The 2016 preseason is just about halfway through, and more than likely you are about to get started on your fantasy football drafts. In case you missed it earlier, we’re doing NN fantasy leagues through Yahoo! Use this thread, to discuss new leagues. You can create your leagues here.
Aside from running NN, I also manage fantasy football content over at SB Nation. We’ve got a team of writers putting together all sorts of content, opening with our annual preview guide. They each took a look at various aspects of the league to come up with some draft strategy. I thought I’d offer up some more specifics of my own.
You have to hit on early round picks to be competitive in fantasy football, but hitting on sleepers in the middle and late rounds is where you win championships. There are a lot of fresh names that will come out of nowhere. We can’t predict them all but here are a few that might step up in 2016.
On the 49ers, Bruce Ellington had sleeper potential, but his inability to stay healthy is growing frustrating. If Ellington can stay healthy, he’s a great sleeper in Chip Kelly’s offense. But if not, Vance McDonald could be the guy in a tight end friendly offense. He needs to consistently catch the ball, but he’s an interesting late round option.
Here is one sleeper at each position around the league
QB Matthew Stafford - He lost Calvin Johnson, but I think he’s still going to be a strong volume quarterback. Marvin Jones can’t replace Megatron, but there are enough weapons that Stafford will get his yards. His current average draft position is in the 11th round, 16th among quarterbacks. He finished tenth in scoring among quarterbacks last season, and I think he can build on that this year.
RB Jonathan Stewart - He is currently being drafted in the fifth round in 12-team leagues, but is coming off a season in which he finished 16th in scoring among all running backs. In a standard league, he’s a valuable commodity. Health remains an issue, but there is value to be had.
WR Golden Tate - I’m going to go ahead and pair Tate and Stafford here. I like that Lions offense. I don’t think the Lions are going to win a ton of games, but for fantasy purposes, there is a lot of value that people will overlook.
TE Dwayne Allen - He’s done very little in his career, and is being drafted late accordingly. But with Coby Fleener out of the picture, it’s now or never for Allen. You won’t be spending a high pick on him, but a later flier could pay dividends.
I suppose the easiest 49ers player to list as a bust is Carlos Hyde. He is currently going 17th among running backs, in the early fourth round. If he breaks down, the value is shot. I suppose that could make him a sleeper in some sense, but he’s going too high to really be a sleeper.
QB Derek Carr - This is a tough position to find busts because there’s a lot of high volume performers. So I’ll pick on our neighbors to the northeast in Oakland. They are the popular pick to surprise in the AFC West (which probably means it wouldn’t be a surprise). I would not be at all surprised to see a strong year from Carr, but I can’t shake the feeling that the Raiders run into some stumbles along the way.
RB Lamar Miller - He’s a popular pick, particularly in PPR leagues. He’s going to get his opportunities replacing Arian Foster, but can he take full advantage? I’m not saying he won’t perform. Rather, I’m just not overly comfortable spending a mid-to-late first round pick on him.
WR Mike Evans - Jameis Winston is coming off a solid rookie season, but I’m wondering if we see some second-year regression. Mike Evans will put up very strong numbers this season, but if Winston regresses, maybe he’s not quite worth the mid-second round value he’s currently getting.
TE Gary Barnidge - Avoid the one-year wonder. His 79 receptions for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He was drafted in 2008, and from 2008 to 2014, his career totals were 44 receptions, 603 yards, and three touchdowns. Maybe he builds on his 2015 breakthrough, but I’m not willing to bet much on it.