A look back at fantasy football’s best sleepers of 2017

Hitting on fantasy sleepers is hard. If it was easy, those easily identified sleepers would be highly sought after, thus not sleepers at all.

So sure, most deep-dive picks in fantasy drafts don’t pan out. The majority of waiver-wire flyers get dropped soon thereafter. But there are a few of these cheap acquisitions that make the fantasy market go “boom!”

No late-round pick, or even early-season waiver grab, made a larger contribution — and we would guess none was more populous among championship-week rosters than Alvin Kamara.

Leading up to the season and through the first several weeks, the rookie Saints running back was regarded as a third-down specialist in a crowded backfield that featured Mark Ingram and the misplaced Adrian Peterson ahead of Kamara on the priority list.

Then Peterson was traded. Then the Saints started using Kamara regularly. Then Kamara showed how great he was, and the Saints used him more. Next thing you know, you have a top-five fantasy RB.

Kamara finished the season scoring double-digit fantasy points in 12 of his final 13 games — including seven in which he topped 20. His role in the passing game made him a PPR gem, and his ability to rack up yards and scores made him viable in standard leagues as well.

He made the biggest boom of any boom that boomed this season.

QB drafted — Carson Wentz, Eagles: Went late in most drafts. Despite being lost for the season in Week 14, still went into championship weekend second among fantasy QBs.

QB waiver — Case Keenum, Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater was ready to start the season. Sam Bradford got knocked out early. Enter Keenum, who had a stellar second half. Multiple TD passes in six of his final eight games.

RB drafted — Duke Johnson Jr., Browns: Wasn’t flashy, but a middle-round PPR pick netted you a top-15 RB. If only Isaiah Crowell would have gotten out of his way …

RB waiver — Alex Collins, Ravens: Couple of duds during playoffs didn’t help, but strong outings down the stretch likely helped you get there.

WR drafted— Adam Thielen, Vikings: An ADP that hovered in the eighth round, and he became a top-10 PPR receiver, who had some of his best games during the final stretch of the fantasy regular season.

WR waiver — Robert Woods, Rams: A former Bills receiver did make a splash with the Rams, just not the one everyone thought. Woods was on a midseason run that changed fantasy seasons before his injury, while Sammy Watkins was a frustrating hit-or-miss option whose floor was unacceptable.

TE drafted — Evan Engram, Giants: A top-10 fantasy season doesn’t happen often for rookies. The value of his boost was aided by his deep, double-digit-round draft position.

TE waiver — Vernon Davis, Redskins: Filled in ably when Jordan Reed was in and out of the lineup over the first half of the season. Survives late-season inconsistency to earn this designation only because there weren’t any other candidates at such a thin position.

D/ST drafted — Jaguars: Went either very late or undrafted. Was best defense/special teams fantasy unit by a mile — nearly two points per game better than any other defense.

End game

Corey Clement RB, Eagles
This is why you don’t play Week 17 in fantasy. If the Eagles choose to rest or pull starters, expect Clement to get some decent playing time, against a freshly eliminated Cowboys team that could sleepwalk through the game.

Derrick Henry RB, Titans
DeMarco Murray left early Sunday with a knee injury. Titans could be playing for a playoff spot against a Jaguars team that could have every reason to play dead.

Jameis Winston QB, Buccaneers
Despite being out of the hunt, the Bucs have delivered back-to-back spirited performances, but came up short both times vs. division rivals. Expect Winston & Co. to give the Saints a good run.

End lame

Everyone, Jaguars
The Jags are locked into the No. 3 seed, and it is possible they would face the same Titans in the wild-card round they also face in Sunday’s season finale — meaning limited, uncreative playbook with many starters getting benched early, if they play at all.

Everyone, Chiefs
K.C. is locked into the fourth seed, so nothing to gain by making starters a full go. If you’re interested in gambling on extra volume for backups, try Charcandrick West or Akeem Hunt.

Everyone, 1 p.m. DFS slate
Few of these teams have anything to play for, and playoff seeding might sway coaches’ decisions of who plays, but it often doesn’t provide ample motivation for players. Hard to guess which coaches will sit players, which players, and which of those remaining will pop.