Finding Fantasy Football Sleepers
This is the fifth in a series of articles that will look at how personnel changes can increase or decrease the value of players.
I recently came across an article online that stated that you can quit searching for the next fantasy sleeper at your draft because since everyone does it, there are basically no sleepers available anymore.
I beg to differ with this opinion, not in the fact that the true fantasy sleeper no longer exists, but that the research necessary to locate sleepers has changed. I am almost begrudgingly writing this article since I know that some of my fellow fantasy competitors read my work and this will provide insight into where I look to find value in the upcoming fantasy football draft, but this is the type of information that separates the good teams from the playoff teams come December.
The question you should be asking is how new additions improve the players around them? You can use this type of rationalization when it comes to free agent additions as well as defections that can have positive effects on player statistics.
In Part I we examined how the arrival of Jameis Winston will affect the players around him on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in Part II examined how Marcus Mariota will impact the value of his fellow Tennessee Titans. Part III of this series analyzed 2015 draft picks Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Todd Gurley and how they may benefit their new teams and Part IV examined a few free agent wide receivers that are joining new teams.
Today we will look at running backs and the impact they may have on their new team. We will only examine players who are with new teams as when a player re-signs we expect similar numbers to the previous season if the other members of the offense remain intact.
- DeMarco Murray/Ryan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles
This is a two for one type deal. After six seasons, 6,700 yards and 44 rushing TD’s the Eagles traded LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in the offseason. Based upon some of the offseason chatter, McCoy and Eagles Head Coach, Chip Kelly may not have seen eye-to-eye on a number of matters. The Eagles went out in free agency and picked up two running backs to replace McCoy, and one of them is from one of their biggest rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. DeMarco Murray should have a chip on his shoulder as after averaging 5.2 and 4.7 yards per carry in back-to-back seasons and leading the NFL in rushing last season, the Cowboys let him leave for a division rival in free agency. The good news for Murray is he will get to see Dallas in Week 2 and again in Week 9. While the departed McCoy was more of a finesse runner, Murray more of a power back who should flourish behind a healthier offensive line.
Matthews meanwhile is no slouch himself. He is a two-time 1,000 yard rusher in the NFL and a former #12 overall selection. His durability has been a factor as he has only one full 16 game season in the books over his five year career, but he should still see 10-15 touches per game while providing Murray a breather.
The arrival of these two backs will most likely cut into the production of Darren Sproles. Sproles managed 6 rushing TD’s last season even with the presence of McCoy, but the arrival of Murray and Matthews will mean less red zone opportunities for Sproles. Sproles may be more valuable in Chip Kelly’s offense as a receiver out of the backfield as neither Matthews nor Murray is as dangerous out of the backfield as the nimble Sproles.
It is hard to predict what Kelly’s plan is for new quarterback Sam Bradford, but with two work horses in the backfield look for a power rushing attack from the Eagles this upcoming season. Murray is a definite RB1 and should be gone before the middle of the first round is complete. Matthews should have some value on a weekly basis, but as long as Murray is healthy he is no more than a RB3 and most likely should go in rounds 7-9 of your draft.
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
While he is coming off a less than stellar season with the Eagles, McCoy has rushed for 1,000 or more yards in four of his six NFL seasons and should be a welcome addition to new coach, Rex Ryan’s offense. McCoy is a threat not only rushing the ball, but his elusiveness is valuable as a receiving option out of the backfield as well. McCoy could see a resurgence carrying the ball on a team that has two dangerous receiving options in Sammy Watkins and the newly acquired Percy Harvin. The problem that the Bills will have is at quarterback where Matt Cassel is currently listed at the top of the depth chart with Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel fighting for the back-up role. Until Cassel, or any other Bill’s quarterback shows and ability to consistently hit receivers down the field, defenses will key on McCoy. McCoy is still a RB1 and I project him as a late first or early second round selection this season.
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
Gore enters his 11th NFL season, but his first with a new team after spending his entire career with the 49ers. Gore has quietly racked up 11,000 yards for his career and is durable. He is entering an explosive offense and is joining another aging free agent in Andre Johnson with the Colts. Will two veterans bring their experience and desire to win a Super Bowl to a team with a hungry young quarterback? I wouldn’t bet against it as it seems like the Colts are making moves to help ensure a deep playoff run. Gore replaces the tandem of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw who never got a ground game going for the Colts. The addition of Gore should allow the Colts to open up their passing game which in turn will open up holes for Gore to bull his way through. While Gore is in the twilight of his career, I think he will definitely be a RB1 this upcoming season. Your league members may snicker when you make this selection, but I think Gore will be a second round selection because of the offense he plays in as well as his durability. While not always flashy, he consistently puts up numbers.
In finale of this series we will suggest a few players to watch (and draft) for this upcoming season who could make more of an impact that expected.
The Breakdown: Using Daily Fantasy Sports as a Betting Tool
Marco D’Angelo and Bryan Leonard from WagerTalk.com discuss daily fantasy sports and how it can be used as a betting tool for handicappers.