The Complete Guide to Sleeper Picks
There is no greater feeling in being a spectator than when you get to tell your friends that you told them so. "I told you this scrub was going to have a breakout game!" "See! I told you this dark horse underdog was going to pull it off." Whatever it may be, it always feels great for the ego to identify the sleeper. But, not only is picking out sleepers great for the ego, but it can also do wonders for our wallet and bottom line.
In this guide, we're going to talk about the basics of sleeper picks, what drives us to want to pick them, why we should look to pick them, and some strategic tips for identifying sleepers and protecting ourselves from sleepers.
What is a Sleeper Pick?
A sleeper pick is a player, team, or competitor that is not expected to do great by the general public but you feel is going to have an above average or great game. For example, let's say Freddy Football is a rookie in the NFL starting his first game at wide receiver. The public thinks he might have an ok game, maybe get a pass or two. You, on the other hand, watched Freddy Football in college and you know that people are underestimating him. You're convinced he's going to have an insane game and catch 10+ passes and score at least one or two touchdowns. If you selected Freddy Football for one of your fantasy leagues or for a bet, he would be a sleeper pick.
The idea of the phrase is that you are selecting someone that the rest of the world is "sleeping on". They're effectively missing the opportunity. "You snooze you lose!"
Identifying sleeper picks is one part of the equation we will cover in full shortly. The second part of sleeper picks is figuring out how to take advantage of them. Typically, sleeper picks are talked about in regards to fantasy sports. You might use a sleeper pick in your season long fantasy league or in your daily fantasy sports league. You may also use them in specific bets to get a nice quick payoff on your prediction.
We'll go into more detail about WHY you should always be on the lookout for sleeper picks in the sections below.
Why We Love to Pick Them
We think it's important to understand why we love to pick sleeper picks so much. Understanding this can help to protect us from going sleeper pick crazy. The main reason that we love picking sleepers is because of ego. It just feels so good to be able to tell our friends that we knew this player was going to blow up and go off. It makes us feel like the supreme experts that knew something and saw something that no one else did.
For some of us, we understand the financial implications and benefits that can be had from identifying sleepers. Unfortunately, this group seems to be the minority and most people seek out sleepers to stroke their ego. There really isn't anything wrong with this unless you allow it to permeate your betting strategy too heavily and cause issues. We call this going sleeper crazy.
Beware of Going Sleeper Crazy
We aren't going to deny that it does feel great to pick a sleeper that no one else saw correctly. The problem, though, is that it's easy to get carried away with chasing that feeling and trying to pick way too many sleepers. We can start to abandon our basic strategy and start to throw logic out the window because we want to be the sleeper expert.
Even if you're not betting on your sleeper picks, you may start to miss out on your "ego benefits" if you go sleeper crazy. If you're constantly saying that several players every game are going to be sleepers, you're going to be wrong a lot. And the more you are wrong, the fewer people are going to listen to you and give you credit for picking a correct sleeper. You'll turn into the boy or girl who cried wolf.
It's easy for anyone to list off all the second and third tier players that have the potential to go off every single game. Eventually, you're going to get one right. If you throw enough darts at a dartboard, you're bound to hit the bull's-eye at some point. The real key to showing that you mean what you say is putting your money where your mouth is or as we put it, going from couch commander to trigger puller.
The Couch Commander Versus The Trigger Puller
It's easy to rattle off predictions and sleeper picks from the comfort of your couch when you have no skin in the game. It's a whole other ball game, though, when you actually put your sleeper pick into action. When you actually use the sleeper you predicted in a bet or in your fantasy lineup, the game changes. You're now responsible for the losses associated with that pick when it doesn't work out.
When you rattle off your feelings from the couch and you're wrong, nothing happens. You never bring it up again and just wait for your friends to forget your incorrect prediction. This is the no risk, easy life. The problem is that no risk equals no potential reward.
If you really want to prove your expertise and start to see some financial gains from your expert sleeper knowledge, you have to step up to the plate and put your money where your mouth is. Take your sleeper pick in your daily fantasy lineup. Draft that sleeper and put them in the lineup of your season long fantasy league. Make the prop or straight up bet for that player to explode.
Two things will happen if you are actually good at picking sleepers and step up to the plate. One, you will have physical proof to show your friends that you really believe in your picks and are willing to put your weight behind it. Two, you will make some serious cash because picking sleepers can be very profitable. Whether it's your friends, the other players in the daily fantasy league, or the sportsbook sleeping on the pick, it doesn't matter. These are all golden opportunities for you to make money.
Why We SHOULD Pick Them
If you're new to the idea of sleeper picks, you may not fully understand why it's important to be able to identify these players flying under the radar. Depending on where you are looking to utilize these sleepers, the benefits will vary. Ultimately, though, a correct sleeper pick mixed with a decent all around strategy is a recipe for making some big bucks.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are fantasy sports leagues that are usually only a day or a week in duration. They are much faster than your season long leagues but can have much bigger payouts. The biggest difference between DFS and your traditional season long fantasy leagues is that every entrant is allowed to select any player they want; players are not off limits once they are selected by someone for their team.
In traditional fantasy leagues, once a player is drafted to a team, they are off limits to everyone else. They can only be used by one team in the entire league. With DFS, though, you are given a salary cap and are able to select anyone you want on your team as long as you stay under the salary cap.
Players are given dollar amounts based on how well they are expected to perform. The better they are expected to perform, the more expensive they will be. This also logically means that the players that are expected to do worse are a lot cheaper. This is where sleepers come in.
This will leave you lots of extra money to spend on your other positions where you can draft players that are expected to do well.
DFS experts look at players in terms of points per thousand spent. If your salary cap is $50,000 (which is standard for a lot of leagues), you may be looking to get players that get you about 3 points for every thousand you spend. This means that if a player is expected to get you 21 points, they should cost about $7,000. If they end up scoring, say, 30 points, you made a great purchase as that player "should" have cost about $10,000.
Let's say a player is projected by the site to get only 9 points and they like to charge about $1,000 for every 3 points like in the above example. This player would cost you about $3,000 to pick up. Now, let's say you think this player is going to have a huge game and score 24 points. Technically, that player should cost you $8,000, but you're getting them for $3,000.
The obvious downside is the risk that the player is a dud and you get not much of anything for your pick up. Even if you're able to spend that money elsewhere on another player, you're not getting any of the extra value you were looking for.
The other major benefit of picking sleepers has to do with ownership percentage. Since everyone has the ability to own any player, you get more benefit when a player you have does well that is not owned by a lot of other people. For example, if everyone owns Sammy Watkins and he has a huge game, you see no benefit from this. Why? The 30 or 40 points that you got... everyone else got them too.
Let's say, though, no one thinks Watkins is going to have a big game, but you do. You pick him up for cheap, and then he goes off and scores 40 points. This is 40 points that very few of your competitors picked up and are worth so much more.
Season Long Fantasy Leagues
In season long leagues, there definitely are benefits of sleeper picks as well. You may end up drafting a player early in the season that you think is a sleeper for later in the season. This means, you may not feel like they're going to be big early in the season, but you think they're going to develop, grow, get good, and explode as the season goes on. This is an example of a long term sleeper, and they can be huge in season long contests.
Picking these sleepers up does a few things. One, it prevents your opponent's from being able to get them and capitalize on them. Two, you will get a ton of points from them while they are hot. Three, even if you are deep in that position, it will give you someone with a lot of trade value later in the season. There's a lot of merit to drafting potential sleepers just with the goal of using them to trade later after they blow up.
Straight Bets/Prop Bets
A sleeper is a sleeper because the world does not think they are going to do well. This means that the betting odds on that particular player or team are going to be extremely advantageous. Whether you're making a prop bet or a straight win bet, you are going to get paid handsomely if the sportsbook doesn't think someone is going to do well.
This really is the definition of finding value in sports betting. You look for players and teams that are more likely to win or do well than is reflected in the betting odds.
Identifying Sleeper Picks
So this all begs the big question...how do you spot sleepers? Sadly, there is no magical solution, but we can give you some ideas and tips to help get your head moving in the right direction. First, look for players and teams that have a lot of strong skills, but might be getting downplayed only because of the media. For example, if the media is down on a player because of something going on in their personal life that you don't think will affect them on the field, this could be a good spot to start.
You should also look for players and teams that may have excelled on a lower level that you think the media and the world aren't giving enough credit to. For example, if you're looking for sleepers for the NFL, you should start to look at how players performed in college.
For example, look for running backs that excelled against bigger than average college defensive lines. There is SO much information out there that not everyone has the time to look at everything in detail. This is a great opportunity for you to spot a sleeper.
Really it comes down to doing your homework and spotting something that other people aren't seeing. We describe it sometimes as the perfect storm. For example, let's keep looking at the running back example. We know that the guy excelled in college against bigger line ups which is a good sign for how well he will do in the NFL. Let's also say that we see there are some injuries on the defensive side of the ball. We could also see that he's now running with a team with a lot of receiving threats which is going to open up the box for him to rip off some big runs.
All of this together could create conditions for this new running back to have a big and unexpected game.
Don't Chase the Gains
Be careful of chasing sleepers that blew up the week before. Two things are going to be against you here. First, the player is going to be more expensive if you're picking them in a DFS lineup. They'll also pay out worse odds in a betting format. Second, the other teams aren't going to be as caught off guard. They're going to have defensive measures in place to accommodate for this newly discovered threat.
Can the player still blow up the next game? Of course, they can. All we are saying is that it's less likely and you're most likely going to have to pay for their past game accomplishments.
Not every sleeper is going to be someone under the radar. Sometimes, sleepers will be a matter of choice of how you think a big story is going to affect someone. For example, let's say that a player is injured but is still going to try and play through it. The books and DFS sites may have this player listed cheaply and paying off big because they think the injury is going to limit them severely.
This story will obviously not be a secret, but you may be able to find sleeper value by picking this player up if you think their injury is not going to affect them.