Dynasty Rookie Sleepers (2021 Fantasy Football)
Sleeper season continues. Previously I identified dart throws before the draft. Nico Collins was a player who landed in an exciting opportunity, with a relatively wide-open depth chart in Houston. Khalil Herbert, not so much, landing in a crowded Chicago backfield situation. With additional input, it’s time to take another stab at identifying potential dynasty rookie sleepers.
Davis Mills (QB – HOU)
High school recruiting rankings identified two of the top rookie QBs in this draft. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields topped the 2018 recruiting boards. They spent the entirety of their college careers under the eye of the scouting community. However, another former high school number one ranked QB slid under the radar.
Davis Mills was 2017’s top overall QB recruit. After receiving offers from blue blood programs like Alabama, Georgia, and USC, he chose Stanford. The culmination of his journey was Houston using their first pick of the draft, in the third round, on Mills.
Unfortunately, he has never fully realized his recruiting profile due to persistent leg injuries and competition with K.J. Costello. Even when Mills finally made some starts with Costello at Mississipi State in 2020, COVID wreaked havoc on the college football landscape. Still, Mills displayed accuracy with a 66% career completion percentage and presents a classic NFL QB frame at 6’3″.
Mills’ value post-draft potential for immediate playing time given Deshaun Watson’s murky situation creates the most intrigue. Starting quarterbacks always possess value in Superflex leagues. Kellen Mond and Kyle Trask feature similar draft capital but find themselves firmly entrenched behind Kirk Cousins and Tom Brady. Mills has a chance to play and along with that opportunity comes potential relevance.
Javian Hawkins (RB – ATL)
The draft did not shine favorably on Hawkins. In the draft leadup, his explosive ability caught attention, but ultimately a 5’8″ 183 lbs frame found him undrafted. However, for an undrafted free agent, he could not have landed in a better situation.
Atlanta possesses arguably the most wide-open depth chart in the league. Mike Davis was the notable free-agent addition, coming off a career-best 642 yards in Carolina. However, at age 28 and with a career-long run of 37 yards, no one is going to confuse Davis with a speedster.
Hawkins offers enticing athleticism and deceptive speed. Tape study shows a player who moved better than his 4.45 40, and that is where the deception in Hawkins profile begins. Watching him brings visions of a back like Nyheim Hines, who we have seen ride passing game work to fantasy relevance. Therein lies the rub; Hawkins has topped one reception just three times during his entire college career. He is a work in progress, but he already paid the price for this shortcoming in draft capital, presenting a valuable opportunity should the role develop.
Cornell Powell (WR – KC)
Sense a theme yet? Opportunity runs over for some of these later-round sleeper rookies, and Powell is no different. Landing in the fifth round came with a blessing as Powell connected with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. A golden rule of fantasy, Mahomes targets equate to value.
Powell struggled early in his Clemson career, stuck behind NFL WRs like Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow, Amari Rodgers, and current Devy target Justyn Ross. Powell was knocked by coaches for inconsistent effort but was finally able to put it together en route to 882 yards as Clemson’s second-leading WR.
Powell brings an intriguing package of 4.47 speed and extreme physicality that belies his 6’0″ 205 lbs build. Watching the tape, he plays like a scaled-down version of A.J. Brown.
The actual excitement is landing in Kansas City. The secondary targets in the Chiefs offense have been a cavalcade of solidly unspectacular players. Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and Antonio Callaway will not appear on many sleeper lists at this point. If Powell can continue to build on his success, a path to relevance in a golden opportunity offense could lie ahead.
Kylen Granson (TE – IND)
Frank Riech raved about Gransen post-draft, and while it could be typical coach-speak, there is strong reason to pay attention. Granson recorded the third-fastest 40 of any TE in the draft leadup (4.62) and landed with both a coach and quarterback notorious for their TE usage.
The most intriguing aspect of Granson’s game his complimentary play styles to Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle. Granson is smaller than a traditional TE and profiles as a receiving “move” TE. If Reich were to clone Trey Burton in prospect form, Gransen would be the result in this class.
One more intriguing aspect of Granson is his age. He is an older prospect, having spent five years in college football. We have seen young TEs struggle to make an impact, particularly in fantasy. Still, his experience and open depth chart present a prime opportunity to return value off bargain basement draft capital.
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