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Top 10 2017 Fantasy Football Sleepers You Should Draft

August 15, 2017
As the NFL regular season approaches, preseason games are being played, experts are moving players up and down their draft boards and fantasy drafts are starting up. Below are my top 10 sleeper picks. 

1. Paul Perkins,  Running Back,  New York Giants
When: Rounds 7-8
Why: Rashad Jennings is no longer in town and Perkins really has no competition in camp. Rookie running back Wayne Gallman is the only true backup on the team, and Shane Vereen tore his triceps twice last season and is more of a passing-down threat.  
Advice: During the last three games of 2016, Perkins averaged more than 4.8 yards per carry. He has third-down ability, and the Giants' offense looks much improved from last year. 

2. Marlon Mack,  Running Back,  Indianapolis Colts
When: Rounds 12-14 or undrafted free agent
Why: Father Time will win its battle with running back Frank Gore. I believe we have been saying that since 2013 or 2014, but eventually it will be true, and when it is, you will want to have his replacement.
Advice: Mack, a rookie, is University of South Florida's all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards. Early in the season, I can see him being the pass-catching running back, and his role will increase as the season goes forward.

3. Philip Rivers,  Quarterback,  Los Angeles Chargers 
When: Rounds 8-10
Why: The return of receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon should improve an already explosive offense. 
Advice: Rivers has averaged 4,486 yards and 31 touchdowns during the past four seasons. In 2016, he threw 33 touchdowns. That's not bad for a quarterback you can get this late. I am happy to have Rivers as my passer, especially at the price I need to pay.

4. Eli Manning,  Quarterback,  New York Giants 
When: Rounds 10-12
Why: The addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the drafting of tight end Evan Engram will turn this offense into a dynamic matchup issue for most defenses.
Advice: Truth be told, I have never been a big Eli guy. He threw too many interceptions and had too many dud games for me to trust, but during the past three seasons, he has averaged 30 touchdowns and fewer than 15 interceptions. Plus, he never misses games. It is easy to wait on quarterbacks when guys such as Rivers and Manning can be taken so late.

5. Jacquizz Rodgers,  Running Back,  Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When: Rounds 12-13 
Why: Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin will be suspended for the first three weeks of the 2017 season, so Rodgers should be the go-to guy in the backfield during those weeks. 
Advice: Rodgers performed well in Martin's absences in 2016, averaging more than 4.3 yards per carry in five games as the starter, including two 100-plus-yard games. If Rodgers gets off to a fast start early in the season, or if Martin should go down due to on- or off-the-field issues, you have a starter on your hands from an emerging offense in Tampa Bay. He's well worth the price.

6. Zach Ertz,  Tight End,   Philadelphia Eagles
When: Rounds 9-10
Why: I'm guessing drafters see the lack of touchdowns and ignore that Ertz has caught 75 or more balls in each of the past two seasons. Ertz had the fourth-best yards per game among tight ends in 2016.
Advice: I won't take a tight end early in drafts unless Travis Kelce is there in the fourth round, but I also won't be drafting tight ends in rounds 5-8 or so. Ertz's current 121 average draft position has to rise, as it's kind of crazy how low he is being taken.

7. Cameron Brate,  Tight End,  Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When: Rounds 14-16 or undrafted free agent
Why: Brate is not going away that easily. Quarterback Jameis Winston and Brate developed a nice connection last season, and Tampa Bay faces the fifth-easiest schedule for tight ends in 2017.
Advice: Rookie tight end O.J. Howard has taken all of Brate's fantasy value, but remember tight ends tend to struggle early during their NFL careers. Brate will still be on the field plenty in 2017.

8. Robby Anderson,    Wide Receiver, New York Jets 
When: Rounds 10-12
Why: With Quincy Enunwa out for the year, Anderson could claim the Jets' No. 1 receiver spot with a solid preseason. The Jets are going to play from behind often and will be forced to throw.
Advice: In 2016, Anderson had 78 targets in just 14 games. A growth to 90 or more targets was possible before the Enunwa injury. Now, 100-plus with 60-plus grabs is possible. That's not bad for the fourth wide receiver on your fantasy team.

9. Sterling Shepard  Wide Receiver,   New York Giants
When: Rounds 12-13
Why: Shepard had a terrific rookie year, with 65 catches and eight touchdowns. The Giants have a great schedule, which ranks as the eighth-easiest for wide receivers.
Advice: Yes, Brandon Marshall was added as a free agent, and Evan Engram was drafted at tight end, and they will both steal targets from Shepard, but he is not going to be frozen out of the offense entirely and should injury strike a teammate, Shepard  would play a significant role for the Giants once again in 2017.

10. Tyrell Williams,  Wide Receiver,  Los Angeles Chargers
When: Rounds 7-9
Why: Mike Williams, the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, may not play in 2017 due to a back issue that may require surgery. That opens playing time and targets for Tyrell Williams.
Advice: Tyrell Williams finished as a top 15 wide receiver in 2016, but that was without Keenan Allen in the lineup. Allen is back, but the No. 2 receiver for the Chargers is still worth selecting in your fantasy draft, especially if you are selecting him as your fourth receiver. •

HONORABLE MENTION: 

1. C.J. Prosise, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks
2. Joe Williams, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
3. Austin Hooper, Tight End, Atlanta Falcons
4. Duke Johnson, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
5. Blake Bortles, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
6. Chris Conley, Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
7. Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
8. Kamar Aiken, Wide Receiver, Indianapolis Colts (PPR only)
9. Carson Wentz, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
10. Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Rams

Issue 236: August 2017