Congratulations, you own a fantasy football team. Now it is time to draft. We understand that you don’t have time to create your own cheat sheet so here are a few players that we think will be sleepers, busts and breakout stars in 2016.
Here is how we define each:
Sleeper: A player not being drafted as a starter but should be.
Bust: A player drafted as a starter but will disappoint.
Breakout Star: A player projected to finish in the top five at their position but are not currently being drafted like a superstar.
To create these rankings we used a combination of FantasyPros experts and then compared those rankings to the average draft position (ADP), which is a composite of rankings from ESPN and Yahoo, of each player. The draft rankings are based on a standard league.
First up, 2016 sleepers…
2016 ADP: 15th quarterback, 116th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 9th quarterback
As a rookie, Winston finished as the 13th best fantasy quarterback last season. The young Buccaneer threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns. There is reason to believe he can improve upon those numbers. Winston completed just 58.3% of his passes in his first season and should benefit from a bounce back season from Mike Evans (only three touchdowns). The quarterback position is deep in fantasy and if you decide to wait Winston is going overlooked in drafts.
2016 ADP: 19th quarterback, 122th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 8th quarterback
The Red Rifle is not a sexy pick (probably because he is a ginger). However, if it weren’t for an injury in Week 14 of the 2015 season, Dalton would have finished as a top 10 fantasy signal-caller for the second time in three years. A.J. Green, a healthy Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard give Dalton numerous receiving threats. The Bengals quarterback is projected to finish in the top ten, if that holds there is a ton of value in drafting Dalton.
2016 ADP: 19th running back, 38th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 12th running back
Did the Jeremy Hill hype-train run you over last year? A disappointing 2015 season (794 rushing yards, 3.6 yards/carry) has seen Hill’s fantasy stock drop from a first round pick in 2015 to the late fourth round selection this year. Hill has averaged over 220 rushing attempts per season in his career, as a rookie he racked up 1,124 rushing yards and should be closer to that total then what he managed on the ground in 2015. Plus, the running back gets a ton of goal line work and has led the NFL in rushing touchdowns (20) since coming into the league. Don’t let recency bias stop you from drafting Hill.
2016 ADP: 27th running back, 72nd overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 14th running back
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Gore has finished as a top 20 fantasy back ten years running (pun intended). Per ESPN, Gore leads the NFL in attempts from the opponent’s 1-yard line in the last five years, which means he is going to find the end zone. The Colts running has a low ceiling but if you can snag him in the 7th or 8th round you should be pleased.
2016 ADP: 30th receiver, 70th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 16th receiver
The Lions love to pass the ball. Detroit has been in the top 5 in passing attempts in four of the last five years. The retirement of Calvin Johnson means there are a lot of targets up for grabs. News out of training camp is that Marvin Jones, not Golden Tate, could be Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. Why take Tate in fifth round when you can get Jones in the 8th?
2016 ADP: 37th receiver, 84th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 22th receiver
Here is why Hurns is dropping in drafts: the Jags have said they want to run the ball more and fantasy owners are expecting regression to the mean for Hurns (scored ten touchdowns in 2015). But Hurns is really, really good. Plus, Jacksonville is still a bottom ten team in the NFL. There will be plenty of garbage time in 2016 and fantasy points count regardless of when you score them.
2016 ADP: 46th receiver, 105th overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 29th receiver
Did you see the dumpster fire that was the Browns quarterback situation in 2015? Benjamin had to try and catch passes from the likes of Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown and Austin Davis. Getting Philip Rivers as a quarterback is a huge upgrade. Benjamin is a speedy receiver that will become the deep threat in a pass-heavy offense.
2016 ADP: 19th tight end, 163rd overall
2016 Projected Rankings: 9th tight end
If Cook is ever going to become a viable fantasy option this is the year. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback the tight end has played with and Cook has the potential to become a TE1. Cook will be available when most teams are drafting their kickers and defenses, feel free to take a flier.
2016 ADP: 25th tight end, Undrafted
2016 Projected Rankings: 11th tight end
There is Gronk and then everyone else. Someone in your draft is going to reach for Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed or Travis Kelce as well and you can’t really blame them but why spend precious draft capital when you don’t need to. Brate is going undrafted and has a chance to be a top ten tight end. If you punt on tight end, Brate has a chance to be a steal.