Isaiah Crowell Cleveland Browns
After giving my selection for most underrated and overrated players in upcoming fantasy football drafts, my pick for biggest sleeper is Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell. Most importantly, “The Crow” has the privilege of running behind a newly revamped offensive line that includes ProFootballFocus.com‘s top offensive guard duo of Kevin Zeitler and Joel Bitonio in addition to future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Joe Thomas and free agent addition Center J.C. Tretter. Last season, the Browns offensive line ranked in the Top5 in terms of creating yards before contact for running backs, and the line has only gotten better.  Crowell, the 24 year-old former first overall running back recruit out of high school, believes that he will have a “Monster Season” and coach Hue Jackson has stressed during OTA interviews how the need to get the running game going early in games from the start of the season to set the tone for the franchise moving forward. Early reports out of training camp suggest that backup running back Duke Johnson is actually the leader for the slot receiver role, which further solidifies Crowell as a rare workhorse volume running back. Another major factor in Crowell’s sleeper status is that he is currently ranked as the 13th best running back per FantasyPros.com with an ADP of 25, making him a 3rd round pick depending on league size. Looking at the names in the same tier as Crowell, he is slotted about right where he should be when taken in consensus, but in many drafts, rookie running backs Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffery may leapfrog Crowell based on pedigree and training camp hype. Even a player like Marshawn Lynch, who is 2 year removed from the NFL grind and has a stable of capable young running backs behind him could sneak his way past Crowell by the time your draft rolls around in late August.

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I’ve seen several articles talk about winners and losers based on last weekend’s Draft. The winners typically include Matthew Stafford, EJ Manuel, and the NFL for getting higher ratings than the NBA playoffs for an event that is months removed from the next game-day. I’m going the other way on this one. The winner of the Draft in my mind was clearly Elton John. I’m not sure what type of rights deal he negotiated with Aloe Blacc, but I’m sure Sir Elton benefited from this weekend’s festivities as much as Emperor Goodell did.

From an IDP perspective, despite the first overall pick being on the defensive side of the ball, and a record number of DBs going on Thursday night, the people most impacted by the draft are the existing veterans in the league. More so even than on offense, defensive rookies’ fantasy value is heavily tied to the team that picks them. Other than a few elite players, and sometimes even including them, situation matters more than talent. Before apparently lighting up a fat one, Josh Gordon lit up the league the last two years while playing on a terrible team without a legitimate professional QB. On the flip side, Dont’a Hightower (taken 25th overall the same year Gordon was picked in the Supplemental Draft), has toiled away in a crowded New England LB corps.  Hightower will get his chance this year, but his owners have had to show tremendous patience, with very little to show for it thus far.

So as I run through the big names taken in this year’s draft, keep in mind that they will likely take multiple years to make an IDP impact, and their most immediate effect will likely be on the veterans that they are either complementing or trying to replace.

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