The Post-Hype Sleeper

By: Chris Martini (Martini269)

The strategy behind targeting players is critical for your fantasy success. A wise owner will not only assess the consensus top guys, but will also evaluate players on the rise, Boom or Bust players, and my personal favorite, the post-hype sleeper. A post-hype sleeper is someone that is presumed to have a breakout year, yet fails to meet those expectations. That let down causes fantasy owners to cast them aside from future consideration. However, post-hype sleepers are important to take advantage of, as the reward can be massive. Let’s take an in-depth look into the post-hype sleeper that you need to target for 2018 drafts.

Jameis Winston, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Heading into the 2017 season, the Bucs signal-caller was getting plenty of hype from experts in the fantasy industry. Many thought Winston was poised to make the leap to an elite fantasy level. 

Winston had the weapons around him in Pro Bowler Mike Evans, red-zone specialist Cameron Brate, and promising rookies O.J Howard and Chris Godwin. Furthermore, the addition of veteran wide receiver Desean Jackson, who is one of the best deep threats in the game, looked to push the Buccaneers offense to a daunting level for opposing defenses.

Winston was averaging at least 4,000 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns since entering the league in 2015. With his impressive fantasy production, combined with the improvement of weapons and offensive scheme continuity with the return of head coach and play caller Dirk Koetter, all signs looked to be pointing up for the talented, young quarterback. These factors drove Winston’s Average Draft Position (ADP) to the seventh overall quarterback heading into the 2017 season.

Fast forward to present day.

Winston unfortunately closed out the year as the 22nd fantasy quarterback. That deceiving finish caused his ADP to drop down to the 19th overall quarterback heading into the 2018 season. With that being said, the time is now to strike!

While everyone is running around, uncontrollably investing high draft picks in 40-year old quarterbacks or guys coming off torn ACL and LCL injuries; I want you to stay calm and do the exact opposite. I want you to build strength elsewhere by waiting on the temptation that is, quarterback. Fill out your rosters with a plethora of running backs, wide receivers and maybe even an established tight end. Solidify and gain the advantage in those positions, knowing you have a top ten fantasy quarterback in your back pocket.

It was unfortunate that Winston hit a speed bump on the way to his presumed fantasy stardom last year. And by speed bump, I mean 260 pound linebacker Chandler Jones, who fell hard on Winston early in the season. This resulted in a shoulder sprain, causing Winston to miss three games and depart early in two others, which ultimately left a bad taste in the mouths of fantasy owners. However, drawing the curtains back on Winston’s injury riddled 2017 season, the numbers surprisingly show solid fantasy production and much promise for 2018.

I mentioned that Winston left early in two games, week six against the Arizona Cardinals, when he exited the game on the first drive after sustaining a sprained AC joint. Also, week nine, Winston left at halftime against the New Orleans Saints after re-aggravating his shoulder. Afterwards, the MRI revealed more damage which inevitably led to him missing Weeks 10 to 12 to recover.

The two early departures tamper with Winston’s fantasy numbers. For example, when looking at fantasy points-per-game, Winston finished as the 18th quarterback. Not so good, right? Well, if you exclude the two games that he left super early, this would then bump him up to the 8th overall quarterback in points-per-game. Furthermore, his average yards-per-game would also increase, from 269.5 YPG to 306.9 YPG. That 306.9 YPG mark would have put him first in the category, leaving 2017 NFL leader Tom Brady’s 286.1 YPG behind in the dust, with a massive 20-plus YPG difference.

A big knock on Winston since entering the league, has been his turnovers and careless play at times. However, in the 2017 season Winston managed to see most of his rate-based statistics improve. He hit career highs in completion percentage, interception percentage; yards gained per attempt and overall quarterback rating.

Additionally, Winston ranked top ten in other key quarterback stats in 2017:

Pass attempts per game9th
Pass completions per game9th
Yards per completion3rd

Note that Winston would have finished first in both pass attempts and completions per game, if the two early departures were excluded from the equation. To top it off, Winston was in fact, the #1 fantasy quarterback from weeks 13-17, with an NFL leading 1,584 passing yards. No slouch in his other contests; he managed a top ten finish in three additional games prior to week 13.

Week 47th
Week 59th
Week 78th

*OUT Weeks 10-12

This can be compared to Drew Brees (ADP 5) and Jared Goff (ADP 9), who only totaled four top 10 performances each in their full slate of games (15 games for Goff).

Now, heading into the 2018 season, the Buccaneers franchise quarterback remains an afterthought for many fantasy owners. However, with his weapons still in place and improvements on the offensive line and accuracy-based statistics; Winston will be more than capable of flying into the top ten at his position.

The offensive line has been abysmal the last couple years, giving up over 74 sacks since 2016. Now, with former Baltimore Ravens center, Ryan Jensen joining the Bucs in a pivotal free agent signing; the Bucs look to solidify the trenches. Jensen, who ranked as the eighth best center in 2017 according to Bleacher Report, now adds toughness, power, and attitude to the blocking unit up front. This signing will push Buccaneers second-best offensive linemen, Ali Marpet back to his original guard position where he thrived since entering the league in 2015.

Also included on this offensive line is Tampa Bay’s Demar Dotson, who has quietly been among the best right tackles in the league. Dotson ranked as the 13th best offensive linemen according to Pro-Football Focus, allowing just 14 total QB pressures, and a pass blocking efficiency of 97.6 (fourth-highest) in 2017. The unit should be able to keep Winston upright and provide him with the time needed to read defenses and utilize his rocket arm.

Despite the offensive lines poor play in the past, Winston has still managed to make his way into the record books. Winston has 69 passing touchdowns, which is the most by any other quarterback in NFL history, before the age of 24. He passed legendary quarterback, Dan Marino’s previous record of 68 passing touchdowns. Moreover, Winston carries an impressive career average of 258.6 yards-per-game since entering the league in 2015, which ranks above the elite Aaron Rodgers, with 254.5 yards-per-game since 2015. Winston will look to maintain his dominance in yards and touchdowns for the coming season, especially with the talented young receiving corps that surrounds him.

The receiving threats surrounding Winston will all be returning, and an overabundance of points should be expected. Having 6’5” Mike Evans extended through the 2023 season, along with Desean Jackson adding another off-season with Winston to improve their rapport; a profound impact on the vertical passing game can safely be forecasted.

Regardless of Winston’s shoulder injury sustained in 2017, I would not fret over him being an “injury prone” player moving forward. The Buccaneers quarterback has played all 16 games in his first two seasons. In that span, he has had at least one touchdown in 96.9% of games played, and has had at least 200 passing yards in 84.4% of those games. Winston makes for the perfect fantasy quarterback, as he is consistent and very productive.

All in all, Winston’s outlook seems bright for this coming season, as he has the talent, upside and right situation to really wow in 2018. I urge you to get back on the Winston bandwagon, as he will have every opportunity to crack the top 10.