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10 Early Sleepers (Fantasy Football)

May 27, 2020

Antonio Gibson’s versatility and playmaking ability could provide him with steady playing time

Early-round picks don’t always win championships. The selections that push squads into title contention are made in the middle and late rounds. Just ask anyone who snagged John Brown as a sleeper in 2019. He finished the year as the WR15 in half-PPR leagues even though his ADP was WR57 right before the season started.

It’s never too early to start your prep for the 2020 season, so our featured analysts have decided to shed light on their favorite league-winning sleepers. Please keep in mind that these players may no longer be undervalued once we’re deep in August, but you would still be wise to take note of these guys for when your draft rolls around.

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Q1. What RB outside of our half-PPR consensus top 40 should fantasy owners target in their drafts and why?

Antonio Gibson (WAS): Consensus Rank – RB68
“The easy answer here might be Marlon Mack, but I’m going a little deeper with Gibson. The Redskins are seemingly stacked at the running back position with Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Peyton Barber, etc., but they used a meaningful third-round pick on the Memphis standout and most of those aforementioned running backs carry injury and/or age concerns. The main worry is that Gibson essentially only played one year of D-I football and that was primarily as a receiver, but he took advantage of that year (1,100+ total yards, 12 total touchdowns). He’s simply too versatile and too explosive (4.39 40-yard dash) to use strictly as a wide receiver. Assuming Washington uses him as a running back, he gives fantasy owners more upside in half-PPR and PPR formats. If/when something happens to Guice, Peterson, or Love, Gibson could surprise some people as the new Chris Thompson.”
– Zach Greubel (Gridiron Experts)

“Whether it is as a running back or a wide receiver, Antonio Gibson is the definition of a playmaker and he plays for a team that, let’s face it, doesn’t have many of them outside of Terry McLaurin. While he doesn’t have a ton of college experience, Gibson scored on nearly 17% of his offensive touches and averaged over 15 yards per touch for Memphis last season. If defenses can catch him (4.39 40-time), they will have a hard time bringing him down, as he also displayed a 25% broken tackle rate. I know it is a crowded backfield in Washington, but new Redskins coach Ron Rivera should be giving Gibson the ball as often as possible and I believe that will be the case sooner rather than later.”
– Rich Piazza (Fantasy Shed)

Duke Johnson (HOU): Consensus Rank – RB46
“He’s far from a sexy name at this point, but don’t discount Duke Johnson from being a solid contributor in PPR and half-PPR leagues this year. Once you look past former Cardinal David Johnson, who spent much of 2019 injured and looked like a shell of himself when he was on the field, the running back depth in Houston is Duke Johnson and … that’s it. He was able to put up 820 total yards with 44 receptions last year working behind Carlos Hyde. Unless you’re a believer in David Johnson, assume that Duke Johnson will see an uptick in usage since this offense may rely on the backfield more with DeAndre Hopkins inexplicably traded away.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Latavius Murray (NO): Consensus Rank – RB44
“When drafting a running back outside the top 40, you’re not going to get a surefire starter. While Ronald Jones would be an easy answer for me here, he’s borderline top 40, so I’ll go a bit deeper and say Murray. Did everyone forget what happened when Alvin Kamara had to miss time last year? It was only two weeks, but in those two games, Murray destroyed the Bears and Cardinals to the tune of 307 total yards and four total touchdowns. He’s legitimately a league-winner if Kamara misses time. This is what handcuff dreams are made of. He’s also going to have bye week appeal even when Kamara is on the field.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Darrell Henderson (LAR): Consensus Rank – RB45
“I know everyone is quick to anoint Cam Akers as the Rams’ lead back and I can understand the sentiment, but Henderson isn’t just going to roll over for the rookie, so I think he has a legitimate shot at claiming the top spot on the depth chart, especially considering the coronavirus-impacted offseason. Even if he doesn’t, he should get his opportunities as a complementary option, which could pay off. For all of the Rams’ woes running the ball last year (3.7 YPC as a team), they tied for fourth with 20 rushing touchdowns.”
– Mark Ross (Athlon Sports)

Zack Moss (BUF): Consensus Rank – RB47
“A value running back that I’ll be targeting heavily is Moss He was one of my favorite running backs coming out of the draft and the Bills spent a fairly valuable third-round pick on him. Devin Singletary only had three games last season with 20 or more carries, though some of that can be attributed to Frank Gore’s presence. Ultimately, Moss has the talent and a reasonably easy path to regular playing time, so he’s definitely worth a late flier.”
– Donald Gibson (FantasyPros)

Q2. What WR outside of our half-PPR consensus top 50 should fantasy owners target in their drafts and why?

Henry Ruggs III (LV): Consensus Rank – WR55
“I can’t believe I’m ‘that guy’ because I was lower on him pre-draft, but Ruggs is being overlooked in drafts right now. He was the first wide receiver off the board and now goes to a team where there’s plenty of opportunity available. Ruggs isn’t a wide receiver who should demand anywhere close to 120-plus targets, but knowing the equity used to acquire him, he should have no issue approaching the 80-100 target mark, which puts him on the WR3/4 radar, especially since he has game-breaking upside. Think about someone like Will Fuller. When he’s on the field, he is a must-play for the upside he presents. You’ll live with a few goose eggs from Ruggs in order to reap the benefits of when he breaks an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

“I generally avoid rookie wide receivers and I definitely generally avoid players on the Raiders, but I have my eye on Henry Ruggs III this year. I expect Darren Waller to regress a bit and Ruggs could be in line for steady involvement; plus, he’s a big-play machine. All of the receivers in this area have a good bit of risk, so I’m happy to take Ruggs and bank on a good balance of targets and upside.”
– Donald Gibson (FantasyPros)

Russell Gage (ATL): Consensus Rank – WR93
“Gage is not somebody that will win you your league, but he is someone that is a bit underrated. I am a fan of receivers that are entering their third year and I am also a fan of receivers that should have an opportunity. Julio Jones will be Julio Jones, albeit a 31-year-old version, and Calvin Ridley is going to be a fine ‘Robin,’ however, Hayden Hurst will not be as productive as the departed Austin Hooper. From the time Mohamed Sanu was traded, Gage saw just over seven targets a game and had a 16% target share during that time. With the Falcons staying status quo at the receiver position (Laquon Treadwell doesn’t count), Gage could be the No. 3 receiving option (No. 2 when Jones is hurt) on one of the league’s top pass-heavy offenses.”
– Rich Piazza (Fantasy Shed)

Breshad Perriman (NYJ): Consensus Rank – WR54
“Can Perriman replicate what he did down the stretch in Tampa Bay last year when he finished with three-straight 100+ yard games now that he’s a Jet? Absolutely not. Can he put up numbers comparable to departed wideout Robby Anderson, if not better? Absolutely. Perriman is faster, bigger, and will immediately become the top target on the outside for Sam Darnold while Denzel Mims acclimates to the league. Perriman has home-run potential and can deliver big moments any given week. He ranked 14th in deep targets last year despite playing as a distant third fiddle to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Perriman is the best bet to outperform his draft position as the 54th-ranked wide receiver.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Justin Jefferson (MIN): Consensus Rank – WR53
“Jefferson has landed in the ideal spot to be a fantasy factor right away. Barring something unforeseen happening, he immediately slots in as Minnesota’s No. 2 wide receiver to Adam Thielen. Even though the Vikings prefer to run the ball, that doesn’t mean Kirk Cousins won’t throw the ball enough for both to matter. In 2018, Thielen and Stefon Diggs both went for over 100 catches and 1,000 yards and each reeled in nine touchdowns. If Jefferson comes close to that type of production, he’ll certainly be worth his current ADP.”
– Mark Ross (Athlon Sports)

Preston Williams (MIA): Consensus Rank – WR52
“I am taking the easy route on this one. Williams was coming into his own before suffering a torn ACL halfway through the season. DeVante Parker took over after that en route to what was finally a career year. Williams was averaging 7.5 targets per contest before going down. A bonus to his game is that he returned punts. Good health and quarterback play are two key dependents for the sophomore receiver, but there is WR3 upside here.”
– Zach Greubel (Gridiron Experts)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their favorite early sleepers. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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