Written by: Austin Thomas
The journey continues in finding sleepers for each team division by division. Again, I'm looking at players going outside starter territory or top-100 players in average draft position (ADP) with the upside to slide into your lineups and start meaningful games for your fantasy football teams. Like last time, you can find these ADPs here. Not every player is going to be a homerun selection and be a superstar for your team. Some will only start a single bye week for you, others will never see your starting lineup. Shoot, some players you'll find in the waiver wire mid-season when you require a spark. Although, any of these players can play a role during your championship run, no matter how big or small. Last time I went over the AFC North and this week we'll talk about its NFC counterpart, the NFC North.
Darnell Mooney (ADP 129.1; WR55)
DJ Moore's a new sheriff in town at the WR1 spot. However, that doesn't mean former top receiver Darnell Mooney will be forgotten about. If anything, it could open things up and create more one-on-one matchups. The opposing defenses will focus on containing Justin Fields' rushing ability and keen in on DJ Moore in the passing game giving Mooney plenty of opportunities to take advantage downfield. With Fields at quarterback, Mooney averaged 10.61 fantasy points per game (FPPG), which would've been a top-50 wide receiver finish in FPPG. If the passing game gets any sort of bump in production, Mooney will smash his current WR55 price and have a career season. Understandably there is room to grow in the passing game, but much fault lands in the hands of the receivers that have surrounded Justin Fields. DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet amongst others will be the best supporting receiver cast Fields has had thus far in his young NFL career. I'm predicting close to a 3000-yard passing season from Justin Fields and if that holds that'll give all the Chicago Bears pass catchers a boost in value. Darnell Mooney going at a WR5 price is great value, make sure to stash him on your bench.
Josh Reynolds (ADP 283.6; WR119)
Some might say Kalif Raymond is the better option, but he profiles more of a slot receiver and would be cemented behind Amon-Ra St. Brown on the depth chart. Whereas, Josh Reynolds' only competition on the outside is wily 12-year veteran Marvin Jones to start the season. Granted, I know 2022 first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams is only serving a six-game suspension and will implement himself into the starting lineup when he returns, but if he'll be ready and instantly contribute is to be determined. Josh Reynolds could land an important role for the 2023 Detroit Lions. Trust can be a key connection between quarterback and wide receiver, which favors Reynolds as he has six years (four with the Rams, two with the Lions) worth of chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff. In the past two seasons when both Goff and Reynolds have suited up for Detroit, Reynolds has accumulated 55 receptions on 85 targets for 749 yards while snagging five touchdowns. In games where Josh Reynolds has played in over 50% of the snaps with Jared Goff at quarterback (53 total games), he's averaged 8.32 FPPG, but with just the Lions (16 total games) it's increased to 9.74 FPPG. Going into year two of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson's system that ranked 8th in passing yards per game and 5th in points per game, Josh Reynolds and the Lion's offense could roar loudly once again. I just don't see how he doesn't return value on your investment at this low ADP price. He's worth that final-round selection with the upside to push north of 10 FPPG for the first half of the season and someone you can comfortably put in your flex.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Romeo Doubs (ADP 166.5; WR67)
I fully anticipate the Green Bay Packers to be more run-heavy this season and the player I mainly wanted to talk about, AJ Dillon, is being drafted around pick 89.8 according to ADP, so he doesn't qualify for the over top-100 players mark set in place for this exercise. Regardless, there are still some players that offer good value late in the draft for the Green Bay Packers. Despite my opinion on them favoring the run this upcoming season, there are still roughly 250 vacant targets from a season ago. Will all of those targets be replaced? Debatable, however, there is a shift within the roster changing towards the youth and we'll see if they're up to the task. Second-year receiver Christian Watson is the new alpha, but who is the beta? If you're one for camp hype, Romeo Doubs is Jordan Love's "go-to guy" and has the potential to see 100+ targets in the year.
Believe it or not, Romeo Doubs out-targeted Christian Watson with one less game played last season, 67 to 66. Looking deeper into it, both Doubs and Watson played eight games with a snap share of over 50%. In those games, Doubs averaged 6.5 targets per game and 3.88 receptions per game while Watson had 6.0 targets per game and 3.38 receptions per game. However, Watson was more efficient with his touches and bested Doubs in yards and touchdowns. Regardless, Doubs has shown he can earn targets in a small sample size and he's about to get a bump in playing time and increase his production. In those eight games mentioned earlier, Doubs averaged 9.90 fantasy points per game and he'll look to build upon that as a full-time starter. He's undoubtedly a name to keep in your queue on draft day.
Ty Chandler (ADP 264; RB75) / DeWayne McBride (ADP 222; RB64)
It's a doubleheader, but really it's just the process of elimination when we get all the information. Long-time stater Dalvin Cook was released earlier this offseason and now former backup Alexander Mattison is atop of the depth chart. During his six-year stint in Minnesota, Dalvin Cook averaged 20.59 touches per game and I don't foresee nor think Alexander Mattison will see those types of numbers as the top option. He just doesn't stack up to being a "workhorse" type of running back. That's why the important camp battle to watch this year for the Vikings is who wins the RB2 job between rookie DeWayne McBride and second-year runner Ty Chandler. The winner of the two could be looking at a sizeable role within the offense. Now don't get me wrong, Alexander Mattison is the lead back and will get the majority of the running back touches, but I see this closer to a running back by committee approach than an alpha absorbing all the touches.
Neither DeWayne McBride nor Ty Chandler has shown a strong receiving skillset in their collegiate careers to default them into the "receiving back" role. McBride had five total receptions in 31 career games while Chandler only averaged 15 receptions per season in his five years. Unless one of them unleashes a hidden talent that was never utilized, which is highly unlikely, their main route to a significant role behind Mattison is with their rushing abilities. If we go purely by rushing numbers, McBride has the edge as he outrushed Chandler 3523 yards to 3138 yards and did so with two fewer seasons at the collegiate level. Admittedly, I don't expect either to have a fantasy-relevant role right away, but if anything were to happen to Alexander Mattison, one of them is going to have an enormous upside. Bench stash? Probably not. Something to monitor during training camp, preseason games, and potentially during the season? Absolutely!
Remember, these players are guys with upside or potential and not a guarantee to smash their ADP values. Sleepers can play a pivotal part in your championship quest whether it's a bye week filler or even a staple starter in your flex spot during your season. Regardless, I hope you found something helpful in this read and take it with you into your next draft! Good luck this season and grab some valuable players in the back half of your draft.
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