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Fantasy Football Sleepers On All 32 Teams

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 27, 2021


 
We have this conversation every year. What does the term “sleeper” mean in fantasy football? Many will argue about it, saying you can’t call Player X a sleeper because “he’s not a sleeper if everyone knows about him.” This is where the hardcore fantasy players are wrong. They live in a bubble on Twitter, when in reality, that’s a very small part of the fantasy world. The truth is that there are many variations of the word sleeper.

There are some home leagues where Mike Williams won’t be drafted simply because he’s hurt fantasy managers in the past. I remember that being the case with one of my friends who refused to draft Tony Romo. There was a year where Romo was injured early in the game during the fantasy playoffs, and it cost my friend a shot at the title.

There are other home leagues where you’ll see five quarterbacks come off the board in the first few rounds because “quarterbacks score the most points.” We don’t have time to get into that conversation right now, but those leagues are out there, and there’s more than you think.

These are a few of the reasons your term sleeper might vary from others. So, the best way for us to approach the term “sleeper” for the masses, we’re going to use ADP (Average Draft Position). This is the best way to get an average of both hardcore and casual leagues. For this article, I’m going to stick to players being drafted outside the top-120 of early ADP, as it means you’re able to get them in the double-digit rounds of a 12-team draft, well after your starting lineup has been filled.

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Arizona Cardinals

Christian Kirk (WR) Current ADP: 198 overall (WR66)
I’m old enough to remember when Kirk was the “next big thing” in fantasy football. Sure, the trade for DeAndre Hopkins derailed his path to elite targets, but don’t forget that Kirk had a four-week stretch where he posted 17 receptions, 324 yards, and five touchdowns in 2020, and that was with both Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald on the field. It’s possible Kirk moves into the slot this year, which would be a more natural position for him, anyway. Kirk could have a Golden Tate-like career arc.

Atlanta Falcons

Javian Hawkins (RB) Current ADP: 206 overall (RB62)
This could’ve easily been Russell Gage, but we’re shooting higher than that. Hawkins was one of the shiftier running backs in this year’s rookie class, though size was an issue. Because of that, he went undrafted. The Falcons snagged him as an undrafted free agent almost immediately, and they haven’t added any more running backs since that time. Mike Davis is the clear No. 1 running back for them right now, but behind him, the depth chart is wide open.

Baltimore Ravens

Rashod Bateman (WR) Current ADP:175 overall (WR59)
This situation reminds me a lot of Justin Jefferson last year, though I won’t the same mistake twice. Jefferson went to a run-first team that didn’t have enough volume for him to make an impact, especially as a rookie wide receiver. Kirk Cousins was always good and efficient with his wide receivers, as Lamar Jackson has been. The difference? Bateman is the best receiver on his team, while Jefferson took some time to pass Adam Thielen. You could be landing an every-week starter with Bateman in the double-digit rounds.

Buffalo Bills

Gabriel Davis (WR) Current ADP: 196 overall (WR64)
Despite playing behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley his rookie season, Davis made his presence felt, racking up 599 yards and seven touchdowns on just 62 targets. The Bills lost Brown this offseason but gained Emmanuel Sanders. They’re not the same player, as Sanders isn’t someone who’ll stretch the field the way Brown or Davis did/can. If you’re looking for a boom-or-bust player in the late rounds who just might pay off, Davis makes sense.

Carolina Panthers

Terrace Marshall (WR) Current ADP: 246 overall (WR77)
While I wasn’t big on Marshall during the draft process, he might have more opportunity than most rookies do right out of the gate. His experience in Joe Brady’s offense (Panthers offensive coordinator) should pay dividends right away, and if Sam Darnold can at least be competent, this is the same offense that produced three top-25 wide receivers with Teddy Bridgewater in 2020.

Chicago Bears

Darnell Mooney (WR) and Justin Fields (QB) Current ADPs: 153 overall (WR55) and 159 overall (QB21)
It’s funny because these two almost coincide with each other. Fields’ best attribute was accuracy, particularly down the field. Meanwhile, Mooney showed the ability to break the top off secondaries last year, though he didn’t have anyone to consistently get him the ball. While Andy Dalton is sure to be an upgrade, Fields would skyrocket Mooney’s stock. As for Fields himself, I’d set the over/under at 3.5 games before he makes his debut and wouldn’t be surprised if they let him start Week 2. Once Fields does start, he’s going to be at least a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 most weeks due to the points his legs will create.

Cincinnati Bengals

Chris Evans (RB) Current ADP: Undrafted
The Bengals let Giovani Bernard walk this offseason, which has opened the door for Evans, their sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. Brian Callahan, the team’s offensive coordinator, said he’s never been around a running back who could catch the ball as naturally as he does. As long as he can pass-block, which he did a fine job of in college, Evans might be in line to take that No. 2 job behind Joe Mixon.

Cleveland Browns

Austin Hooper (TE) Current ADP: 284 overall (TE33)
Look, I’m not a Hooper guy. In fact, I was telling drafters to avoid him at his TE10 cost last year. However, seeing him drop to essentially undrafted, even in the deepest of leagues, is a mistake. Despite missing three full games to an appendectomy (which likely affected his performance upon return), Hooper delivered at least 52 yards and/or a touchdown in 7-of-13 games, meaning he’s perfectly fine for a platooning/streaming tight end.

Dallas Cowboys

Blake Jarwin (TE) Current ADP: 235 overall (TE27)
It’s rare to find value on the Cowboys. They’re America’s Team, after all. But with Jarwin, you’re getting a steal. After doing my initial set of projections, Jarwin came out as a top-15 tight end, which was very conservative, considering Dalton Schultz, the guy who was his clear-cut backup last year, stepped into the role in Week 2 and finished as the TE14 on the season, and that was despite Dak Prescott missing nearly 75 percent of the season.

Denver Broncos

Teddy Bridgewater (QB) Current ADP: Undrafted
Based on all the reports I’m seeing out of Denver, Bridgewater is going to be the starting quarterback for the Broncos in Week 1. You then look at the group of skill-position players he has at his disposal, and it might be the best in the NFL. Between Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, and K.J. Hamler, they have a variant of any weapon you’d want. In Superflex/2QB leagues, Bridgewater might turn out to be a steal.

Detroit Lions

Amon-Ra St. Brown or Quintez Cephus (WR) Current ADPs: 183 overall (WR61) and 293 overall (WR96)
Many have been quick to tab St. Brown with the starting job, though I’m not positive that’s the case. Cephus made some waves his rookie season with limited playing time, producing a 120.4 QB Rating when targeted, the highest mark among rookie wide receivers. The thing St. Brown has going for him is that his playstyle is similar to Robert Woods‘, which would work well with Jared Goff. St. Brown is also expected to be a bit more slot heavy than Cephus, which bodes well for his chances to get on the field early and often, as Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman figure to have the perimeter jobs locked down. St. Brown might be the safer play here, while Cephus has more of a chance to become a true No. 1 option.

Green Bay Packers

Amari Rodgers (WR) Current ADP: Undrafted
I wonder if Rodgers would be getting drafted if everyone knew Aaron Rodgers would be under center for the Packers? Here is the list of wide receivers that Rodgers has thrown to who’ve been drafted inside the top three rounds: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and now Amari Rodgers. That’s it. That’s the list. Rodgers made all of them every-week fantasy options. Some took longer than others to develop into every-week superstars, but let’s not pretend it should be hard for Amari Rodgers to leapfrog Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard on the depth chart.

Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson (QB) Current ADP: 155 overall (QB20)
This one is tough, but I ultimately went with Watson, because if he’s not playing, I don’t see any value in drafting anyone from this offense, especially those who are going outside the top 10 rounds. It’s going to be tough to justify a pick on Watson, who’s likely to receive at least a four-game suspension, and might not even play for the Texans, but if you were able to get Patrick Mahomes in the 13th/14th round knowing he had a chance to play 10-plus games, would you? The answer is likely yes. Watson has been just as good as Mahomes in fantasy.

Indianapolis Colts

Parris Campbell (WR) Current ADP: 259 overall (WR82)
We haven’t gotten to see what Campbell can do in the NFL just yet, though we did get a glimpse in 2020 when he rattled off six catches for 71 yards in Week 1 prior to getting injured. That’s been the problem… injuries. He’s missed a lot of time over his first two years in the league, but don’t forget he’s an electric player who the Colts drafted in the second round. The addition of Carson Wentz should help his role grow, as Wentz has loved his intermediate targets over the middle of the field throughout his career. Campbell played 95 percent of his snaps in the slot before getting hurt last year, indicating he’ll play in the area Wentz loves.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence (QB) Current ADP: 132 overall (QB15)
It’s odd we aren’t getting better value on Jaguars players, as they already have three players going inside the top-80, as well as Laviska Shenault and Lawrence teetering on the top-120. For a team that won just one game in 2020, that’s odd. The player who’s changed that outlook the most is Lawrence, who comes in pro-ready. When looking for a sleeper at the quarterback position, you need someone who’s going to throw plenty of attempts and utilize his legs. The Jaguars defense is still in rebuild mode, so the pass attempts shouldn’t be a problem. Lawrence also rushed for nearly 800 yards and 17 touchdowns over his final 25 games at Clemson, which gives us the mobility we seek. Shenault was borderline top-120, so I didn’t use him for this spot.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mecole Hardman (WR) Current ADP: 162 overall (WR56)
It was just less than a year ago when fantasy managers were drafting Hardman as a borderline WR3 in fantasy, but they missed something. He was rumored to have been taken off special teams, but soon thereafter, the Chiefs put him back on, which was always going to hinder his ability to be a full-time receiver. Does that change in 2021 now that Sammy Watkins is officially gone? If Hardman is kept on special teams duties, sleeper names to watch are Byron Pringle and Cornell Powell. Should Hardman become a full-time receiver and play most of the snaps, he’ll be a breakout player in 2021.

Las Vegas Raiders

Bryan Edwards (WR) Current ADP: 273 overall (WR91)
The Raiders were high on Edwards during last year’s draft process, though injuries derailed his progress. Once Nelson Agholor left, it felt like Edwards might be starting in 2WR sets, though they quickly replaced Agholor with the veteran John Brown. Still, Edwards is the only notable receiver on the team who’s over six-feet tall and can play that go-to role they seek outside of Darren Waller. We’ve also heard Derek Carr say that Edwards reminded him of his former teammate in college, Davante Adams, which is never a bad thing.

Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams (WR) Current ADP: 130 overall (WR49)
How often can you find a wide receiver being drafted outside the top 40 at his position who’s capable of posting WR1-type numbers? Williams fits that bill. He already has a 1,000-yard season on his resume. He already has a 10-touchdown season on it. He also happens to have one of the brightest young stars as his quarterback with little else on the depth chart outside of Keenan Allen. Health has been the biggest question mark for Williams, but once you’re outside the top-40 wide receivers, there’s hardly guaranteed production on the board, so take the upside. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a top-30 wide receiver. I’ll give an honorable mention to Larry Rountree here for deep leaguers, as well.

Los Angeles Rams

Tyler Higbee (TE) Current ADP: 124 overall (TE13)
It was supposed to be Darrell Henderson in this slot, but once Cam Akers went down with his Achilles injury, that eliminated that idea. If you’re someone who misses out on the top tight ends, don’t panic. Someone like Higbee paired with another upside tight end (like Blake Jarwin) could pay huge dividends. There’ve been six times over the course of Higbee’s career where he’s tallied more than 67 yards. Five of those games came at the end of the 2019 season when Gerald Everett was either out of the lineup or very limited. Well, Everett has been signed by the Seahawks, and the next man up on the Rams depth chart to fill his spot is Brycen Hopkins or Jacob Harris, who’ve combined to see as many targets as I have in an NFL uniform (none). If you want a deep sleeper on the Rams, it’s Van Jefferson.

Miami Dolphins

Salvon Ahmed (RB) Current ADP: 199 overall (RB61)
To be clear, I was going to say Jaylen Waddle here, but he eeked just inside the top-120 players, which forced me to look elsewhere. Ahmed’s kind of gone under the radar this offseason, though it’s odd because of how well he played when given the opportunity last year as Myles Gaskin‘s primary backup. He tallied 63 total touches, 291 total yards, and two touchdowns in the three games he played a big role, which is certainly enough to be started in fantasy. Worst case scenario is that he’s a handcuff to Gaskin, who hasn’t proven the ability to remain healthy in a workhorse role.

Minnesota Vikings

Alexander Mattison (RB) Current ADP: 144 overall (RB49)
It would obviously take an injury for Mattison to pan out, but that’s the case with most sleepers, especially those who are taken outside the top 12 rounds, like Mattison is. There aren’t many running backs you could say are locked-in borderline RB1 starters if the actual starter went down, but that’d be the case with Mattison who’s rumbled for 896 yards on just 196 carries (4.57 yards per carry) as Dalvin Cook‘s backup the last two years. This is a team that wants to run the ball, and it’s not like Cook has been reliable; he’s still yet to play more than 14 games in a season.

New England Patriots

Jonnu Smith (TE) and Jakobi Meyers (WR) Current ADP: 134 overall (TE14) and 339 overall (WR112)
The fact that the Patriots signed Hunter Henry this offseason does put a dent in the love I can have for Smith, but make no mistake about it, Smith was the one they wanted, signing him immediately when free agency opened. Smith’s talent was not put on display nearly enough with the Titans, as he never saw more than 65 targets in a single season. Despite that, he finished as a top-12 tight end in 2020. Once you get outside the top five tight ends, you’re chasing upside, and Smith has plenty of it. As for Meyers, he didn’t take the starting job until Week 7. Despite that, and poor quarterback play, he finished as the WR24 from Weeks 7-17, despite not scoring a single receiving touchdown. He might be the new version of Julian Edelman in this offense. Best of all, he’s free.

New Orleans Saints

Adam Trautman (TE) Current ADP: 208 overall (TE21)
I could’ve simply put both quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston here, and in fact, I think it’s a good strategy in Superflex to grab both for your QB2/3 slots. However, no matter which quarterback is under center, we should see Trautman as a potential breakout candidate. Behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, the Saints are depleted of verified pass catchers, and now knowing Thomas might miss half the season, it’s possible Trautman flirts with 90-100 targets. On top of that, both Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook out of town, which opens the door for plenty of opportunity. If you’re into doing projections, it’s hard to not see Trautman finishing as a top-12 tight end this year.

New York Giants

Sterling Shepard (WR) Current ADP: 194 overall (WR63)
I get it, Kenny Golladay is going to be the No. 1 receiver on this team… when he’s healthy and on the field. Shepard is extremely talented and had some of his best games while Odell Beckham was on the field with him. Many have dubbed Kadarius Toney as the slot receiver, but I believe it’ll be Shepard in the slot for their three-wide receiver sets. You don’t give a guy six-plus targets in 26 of his last 28 games, and then just flush him out of the offense.

New York Jets

Elijah Moore (WR) Current ADP: 173 overall (WR58)
I almost put Corey Davis here, but that felt like cheating because his ADP may shift a few spots and he wouldn’t meet the criteria (currently 127 overall), so I avoided him even though he’s a steal right now. Instead, I’m going with Moore, who the Jets are enamored with. When there’s a steady drumbeat for a player over the offseason, you need to pay attention. Each and every beat reporter who’s been to Jets camp has said he’s the best player on the field and that they’re going to find ways to get him the ball. It’s also worth noting that A.J. Brown said Moore is a better receiver than him. Heck, if he’s 75 percent as good as Brown, we’ll take it.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Reagor (WR) Current ADP: 202 overall (WR66)
Remember Week 1 of last season when Reagor got behind the Washington secondary to reel in a 55-yard bomb? Little did we know that he wouldn’t top that mark in a full game for the remainder of the season. It was a similar story for much of the Eagles receivers, though, as none of them topped 539 yards on the season. But we’re not playing 2020 over again. This is a new coaching staff with a new quarterback, so don’t forget about Reagor, who’ll start opposite DeVonta Smith in 2WR sets.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger (QB) Current ADP: 150 overall (QB19)
There really isn’t much of a sleeper on the Steelers, as they already have four players going inside the top 80 picks of fantasy drafts. However, the guy throwing the ball to those three receivers going inside the top-30 wide receivers, is not going anywhere near there. He’s not going to finish as a top-five quarterback or anything, but Roethlisberger has thrown at least 28 touchdowns in each of the last six seasons he’s played more than 12 games. He’s a perfectly fine QB2 in Superflex/2QB formats.

San Francisco 49ers

Trey Lance (QB) Current ADP: 172 overall (QB23)
It’s a shame Trey Sermon moved into the top-120, as he was sitting outside of it for quite some time. Instead, we’ll go with Lance, who might take a moment to surface, but the payoff can be immense. You don’t trade away three first-round picks in order to take a guy you’re going to sit for very long. They obviously felt he was a game-changer who could take their offense to the next level. Not only do you have Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, you also have a great surrounding cast (George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk), and a quarterback with tons of mobility. Lance reminded me a bit of Josh Allen in the scouting process, a player we’ve seen contend for the No. 1 fantasy quarterback. There’s legitimate top-10 upside with Lance.

Seattle Seahawks

Dwayne Eskridge (WR) Current ADP: 305 overall (WR99)
The Seahawks always trade back in the NFL Draft. Most people expected them to this year, too, when they had just three picks in the entire draft, including just one pick before pick 137. Rather than trade back, they selected Eskridge, a playmaker who can stretch the field. Pairing him with Russell Wilson could lead to fireworks, especially if there were an injury to one of D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett. Even with those guys healthy, Eskridge should have boom or bust potential on a weekly basis given how much the Seahawks believe in him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

O.J. Howard (TE) Current ADP: 205 overall (TE22)
We barely got to see Tom Brady toss the ball to Howard in 2020, but what we did see was Howard out-producing Rob Gronkowski. It’s easy to forget that Howard was supposed to be the next big thing at tight end, similar to how people feel about Kyle Pitts today. Early reports out of Bucs camp suggest Howard is being flexed as a receiver and that Brady sees him as a legit threat in the passing game. With Gronkowski getting up there in age/bumps/bruises, we could see Howard finally take the step many thought he would years ago. Best of all, you’ll find out for free.

Tennessee Titans

Darrynton Evans (RB) Current ADP: 211 overall (RB64)
It’s easy to forget there are running backs not named Derrick Henry on the Titans roster, but I assure you there is. Evans is someone I thought would be an excellent timeshare running back coming out last year, and knowing Henry is coming off nearly a 400-touch season, we should expect them to lighten the workload. Don’t forget it’s a brand-new offense with Arthur Smith gone, which could involve Evans a bit more on third downs. Based on the history of running backs with nearly 400 touches, Henry is also at an increased injury risk, which would obviously open a door for Evans.

Washington Football Team

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) Current ADP: 174 overall (QB24)
This might seem weird to some, but Fitzpatrick has produced QB1-type numbers in 18-of-37 games over the last four years (includes seven games where he threw 18 or less passes). Do you know how many quarterbacks posted QB1-type numbers in better than 50 percent of their games in 2020? 10 of them. That’s it. Under Scott Turner, the Panthers threw the ball 633 times with Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, and Will Grier in 2019. Then, in 2020, Washington threw the ball 599 times with Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, and Kyle Allen. There have been just two seasons where Fitzpatrick has thrown the ball more than 505 times, and in both of those seasons, he finished as a top-12 quarterback.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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