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Six fantasy football sleepers in the 2016 NFL Draft


Like many things in life, draft season is a marathon, not a sprint, but thankfully the finish line is finally in sight. Along this epic race, we here at NFL Fantasy have profiled almost 60 potential fantasy prospects (which I encourage you to read about), ranked the top rookies, and dreamed up perfect fantasy fits. However, while slogging along I feel like I've made some new fantasy friends. People I'll certainly be interested in checking on again once the race is done. These players aren't the first names off of people's lips when discussing their favorite draft prospects, but they're all guys with unique abilities who could make some early noise in the right situation. Yes, if you've been reading between the lines (or clicked into this article from the headline) I'm referring to some pre-draft fantasy sleepers I'm a fan of. Below are six players I'll definitely be watching closely this weekend to see if they land in an ideal spot. Hit me up with your favorite sleepers in this class on Twitter @AlexGelhar to keep the discussion going!

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

Yes, he carries a lengthy injury history (pulled hamstring, sprained ankle, torn meniscus, torn ACL while at Georgia), has some size concerns, and his 58-865-5 senior stat line isn't anything to write home to your mom about (what, you don't write your mother about college prospects?), but when you put on Mitchell's tape it's hard not to see the potential. Despite only standing 6-feet and weighing 198 pounds, Mitchell plays much bigger than his size both when it comes to high-pointing the ball and fighting for yardage after the catch. I try not to dabble in player comps too often (because I think I'm bad at it), but Mitchell sort of reminds me of Donald Driver. Both play much bigger than their size and boast an enticing combination of elusiveness and strength after the catch. Mitchell also has gigantic hands (10-1/2 inches, tied for third-largetst in the class) that allow him to secure tough catches and hang onto passes when he's hit hard or in heavy traffic. I felt Mitchell showed really strong ability as a route-runner already, but noted wide receiver guru Matt Harmon saw some inconsistency as well in between the flashes of greatness. Hopefully Mitchell can become a more route-to-route technician at the NFL level. If he does, and lands with the right team, he could be a sneaky name to call in Rounds 2-3 of dynasty rookie drafts, and somebody worth watching in redraft leagues as well (though probably off the waiver wire).

Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa

In a class lacking many true size/speed prospects, Keyarris Garrett stands out among the pack. While there are certainly parts of Garrett's game he'll need to improve upon (after the catch ability, refining his intermediate routes, etc), Garrett's skills as a downfield threat combined with his big frame (6-foot-3, 34-1/2-inch arms) could make him an early fantasy contributor in the red zone and on big plays. Think Martavis Bryant in his rookie season with Pittsburgh, when he posted a line of 26-549-8 in just 10 games. If Garrett can land in a high-octane passing offense (like Pittsburgh), he could be worth a late-round stab in redraft leagues and best ball formats given his home-run and touchdown potential. He's also worth nabbing in the second round of dynasty rookie drafts. If you're able to be patient, he could develop into a fine wide receiver. As with all of the prospects on this list, Garrett will need many things to fall into place as a rookie to make an immediate fantasy impact, but his upside makes him a name to watch this weekend as the draft progresses.

Charone Peake, WR, Clemson

Peake is such an intriguing prospect in this class, as he has the build of a No. 1 NFL receiver, but might have been under-utilized while at Clemson. As Matt Harmon notes in his Reception Perception on the rookie class, Peake was asked to run a disproportionate number of go routes, and wasn't overly successful on those. Hopefully, the team that drafts Peake will put his 6-foot-2, 209-pound frame and 34-inch arms to use. Peake has all of the tools to be a solid NFL receiver, but as I wrote in my draft profile on him, it remains to be seen if he can put them all together at the NFL level. In the right offense with the right opportunities, I think he'll have a great shot at being an early contributor.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State
Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

I'm lumping these three backs together, because all reach sleeper status for me based on their strength as pass-catchers and physical abilities that could slot them for early, specialized roles. Perkins was a workhorse for the Bruins, but will more likely slide into the NFL as a pass-catching specialist (at least initially), but that could make him an asset in PPR formats, and as a matchup-based flex starter ... assuming he lands in the right offense. A place like Oakland or Green Bay would be a great fit for Perkins, as he could own a sizeable piece of the passing game from a talented offense and be able to use his exceptional feet/quickness to the greatest effect. Ditto for Ervin, who is one of the more elusive backs in the class with a great combination of explosion/speed/acceleration. NFL Media's Chad Reuter mocked Ervin to the Seahawks, which could also be a nice fit, although he'll really have to make the most of his opportunities as Seahawks backs are among the least targeted in the league (average of 74 targets per year since 2012). Drake has game-breaking speed and nice hands out of the backfield, and definitely will need a role catered to his abilities out of the gate. If Dallas doesn't draft Ezekiel Elliott early, they could add Drake as the speed complement their offense currently (and desperately) needs. If Lance Dunbar does take more time to come back from his torn ACL last season, Drake could be an early-season fantasy asset (Dunbar had 21 receptions through three games in 2015).

While I like all of these backs, their fantasy futures and sleeper status will hinge on their landing spot. So as you take in the NFL Draft this weekend, keep an eye on where they land and adjust your dynasty and redraft boards accordingly. With pass-catching backs seeing an increased role across the NFL, more rotational players are able to make a bigger weekly impact in season-long leagues. Last year we saw Danny Woodhead, Giovani Bernard, Charles Sims, Duke Johnson, Shane Vereen and Theo Riddick all finish as top-40 fantasy running backs in standard scoring leagues. Granted, it was a strange year with MANY injuries to top backs, but it speaks to the point that we need not overlook running back specialists in standard leagues as the position and NFL continue to evolve.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar for fantasy advice, movie takes, and deep discussions on early 2000s rock music.