When looking at fantasy drafts, big-name rookies, like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, can be selected around the fourth and fifth round, but what about the rookies who fell in the draft? While many of the guys who fell later in the draft may not have an immediate impact, some find ways to have success in their first year, which means big things for your fantasy team. Drafting big-name rookies is fantastic because they offer value and the potential for a fantasy explosion, but why miss the opportunity to score a priceless sleeper in one of the late rounds? Every year, these seemingly “unknown” players light up fantasy scoreboards, insert Jordan Howard and Tyreek Hill. Howard and Hill went undrafted in a majority of fantasy drafts, but would eventually be picked up, making the fantasy owner who took a chance on them proud. This upcoming season will likely be no different. Somewhere out there, there is a sleeper with a chip on their shoulder, waiting for their chance to prove themselves to the world. As a fantasy owner, what more could you want? These rookie sleepers could be the steal that sends your fantasy squad to the top.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts, RB
Most of the time when a team drafts a running back in the fourth round, they don’t anticipate him starting the same season. The Indianapolis Colts are in a unique situation, though. Frank Gore is getting older with every season, and last year, he averaged under 4 YPC. The Colts are starting to put together a team around Andrew Luck, through adding pieces to the defense and offensive line, but one key way to support Andrew Luck is through an efficient running game. This is achievable through Marlon Mack, who with his explosive playmaking ability and a little help from the offensive line, could be the star running back the Colts have lacked. Mack fell in the draft because of he was a victim of weak competition at USF and an incredibly deep running back class. Mack is exactly what a team looks for in a RB: filled with potential and a dual-threat. He will likely split carries with Gore to open the season, but I fully expect Mack to gain the edge on Gore. Mack is a prototypical PPR back, equipped with both nice hands and the ability to break out a long run. There is a good chance he doesn’t get drafted in many fantasy drafts or will fall late, providing priceless value.
Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins, RB
With the second sleeper, we have yet another running back, Samaje Perine. While he was overshadowed by Joe Mixon at Oklahoma, for good reason, Perine is not to be slept on. While the general fan may not know him, once they see him, he won’t be forgotten. He is truly a beast of a running back and would have no issue taking the full load of carries. While that may not happen initially, I wouldn’t be shocked if it did mid to late season. Rob Kelley is no lock at the position, but he can improve. Not to mention, he will need to if he plans on being the number one back in Washington. Perine runs incredibly hard and will surely beat down a defense by the end of the game, which is a focal point of his game. While he isn’t a dual-threat like Marlon Mack, his value comes in the sheer amount of carries he could receive, as well as his ability to punch into the end zone. Like I stated before, Perine will most likely start scoring his fantasy points the last half of the season, so he should be available on the waiver wire. In a 10-12 man league, Perine could prove to be a value pick at the end of the fantasy draft.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers, WR/RB
I saved the most dynamic player for last, Curtis Samuel. A similar comparison to Samuel would be Tyreek Hill.
Both players are extremely explosive and known for their speed and were a mix of wide receiver and running back in college. Samuel could have a sizeable role in Carolina’s offense. With Ted Ginn Jr. gone, someone will need to take the top of the defense, and Samuel is the perfect guy to do that. He should get plenty of deep receptions, as well as few carries to mix it up. If he has a similar role to Ginn, he will be sure to make it to the end zone multiple times. This is a guy who was a massive part of the scheme at Ohio State, in both the ground and the passing game. I don’t see him racking up too many carries, considering Stewart and McCaffrey are in the mix. As Samuel improves upon his game and betters his hands, he could be a force for fantasy owners this year. He could be a valid option at the tail end of the fantasy draft.