Rank's 11 fantasy football sleepers: Target David Njoku

Print

Hey, thank you, Michael Gallup. Thank you for blowing this up in Week 1 of the preseason with your 30-yard touchdown grab. You see, I like writing about sleepers. But I always like to keep one or two guys to myself. These are guys I don't talk about, because I also compete in my own leagues, and a lot of my friends like to read my stuff. Or they'll text me and be all, "Yeah, I need a guy. It's not for our league, it's for my wife Kathy's league." You know how it goes.

Gallup was one of those guys. I liked him at Colorado State and thought he was going to be a difference maker in the NFL as a rookie this year. He landed in a great spot with the Cowboys, playing with Dak Prescott, who is going to be much better without Dez Bryant this year. Seriously. When targeting Dez over the past two seasons, Dak completed 52.2 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a passer rating of 83.1. When targeting others, Dak completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 31 touchdowns, 10 picks and a 99.4 passer rating.

Gallup's non-PPR ADP is currently in the 13th round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, well behind Allen Hurns, who is being targeted in the ninth. Although now that you know my secret (thanks to his Week 1 production), that number is going to rise.

Here are 10 more names to track as the preseason grinds on:

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

He's been a favorite selection of mine in super-flex leagues where you can start two quarterbacks. Which might surprise a lot of you, considering how bad Eli was last year (19:13 TD-to-INT ratio, 80.4 passer rating). One stat that was troubling was his air-yards per attempt of 5.7, which was his lowest total since he had 5.3 in 2013 -- the same year he tossed an NFL-leading 27 interceptions. But then Eli rebounded rather strongly in 2014. Remind me, what was the big change? Oh, that's right: The Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr., who is back again in 2018 after missing all but four games due to injury last year. (Even Jags CB Jalen Ramsey thinks Beckham's return will be big for Eli.) The Giants also drafted stud RB Saquon Barkley and shored up the offensive line with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez, which means Eli should be ready to roll.

Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos

If you didn't watch Freeman at Oregon, this run by the rookie should have grabbed your attention.

C.J. Anderson, who is now in Carolina, had 245 attempts for Denver in 2017, meaning Freeman should be in line for quite the juicy workload. The only question is if he needs to hold off Devontae Booker ... so, yeah, in other words, meet your new starting running back for the Denver Broncos.

Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Wilkins faces competition at running back from Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. But the Colts have a huge need at the position. Wilkins excelled on third downs at Ole Miss last year, and the rookie could have the inside track on that role in Indianapolis. He was impressive out of the backfield as a receiver, forcing 11 missed tackles on 27 receptions and averaging 13.4 yards after the catch in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Obviously, Crabtree is not a true sleeper in the traditional sense. But he gets way too much draft slander, considering how effective he's been during his career, especially in the red zone. Mike Wallace and Ben Watson combined for 25 red-zone targets for the Ravens last year. Both are gone this year, leaving tight end Nick Boyle, who had 11 red-zone targets in 2017, as the incumbent red-zone leader. Crabtree should easily match the 14 red-zone targets he had with the Raiders last year. Crabtree also ranked fifth in the NFL with 11 targets inside the 10-yard line. He will definitely benefit from the Joe Flacco Redemption Tour.

Ryan Grant, WR, Indianapolis Colts

I don't know; it was hard for me to get excited for Grant for the longest time. Kind of like when you settle into a bar, and they're like, "Hey, we have a special on Heineken Light." I mean, nobody ever seeks out Heineken Light -- but then it turns out it's much better than you've given it credit for. That's Grant. And he's much more appealing with Andrew Luck (duh) than he was in his previous four seasons with the Redskins. In every year of Luck's tenure with the Colts (except for last year, when he didn't play), the No. 2 receiver has gotten at least 59 targets.

Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears

Not a lot of people had heard of Miller coming out of Memphis. But now people are now pushing the second-round pick up to about WR50 in PPR leagues, which is impressive, considering the Bears have Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen also battling for targets in Matt Nagy's offense.

Danny Amendola, WR, Miami Dolphins

It's not likely that one single Dolphins player will come in and inherit Jarvis Landry's league-leading 112 receptions from last year. But Amendola figures to get the bulk of the work from Landry's old slot position, so I'm willing to take a gamble here, given Amendola's friendly ADP (in the 14th round in PPR leagues). Make your jokes about his injury concerns if you want, but realize he's played in double-digit games in every season since 2011. So back off, jerks. Of course, Albert Wilson -- whom I've praised previously -- is also in the mix in Miami, and the Dolphins have already stated they are trying to find a role for him, like he's the South Beach version of Tavon Austin or something. But consider this: Amendola ran from the slot in nine of his 11 snaps with the starters in Week 1 of the preseason. Bert didn't do it once. DeVante Parker's broken finger only figures to further open up the pass-catching opportunities in Miami while he's out.

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

He's one of my favorite players to focus on if you miss out on the inevitable tight-end run. A lack of targets was my main concern for him headed into the season, but the Browns are being, you know, the Browns. All of a sudden, it looks like he'll be out there challenging Landry for the most on the team. Well, that might be a bit extreme. But with Josh Gordon currently out, Corey Coleman having been traded to Buffalo and Antonio Callaway in the news (at least partly) for the wrong reasons, Njoku suddenly seems like a viable option. He was on the field for seven of the eight snaps the starters had in Week 1. I love that usage, and I would continue to track it through the preseason.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

I know. Most of you avoid Reed like people avoid Nicolas Cage movies. Well, at least on opening night. But when those movies come to the $1 theater, count me in. And that's what we're dealing with here with Reed. I wasn't comfortable taking him in the third or fourth round a year ago. But if he's going to slide to the ninth or 10th round, then I'm all about it.

Roc Thomas, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Yes, this was incredible.

Thomas is an undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State. So it's not like we've seen him coming the last couple of years, like a lot of rookie running backs. There are some rumblings he could take the role in the Vikings offense vacated by current 49er Jerick McKinnon, who had 150 rush attempts and 68 targets in Minnesota last year. Which is fine; I get the similarity. But Dalvin Cook is back. Latavius Murray is still in the mix. Thomas definitely warrants monitoring here in the second week of preseason, but we (I'll include myself) need to show some restraint.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

Print