sleeper picks come into play.
Each year, a number of under-the-radar players emerge with a breakout season. If you’re able to grab one, — or multiple — of these players for your fantasy team, you should be in contention for a league championship.
With that said, here are 10 players we believe are poised for a strong season and could be steals in your draft.
Taylor Gabriel, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
Gabriel showed what he’s capable of in 2016, catching six touchdown passes that included five of 25 yards or longer, so it’s likely the speedy wideout will have a larger role in the Falcons’ offense this year. Atlanta loves taking the top off opposing defenses, and with Julio Jones frequently a victim of double coverage, Gabriel should get plenty of looks.
Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs certainly do not have a shortage of running backs. Kansas City found great success with the dynamic duo of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West last season, but Hunt likely will insert himself into that group. KC snagged the 5-foot-11, 208-pound back out of Toledo in the third round in this year’s draft, so it’s clear the team is high on his skill set. Hunt reportedly has lived up to expectations early on, as Chiefs coaches have been impressed with his pass-catching ability.
Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were desperate for offensive help this season, and they addressed that need by signing Woods. The wideout spent his first four years flying under the radar with the Buffalo Bills, but his arrival in L.A. should bring on bigger numbers. While he’ll likely be the Rams’ No. 2 receiver behind new acquisition Sammy Watkins, Woods is a legitimate deep threat who’s also capable of lining up in the slot. Look for Woods to be one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets this season.
Mike Gillislee, Running Back, New England Patriots
Stephon Gilmore wasn’t the only player to jump from Buffalo to New England this offseason. Gillislee joined the Patriots after the Bills declined to match their division foe’s two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet for the powerful back. And while New England has a plethora of offensive weapons, expect Gillislee to have his name called frequently on Sundays. After LeGarrette Blount moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles, Gillislee likely will take a bulk of his touches and should be a force to be reckoned with in goal line situations.
Jared Cook, Tight End, Oakland Raiders
Despite being a very versatile tight end, Cook likely will slide in most drafts due to a down season with the Green Bay Packers. But upon arriving to Oakland, Cook gives the Raiders the tight end they’ve been missing over the past few seasons. Derek Carr continues to ascend the league’s rank of best quarterbacks, and he should have a field day with a legitimate pass-catching option at tight end..
Carson Wentz, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz’s stock takes a slight hit after the Eagles traded away top wideout Jordan Matthews. But he still should have a big second year after faring well in his rookie campaign. Philly landed an elite wideout in Alshon Jeffery and also brought in veteran Torrey Smith, while tight end Zach Ertz will be entering his fifth NFL season, which typically is when players start to hit their stride. Wentz has the weapons to make his second NFL season a great one.
Adam Thielen, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Thielen saw his role in Minnesota’s offense increase dramatically last season, as he led the team with 967 receiving yards on 69 receptions while scoring five touchdowns. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph still should be quarterback Sam Bradford’s top two targets, but Thielen has found a niche as a reliable target in this passing game, and there’s a good chance he’ll be available late in drafts.
Bilal Powell, Running Back, New York Jets
The Jets’ offense should be nightmarish in 2017. The team parted ways with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and also lost Quincy Enunwa with a season-ending neck injury. So, with a lackluster crop of receivers, New York could turn to its running backs to carry the load on offense. Powell probably will split carries with Matt Forte, but don’t let that affect your draft mindset. Forte turns 32 in December, and Powell arguably is the more complete back of the two. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield should translate into a healthy amount of points each week.
Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
Allen Robinson sits atop the Jaguars’ wide receiver depth chart, but Lee should provide a solid second option. The fourth-year veteran is able to stretch the field and could see a high number of targets, as Robinson frequently is double-covered. Lee hauled in 63 catches last season with an average of 13.5 yards per reception, so he typically brings in big points when he gets his hands on the football.
Joe Flacco, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco hasn’t exactly dazzled since winning Super Bowl MVP four years ago, and his preseason back injury likely will make him slide down draft boards even further. But if you’re looking for a QB to stash, Flacco could be your guy. The Ravens have a pair of dynamic wideouts in Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, while Breshad Perriman is coming into his own, as well. Not to mention, Flacco has two capable running backs to dump the ball to in Terrance West and newcomer Danny Woodhead. If he can stay healthy, Flacco should put up solid numbers.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images
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