Fantasy Football's Top Rookie Sleepers
One way that you can absolutely dominate your draft is to hit big on rookies. We’re not talking about the Sammy Watkins or the Mike Evans-type rookies who will likely be drafted way higher than needed by some overzealous owner thinking he knows more than anyone else.
The rookies we are talking about are the ones you can get in the late rounds that end up winning you your league. Think of running back Zac Stacy or wide receiver Keenan Allen from last year. Neither player was a high draft pick in most standard fantasy drafts, but both had dominant rookie years.
This year’s draft class was touted by many as the deepest in years. What this ultimately means for you is that there will be more rookie sleepers than ever.
Today we’ll highlight one rookie at each offensive position.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, Tennessee Titans
There’s three things to absolutely love about Mettenberger and his fit with the Titans.
The first is his arm strength. When healthy, which Mettenberger appears to be on track to be for the 2014 season, he’s got the strongest arm among the rookie quarterbacks. What ultimately makes this so important for the Titans is the receivers that he’ll be throwing to, which brings us to point No. 2.
The Titans might have one of the most underrated receiving corps in the league. Both Nate Washington and Kendall Wright finished last season with top-20 grades (13.7 for Washington and 12.2 for Wright). Throw in the potential of Justin Hunter, who has the talent to be an elite deep threat, and Tennessee is overflowing with talent at wide receiver.
Finally, Mettenberger plays behind an injury-prone quarterback in Jake Locker. He’s missed 14 games over the past two seasons, and simply can’t be relied upon to start a full season.
If Mettenberger even gets the chance to sniff the field early in the regular season, his overall talents should propel him to put up some solid fantasy numbers.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Carolina Panthers
I know, I know. The Panthers already have an absolutely loaded backfield that should be known as the group of death for fantasy owners.
The ultimate problem for the Panthers’ running backs is health. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have battled injuries throughout their career. That’s bad news for the Panthers overall, but it’s great news for Gaffney.
At Stanford, Gaffney proved he can be an every-down back and make an impact as a receiver, too. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he consistently picks up positive yards.
Should Williams and Stewart both get hurt, which history shows is more likely than unlikely, Gaffney is poised to be a huge part of the Panthers offense.
Bruce Ellington, WR, San Francisco 49ers
The amount of talent that the 49ers have on offense is just unfair.
While the 49ers have been a run-first offense for a long time, it appears as if the times may be changing. For starters, San Francisco just invested a boatload of money into Colin Kaepernick, and they didn’t do that so he could simply hand the ball off to his running back.
If the 49ers do start to pass the ball more this year, Ellington will be their secret weapon. The rookie receiver has incredible short-area quickness and the ability to make huge plays after the catch.
There’s no doubt that Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will see plenty of targets. However, don’t be surprised if Ellington has himself an extremely impressive rookie season.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Green Bay Packers
Our last rookie also happens to be the sleeper with the most amount of upside. Despite not playing football last year for the University of Oregon, Lyerla is still an incredible talent for a tight end. What’s even better is that he landed in an ideal situation with Green Bay.
Lyerla will face some competition from the likes of Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and fellow rookie Richard Rodgers. However, Lyerla easily has more upside than any of his teammates.
What ultimately will make Lyerla so valuable is that he can line up all over the field. He’s comfortable out wide, as a slot receiver, on the line of scrimmage like a natural tight end and out of the backfield.
As long as Lyerla can stay out of trouble, he has a great shot at winning the starting job in Green Bay and becoming one of the premier rookie fantasy football players.