Cory Bonini's top sleepers and undervalued picks

Cory Bonini's top sleepers and undervalued picks

Sleepers

Cory Bonini's top sleepers and undervalued picks

Updated: Sept. 4 at 11:15 a.m. EDT

Now that we’re officially in the preseason, David Dorey’s complete sleepers list is ready for your viewing pleasure. I will continue to update this list of my preferred targets for the players who are falling through the cracks (undervalued) and those with a chance to outperform expectations (sleepers). I’ll even toss in a handful of total fliers (deep sleepers) for gamers to consider.

Quarterbacks

(Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Bradford | Vikings | ADP: 14:05 | Undervalued

Injuries have held back Bradford his entire career. Perception is his biggest enemy right now. As a backup for a gamer who streams quarterbacks or missed out on a surefire starter and wants to committee the position, few quarterbacks in the last quadrant of drafts are more appealing. The Vikes have upgraded the offensive line at both guard and tackle, all while improving the backfield from the disaster that was 2016. Having one of the best defenses in football could keep the Vikings’ passing game on the conservative side, but the veteran has a strong nucleus of talented pass-catching options at his disposal. Bradford is a super value as a late-round QB2 and is poised to author the finest season of his career.

Philip Rivers | Chargers | ADP: 9:10 | Undervalued

Ever so slightly, Rivers is underpriced. He was the sixth overall fantasy passer in 2016 and is drafted as the 13th quarterback this spring. The system will focus on being more balanced, but the receiving corps benefits from Keenan Allen’s return. Mike Williams could join the mix sooner than planned. Rivers’ inclusion is mostly a reminder that we can wait on QBs and find quality, starter-caliber value well into the middle of drafts.

Tom Savage | Texans | ADP: N/A | Flier

First-round pick Deshaun Watson has been better than expected and has an outside shot of eventually wrestling the starting job from Savage in 2017, but it won’t be for a lack of fight on the veteran’s part. He has one-upped the rookie at every turn of the preseason to date, displaying a strong command of the offense — one bountiful with weapons. There is risk, for sure, given a top rookie waiting in the wings, yet Savage is the smarter gamble in the short term.

Brian Hoyer | 49ers | ADP: N/A | Flier

Hoyer has looked the part several times in his journeyman career, failing to stick around long enough for more than a flirtation with fantasy success. He is an injury liability, no doubt. Rejoined with Kyle Shanahan, the learning curve is minimal. Unfortunately, the same can be said of his weapons cache as Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin lead the way. Hoyer is a fringe matchup play in two-quarterback setups for bargain hunters.

Running backs

(Scott R. Galvin, USA TODAY Sports)

C.J. Prosise | Seahawks | ADP: 11:03 (PPR) | Sleeper

Look for a combined effort from Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls for the obvious running downs, whereas Prosise is easily the best third-down option for the Seahawks. He caught 17 of his 19 targets over six games last season, and Prosise offers an opportunity for points as a change-of-pace running back. Seattle’s offensive line improved (on paper anyway). Prosise is dealing with a minor groin strain, which shouldn’t be too much of a concern. The ‘Hawks still do not have an intimidating cast of receivers. PPR gamers can consider him a weekly flex consideration.

Jamaal Williams | Packers | ADP: 9:06 | Sleeper

While Ty Montgomery is a more dynamic back, he offers almost nothing around the stripe and is far better utilized as an open-field weapon. The 6-foot, 212-pound rookie from BYU has two-down appeal with potential to earn a role near the end zone. Reports out of Packers camp have Williams pushing hard for Montgomery’s starting gig. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Williams wins the two-down work and Montgomery assumes the third-down chores. Gamers in standard scoring should view Williams a low-risk, moderate-reward sleeper who is on the rise among savvy players. He has less upside in PPR formats.

Charles Sims | Buccaneers | ADP: N/A | Sleeper

Finally healthy, Sims is in a quality situation to return value for fantasy gamers. He gets a minimum of three games worth of action to make his case for more work while Doug Martin is suspended. The offense is familiar, and he provides the best third-down weapon of this backfield. The Bucs utilized him one-third of the time in 2015 when Sims and Martin shared touches, leading to a top-20 fantasy showing in PPR scoring. Sims is no worse than an RB4 who isn’t even being drafted. He figures to emerge as a weekly flex consideration.

Terrance West | Ravens | ADP: 7:12 | Undervalued

West is hardly special, and him exceeding last year’s 1,010 total yards and six scores is questionable. He was targeted 45 times in out of the backfield last year, too, which may surprise some owners. That’s unlikely again as long as Danny Woodhead is healthy, but it shows he isn’t as one-dimensional as some owners perceive. West is in his prime and has a stranglehold on the starting gig. The addition of Jeremy Maclin upgrades the aerial game and should take some heat off the rushing attack. While Baltimore’s O-line is a concern, owners could do worse for a fourth back.

Duke Johnson | Browns | ADP: 8:09 (PPR) | Undervalued

This one is exclusively for PPR players. Johnson is the best receiving weapon out of the backfield, and Cleveland may need to rely on him more than expected with an unproven receiving corps. That noted, Johnson could actually become Cleveland’s full-time slot receiver At a minimum, he will be utilized all over the field. Johnson caught 53 balls last year on 74 targets for 514 yards but failed to score a touchdown. Every other running back with at least 52 catches scored twice or more, so chalk that up as bad luck in a poor offense. Teams cannot control the former; the latter should be better. Johnson is a fourth back on draft day but loses a bit of luster if he actually moves into the slot on a regular basis.

Jeremy Hill | Bengals | ADP: 9:12 | Undervalued

Update: Monitor his ankle injury. Current indications suggest it is not severe. Hill does one thing well and one thing only, thus limiting his value, especially in PPR. Giovani Bernard is on the mend from a torn ACL, and the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon. Hill is a free agent after the year, which could be incentive for him. Mixon is a versatile back and should assume Bernard’s pass-catching role, at least early on, as there’s no need to prematurely rush Gio back. Standard scoring is Hill’s calling as a sound fourth back in the face of all of the Mixon hype.

Chris Thompson | Redskins | ADP: 15:12 (PPR) | Undervalued

PPR only, and only if you are searching for a late-round body. Thompson is not a sexy pick and may even feel like a wasted one that could be better spent on upside. Perhaps this pans out to be the case, but he’s in a good situation. The Redskins underwent considerable change at receiver this offseason, and the veteran back is a familiar face to Kirk Cousins. Rookie running back Samaje Perine doesn’t catch as effectively. Ditto for Rob Kelley. Just 11 backs caught more passes than Thompson last year, and it’s quite conceivable he will surpass it in 2017, especially if (when?) Jordan Reed misses time. RB5 all day long.

Marlon Mack | Colts | ADP: 12:03 | Flier

Every season Frank Gore nears a nursing home it leads to talk of his demise in fantasy, so take this one for what you will. The ancient rusher finished 12th in both standard and PPR last year, but at some point he has to slow down, right? Mack, a 5-11, 213-pound rookie from South Florida, is a totally different style as a slasher. He has tremendous balance and vision for the cutback lane. A potential Gore injury or slowdown could boost Mack’s workload — this is why he’s a flier rather than a sleeper. Mack opened camp as the fourth RB on the depth chart, which should change with the way he has flashed in training camp. Indy’s system struggles to support two fantasy-worthy backs with regularity, and Mack still has to contend with Robert Turbin.

Jalen Richard | Raiders | ADP: 16:01 (PPR) | Flier

The second-year back was easily better than fellow rookie DeAndre Washington in 2016. Washington is listed ahead of Richard on the depth chart, and the pair have alternated series, but neither back has stood out in preseason. Marshawn Lynch, 31, won’t be relied on for a full workload, which bodes well for Richard’s chances to see third-down work. A nice bonus is Lynch hasn’t been the most durable back in his career. Think of Richard as a handcuff and late-round RB5 in reception-rewarding affairs.

Wide receivers

(Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

John Brown | Cardinals | ADP: 10:02 | Sleeper

It is easy to forget about the strides made by Brown prior to last year’s abysmal season. He missed several games and parts of others because of a medical condition that aggravated his ability to heal at a reasonable pace. He couldn’t eat or lift weights, and cutting became almost unbearable. Brown has been able to get the condition under control and looked fantastic this summer, according to Bruce Arians, but a recent quad strain left him less than 100 percent. Brown returned with a two-TD bang in the third preseason game. The sickle-cell trait doesn’t cause the injuries; it prevents him from healing as fast as he should. Jaron Brown is running as a starter, which should be viewed as a formality for the time being. John Brown is a low-tier WR3 with No. 2 potential for PPR gamers.

Josh Doctson | Redskins | ADP: 14:05 (PPR) | Sleeper

Doctson is in the mix for the No. 2 job in a new-look receiving corps for the ‘Skins. Terrelle Pryor assumes the No. 1 spot, but slot receiver Jamison Crowder figures to be the most consistent of the trio. Doctson scored 25 times over his final two years at TCU, which was a school record upon his departure for the pros. The second-year receiver stands 6-2, 206 pounds. Washington has 214 targets to make up from DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon departing. Tight end Jordan Reed could miss time if his toe injury lingers. Doctson is more of the possession variety and could take on the Garcon role if Pryor works in the D-Jax mold. Injuries are a legit fear, though, as Doctson has struggled to stay on the field to date. Low risk, possibly high reward.

Kevin White | Bears | ADP: 13:10 | Undervalued

White’s inability to stay healthy and slow progression have held him back. The loss of Cameron Meredith thrusts the unproven wideout into the spotlight. Uncertainty at quarterback also hinder his potential. The physical tools are there, so building confidence by staying on the field is the primary goal. One step at a time. Entering his age-25 season, the 6-3, 216-pound White could carve out a role in the red zone, if nothing else.

Kenny Golladay | Lions | ADP: 12:06 | Flier

Detroit’s 6-4, 213-pound rookie exploded for two touchdowns in his preseason debut, scoring from 15 and 23 yards. … Since, eh, not so much. The loss of Anquan Boldin requires a Lions pass-catcher to stand out in the red zone, which is precisely what Golladay’s skill set is tailored to accomplish. He was labeled “special” by former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, and Golladay’s first game helped evidence why. This rookie receiver is a quick study but may not contribute immediately in fantasy. Non-PPR only, and just as a gamble at this point. He’s arguably best left for the waiver wire.

Cordarrelle Patterson | Raiders | ADP: N/A | Flier

Patterson has been nothing short of a disappointment in his young career, but expectations were set way too high. He’s still learning the wide receiver position, not just from a nuance perspective. Patterson’s raw athleticism will be properly utilized in Oakland, as opposed to the shoddy way Minnesota deployed him. Having two legit wideouts to deflect attention only helps. Oakland is searching for a consistent read in the progressions after Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Patterson has enjoyed a brilliant camp and is poised to finally turn the corner … late-round upside at no risk.

Nelson Agholor | Eagles | ADP: N/A | Flier

The former USC standout could be a sleeper in the right context, although the term “flier” is apt, since he has struggled so much. Gamers cannot justify investing more than a late-round gamble in his potential, so flier it is for now. The third-year receiver has been a shining contributor in the offseason, and sometimes it just takes a few years wideouts to put it all together in the NFL. The trade of Jordan Matthews effectively guarantees Agholor a spot in the top three receivers rotation and gives him worth as a low-risk WR5 buy.

Tight ends

(Richard Mackson, USA TODAY Sports)

Tyler Higbee | Rams | ADP: N/A | Sleeper

Higbee started seven games as a rookie to gain valuable experience, even if his totals remained invisible (11-85-1). A converted wide receiver at Western Kentucky, the second-year tight end gets a prime shot at owning the positional looks in 2017. While the Rams drafted another tight end to replace Lance Kendricks, the position isn’t the easiest to learn for rookies and often takes time. New head coach Sean McVay turned Jordan Reed into a fantasy star, and the two tight ends share similar skill sets. Higbee will benefit from Jared Goff still learning a new system as they share another year of the learning curve. Higbee could be inconsistently productive, so draft him as a late TE2 with a huge ceiling in an offense that lacks weapons.

C.J. Fiedorowicz | Texans | ADP: N/A | Undervalued

Last year, Fiedorowicz benefited from Brock Osweiler’s inability to advance the ball downfield or run through progressions. Either starter Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson also aid his odds of a similar role. The Texans have a lot of weapons and a committed ground game — both potential leashes for CJF’s success. He could produce more with less as he enters Year 4 and is finally healthy. A contract is on the line, too, for added incentive. His growth was stunted by injuries, so don’t believe last year’s showing was a total fluke. Land him as a second tight end with reasonable upside and a relatively sturdy floor.

Dwayne Allen | Patriots | ADP: 13:06 | Flier

Injuries are always a factor with Allen, 27, rightly leading to a lower draft placement. However, even if he plays his average of 13 games over the last three years in 2017, Allen has a shot a contributing in fantasy. His role should be amplified after the loss of Julian Edelman. Allen scored six times in 14 games last year while sharing targets with Jack Doyle in Indianapolis. Rob Gronkowski will overshadow him, of course, but Gronk is no stranger to injuries of his own. Allen could be a sneaky place to spend a late-round pick if you are desperate for upside, even if he needs a few breaks to go his way, starting with making the 53-man roster.

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