Early Fantasy Football Sleepers: Post NFL Draft (2022)
Now that the dust is settling from the madness of the NFL Draft this past weekend, there is a lot to unpack. If the insanity of free agency wasn’t enough, we had players rising and falling unexpectedly in the draft, and two huge player-for-picks trades go down in round one. However, things now appear to be calming down, and we can start to evaluate players and their current situations with more clarity.
Now is the time of year to separate yourself from your league mates. We know where most players will be suiting up in 2022, and we have a better idea of how each player will fit into their respective offenses. Therefore, identifying sleeper candidates – players outside the top-100 in the FantasyPros PPR Expert Consensus Draft Rankings – is a key to getting ahead and staying ahead come draft time.
FantasyPros PPR ECR: 117 (WR47)
This offseason, the New England Patriots have made it clear that they believe they can compete in the AFC East, making a handful of moves to strengthen their roster. One of those moves was acquiring WR DeVante Parker in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.
In 2021, QB Mac Jones, absent of a true take-over WR, completed passes to 14 different players. Jakobi Meyers led the team in targets (126) and receptions (83) but failed to be a scoring threat with only two touchdowns. Jones had to rely on TE Hunter Henry in the red zone, which netted him nine touchdown receptions. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 219 pounds, Parker will give Jones another big, athletic receiver to target in the red zone.
Devante Parker’s career has been riddled with season-shortening injuries and mediocre quarterback play in Miami. In 2019, he finished as the overall PPR WR11, eclipsing 1000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Since then, he hasn’t managed more than 14 games played in the past two seasons. His best overall fantasy finish in those two seasons was PPR WR40. New England desperately needs Parker to return to his 2019 form, and he should have a solid shot considering he has a better supporting cast with the Patriots.
Heading into 2022, Parker will be sharing WR duties with Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor. Second-round pick Tyquan Thornton doesn’t affect Parker much, as he’s a much slighter receiver who doesn’t battle for the ball well. The incumbent receivers have shown talent, but none have the potential upside of Parker if he can cement his role inside the 20 yard-line. His current ECR of WR52 could be a steal if he can put together a WR1 caliber season in New England.
FantasyPros PPR ECR: 146 (RB50)
The 2022 season saw the Buffalo Bills become a dominant force in the AFC, falling short of a Super Bowl appearance in a devastating loss for the Kansas City Chiefs. If you had to find a deficiency in the Bills’ offense, all signs would point to their backfield. The team’s leading rusher, Devin Singletary, only out-totaled QB Josh Allen in rushing yards by 107 yards on the season.
Furthermore, the backfield tandem of Singletary and Zack Moss saw a total of 82 targets in 2021. The Bills ranked seventh-to-last in the NFL in total RB targets with 109. After unsuccessfully attempting to sign free agent RB J.D. McKissic, the franchise decided to address their need for a pass-catching back in the draft, selecting Georgia running back James Cook with the 63rd overall pick in the NFL Draft this past weekend.
It’s not hard to see how Cook will fit into this dynamic Buffalo offense. His proficiency as a receiver was evident in his senior season, catching all 27 passes and turning four into touchdowns. In addition, Cook rushed 113 times for 728 yards and seven touchdowns. Unlike his older brother Dalvin, James isn’t going to blow you away between the tackles with his size. However, his burst at the line, ability to recognize and hit lanes, and acceleration in the secondary are all traits that bode well professionally. He is a significant mismatch in coverage for linebackers as well.
When Buffalo attempted to sign McKissic earlier in the offseason, it was clear they were looking to upgrade at RB. Singletary and Moss have been underwhelming in their time with the Bills, with neither back topping 900 rushing yards or 300 receiving yards in a season. Cook adds a dynamic element to an already solid offense. Given his second-round draft capital, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him exceed 70 targets and 150 carries in his rookie campaign. He could easily sneak into high-end RB2 territory, which is a steal at his current ECR of RB50.
FantasyPros PPR ECR: 150 (TE20)
Losing a player who has amassed more than 8,000 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns over his eight-year career is no minor hit to a team’s productivity. The conversation around who would become Rodgers’ new No. 1 target has centered around veteran WR Allen Lazard and recently drafted WR Christian Watson. Knowing Rodgers’ propensity for familiarity, we should also be talking about TE Robert Tonyan.
The 2020 season saw Tonyan break out in a big way, scoring 11 touchdowns on his way to being the overall TE3. His red-zone efficiency was exceptional, catching 10 of his 11 targets for 67 yards and seven touchdowns. 2021 was less exciting. He only managed double-digit fantasy points twice before tearing his ACL in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals and scored more than five once. With a healthy Aaron Jones, an emerging AJ Dillon, and a more involved Lazard, Tonyan was the odd man out.
The addition of Watson in the draft, coupled with his poor pre-injury performance in 2021, has Tonyan dropping in redraft rankings heading into offseason team activities. It’s understandable, given much of his 2020 production was touchdown-dependent. However, this dip in value is an opportunity, should it hold, to get ahead of your league mates in the late stages of your drafts. Getting a player with upside of finishing as a TE1 in the mid-13th round is the definition of a steal. Even if he ends 2022 as a high-end TE2, you’re likely not going to find a better value at tight end this upcoming season.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.