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.
Despite these issues and an offensive line that still needs work, Newton finished as the 14th-ranked fantasy quarterback last year. Even more impressive was Newton's fantasy consistency.
If you were reading the Gut Check back in the mid-to-late 2000s, you remember that I value, championed, and created tools for measuring player consistency. When there are reasons to believe that what we saw the year prior offer a good chance of continuity for the present, consistency is a good analysis tool.
This is the case with Carolina and Newton's consistency last year despite the bevy of issues are an overlooked positive. Newton had the fifth-least sub-par fantasy outings among quarterbacks last year—only 28.57 percent of his 14 starts fell below the startable weekly baseline of fantasy points expected for a quarterback in a 12-team league last year. Only Mahomes, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, and Carson Wentz were better—and all four arguably had better weaponry and superior schemes conducive to fantasy volume.
Newton was also the No.8 quarterback in Elite production—the percentage of performances at or above the season-calculated, fantasy-point average of a top-two fantasy quarterback—at 35.71 percent. Once again, Mahomes, Ryan, and Luck were ahead of Newton as were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Deshaun Watson, and Drew Brees.
It can't be overemphasized that Newton performed this well despite these issues and a receiving corps that should offer more production due to development and health. It will also be Norv Turner's second season as the coordinator after he was successful last year with these limited tools.
At Newton's current value as one of the quarterbacks available after the seventh-round, it's a bargain most aren't touting.
Russell Wilson: Dwain McFarland and I discussed all of the crazy-elite data about Wilson during his career in this recent podcast. Most fantasy analysts expect a regression because no human being can be as efficient year-to-year as Wilson was in 2018.
This is true. Of course, Seattle parted ways with Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson Jr and had a walking-wounded star in Doug Baldwin last year. This year, their best aerial weapon will earn the slot role and both D.J. Moore and Jaron Brown are a year more familiar with the offense.
Also notable is the losses on the defensive side of the ball.
For Wilson to re-emerge as an elite fantasy option, it will likely take D.K. Metcalf, Brown, or Moore to emerge as legitimate threats that force opponents to consider a bracket or a top corner in response in addition to the defense collapsing early in games. Last year, Wilson was 23rd among quarterbacks in elite game percentage (18.75%) and while there's potential for changes mentioned above, it's not worth counting on.
Still, half of Wilson's performances were starter-worthy on a week-to-week basis (11th among passers), which was tied with volume-hog Ben Roethlisberger and superior to Drew Brees, Jared Goff, and Kirk Cousins. Wilson was also tied for the 11th-lowest sub-par game percentage last year.
This should tell you that Wilson creates offense even when the emphasis of the scheme is the ground game, key players are gone or wounded, and the defense is good enough to keep the game script tilted towards the run. Wilson should be slightly better this year because we're expecting a decline with the defense, the best player in the passing game will be in an optimal role, and the supporting talent is a year wiser.
Wilson is priced fairly for the first time in his career and if things fall apart with the run game or the defense, his hidden upside is top-five at his position.
Lamar Jackson: There will be no consistency marks to tout Jackson. The rookie was outside the top-15. Still, you should understand that Jackson played his rookie year in a scheme where the run-blocking was designed for him all year long but the receivers earned a vast majority of its summer and fall reps with Joe Flacco and got used to the rhythm of a passing game without the option-read element that the Ravens embedded with the timing of the run game.
It means receivers weren't used to the changes in timing that would occur once Baltimore made the switch from Flacco to Jackson. Guess which routes the timing game impacts the most? Perimeter passing. Guess where Jackson's stats were bad?
You're catching on.
It doesn't mean Jackson will be a world-beater in the perimeter game this year. He might still struggle if he's working with a pair of rookie receivers on the outside. Still, Deshaun Watson also struggles in the perimeter passing game when forced to throw timing routes like the deep curl, deep out, and comeback.
Watson thrives on the deep cross, the post, and the corner route. Jackson is also a pretty good thrower of these routes. Look for the Ravens to employ tactics that will bear some similarities to the Texans offense but also give Jackson more opportunities to run because Watson is a not nearly the weapon on the ground that Jackson is.
If Jackson had one or two better performances than he did during his seven-game stint as a rookie, he would have been a top-12 producer in 2018 consistency metrics during the final half of the season. His fantasy points-per-game average was already No.6.
I'm taking this upside in fantasy drafts. If I have Mahomes, Wilson, or Newton, it's an easy call to play the matchups.
Matthew Stafford: The Lions want to run more, it could have a top-10 defense, and there's a new scheme. To make matters worse, Stafford is returning from the worst season that he's had in recent memory and he took a week off of training camp. How can he be one of my guys this year?
Stafford played with a broken back—and I'm betting more than this after the hit he took in the opener that would have made other tough guys consider retirement—and his key skill talent suffered injuries. Well, yes, Marvin Jones Jr only seems healthy when Haley's Comet is scheduled for a pass-over and we don't have to broach the history of Danny Hematoma.
Still, Stafford has only two seasons during his career where he hasn't been a fantasy QB1 and one of them occurred with Calvin Johnson. Although not with the efficiency or flair of Wilson, Stafford creates offense and I like quarterbacks who do this well.
The Lions have a great schedule for a productive offense this year. The Cardinals Chargers, Eagles, and Chiefs are a lock to make Detroit throw a lot during three of the first four weeks of the year. The schedule remains promising after the early bye.
It's going to be a fantasy-friendly environment for Stafford. I'll take my chances that his buddies will play nice.
Chad Kelly: Frank Reich has told the media that Kelly has been great in the locker room, meeting room, practice, and games. Reich has also commented on Kelly having the physical and mental toughness that he saw from Kelly's uncle Jim, whom Reich backed up for most of his career in Buffalo.
I've seen it these past two weeks. With Andrew Luck retiring, Jacoby Brissett may not be in danger of losing his No.2 spot right now but it's much easier for coaches to replace the backup who is struggling than a franchise starter. If Brissett struggles, Kelly will get a shot because he'll have the No.2 job after he serves his two-week suspension for Case Keenum drugging Kelly during a team Halloween party so Keenum wouldn't lose his starting job his inebriated episode in Denver (I'm joking about the crossed-out portion above).
Kelly is a starter talent on the field. If he can be a starter talent off the field, he'll have a long NFL career with an odd beginning. If Brissett is starting has a subpar game, I'm manning the waiver wire and adding Kelly the week before a potential benching.
Todd Gurley: Jene Bramel is cautiously optimistic. Darrell Henderson has the Chris Thompson role. L.A. as the coach, the line, and the surrounding talent to continue its stint of offensive productivity. And Gurley has always been one tough S.O.B.
I'm banking on the source of this summerlong debate being the conflation of a back playing through an injury and underreporting it to the team, the team drafting a tool it has sought when it originally acquired Lance Dunbar and an arthritic condition that we don't worry about when we've heard about it with a back like Adrian Peterson.
He may not have top-three upside with Darrell Henderson in the mix, but I think we've been overreacting as a community and Gurley still has top-five fantasy upside.
Much ado about little.
Nick Chubb: If I were Matt Waldman, I'd have my scouting report of Patrick Mahomes II tattooed on my back and walk around shirtless as a victory lap for the next decade and everyone should feel ok about that. This was a Tweet I saw this month. While I appreciate the sentiment, I may be prouder of my stance on Chubb because it meant weathering criticism of placing him in the same sphere as Saquon Barkley and maintaining that stance even after an abundance of public misanalysis of Chubb's preseason.
Chubb is one of the most talented backs in the NFL and he is one of the three best runners between the tackles in football. The Browns have the surrounding talent to create more big-play opportunities in the running game than last year—and Chubb maximized the opportunities presented to him.
I believe he will be a top-five fantasy back by year's end. Top-three if he can have quality games against Baltimore and Buffalo.
Chris Carson: When Rashad Penny says that he expects to see more work, it's a running back version of the Peter Principle. He's rising to the job that the player he couldn't beat out left behind and that means there may be a bigger void for Carson to fill. Carson was the ninth-most consistent fantasy producer at his position last year and had the eighth-least sub-par games among runners in 2018. Even if Carson doesn't fill the void and become a fantasy RB1, he's a mighty-fine RB2.
Mark Ingram II: Gus Edwards, a straight-line power back, had more fantasy RB1-caliber games during the final eight weeks of the season than Marlon Mack, Dalvin Cook, the Steelers backfield, the Falcons backfield, and the Bears backfield. Why? Lamar Jackson forcing that extra defender to account for the quarterback in situations where most quarterbacks aren't compelling running threats.
The Ravens have a good offensive line that will have at least one less defender to block because of Jackson. And as well as Edwards played, Mark Ingram II is a superior runner. Although he entered the league with the body of a 27-year-old, thanks to Nick Saban, Sean Payton's offense slowed the aging process. Ingram is a young 30 and about to get his shot as the lead back in an offense that will allow him to earn volume commensurate with a top-five runner.
Not counting Jackson's 147 rushes, Baltimore's back ran the ball 368 times and the Ravens divided the workload among six backs by necessity. The two seasons Ingram earned at least 220 carries, he was either a borderline top-five back or producing at that level prior to an injury.
Even without a full workload until Week 8, Baltimore gave Alex Collins 212 carries once they discovered his worth in 2017. Look for Ingram to earn 230-250 carries in this offense and still leave enough touches for Justice Hill, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, or whoever earns the reserve spots.
Royce Freeman: When you're among the leaders in yards after contact in a scheme that isn't perfectly suited for you and you've returned from a high-ankle sprain that kept you out of the lineup as a rookie, you're a lot better running back than given credit. It's easy for fantasy players to conflate Flacco's lack of fantasy appeal with his ground game. However, Flacco's game never hurt the run.
The greatest concern is the offensive line in Denver that must prove it's cohesive and talented enough to support the scheme. At Freeman's price, I'll give it a shot.
Darwin Thompson: Read this article for an extensive take on the Chiefs backfield and why I value Thompson. If you lack time, think Brian Westbrook with "thump" as Thompson's eventual upside and Dion Lewis with "thump" as his median comparison. He's already splitting first-team reps with Damien Williams this week.
Alexander Mattison: I thought Jamaal Williams would be a starter-caliber talent. I was wrong because I thought he would get a little quicker in the NFL. Williams had already maximized his athletic gifts and the projection I gave put him a notch higher on my board than I should have placed him in hindsight. Good runner. Good football player. Not a starter in most NFL schemes.
There are fears that Mattison is a similar type of player. However, when I examined his metrics, he didn't need that projected development bump to be in the tier that I gifted Williams. Mattison's change-of-direction quickness and acceleration are a notch above Williams and he runs with similar power and processing speed. Like Williams, he's a skilled receiver and a promising pass protector.
Dalvin Cook may have a huge year and render Mattison little more than an afterthought, but I like Mattison's skills and the surrounding talent he'll inherit if Cook can't stay healthy.
Cooper Kupp: The No.8 receiver in fantasy football after six weeks, Kupp suffered a midseason ACL tear and was lost for the year. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, a respected defensive mind in the NFL, noted during Kupp's rookie year that he thought Kupp was the best and most valuable option in the Rams' aerial attack. The reason is Kupp's versatility as an inside and outside option with red-zone skill.
We think of Kupp as a slow slot receiver but he was averaging 3.3 yards more per catch than Michael Thomas, a player with a similar role as Kupp in the Saints' offense. The greatest concern about Kupp has been his injury, but by all accounts, he's ahead of schedule and looks faster, stronger, and confident in his knee.
This could be his breakout year.
Josh Gordon: Here's something that no one is discussing in regards to Gordon. The NFL continues giving him chances and despite the public humiliation of Gordon's ongoing saga of on-again, off-again readiness, it hasn't stopped him from working.
He's still working out and trying to get better as an athlete, a player, and a person. Many young men his age and with his talent would have fallen apart under this scrutiny and repeated public backlash.
You might say that the NFL values talent so much that it will give him repeat chances. However, that only applies to teams that draft talent. We're talking about the league's governing body.
The fact that Gordon is still earning chances indicates the Gordon has been making progress—even if from our limited, myopic, reactionary, and often immature perspectives it doesn't look like it. If the league thinks he's making progress we might just see Gordon finish a season.
There are a lot of situations where I've incurred enough risk and Gordon is not on my list. However, there are enough drafts where I'll take a shot. He averaged 18 yards per catch last year with significant targets—most of them coming from the slowly diminishing arm of Tom Brady.
Chris Godwin: This is the year Godwin emerges as a strong fantasy WR2. Bruce Arians already told the media that Godwin won't leave the field. Last year, Godwin had seven games with fewer than 40 snaps. Mike Evans didn't have a game with fewer than 45 snaps.
Combine snap counts with the likelihood for increased targets, Godwin's versatility, and excellence in the red zone, and he has the potential to be a surprise fantasy WR1 alongside Evans if Jameis Winston can turn the corner. I'm not counting on it happening, but I am counting on WR2 production.
Sammy Watkins: When healthy, Watkins is a top-20 talent in the league at his position. He's been healthy all spring and summer. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes II have the tools to get the best from Watkins. I want to be there for it.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Like Davante Adams, Valdes-Scantling's game is made for an offense that wants to use play-action boots and let its receivers work across the field, catch the ball on the move, and do damage as ballcarriers. Fast and strong, Valdes-Scantling displayed surprising skill against press coverage for a rookie.
He's built on the momentum of a 581-yard rookie year during spring and summer camp, earning the starting job. Look for Scantling to emerge as a viable fantasy threat this year in three-receiver lineups.
Dante Pettis: If there's a player suffering from a case of Sheep Syndrome it might be Pettis. A skilled receiver that many didn't recognize for his immense talents, Pettis became a consistent fantasy producer down the stretch of his rookie year despite playing with back-up talent at quarterback.
With a full offseason for the sheep to catch up to the idea that Pettis belonged in the same conversation as Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and the rest of the young receivers with promising outlooks who've been drafted within the past 2-3 season, they all anticipated glowing reports from training camp that would be fed to them. When Kyle Shanahan challenged Pettis publicly to be better despite telling the media that Pettis is already better than his strong rookie campaign but believes Pettis can be a great receiver in the NFL, the sheep got nervous that the daily feedings were running out.
Pettis has an unusual game that requires analysis that you don't always see from the football media that's high on gloss, lower on substance. He's quicker than fast, more flexible and mobile than he is strong, and he's a highly creative route runner who can play all three positions.
Even his quarterback said that Pettis doesn't fit the mold of most receivers and took a little adjustment to get a proper read on what he does as a route runner. This is not to say that Pettis is doing outlandish work that the 49ers and enabling. It's the fact that Pettis, like Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd, Marvin Jones Jr, and other technically-sound route runners lacking great speed, requires a small adjustment in quarterback mindset to maximize his skills in certain coverage situations.
Even if Pettis somehow falls behind Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, he'll have a recurring role in the offense as a productive contributor. I don't believe this will happen. In fact, I believe we'll see Pettis raise his game during the year and perform like a solid fantasy WR2 with WR1 upside if Jimmy Garoppolo can play to his potential.
I'm actually more concerned about Garoppolo than I am Pettis.
James Washington: He can run every route and work every phase of the field. The Steelers have used him inside and outside this summer and despite the preseason snap distribution that indicates Washington is behind JuJu Smith-Schuster as the flanker and that the main slot receivers are Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer, I expect Washington to play a lot.
Expect Washington to be the flanker when the Steelers use Smith-Schuster as the slot—and the Steelers have done this a lot since Smith-Schuster entered the league. Because Washington will see a lot of time at flanker, you won't see as much bump and run coverage in his profile because flankers often align behind the line of scrimmage and earn freer releases.
Washington has already proven that he's a rebounder of NFL significance. I also love that he's earning a lot of in-breaking routes because those are in Ben Roethlisberger's wheelhouse.
Donte Moncrief may be the bigger headliner and known commodity, but he's a mistake-prone option who has never fulfilled his potential. He may come close in this offense due to the surrounding talent but I'd rather bet on Washington.
Deebo Samuel: He reminds me a little of Sammy Watkins because of his versatility. Jeremy Maclin also comes to mind. And if you remember, Maclin had a strong rookie year for an offensive mastermind of a coach in Andy Reid. Kyle Shanahan should engineer success for the physically talented Samuel. At his price, he's a nice hedge of Pettis falters and possibly an added bonus if Pettis succeeds.
A.J. Brown: There's little training camp or preseason analysis to provide about Brown because he's been hurt. What I can tell you is based on an intuition that is formed from thousands of hours studying players. Brown is a player. He moves well, has a feel for his surroundings that's advanced for his years, and his athletic dimensions and traits make him one of the more versatile options at his position.
Miles Boykin: I laugh every time I read that Boykin was a raw route runner compared to his peers in this draft class. Although Hakeem Butler needs more work (and now, recovery time) to deliver on his vast potential, what many are missing when they examine the Rookie Scouting Portfolio is that Boykin and Brown also had two of the highest grades I've awarded a player since I've transitioned to this system a few years ago.
Boykin is an athletic stud and an emerging technician. He's practically free in drafts—especially when one game warrants enough reason for analysts to determine that he's lost momentum.
Jake Kumerow: Think of Kumerow as a poor man's James Washington in the Packers offense who could come into money at any moment. He can play all three positions, understands coverage, makes plays in traffic, and wins the ball in the air. If Geronimo Allison (18 missed games in three seasons) gets hurt again or something happens to Adams or Vales-Scantling, Kumerow is a first-call waiver option or a late-round pick in drafts for large leagues (25+ rounds).
Deon Cain: Speaking of Adams, Cain reminds me of a young Adams in style. Coming off an ACL tear, Cain is progressing faster than expected and he's regaining his confidence as an athlete. Parris Campbell's hamstring has been temperamental this August and it seems Devin Funchess has approached a ceiling in his game and hasn't figured out how to remove it. Cain has the speed to be a split end; the ball-carrying skill and mobility at the catch point to deliver as a flanker, and the quickness to work the slot. Like Kumerow, he's a first-call waiver option or a late-round pick in large drafts.
Greg Olsen: Despite a bad foot, he scored four touchdowns—two more than D.J. Moore and one less in the passing game than Curtis Samuel. When he was truly healthy (2014-16), he was a top-five tight end three consecutive years with 1,000-yard seasons. Kyle Rudolph was the No.3 fantasy tight end during Turner's final year as offensive coordinator in Minnesota and Jordan Cameron was the No.5 fantasy tight end during Turner's only year in Cleveland.
Before this pair, Turner ran offenses with Antonio Gates for several years. Like Gates, Olsen should be over his foot injury and ready to roll as Newton's security blanket.
T.J. Hockenson: He earned the highest grade for a tight end in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio in several years and when I've watched his practices, he's made plays that aren't normal fare for most young players—or veterans without an asterisk next to their name denoted Pro Bowl appearances in career stats pages. He's not starting right now because he's still working on his recognition of various coverage types but he'll play enough this year that he may have rookie Hunter Henry upside as a part-time contributor. I think it's going to be tough for the Lions to keep him off the field by midseason.
Many local leagues will leave Hockenson on the waiver wire or he'll get dropped. All the better for you.
Whether it's a running back used more as a wide receiver, a wide receiver who earns significant opportunities and production as a ballcarrier, a defensive tackle who earns more sacks than 85 percent of the league's defensive ends, or a tight end who is targeted like a wide receiver, there are players whose production transcend their position's traditional bounds. Think George Kittle a capable inline tight end whose usage resulted in production better than most wide receivers.
There are also players who transcend their roles within their position. For instance, Tarik Cohen and James White are their team's No.2 running backs but they're featured in ways that make them a valuable, if not more so, than the No.1 on their depth chart.
Darren Waller: Is he a tight end or a receiver? The eternal Jimmy Graham question. Like a younger Graham, Waller is fluid and wins at the catch point. Unlike Graham, he can run like a wide receiver beyond straight-line speed.
If the Antonio Brown saga reaches a satisfying conclusion for the fantasy football community, Waller earns tremendous matchup advantages as the second tight end or split from the formation as a receiver. Expect a lot of this for Waller and big plays to result.
And why shouldn't you expect a lot? He's a cheap fantasy value.
Irv Smith, Jr.: Watching Smith against the Seahawks was a revelation of sorts. The Vikings are shopping Laquon Treadwell, Chad Beebee is a reliable reserve, and Jordan Taylor is more of an outside option. If there's a player who could become the Vikings' "third receiver," it might be its second tight end.
Smith working as the detachable weapon in two-tight end sets plays into its desire to run the ball more but still have the versatility to throw the ball. Kirk Cousins is familiar with packages that featured Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed and had success with this duo.
Smith has surprised with Vikings with his blocking prowess translating as early as it has and his downfield skill makes him a nice slot weapon. Could the Vikings use Smith as its TE2/slot this year?
There are few indications this is a big part of the Vikings' plans but it would make sense based on his second-round draft capital, no one standing out as the third receiver, and the Vikings potential to become a "multiple" offense that emphasizes the run. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has been associated with using 12 personnel, but it hasn't translated to fantasy success for both options.
You'll have the luxury to wait a week or two before acquiring Smith on the waiver wire if it does.
Tony Pollard: "Zeke who?" C'mon, Jer-ruh, lay off the sauce at least one more day out of the week, will ya? Ok, like Jer-ruh was, I'm just joking around. I'm not kidding about Pollard. He's one of those difficult players to scout without the vantage of being on an NFL team because he played a gadget role at Memphis and there aren't a lot of exposures to tape where he works as a running back or nuanced route runner.
Teams get to work Pollard out extensively behind closed doors and this fills in some of the gaps. What I can tell you is that Pollard showed skilled decision-making between the tackles at Senior Bowl practices and did not look at all uncomfortable as a full-fledged running back. We saw the same this past weekend, too.
The Cowboys likely see Pollard as a hopefully more versatile and impactful alternative to Tavon Austin. It's worth a stab at Pollard as a late-round pick for this possibility because from what I've seen, he may earn a "gadget" role but he's not a gadget player. He could have a legitimate role behind one of the best offensive lines in football if Ezekiel Elliott doesn't come through.