Kyle Yates’ Top-10 Sleepers (2021 Fantasy Football)
Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite topic: sleepers! Every single year, I get asked questions from people who are just checking back into fantasy football right before their drafts asking who they should take with one of their last picks. It’s an incredible feeling to be ahead of the curve and identify a player that emerges out of nowhere to be a viable starter for your lineup. Plus, the bragging rights over your league mates are certainly a nice added bonus.
There are some very intriguing options that fall into the sleeper category this season and my goal here is to highlight my top-10 favorite options. By the nature of the topic, not every single option on this list is going to pan out, but they’re absolutely worth pulling the trigger on when you’re on the clock late in your drafts due to their potential.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that could make you look like a genius to the rest of your league!
Right now, Lance’s ADP is simply lying in wait and ready to catapult as soon as the preseason hits. Once fantasy managers see Lance on the field with this offense, we’re going to see his ADP skyrocket. The one thing that could hold it back though is the uncertainty regarding how long Jimmy G will remain the starter in SF. The bye week is the most likely outcome for when we see Kyle Shanahan switch things over to Lance, but there’s still a strong possibility that we see Lance on the field as early as Week 1. This will be one of the most fascinating situations to watch throughout training camp and the pre-season. Once Lance sees the field, he’s going to be immediately on the redraft radar with his rushing mobility and the receiving weapons he has at his disposal.
It was a perfect storm for Tua last year that caused people to question his abilities. Tua was still coming off of a brutal injury, it was a shortened off-season, his receiving corps was underwhelming and dealing with injury, and Justin Herbert outperforming him certainly didn’t help. Heading into year two, Tua now has a revamped receiving corps to throw to that fits his skillset perfectly and he’s had the full off-season to prepare as the starter. We’re not at the point where we can rely on Tua as a weekly starter, but let’s not forget what Tua can do when he’s healthy and has a solid arsenal of receiving weapons. He’s certainly on the streaming radar as we head into 2021.
One of my favorite sleepers for 2021 is already Rashaad Penny. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in action and fantasy managers are tired of hearing about the supposed breakout, which is why we’re going to see his ADP so low heading into this fantasy season. However, when Penny is healthy and in the lineup, the Seahawks have proven that they want him involved. In a dynamic offense, Penny should clearly see plenty of work behind Chris Carson that will keep him in the weekly FLEX consideration. Additionally though, he offers tremendous upside as an insurance RB if Carson were to miss time again with an injury. Adding Penny as the RB4 or RB5 to my roster this off-season in the later rounds is going to be a move I make every single time.
I was a big fan of Michael Carter in this 2021 pre-draft process and had him ranked as a top-5 RB. While he fell further in the NFL Draft than I was anticipating, he fell into a perfect landing spot for fantasy football. The Jets have an oft-injured Tevin Coleman above him on the depth chart and a second-year RB in La’Mical Perine that certainly doesn’t have this job locked down by any means. With Carter’s agility and explosiveness in this scheme, there’s a strong possibility that he takes over this job a few weeks into the season. The Jets will rotate in RBs, so it’s unlikely that Carter gets a massive workload, but he has the talent to capitalize on his opportunity. You might have to be patient for a bit if you end up drafting Carter in the mid/late rounds this year, but he could end up being a very solid contributor for your roster.
One of the players that I intend to leave every draft with this year is Henderson. While Akers will be the lead option in this backfield, Henderson should step in and see enough work each game to at least be in the FLEX conversation. With a 17-game schedule on the slate now, NFL coaches should start to involve other backs in their rotation to keep their starters fresh. With no other proven options behind Henderson and Akers on this depth chart, there’s a significant role for Henderson waiting to be grabbed. Additionally, Henderson comes with unspeakable upside if Akers were to miss time again this season. With his talent, plus the explosiveness of this offense, Henderson could truly be a league-winner. As your 4th or 5th RB in a redraft league, Henderson’s a home-run selection.
Waddle has the draft capital to his name, he has the speed and explosiveness to make an impact for fantasy, and he has familiarity already with his QB in Miami. We’ve seen rookie WRs step into the NFL and produce right away and Waddle could be the next one in line. With Fuller and Parker on the outside, Waddle will be able to settle into the slot and take short passes from Tua and create with his agility after the catch. He should see plenty of work from week one and I would not be surprised if he’s in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year when it’s all said and done. I’m drafting him everywhere I can this season.
Seemingly everyone’s favorite sleeper this year is the second-year wideout out of Tulane, Mooney. He put together some incredible film in his rookie season and there’s plenty there to build off of heading into 2021. He might not be a favorite target of Dalton’s right away deep downfield, but Fields loves to push the ball downfield for big plays and Mooney showed the constant ability to get open time and time again. We could be looking at some big numbers this season for Mooney as soon as Fields takes over and he’s worth drafting late and holding onto your bench until that happens.
If you’re looking for a player who could truly explode this upcoming season, Smith has to be at the top of your list. We’ve seen what Winston can do for his wide receivers from a fantasy perspective and Smith’s skillset matches with Winston’s perfectly. With Brees’ tendency to keep the ball closer to the line of scrimmage as his career progressed, Smith was never truly able to expand his game and be targeted deep downfield the way that he should be. Winston certainly has the capability of airing it out deep and there’s a path for someone else to step up in this offense. As a last round dart throw, Smith’s about as good as it gets.
As you assess the Lions receiving corps, it’s impossible to not be excited about St. Brown and his opportunity in this offense. With players like Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and Quintez Cephus above him on the depth chart, St. Brown has the talent to work his way into a starting role as early as Week 1. With Jared Goff‘s tendency to keep the ball close to the line of scrimmage, we could see St. Brown peppered with targets in 2021. The scoring opportunities might not be plentiful with this offense, but there’s a world in which St. Brown leads all rookie receivers in catches this season.
If you’re looking for a sleeper TE that could absolutely breakout this season, it’s easy to get excited about Trautman in New Orleans. Trautman needed some time to adjust to the NFL level after coming out of Dayton, but he’s got some big time talent that flashed in his limited opportunities last season. With Jared Cook now out of the picture, plus a very top-heavy receiving corps, Trautman’s staring a massive opportunity in the face. It’ll be up to him to see if he can rise to the challenge, but someone else in this offense will need to step up. Why not Trautman?