With strong in-season management, we believe your team has a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs..."
- Footballguys' Rate My Team App
"But this Matt Waldman guy who writes for us really likes your team..."
- Jene Bramel as he reads the Rate My Team analysis
"It's gonna be another good season..."
- Me upon reading Rate My Team trashing my squad
It's the story of my fantasy career at Footballguys. Rate My Team is an awesome application and if you're seeking to play it safe so you can have Footballguys' tools help you manage your way through the season, you need to check it out. I'm here for those of you traveling a wilder path.
I see things differently. I'm the monkey wrench in the works, the fly in the ointment, and the exception to the rule.
Rate My Team quakes in fear of me trolling it.
I don't draft like everyone else. Nowadays it's by necessity because I compete with players who know all of the conventional angles, have a bead on the emerging options, and they play the odds as well as anyone.
I'm willing to fail big for the chance to win big.
This year's All-Gut Check Sleeper Squad is composed of my 30 unconventional favorites. If you're reading everything in sight from April through August and ready to play Old Man on the Porch with my picks, you've lost perspective on what a sleeper is because you're probably losing sleep to stay abreast of the length of the thread hanging from Earl Campbell's old practice jersey—whatever's left of it that Bob Henry framed and hung in his basement.
Bob, why is that blue rag matted in black and framed in gold on your wall?
Are you a football fan?
It's my most prized possession...
Most of you reading this aren't that guy. Or, you are but you're a fellow traveler of the fantasy wilderness happy to see another.
Don't view this list as a complete substitute for marquee picks. You may wish to lean on some of these players in that capacity but it's not designed as a beginning-to-end draft blueprint. In fact some of these players you won't draft as much as you'll monitor them for the waiver wire—after all, this is where most of the true "sleepers" reside nowadays.
Players like Robert Woods, Chris Godwin, Marvin Jones Jr, Devonta Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr, and George Kittle are players I value highly, but you know this and I don't need to tout them. The 30 players below have something about their current fantasy value that makes them my guys for reasons worth discussing in greater detail than I already have or I am reinforcing the point.
Patrick Mahomes II: Underrated? If you're not considering the record-breaking upside, absolutely he is. The Peyton Manning-Broncos/Mahomes-Chiefs parallels are too striking to ignore. The potential flaw is that Manning was so well-schooled with coverage that he was a second coach on the field by the time he arrived in Denver. This helped him execute a vision that Mahomes may not be as well-versed at doing pre-snap.
As good as Mahomes is post-snap, the most efficient solutions usually come before the most effort is required. That was Manning's specialty whereas Mahomes is an "en media res" artist. Mahomes will make more memorable plays for the highlight reel, but Manning's ability to ferret out solutions pre-snap and communicate small adjustments through hours of detailed work with his receivers and backs that began the year he arrived might be what separates Manning's record-breaking second-year with an all-star cast in Denver and Mahomes' follow-up year to his MVP campaign.
However, Manning didn't have the caliber of physical talent that Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and, yes, Darwin Thompson present in their roles. Mahomes is also a bold and daring passer even with on-script plays, which is something he and Manning share in common. What's interesting is that Manning was often more impatient than people realized. Mahomes is more mature than most portray him.
If you're not considering 2-3 of Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, and Watkins, then you should be considering 3-4 of them and throw Thompson onto the list as well. People say they appreciate bold initiatives until they actually have to commit to them. It's what separates the adults from the kids in the conversation.
If you want a great fantasy season, you can't write off stacking the Chiefs offense because it's too risky and no one wins this way. Yes, injury or a lousy Week 16 due to Kansas City resting its stars could happen. On the other hand, you have 15 weeks plus whatever preseason time remaining after your draft to plan for those possibilities.
Believe in greatness before the label-givers do their job. They're always going to be the last to recognize it.
Cam Newton: The Panthers quarterback dealt with a lot last year. He played with a bum shoulder. One of his starting receivers was a rookie. The other starter was a growing talent in Curtis Samuel who was still green as a route runner. And veteran safety blanket Greg Olsen missed seven games and was the second-largest touchdown producer of the three receivers mentioned here.