4 Fantasy Football Sophomore Sleepers
The sophomore slump is something we all need to be aware of. Teams can get almost a full year worth of game film on certain players and adjust accordingly. Sometimes rookies have breakout years and the chances of repeating those high numbered stats are almost impossible. However, a sophomore slump is not always the case. A lot of players that didn’t see as much time on the field due to one reason or another now have a chance to take the NFL by storm. To their advantage, the game has slowed down and is not as frightening. This is when a player can avoid a sophomore slump and flourish in their system. I am going to highlight four players that had glimpses of production but didn’t put it all together their rookie season. Having another chance to showcase why their teams spent a draft pick on them.
Kenneth Dixon – RB – BAL: The fourth round selection a year ago has many hurdles to jump through this year if he wants to be seen as a breakthrough player in 2017. Dixon was suspended by the NFL for four games (PEDs). In lieu of the suspension, the Ravens added a pass catching, but aging, back in Danny Woodhead. Now Dixon will have to watch his competition take four games worth of snaps, in 2016 was about 20 rushing attempts from running backs a game in Baltimore, before he has an opportunity to show what he’s learned from last year and the offseason. Dixon took 88 carries in 2016 and produced 382 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dixon also showed his ability to catch the ball accumulating 30 receptions for 162 yards and one score. Now it seems Woodhead will be the guy they’ll have in, on third down, taking away from Dixon’s receptions. Yet, the first two downs are up for grabs. Dixon showed promise last year with his burst and playmaking ability, making it easier to forgo with team leader in attempts, Justin Forsett. Now with 193 carries opened up with that departure, Dixon, West and Woodhead will be the go to guys. Of the 88 ground attempts, Dixon produced 6 carries of 15 yards or more, which was good enough to be ranked 26th among all running backs, which averages out to 6.8% of his runs ranking him 12th out of all running backs. To add to his efficiency, he had 38 evaded tackles and a 32.2% juke rating (7th among running backs). One more in-depth stats, Dixon averaged 1.5 yards after contact per touch ranking him 10th. Dixon has a solid offensive line and will be given chances once he returns.
Tyler Boyd – WR – CIN: The second round selection and Notre Dame alum was high on my rookie sleepers list. Boyd did not breakout opposite of A.J. Green like I had hoped, but showed great improvement from beginning to end. Boyd did most damage on the right side of the field, but did catch his lone touchdown on the left side. He finished the year catching 66.7% of his 81 targets, ranked 27th amongst his receiving peers. To go along with that, of his 7 targets while being contested he caught 71.4% ranking him 26th. Boyd only dropped 2 passes throughout the year. He can catch the ball but couldn’t break free too often. Thus, the Bengals saw a need to keep improving their receiving corp, drafting John Ross in the first round of the 2017 draft to spread the safeties out more with him and A.J. Green on the outside leaving more room in the middle where Boyd played 57% of his snaps. Now many people see the new comer competing with Boyd for targets, dropping many spots in the summer rankings compared to last year. I’m not sold on Ross becoming an elite receiver from the get go and being more of a decoy with home run potential. With Boyd having 16 games played last year he will see the game slow down., giving Andy Dalton two stellar targets in the middle of the field, Boyd and Eifert, along with the rockets on the outside, Green and Ross. I’m not looking for Boyd to be a home run hitter but a solid PPR option hopefully moving his target rate up.
Will Fuller – WR – HOU: Fuller, a first round selection for his speed and catch radius, had some home runs that looked great. With dismal quarterback play in 2016, he still managed to haul in 47 receptions for 635 yards and two scores. Fuller showed that he still had work to do, dropping 6.5% of passes thrown his way, averaging out to .429 drops per game. But, let’s not overlook his ability to catch while being contested, where he shined catching 83.3% on 6 targets ranking him 7th. Fuller was on the field for 90.7% of his teams plays (through 14 games) showing confidence in the youngster. Osweiler did him no help and the Texans used their first round pick to get NCAA champion Deshaun Watson to compete with Tom Savage at quarterback. Hopefully either one will be an improvement allowing for better balls being thrown in Fuller’s direction. If that’s the case, I see brighter numbers and less drops coming his way in 2017.
Austin Hooper – TE – ATL: The third round selection for the Falcons, of 2016, was eased into the game last year, but showed continual progress catching the first 11 balls thrown his way in the first 8 weeks, including a 5/5 day in week eight against Green Bay when every catch mattered. Also, a 3/3 day for 84 yards in week three against Oakland. Hooper matched his career high in targets for a game in the Super Bowl, adding a touchdown, showing complete trust from quarterback, Matt Ryan, in the biggest game of Hooper’s life to date. Starting his second season as the top ranked tight end, on Atlanta, as a tight end that can stretch the field at any time. Overall in 2016’s regular season, Hooper caught 70.4% of passes thrown his way adding three total touchdowns. He finished with a 10.7 target distance, the amount of yards from the line of scrimmage to where he attempted the catch, ranking him 5th. He finished +33 efficiency in product premium, measuring a player’s production across league-average situations discounting non-standard situations like 2 minute drills and garbage time, ranking him 4th. Continuing his in-depth stats, he finished with 10 yards per target which also had him ranked 4th. He may not have had the numbers to blow you away on a prolific offense but showed he is a viable option on a team I’m predicting to throw more conservative passes in 2017. Hooper should be a great late round selection to bolster your tight end game in this upcoming fantasy draft.