On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss what a sleeper actually is (to them) and toss out a few names who they think are intriguing for next season. It's never too early.
The Helpers start off the podcast talking about the definition of a sleeper. You see the term used on almost every fantasy football website and it comes with a variety of meanings. Some people think a sleeper is any player that nobody is talking about who stands a chance at having a good season. Others think it's a young player who hasn't fully blossomed as a pro and is about to hit his stride. Others think it's a an often-injured player who has talent but hasn't fully performed at the level he's capable of.
But no matter which way you slice it, the term 'sleeper' really means any player who is under the radar in some way, whether it be because he isn't currently starting but may stand a chance to, was injured last season but is healthy now or is young and raw but is just starting to figure out how to be consistent at the NFL level. To us, a sleeper that will perform above and beyond expectations, with the primary tool used to define his expectations being his ADP (average draft position) in fantasy drafts.
The Helpers start out by naming two of their favorite deep sleepers this offseason.
Jordan Matthews, WR (Philadelphia Eagles)
The Philadelphia Eagles are juggling a lot of potential offensive pieces right now. Jeremy Maclin, their prized wide receiver who just finished the best season of his career, will be expecting more money after his one-term deal expired. Maclin will want top receiver money and the Eagles may not want to give up that kind of dough especially with Matthews looking like he has No. 1 receiver potential and also the fact that there are other receivers out there that may not be asking for as much money. Torrey Smith out of Baltimore might be one of those examples.
Matthews finished a solid rookie campaign with 67 catches, 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. He benefited from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez taking over for the injured Nick Foles midway through 2014. More of an intermediate thrower than a deep ball quarterback, Sanchez targeted Matthews more and helped the rookie eclipse 100 yards receiving in three contests while under center.
Which brings us to the next big question for Philadelphia — the quarterback. Rumors keep circulating like a revolving door that coach Chip Kelly will do whatever it takes to land Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft. If that somehow does happen, expect Matthews' value to take a hit at least in the short term while Mariota adjusts to the NFL.
Richard Rodgers, TE (Green Bay Packers)
Another intriguing sleeper is Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers. Rodgers' rookie season was a quiet one, as he caught just 20 passes for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. But despite his low numbers, Rodgers still has potential because he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers started to gel late in the season. Rodgers caught 5 of 5 targets for 40 in the season finale against Detroit. Two weeks later in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, he caught the biggest pass of the game in the form of a 13-yard touchdown that A. Rodgers ripped between two defenders. Those are the kind of the clutch plays that quarterbacks remember.
On Friday's episode of diagnosis, the Helpers discuss Jonas Gray and have mixed reactions regarding whether or not he's startable this week against Detroit. They give you four players who nobody is talking about who could help you in the playoffs. Plus, they talk about sleepers for this week, Brandin Cooks' injury and the Ben Tate signing
On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the St. Louis Rams and their emerging defense, the white hot Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay Packers and whether or not Mark Sanchez is an every week QB1 going forward. Plus weekly awards and a preview for tonight's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers/Tennessee Titans.
An all-out Eifert will be required to ensure your team is among the best it can possibly be. As the fantasy playoffs near, it's always good to have depth at each position on your roster so you can plan for injuries and give yourself a shot at a more favorable matchup.
When it comes to the tight end position, quality performances on a repeat basis can be hard to come by at times. So far this fantasy season, only about seven tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, Dwayne Allen and Jimmy Graham) have more than 60 fantasy points. The first five of those TEs could be considered in the top tier this year, while the next two make up the 'slightly below No. 1 tier'. After those seven, there's a bit of a drop off with Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Heath Miller, Owen Daniels and Zach Ertz making up the 'feast or famine' No.2 tier.
So if you don't have one of those seven (and there's about a 50 percent chance you don't if you're in a 12 or 14 team league), you might want to take a look at a few other options especially as the playoffs near. If you have one of the lower tier tight ends listed above, giving another guy a shot at being your No. 1 tight end could make a difference when it matters most.
The case for Eifert
One of the players most owners will be looking at in the coming weeks is Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, a second-year man out of Notre Dame who's due to return from I.R. by Week 11 after suffering an elbow injury in Week 1. He caught all three of his targets for 37 yards before going down in that one game.
Possessing soft hands, Eifert stands an impressive 6'6, 250 lbs and his speed is something of a mystery still. While he was initially dubbed a Jason Witten clone coming out, Eifert impressed scouts with his speed after he ran a 4.6 40, which was the fourth fastest time among all tight ends. You factor that in with his height and this is somebody who has all the tools to be great.
the Bengals are also invested in him since they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Plus, on a team riddled with injuries to its receiving core, Eifert steps into a favorable situation where his services could be relied upon much more than last year.
As a rookie in 2013, Eifert recorded at least one catch in 15 games and finished with 39 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. While his two touchdowns were a bit underwhelming and he never recorded a 100-yard game, Eifert displayed a knack for remaining involved in an offense that was crowded with the likes of fellow tight end Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard and of course, A.J. Green.
When you factor in the fact that Bernard was one of the most targeted running backs in the league last season, it made it that much more difficult for Eifert to find his spot within the offense. It's no surprise he wasn't making a huge impact. Eifert finished the 2013 season with 59 targets, which ranked sixth behind Gresham, Sanu, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Bernard.
Keep in mind, young receivers often take a little longer to become difference makers in the first few years of their career. Guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez didn't begin to put up fantasy worthy numbers until their second and third years. Not saying Eifert will put up those numbers eventually, it's just worth noting that receiving tight ends don't come out and crush it immediately.
A brighter picture for him in 2014
Eifert won't have to compete with so many other receivers for targets like he did last season. With Jones out for the year, there's 80 targets up for grabs right there. Bernard isn't seeing the kind of targets he did last year as the Bengals have become more of a run team under new coach Hue Jackson.
Also, There's less of a chance Gresham interferes with Eifert's production like last season, as the fifth-year tight end hasn't been much of a factor with just 28 catches for 211 yards and zero touchdowns in 2014. There were even talks of him possibly getting traded which would've given Eifert's value an even bigger boost, but now that the trade deadline has passed it's unlikely that will happen.
Eifert is currently on schedule to return for Cincy's Week 11 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, a team that ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (289). The next three games are good matchups as well with Houston (28th against the pass), Tampa Bay (30th against the pass) and Pittsburgh (19th against the pass).
What you should do about it
Since he's not due back until a few more weeks, it'd be wise to grab Eifert either now or next week before he becomes more of a wanted man. It'd be best to acquire him without wasting a waiver pickup unless your tight end spot is your greatest weakness. Still, there's not a lot of receiving tight ends with more upside than Eifert at the moment. He's well worth the acquisition especially if your team appears destined for the playoffs and needs a few more quality depth guys to ensure you don't get snake bitten by an unlucky injury.
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One of the most talented dogs in the dog pound was kenneled for 2014, and it leaves fantasy owners wondering if anybody else is capable of leading the pack.