FF-Winners.Com Reveals Sleeper Team of the Year 2016

One of the most under-the-radar storylines in the NFL is the way that Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace has gone about renovating this roster over the last two years. They’re one of the rare teams who has set out to build a team the “right” way — building the foundation of the team through the draft, and then supplementing those building blocks with smart free agent acquisitions — and has actually stuck to the plan (at least so far).

Pace has absolutely aced his last two drafts. The Bears had one of my favorite overall crops in 2015 — they could have as many as five starters from that group: wide receiver Kevin White, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, center Hroniss Grasu, running back Jeremy Langford, and safety Adrian Amos — and they followed that up by putting together one hell of a class this year. I’m admittedly getting a little “Vernon Gholston déjà vu” when it comes to their first round pick Leonard Floyd — people falling in love with the physical tools more than his actual football skills — but the raw tools are certainly there. The rest of the class, though, is absolutely money.

Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair (out of Kansas State) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (out of the University of Florida), taken in the late second and early third rounds, will contribute right away. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round pick out of West Virginia University) is an undersized but athletic and rangy; at the least, he’ll provide great depth and standout special teams play. Running back Jordan Howard (5th round pick out of Indiana) is a “thunder” running back with serious pop, and could provide a really nice tag team partner to Jeremy Langford. Defensive back Deandre Houston-Carson (6th round out of William & Mary) is a small school gem that could’ve gone a couple of rounds higher. And finally, wide receiver Daniel Braverman (7th round pick out of Western Michigan) is a feisty Julian Edelman-type receiver who was crazy productive in college.

In the 2016 free agency period, the Bears might’ve made three of the shrewdest and most strategic free agent signings out of anyone. They shored shore up the middle of their defense by (very quietly) signing two of the better inside linebackers in football: Danny Trevathan (formerly of Denver) and Jerrell Freeman (formerly of Indianapolis) That just adds to a group of linebackers that already had Pernell McPhee (a fantastic free agent pickup from Baltimore last season), Lamarr Houston, and the aforementioned Floyd. Then, they signed right tackle Bobby Massie (formerly of Arizona), allowing Kyle Long to move back inside to guard, where he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player; that one signing effectively shored them up in two positions. So, the Bears’ offensive line and the middle linebackers — two of their weaker position groups last season — could very well end up being two of their strengths.

We think they still have a few big questions that need to be answered, like whether new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains — who was promoted from quarterbacks coach — can carry on the offense that Adam Gase so masterfully ran for Chicago last season; who is going to emerge from their logjam at running back (between Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and rookie Jordan Howard have their strengths, but none of those guys are anything close to what Matt Forte was last season); and if their secondary can hold up (Kyle Fuller had an up-and-down year last year, and they’ve basically got nothing at cornerback behind him, nor at safety next to Amos).

Still, if things break correctly for them, this team has the potential to be dangerous. And if they continue to build this team the way they have been over the last couple of years, We think they’re a really good running back and one starting cornerback away from being a legitimate contender in the NFC.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

Fantasy Football WR Sleeper: Andre Holmes

The Raiders do not have a lot of offensive skill. They have some has-beens (QB Matt Schaub, RBs Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden) which could have one more year in the sunlight; some almost-has-beens (WRs James Jones, Greg Little, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater) that have not had the ability to put all of it together consistently; and a couple hope-to-bes (WRs Juron Criner and Andre Holmes, TE Mychael Rivera) who have shown flashes yet absolutely nothing concrete.

Who stands apart one of the most? Well, the tallest individual, obviously. Which is the 6-4 Holmes.

OK, we’re not actually choosing Holmes merely considering that he’s the tallest, but it’s his elevation that possibly provides him the very best chance of breaking out. The third-year wideout finished sturdy in 2013, publishing 22 catches and 366 yards on 41 targets in the last 5 games. That target counts was 25th in the NFL in that period, and 4 greater than Oakland’s next most-targeted receiver.

Holmes has the dimension and capacity to make plays if he acquires the ball and can hold onto it. The fact he was listed on the first team when Oakland’s initial depth came  out a few days ago is a terrific indicator. Now he just has to hold onto his starting work.

Will Holmes be a WR1 or a WR2 for your fantasy group? Probably not, yet the potential is there for him to be an every-week play. Obtaining him late in your dream draft would certainly be a stroke of genius (he entered the 15th at No. 177 in our most current specialists’ mock).

And unlike real-life football, it’s not a bad thing to have a bunch of sleeper WRs on your fantasy team.