With an early NFL draft comes early fantasy football sleepers. I've been digging for sleepers at each skill position, namely QB, RB, WR, and TE. As training camps begin to unfold I'll publish more fantasy football sleepers but this should be an excellent piece for you early drafters. Sleepers are the lifeblood of fantasy team success. When you get past the 7th or 8th round in your draft you have got to have high up-side sleeper picks ready for each position. Without great sleeper picks your team could have a hard time depending on how your waiver wire works and how well you draft in the early rounds. The following picks are relatively safe (considering the topic) and will hopefully help you pull out a championship in 2017.
Jameis Winston (QB) – After acquiring DeSean Jackson this off-season I was smelling an increase in Winston's stock. Then Tampa exited the 2017 NFL draft with a stable of solid offensive weapons including TE O.J. Howard, WR Chris Godwin, and a pass-catching RB Jeremy McNichols. While I'm not sold rookie tight ends in their first year I do believe Godwin and McNichols can have an impact. Especially McNichols as the depth behind Doug Martin is weak.
- Eli Manning (QB) - Manning enters the 2017 NFL season with the best core group of wide receivers he has ever had and it's not even close. From 2015 to 2016 Manning dropped down from 35 to 26 touchdowns. He averaged 4 points less per game in 2016 when compared to his 2015 season. Between Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard I'm not sure any defense in the league will be able to properly pick their poison. The Giants upgraded at TE by selecting Ole Miss TE Evan Engram with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Engram (6’3/234) accumulating 162 catches for 2,320 yards (14.3 YPR) and 15 touchdowns while earning All-SEC honors in all four seasons. Again, it's hard to "bet on" rookie tight ends but he could help out down the stretch.
- Paul Perkins (RB) - New York’s 2016 5th-round pick is locked in for lead-back duties this season. Giants coach Ben McAdoo called Paul Perkins the starting running back on May 1st, little early maybe? The Gaints limited his role early on but really increased his reps starting in week 14. By week 17 he exploded and ran for 102 yards on 21 carries in his first career start. Eli should get them to the red zone plenty this season which bodes well for Perkins.
- Kareem Hunt (RB) KC - The Chiefs traded up to pick Toledo RB Kareem Hunt with the No. 86 pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Hunt (5’11/216) posted a career line of 782-4,945-44 (6.32 YPC) with 73 receptions, including 41 catches as a senior. His combine wasn't great, however PFF College charted Hunt with the second-most missed tackles forced (98) in the nation in 2016. Andy Reid knows how to pick running backs and he was willing to trade up to get Hunt. He's a pure fantasy football sleeper that you can't pass up in the 2017 fantasy football draft. I think he beats out Spencer Ware and wins the larger portion of the time share in KC by mid-season.
- Jamaal Williams (RB) - The Packers are done with the Ty Montgomery experiment, at least as the full time back. Williams is a bruising RB that the Packers really need in short yardage and goal line work. He's could be a touchdown dependent running back entering the 2017 season, we will see how it shakes out in training camp.
- Samaje Perine (RB) - Perine is a power back who loves contact, something we haven't seen consistently in Washington for some time now. Jay Gruden said he's the “total package” so we could be looking at a 3 down back at some point in 2017. Well worth the draft pick if his ADP doesn't rise to high.
- Eddie Lacy (RB) - Lacy is a great fit for the Seahawks' power running game and should be an excellent sleeper in touchdown only leagues. He has had issues finishing strong but we all fully expect him to share a load with Rawls thereby extending his abilities.
- Melvin Gordon (RB) – After drafting top graded back-to-back offensive guards I'm feeling better about the run game (and pass protection) in Los Angeles. After scoring 0 touchdowns his rookie season Gordon finished up last season with 12 total touchdowns. The light bulb turned on! But he didn't crack 1,000 yards which may have him off your radar. Don't be fooled or sleep on him. I love Gordon this season and while you'll probably have to draft him in the first or second round I'm sure it will be worth your while.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR) - What defense in this league is going to be able to cover JuJu with Brown and Bryant flanking him on each side? Eli Rodger's must not have been getting the job done. I mean, why else would the Steelers have drafted JuJu? Maybe they don't trust Bryant? In any event you can't sleep on JuJu. He's a must own at what I suspect will be a insanely low ADP.
- Corey Coleman (WR) - Most folks avoid drafting players from the Browns. But Coleman is going to be a target hog every single week. Josh Gordon didn't get reinstated so no concerns there either. With Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge gone with the wind Coleman is the de-facto #1 WR and the pure definition of a fantasy football sleeper.
- DeAndre Hopkins (WR) - After a very disappointing season Hopkins is bound to be on the back-end of many peoples radars. This my friends is the very definition of a sleeper. This is a friendly reminder to wake up on Hopkins, he's a beast and with a new QB in Houston the sky is the limit.
- John Brown (WR) – Fitzgerald is pretty much done. He may start the season strong but he's just plain old. Michael Floyd is gone so that leaves Brown to make the big plays. He had a cyst removed from his spine in January, which he said hurt him last season. With this issue behind him I'm hopeful for a bounce back season.
- Alshon Jeffery (WR) - Jeffery will be playing for his career this season. After two down years in Chicago he has the opportunity to shine in Philly. He should come cheap in the draft and is well worth his sleeper potential.
- Hunter Henry (TE) - Henry should operate as the "featured tight end" in 2017. Henry caught seven touchdowns last season and Gates will not get near the targets. Henry was so good as a rookie he out performed almost all of the biggest names over the last 20 years when comparing rookie seasons, 1st and 2nd round picks. Everyone in the "fantasy experts" niche is going to be preaching Henry but I simply couldn't leave him off this list, sorry.
- Eric Ebron (TE) - This is the last year I call Ebron a sleeper. It's his forth year and his last chance to become a major impact on my fantasy team. He was banged up pretty bad in 2016. "I was pretty beat up, man, from the things you might know of, to the things you don't," Ebron said. "I was pretty destroyed." He has the size, speed and route running to be a major fantasy football sleeper in 2017.
- O.J. Howard (TE) - It's extremely rare for a first-year tight end to become a fantasy football starter. Rob Gronkowski was the only one over the last 20 years to be a real weekly impact. But Howard isn't your typical tight end either and could produce way above all of our expectations.