Fantasy football sleepers, busts and breakouts for 2017 revisited

Will Ben Roethlisberger give fantasy owners plenty to cheer about in 2017 or should you be concerned? Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Go to: Sleepers | Busts | Breakouts

We took our first look at sleepers, busts and breakouts back in June, but much has changed since then, so we are back with a fresh take as draft season ramps up. You can check out that initial list with detailed explanations from our ESPN Fantasy Football experts here.

Below, you will find our updated picks, plus thoughts on players whom our experts added this time around, based on these definitions:

Sleeper: a player who will far surpass his average draft position (ADP) in standard ESPN leagues for the 2017 season.
Bust: a player who is expected to be a solid starter in standard ESPN leagues but will fail to live up to those expectations this season.
Breakout: a player who will leap into or close to the upper echelon of players at his position for the first time because of a dramatic increase in production compared with his previous seasons (or a rookie who will burst on the scene).

Our panel is composed of these ESPN Fantasy writers and editors: Matthew Berry, Matt Bowen, Tom Carpenter, Mike Clay, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Ken Daube, KC Joyner, Eric Karabell and Field Yates.


These are the players our panel believes will exceed their 2017 average draft position and provide value for those who take a chance on them.

Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns

Last season, the Browns threw 40 red zone passes to their wide receivers and tight ends. With Terrell Pryor Sr., Andrew Hawkins and Gary Barnidge gone, the Browns need a viable receiving option in this area of the field. Coleman will fill this role, which bumps his fantasy value far beyond his average draft position. -- Daube

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

The reality is that Hunt might not even secure a starting gig this season, as Spencer Ware can be penned (erasable ink, however) into said role. But the price point for Hunt (top of Round 13) is a savory value, given that he offers a promising skill set. Ware was just average in his final nine regular-season games in 2016, posting 56.2 yards per outing and managing just one rushing touchdown during that stretch. -- Yates

Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Williams ranked 27th among wide receivers in vertical pass yards (571 on aerials traveling 11 or more yards downfield) and tied for eighth in short-pass yards per attempt (7.7 on targets thrown 10 or fewer yards downfield). Mike Williams, his presumptive replacement in the starting lineup, could be out for a while with a back injury, so consider Tyrell to have low-tier WR3 upside that makes him a great value as a WR5 or WR6 selection. -- Joyner

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

No Anquan Boldin? No problem. This 6-foot-4 weapon has a chance to fill a need in this Lions offense, and not just in the red zone. With Golden Tate moving to the slot, Golladay will be outside opposite Marvin Jones Jr. and has nice speed for a guy his size. Golladay averaged 14.3 yards per catch and caught 18 touchdown passes in his two seasons at Northern Illinois. -- Berry

Rob Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins

After becoming the starter in Week 8, he was top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards after contact per rush and 15th in PPR fantasy points (RB13 in non-PPR). Samaie Perine has a long way to go on his pass protection, and while Kelley won't play third downs, he'll get goal-line work for a team that will score a lot. Going as RB38, in the 12th round, Kelley is a low-end RB2 in PPR and higher in non-PPR, who you can get dirt cheap. -- Berry

Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Only time will tell how the Seahawks' backfield fleshes out this season, as Eddie Lacy, Rawls and C.J. Prosise battle for touches. Rawls could well end up an afterthought with Lacy leading the way on early downs and Prosise handling passing downs, but is that any more likely than a healthy Rawls shining like he did in 2015 and Lacy flopping like he has before? That's an awful lot of potential for Rawls, whose ADP is 46th among running backs. -- Carpenter


Which players are destined to fall short of their draft-day expectations? Our panel suggests you stay away from these players who are sure to disappoint.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The reality of owning Big Ben is that you're going to need to pair him with another quarterback. Largely inexplicably, Roethlisberger has thrown 59 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions at home over the past three seasons compared to 23 touchdowns and 22 interceptions on the road. Home-road splits can be fool's gold in fantasy, but they've been real for Roethlisberger for three seasons now. -- Yates

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When the Bucs drafted O.J. Howard 19th overall, it represented a supreme value. He was underdrafted. So far, in fantasy football, he's being overdrafted as TE13, given that he's not even a lock to lead his team in catches among tight ends. Hunter Henry had 11 games last year with three or fewer catches, yet still had the sixth-best fantasy season by a rookie tight end in PPR scoring over the past 15 years. It's a slow crawl to fantasy relevance for most tight ends, with Howard as another likely example. -- Yates

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott's QB1 draft value assumes he will match last season's performance, but he was only 20 points away from QB2 status last year. Prescott could be hard-pressed to repeat his six rushing touchdowns, as Cam Newton and Tim Tebow are the only quarterbacks in the past 10 years to post six or more rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Prescott also had only 33.3 percent of his interceptable passes picked off, a mark that ranked tied for eighth. A decline in luck in that category could lead to more picks and cut into his point total. -- Joyner

Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams

He is crazy talented, but it boils down to this: I think Tyrod Taylor is a pretty good NFL quarterback, and as of now, I don't think Jared Goff is. I think Sean McVay is a great offensive mind and the Rams are going to be a much better offense this year, but McVay is not a miracle worker. Watkins is a deep threat going to play with a guy who, at least last year, didn't want to throw deep, as his 6.94 air yards per pass attempt was ahead of only Alex Smith and Sam Bradford. And that's before you get to Watkins' injury history. Going as a WR2? No thanks. -- Berry

Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Allen brings to mind the admonition of never paying the ceiling price for a player. He ranked 19th in wide receiver fantasy points in his best season (219.6 in 2013) but has since finished 37th (175.3) and 42nd (161.5) before missing all but one game last year. Allen has struggled with injuries, averaged only 6.5 vertical points per game (ranked tied for 29th since 2013) and has the toughest cornerback coverage schedule on the Chargers. He may end up providing low-tier WR2 value, but it isn't likely. -- Joyner

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Why are some so quick to assume Lacy is going to start for the Seahawks? He's coming off ankle surgery that limited him throughout the offseason program, giving him no discernible advantage over Rawls in the injury department and was a near-annual bust while with the Green Bay Packers, largely due to conditioning, which remains a work in progress at the onset of training camp. Lacy's contract -- $5.55 million, $3 million of which is guaranteed, for the one year -- provides no guarantee of the job, so I ask you: What if the Seahawks' design was to give themselves a capable fallback to Rawls in the event he was the one who was slow to prove his full health this summer? -- Cockcroft


Who will join the ranks of the elite and help you win your league this season?

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Back in our first edition, I had Mixon as a sleeper, because his ADP was so low at the time. Not surprisingly, fewer and fewer people are sleeping on his potential upside, as he is now the 19th running back off the board. He is arguably the most talented back in this rookie class and joins a team that loves to run and has a quality run-blocking O-line. I don't see Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard (ACL) giving Mixon much of a challenge long term, so the door for a rookie breakout performance is wide open. -- Carpenter