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9 Sleepers to to Win Your Rookie Draft

Andre Williams

There is no more exciting feeling in fantasy sports than the cocksure certainty that you feel after you reel off a bunch of can’t miss sleeper picks.

I mean until they turn out to be Jared Cook. But still.

While I’m thinking about it, let’s make a concerted effort to really ramp up our use of the word “cocksure”.

Here are (in no order) 9 sleepers to give you that cocksure feeling that you won your rookie draft.

Jeff Janis

Jeff Janis is the pigment challenged bro that tore up the Combine and his JV level competition at Saginaw Valley State.

First off, can I say that I’m pretty sure that Saginaw isn’t actually a state? It’s a song. And kind of a terrible one. I just listened to it on Youtube and it’s kind of bad.

But excusing for a minute the naming convention of Janis’ alma mater, he really did tear things up this year. However, there’s a little bit of a problem in that he’s about as old as you would expect a white receiver from a small school to be.

Perhaps balancing out the issue of Janis’ age is that he kind of tore it up for about three years. His TD totals go 14, 17, 14. He averaged 148 yards per game last year. Here is a table showing his career production:

GP REC REC/G YDS Y/G AVG TD LG
2010-11 10 9 0.9 130 13 14.4 1 28
2011-12 11 48 4.4 968 88 20.2 14 76
2012-13 11 106 9.6 1635 148.6 15.4 17 73
2013-14 12 83 6.9 1572 131 18.9 14 95

Janis’ 2013 campaign was pretty close to 50% of the Saginaw Valley State total passing offense. You can go to Youtube and watch cutups of Janis, and while they have poorer production quality than if Abraham Zapruder would have been hired to direct 70s era porn, you’ll see a player that the defense knew was getting the ball and yet couldn’t be stopped.

Terrance West

There are two primary things that I like about West. He’s big. He’s used to touching the ball a lot.

If you’re like me and you lay in your bed at night dreaming of the bygone days when NFL offenses weren’t actually offenses, they were just a way for defenses to  rest for 10 minutes as an offensive coordinator flipped a coin between: heads/belly or tails/dive, then you also miss workhorse running backs. Remember when running backs actually had non-shitty fantasy seasons? We got excited about Jamaal Charles last year and yet a young LaDanian Tomlinson would have barely taken time to throw feces at Charles’ 287 PPR points. So I look at West’s size and ability to carry the rock as many times as you need and I get a little nostalgic.

When I plugged West’s numbers into the RB Prospect Lab he came out as my 4th rated RB from this class. He’s also going to go fairly late in rookie drafts I think.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins


ASJ had a disappointing 2013 campaign but I think it’s fair to say that he probably has the highest upside out of the TEs in this class. While playing in the Pac 12 conference, the same league to give us red zone monsters Rob Gronkowski and Joe Fauria, ASJ also put up a killer red zone TD rate. Here’s a table comparing the red zone performance of the three Pac 12 TEs

Targ Yds YPT YPT as % of YTG TD TD %
Rob Gronkowski – Arizona 16 80 5.00 0.75 8 0.50
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington 38 265 6.97 1.04 19 0.50
Joseph Fauria – UCLA 37 181 4.89 0.70 17 0.46

ASJ’s red zone performance looks pretty close to the other two guys and if anyone is ahead it’s ASJ. Especially when you consider adjusting that efficiency for usage.

You can also see from the following heat map (courtesy of this app) that ASJ’s 2012 season is actually more impressive in terms of Market Share numbers than any season by Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro.

download (49)

You’re going to get a discount to select ASJ and maybe you need one because of the uncertainty surrounding his foot. But he’s also probably a high volatility player like Ryan Rouillard writes about, so his value over the next couple of years is likely going to fluctuate. There’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be able to trade him for more than it will cost to acquire him in your rookie draft.

Dri Archer


I’m going to cheat a little here and call Archer a great sleeper pick in PPR leagues where he has RB eligibility. That might not be a lot of leagues. But basically because RB usage is becoming so splintered there really would be utility in a player of Archer’s physical profile who could catch 4 passes a game and them mix in a similar number of runs. He could be a poor man’s Darren Sproles.

If Archer isn’t RB eligible in your league then you’ll be tearing up your betting slip.

Andre Williams

There are four names from Williams’ list of comps at Mockdraftable that are worth thinking about. Joique Bell, Ricky Williams, Stevan Ridley, and DeMarco Murray all share some physical traits with Williams. Williams’ size makes him the kind of back that NFL teams want to get involved in their offenses. It’s true that he might not ever cut it as a pass catcher, so maybe his value will be capped by the quality of the offense he goes to. But he has that physical explosiveness and big body to score touchdowns if he does end up in a good situation. Actually, the Falcons could probably draft him and plug him into the Michael Turner role. That’s the kind of situation you’re looking for.

Jarvis Landry

Try to figure out this one without getting an icecream headache: Is Jarvis Landry better than Odell Beckham Jr., or is Zach Mettenberger just the worst QB to ever? Because the same QB, that is being mocked into the 2nd round of the NFL draft, made an apparently bad WR (Landry) look good and an apparently otherworldly WR (OBJ) look pedestrian. Adam Carolla often says that when he gets to heaven he wants to ask God one question: Is John Mayer a douchebag? The Mettenberger/Landy/OBJ puzzle might be harder to figure out than whether or not Mayer is a douchebag.

If you’ve been reading RotoViz for any amount of time you know that we have a ball bearings level solution to a situation like this and it’s arbitrage. Maybe it’s the case that Mett is horrible and OBJ is great. But it’s also possible (and potentially more likely) that Landry is actually the good player out of the three. Well you can reduce your risk by taking Landry and you might even have the same upside as if you selected OBJ. There are three ways for you to “win” if you take Landry late instead of OBJ early. You can see how this works in the following table:

OBJ Good OBJ Sucks
Landry Good You Win You Really Win
Landry Sucks Kind of a push, maybe a slight loss You Sort of Win

Because of the reduced cost of selecting Landry, you really win if he’s good and OBJ sucks. Then you also do well if both players are good. If both players suck then you still kind of win because you used a late pick on Landry instead of an early pick on OBJ. And then if Landry sucks and OBJ is good, it’s still kind of a push.

60% of the time, you win every time.

In full disclosure Landry is really slow. He’s like Anquan Boldin slow, but without the extra 20 pounds that Boldin probably needs in order to be successful.

But Landry did do really well in college and he probably outplayed OBJ versus SEC competition. Take a look at the following table which shows their career games played together.

NAME AGE RECS YDS YPR TDS MSYDS MSYDSWINS YDSWINS WINSOS
JARVIS LANDRY 20.2 5.2 67.9 13.2 0.60 0.29 13 13 31.03
ODELL BECKHAM 20.3 3.9 61.3 15.8 0.24 0.27 12 12 45.99

The column worth paying attention to is the WinSOS column. When Landry had the better game than OBJ, he did it versus better competition. OBJ rolled up his stats versus the cupcakes on the schedule.

If you asked me to select between OBJ and Landry when the players cost the same, I would take OBJ because he’s a lot more physically impressive. But Landry is probably going to cost almost nothing, so I do think he might be a better risk adjusted bet.

Donte Moncrief

Moncrief is a great example of the peril inherent in the “tape don’t lie” fallacy. If tape doesn’t lie then presumably Moncrief’s amazing sophomore season tape would be as informative as his junior season tape. Except that he looks like a different player. So which of the tapes are lying? Uncertainty should be acknowledged at every step of the prospect evaluation process. And to be clear, we should also probably talk more about uncertainty here on the site. But “tape don’t lie” is wildly misleading in a process where hit rates are closer to resembling buckshot.

There are probably all sorts of problems with Moncrief as a prospect, chief among them the question of why a player as physically impressive as he is didn’t torch his college competition, but then you also have to balance those questions versus upside. And as of now it looks like Moncrief will slip late enough into rookie drafts that you could get him in the late 2nd or early 3rd. I would gamble with Moncrief there.

Maybe he’s Julio Jones, or maybe he’s Stephen Hill. The cost to take him is giving you the right odds on that gamble. Also, Moncrief is another on the long list of WRs that probably outperformed OBJ in college.

 

Quincy Enunwa

I can’t even wait for three years from now when Enunwa is bouncing from practice squad to practice squad, while I keep the eternal flame of hope alive. Enunwa is a big bodied TD catcher from the Big 10. He’s  kind of a poor man’s Marvin McNutt even if that seems like an idiotic way to describe him.

I’m like the girl that keeps dating different guys that are all kind of the same loser.  Over and over and over. But you guys just don’t get it! He’s just mistunderstood! He’s only working at Kinko’s until his album blows up!

On the issue of gravitating to the same loser over and over, it’s worth remembering that time is a flat circle. This has either happened before, or it will happen again.

Jerick McKinnon

Here’s what we know about McKinnon. He’s actually used to carrying the ball a little more than some other small school darlings like Isaiah Crowell. That’s kind of crazy considering that McKinnon was doing that while playing QB. McKinnon is more physically impressive than Crowell. McKinnon is likely to be cheaper than Crowell. Neither player is an accomplished pass catcher, although we know that McKinnon at least has the agility to be a decent receiver. So what’s not to like about McKinnon?

Cocksure is the watchword.

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