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Cincinnati RB Giovani Bernard is one of our 2016 Fantasy Football Sleepers
"Giovani Bernard is primed for a big 2016."
(John Sommers/Icon Sportswire)

Fantasy Football Sleepers

Key fantasy football sleepers in your 2016 draft


Fantasy football sleepers that develop into primetime players can give your team a huge advantage over your opponents. Needless to say, selecting players later in your draft that yield early pick production can make for a long season for your league mates.

Some of the Docs' past fantasy football sleepers include:

2015: WR Brandon Marshall (8th round 2015 ADP)
2014: WR Emmanuel Sanders & TE Antonio Gates (16th round 2014 ADP)
2013: WR Alshon Jeffery & RB Zac Stacy
2012: RB C.J. Spiller & RB Stevan Ridley
2011: WR Jordy Nelson
2010: WR Hakeem Nicks & WR Mike Wallace
2009: WR Miles Austin
2008: RB Steve Slaton & WR Calvin Johnson
2007: WR Braylon Edwards
2006: RB Frank Gore
2005: RB LaMont Jordan

These are not your run-of-the-mill fantasy football sleepers on everyone's radar for their respective draft year. These fantasy football sleepers proved to be major superstars that could be had very late in fantasy drafts of their respective draft year and brought home fantasy championships for many folks. Drafting sleepers of this high caliber later in your draft makes a huge, substantial impact on the odds of you winning your league championship. Consequently, it is no secret that many championship teams can point to some "surprise" fantasy football sleepers during their draft that were real difference makers for their team. With that in mind, the Docs have crunched the numbers and uncovered numerical trends that increase the odds of picking successful 2016 fantasy football sleepers during your draft. A list of those players along with detailed commentary providing insight regarding why these players are considered fantasy football sleepers is provided below. Enough with the talk, let's get to our 2016 fantasy football sleepers:

Click the link below to check out the Docs' 2016 busts:
Fantasy Football Busts

For more information on what is meant by a "fantasy football sleepers" or "Average Draft Position", click here (or read the information located at the bottom of this article).

  Player Type: SLEEPER Team Position
  Giovani Bernard CIN RB

While it is a dangerous comment to offer to fantasy geeks from days gone by, probably the best way to summize Bernard entering the 2016 season is... "Baby Marshall Faulk". Faulk was a fantasy beast leading the ground attack for St. Louis during their "Greatest Show on Turf" days in the early 2000's. He was a dual threat run / catch RB weapon that posted gaudy fantasy stats, particularly in the early 2000's. On that very same offensive coaching staff during arguably Faulk's best years was Greg Zampese, who is now the new Offensive Coordinator for the Bengals this year. While Zampese has served as QB coach for the Bengals ever since leaving St. Louis after the break-up of the "Greatest Show on Turf" band, he hasn't had the opportunity to be at the full offensive controls until this year. You can almost see his fingerprint in the 2013 draft selection of Bernard, who has a very similar skill set as Faulk in terms of being a dual threat run / catch weapon out of the RB backfield. In addition to possessing similiar skill sets, both Faulk and Bernard are also similar in size (Faulk: 5'10" / 211 lbs; Bernard: 5'9" / 205 lbs). Thus far in his career, Bernard's rushing attempts to receptions is also extremely similar to Faulk's career numbers at a 3 to 1 mark. They also have the exact same career yards per carry of 4.3 and yards per reception of 9.0. How about them apples! Prior to Zampese being promoted to Offensive Coordinator, new Cleveland Head Coach Hue Jackson served in that role. Jackson was well known for featuring a punishing ground attack that favored a between the tackles, punishing runner like RB Jeremy Hill. Now that Zampese is at the controls, the offensive attack is better suited to the skillset of Bernard over Hill. Furthrmore, momentum is on Bernard's side as he finished the 2015 season with a very impressive 4.7 yards per carry average, while Hill struggled all season long finishing the year with a substandard 3.6 yards per carry average. In his first three years in the league, Bernard has finished every year with over 1,000 total yards of offense (rushing and receiving). He has been very good at protecting the ball with only 3 career fumbles in 3 years compared to Hill's 8 fumbles in just 2 years, which is four times as high as Bernard (note both Hill and Bernard had very similar total touches over the past two seasons to help make this assessment of ball security an apples to apples comparison). With an Average Draft Position at the time of this writing being an 8th round pick and the #30 RB overall, Bernard is a great value pick to target as a sleeper in 2016. His skills and good ball security are well aligned to his new Offensive Coordinator, and his on the field performance thus far in his career would yield huge numbers if his touches were to increase. He stands a very good chance at seeing his touches increase, which makes him a great mid-round target for your fantasy football draft.

  Player Type: SLEEPER Team Position
  DeAngelo Williams PIT RB

(7/23/16 UPDATE: With RB Le'Veon Bell facing a 4 game suspension, Williams Average Draft Position (ADP) will be driven up making him far less of a sleeper after the news. Prior to that news, Williams was a great sleeper pick, and we already didn't like Bell outside of any potential drug suspension as detailed in our fantasy football bust write-up for Bell. For those that were already able to scoop up Williams as a draft day steal, congratulations! For the rest of us, Williams' sleeper value is diminished due to the developments with Bell). The stage is set this year for Williams to cap off a strong finish to a long and successful NFL career. After spending the first nine years of his NFL tenure in Carolina, Williams was acquired by the Steelers prior to the start of the 2015 NFL season. That move turned out to be pure genius, as Williams was a perfect fit in their offense. He wasted no time proving that in Week 1, amassing 127 rushing yards on 21 carries while Le'Veon Bell sat due to an NFL suspension. The very next week Williams popped a 3 TD game. Bell returned in Week 3 and kept the starting job until Week 8, when he was lost for the season with a torn PCL and MCL. That put Williams back as the starter in Week 9, where he wasted no time showing how explosive he is in this offense by posting 170 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, and pulling in 2 receptions for 55 yards. In summary, Williams dropped a Week 9 fantasy nuke with 225 yards of total offense and 2 TDs. By the time the smoke cleared on the 2015 season, Williams had started 10 games and piled on 1,121 yards of total offense (801 rushing and 320 receiving) and 11 TDs when considering just the games he started. If you discard his week 17 start, when he injured his ankle early in the game and had to exit, Williams' numbers over the 9 games he started and played the full game are 1,100 yards (793 rushing and 307 receiving) and 11 TDs. Projecting that out over a full 16 game season would leave Williams' numbers at uber ridiculous levels: 1,956 total yards and 20 total TDs. To say Williams fit like a glove in the Steelers' offense is the understatement of the year. Now in 2016, Williams has fully recovered from his ankle and foot injuries and is set to take the bulk of the first team reps during camp while Le'Veon Bell eases into duty recovering from his surgerically repaired PCL and MCL joints in his knee. As detailed in our Running Back Two Year Major Injury Rule, it almost always takes two seasons for a RB to fully recover from a major injury. Bell shredded his knee last year, including a torn MCL and PCL. Of the ACL, MCL, and PCL, the PCL has the longest recovery time, and throughout history a long line of very talented and very conditioned RBs have struggled in their frst year after suffering a major injury and produced numbers nowhere close to those of their preinjury form. Those numbers don't start reappearing until the next season, two years removed from the major injury. Short of Bell going to the courthouse and changing his name to Adrian Peterson, overwhelming odds say Bell is in line for a down year. This tees-up the situation perfectly for Williams, whose current Avearge Draft Position (ADP) at the time of this writing is at the bargain basement level of the 10th round and as the #36 RB taken. On the other end of the spectrum is RB Le'Veon Bell, who at the time of this writing is going as the 2nd player taken overall and #1 RB taken based on his ADP (see our fantasy football bust write-up on Bell for more information). Williams may be at the end of his career, but he is perfectly positioned to buy franchise RB LeVeon Bell (who is only 24 years old) valueable time to fully recover to help the Steelers in the long term without compromising the effectiveness of the Steelers' offense in the near term. Williams proved his immediate effectiveness in this offense with his ridiculous numbers last year. Furthermore, while at 33 years old Williams is considered very old for an NFL RB, he is effectively younger than that due to less wear and tear over his career. He is like an older model vehicle with very low miles - a very valuable commodity. Due to a Running Back by Committee (RBBC) in Carolina with Jonathan Stewart, Williams' career carries are only at 1,632. A workhorse RB gets at least 300 carries a year and reaches those same numbers in terms of carries in roughly 5 years, which puts him at the prime of his career at 28 years of age. Clearly Williams' body is every bit of 33 years old, but his career workload is in line with a workhorse RB in the prime of his career. The point there is that Williams is not as "old" as his age in terms of NFL RB treadlife. He still has plenty of treadlife. Last, Williams is one of a handful of RBs in the history of the NFL that demonstrates the ability to explode for mega fantasy nukes. He has posted not one, but two games with 4 rushing TDs in his career. This is a feat not many RBs have achieved even once, and it is even more remarkable when you consider Williams' career was largely spent in a RBBC. He has a nose for the end zone, and he quickly showed that last year. He is also a weapon out of the backfield as a pass catcher. In his one season where he was largely featured as the lead RB for an entire year (2008), Williams amassed 1,636 total yards of offense and 20 total TDs. As shown earlier in this article, Williams showed that same explosiveness last year when featured. In the end, Williams makes a great value pick late in your draft with the ability and cirucmstances to emerge and post a solid year in 2016 with the upside to explode for a monster year. So as folks are backing up their TEs and looking at kickers in the 10th round, Williams will be available as a diamond in the rough.



RBs Giovani Bernard and DeAngelo Williams are just 2 of 16 key fantasy football sleepers and busts picks for your 2016 fantasy football draft. The complete list, along with our exclusive 2016 Draft Advisor Software, Overall Rankings (450+), In-depth Projections, Player Profiles (300+), offensive line rankings (run and pass), and more are included in our 2016 Total Draft Package, which and can be purchased for just $11.95. Everything is updated each and every week to account for injuries, trades, and depth-chart adjustments that occur during the NFL Preseason. Just click on the button below to get access today!



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What are fantasy football sleepers?
Fantasy football sleepers are players that significantly outperform their average draft position. In short, if you are fortunate enough to select a good "sleeper" pick, you were able to grab a player that yielded much higher production than otherwise anticipated prior to the NFL season. Consequently, you want to select your fantasy football sleepers a round earlier than you anticipate them being taken by your league mates. However, you do not want to select your fantasy football sleepers too early as this gives you the opportunity to use those earlier picks on more reliable players while they are still available.

What is "Average Draft Position"?
Average Draft Position is an indicator of when a player could be selected based on the average of hundreds of drafts completed by various fantasy football leagues and mock drafts. This is very helpful information when evaluating potential fantasy football sleepers. For those that are interested, checkout our article,
Fantasy Football Mock Drafts, for direct access to free resources containing mock draft and ADP information for the 2016 fantasy football season.

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