Every superhero has a secret identity. Who wants the pressure of being super all the time? The alter egos that superheroes use when off-duty are generally bland to avoid drawing attention, much like the players listed below are generally regarded as unexciting fantasy options. All of these players are overlooked due to obstacles in their path to fantasy relevance. However, when called upon, ordinary alter egos can transform into their superhero personas, just like all of these players below have the ability to become extraordinary fantasy contributors under the right circumstances. Let’s take a look at these sleepers with hidden upside in 2018.
Latavius Murray / Mr. Incredible
Mr. Incredible is known for his super strength, and that’s exactly who Murray is. Murray won’t break many long runs or make explosive cuts, but he’s a powerful runner than can grind out yards or push his way into the end zone. During the first four games in 2017, Dalvin Cook was the unquestioned lead back in Minnesota and on his way to fantasy superstardom. Then Cook tore his ACL in Week 4, and Murray stepped in and split the workload with Jerick McKinnon. With Cook expected to lead the Minnesota backfield again in 2018, Murray seems to have little fantasy value again. However, there are a couple of likely paths to fantasy relevance for Murray in 2018.
First, there is the possibility that Cook’s recovery takes longer than expected, or that he suffers a setback. Offseason reports indicate that Cook’s recovery is going well thus far, and that he should be ready to go in Week 1. However, not all players recover from ACL tears at a superhuman rate like Adrian Peterson did in 2012 and go on to lead the league in rushing. In the event that the Vikings choose to ease Cook back into a larger workload, Murray could split touches with him to start the season. Many were surprised that Cook was a workhorse back to start the season last year, and while his talent no doubt helped him secure that starting role, Cook’s high usage may also have been as a result of Murray recovering from offseason ankle surgery in March of 2017. The same scenario could happen again at the start of the 2018 season, only with the situation reversed between the two running backs.
Second, even if Cook begins 2018 as the lead back, Murray is a clear handcuff. McKinnon has since moved on to San Francisco, leaving Murray as the unquestioned backup to Cook. Studies have shown that athletes returning from an ACL tear have a higher risk to re-injure that ACL or the same ligament in the opposite knee. They can also suffer compensatory injuries to other areas of their bodies. While no one can predict injuries, Cook has a higher risk factor, and Murray is the insurance policy. Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 12.6 points per game in PPR formats from Week 5 onward last year, and he can power his way into serviceable RB2 numbers again this season if Cook starts slowly or misses any time. Given that Murray’s price in many dynasty leagues is just a third round rookie pick, it’s not just Cook owners who should be investing in Murray.
Ryan Switzer / Elastigirl
Elastigirl can twist and stretch her body like a rubber band, and Switzer is as about close to that as a wide receiver can get without superpowers. The Cowboys drafted Switzer just last year but promptly parted ways after he had just six catches for 41 yards in 2017. A large part of why the Raiders traded for him is likely due to his skills as a punt and kick returner, but reports are that Switzer has also taken snaps in the slot this offseason and excelled in that role as well. After being underutilized in Dallas, Switzer now has the opportunity to become a full-time contributor on offense in Oakland.
While Amari Cooper is the top wide receiver on the depth chart, there are no real established receivers behind him. Jordy Nelson was dominant as the go-to guy for Aaron Rodgers for years in Green Bay, but the thirty-three year old has slowed down significantly in the last couple of seasons. Martavis Bryant has yet to prove that he’s more than just a dynamic deep threat, and while there is no clear news yet, there are rumors of a potential suspension looming. As for Seth Roberts and Johnny Holton, neither has proven himself to be more than just a depth player since entering the league.
With Michael Crabtree now in Baltimore, Switzer has ample opportunity if he can become the starting slot option for Derek Carr. He’s an excellent route-runner, and he rarely dropped a catchable target in college. With a good training camp and preseason performance, Switzer operating as Carr’s most reliable outlet over the middle of the field could return WR3 numbers in PPR, possibly even WR2 production if Bryant were to miss some or all of the 2018 season. Dynasty owners shouldn’t follow in Jerry Jones’s footsteps and regard Switzer as an afterthought. He’s a cheap investment being valued as a fourth-round rookie pick and has the potential to return immense value.
Torrey Smith / Dash
Dash is a speedster that can outrun just about anything a supervillain could cook up in the same way that Smith can burn just about any cornerback in the league. Most fantasy owners regard Smith as nearly worthless as a fantasy commodity at this point in his career, but many forget that Smith was a WR2 and WR3 for four straight seasons with Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Since then, he has bounced around the league and found little success, fantasy or otherwise.
But Smith is only 29 years old and still has his prime asset, his elite speed. Regardless of what you think about the kneeling, Colin Kaepernick had plenty of on-field issues like going through his reads, which largely contributed to Smith’s lack of production while in San Francisco. Take this play for instance, where Smith would’ve gotten a cool 16.8 fantasy points in under 20 seconds by easily taking a 98-yard touchdown to the house. Then in Philadelphia last year, Smith was the fourth receiving option and was rarely targeted deep, averaging a career-low 11.9 yards per catch.
Now in Carolina, Smith will get passes from Cam Newton, who has both the strong arm to get the ball to Smith deep as well as the strength and mobility to keep plays alive. Smith should be a full-time starter again, as Devin Funchess is the only other established receiver on the roster. While Smith will likely never be a reliable WR1 or WR2 in fantasy in 2018 or ever again, he has the speed to be a weekly boom-or-bust WR2 or WR3. After all, we saw that Ted Ginn Jr. was able to accomplish that with Newton in 2015 and 2016, and Smith has far better hands than Ginn. Carolina’s offense struggled last season without a true deep threat, and so they’re gambling $5 million on Smith this season. He will have a chance to shine for both the Panthers and in fantasy for next to no cost.
Corey Grant / Violet
Violet can turn invisible and push heavy objects with her force fields. Grant might as well be invisible considering that many fantasy owners have to think about who he is when they hear his name. Yeah, yeah I know. Not the greatest comparison, but invisible is hard to work with given the theme of this article. Cut me some slack. Jacksonville had the best overall defense and the best passing defense in the league last year in terms of DVOA per Football Outsiders. The Jaguars also have an above-average offensive line this year and a talented running game led by Leonard Fournette. All these factors lead to a high projected point total for Fournette in 2018, and he is rightly being valued very highly in dynasty formats. But Fournette also has a history of nagging ankle and leg issues dating back to college, and he missed three games last season. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Fournette will be able to hold up under another year of this kind of high-carry workload.
Many savvy dynasty owners are already stocking up on T.J. Yeldon, and for good reason. Yeldon has standalone flex value as the pass-catching back in Jacksonville, and there’s a chance that his value will increase if he gets a bigger opportunity in free agency next offseason. However, for owners acquiring Yeldon as the handcuff to Fournette, they are looking in the wrong place. In the three games that Fournette missed in 2017, Yeldon averaged just nine rushing attempts per game. Instead, Chris Ivory led the backfield in these contests with 18 carries per game while Grant contributed an additional seven carries per game. With Ivory now in Buffalo, Grant will likely assume the lead role in the event that Fournette misses time with Yeldon retaining his role as the receiving back.
Grant has breakaway speed, having ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at Auburn’s pro day, and he’s a compact and powerful runner who can grind away a game. That’s exactly the kind of running back that the Jaguars want for their offense, and it’s likely why they placed a second-round tender on Grant, paying him nearly $3 million in 2018. While he’s not a big back and still likely to split carries with Yeldon and the other Jaguars backs in the event of a Fournette injury, Grant is pretty much free in dynasty leagues and may have the highest fantasy upside out of all the Jaguars running backs not named Fournette.
Ty Montgomery / Jack-Jack
Jack-Jack has a litany of powers and abilities and would likely be the most versatile member of this super family were it not for the fact that he is an infant. I can’t speak to Montgomery’s maturity, but he’s certainly a versatile player on the field, aptly demonstrated by the fact that he can play both the running back and the wide receiver positions. Much like the other running backs mentioned above, Montgomery is not the lead back for his team, and it’s unlikely that he will be fantasy relevant unless one of the other running backs in Green Bay misses time, whether due to injury or suspension.
It was recently reported that Mike McCarthy will “go running back by committee” on offense this year. Regardless, all the Packers running backs have value just due to the fact that they play in a high-octane offense led by Aaron Rodgers. Many are shying away from drafting or trading for the Packers running backs as a result of the dreaded committee, but this strategy is flawed. When there is an unclear committee backfield, the best approach is to draft or trade for the lowest-valued member of said committee. Recent ADP shows that Aaron Jones is currently being drafted the earliest of the Green Bay backs in the seventh or eighth round of dynasty startups. Jamaal Williams follows closely behind Jones, currently being drafted around the eighth or ninth round of startup drafts. Montgomery rounds out the group in last place, his consensus ADP placing him in Round 12 or 13 of dynasty startups.
Jones may be the most explosive back, and Williams the most consistent, but Montgomery is the most well-rounded as both a good runner and pass-catcher. More importantly, he’s the cheapest to acquire. It’s likely that the Montgomery owner would part with him for just a late second or early third round rookie pick. The running back depth chart in Green Bay is far from settled, and there isn’t a large talent gap between the three, so it stands to reason that Montgomery is the pick given that he has an equal chance to become the starter as the other two but costs the least. Even if Montgomery becomes the third back on the depth chart, he’s still valuable insurance. Last year Williams played a full season, Jones missed four games, and Montgomery missed eight, but the opposite could be true this year with Montgomery missing the least time. Any injuries to Williams or Jones would immediately inflate both Montgomery’s fantasy production and trade value.
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