Three Early Sleeper Candidates (2022 Fantasy Football)
Building a winning roster in fantasy football is never easy, no matter the format. It can be far more difficult in redraft formats when you have to start over with a fresh squad every season. Getting that league-winning player – like Josh Allen or Jonathan Taylor – can hinge on getting a prime draft slot. This makes finding sleepers even more critical in redraft.
Sometimes when identifying a sleeper candidate, we can have unrealistic expectations. While it would be great if every sleeper that panned out finished as a top-tier scorer at their position, that isn’t necessarily the goal. Finding a player going in the last two rounds of your drafts with mid-WR3 upside can make a difference down the stretch of the fantasy regular season and playoffs.
Here are three candidates I expect to outperform their Average Draft Position (ADP) that can be picked up in the late rounds, if not on the waiver wire after the draft is complete.
Tyler Allgeier (RB – ATL)
ECR: 172 (RB57)
In 2021, the Atlanta Falcons gave us the gift of RB/WR hybrid Cordarrelle Patterson‘s ninth-year break-out, seeing him finish as the overall RB9. Of course, no one saw it coming, and for one of the good guys in the league to find late-career success was one of the season’s feel-good stories. Heading into the 2022 season, however, most are realistic that Patterson cannot do it again. That leaves a significant role for the taking in Atlanta, and the next man up very well could be rookie RB Tyler Allgeier.
The lead RB role in this offense could prove to be a lucrative one. Matt Ryan is gone, and we are now looking at a training camp QB competition between free-agent signing Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. However that battle pans out; this team will likely be far more run-heavy without Ryan around. Patterson won’t be phased entirely out of the offense, but at age 31, durability becomes a concern. As a result, we will likely see him used more in the passing game in 2022, and either Allgeier or new free-agent acquisition Damien Williams will get the chunk of carries. My bet is on Allgeier, as he adds pass-catching upside mixed with tenacious running style in short-yardage situations.
If this backfield should lean towards a committee approach, Allgeier still has the potential to be a situational play in weeks where we know Atlanta will run the ball more. His ability to effectively run routes and find holes at the line will earn him enough opportunity to prove his worth. We could see him take over the RB1 role sometime during the season. While his ceiling is likely in the RB3 tier, his ECR puts him in the mid-to-late 14th round of most drafts.
Matt Ryan (QB – IND)
ECR: 165 (QB21)
It’s fair to say most in the fantasy football community left Ryan for dead after an abysmal second half of the 2021 season in Atlanta. After a decent start – he was the overall QB18 through Week 9 – the wheels fell off, and Ryan finished the season as the overall QB26. That finish doesn’t necessarily instill confidence in a QB who will be 37 years-old heading into the 2022 season. This is reflected in his current FantasyPros Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) of QB21.
The Falcons chose to move on from Ryan, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts back in March this year. As a result, he now finds himself in a much-improved situation compared to 2021. He will now have Jonathan Taylor, the overall RB1 for last season, lining up beside him. His new receiving corps includes Michael Pittman, a healthy Parris Campbell, and second-round pick Alec Pierce. In addition, he now has a head coach, Frank Reich, who made Carson Wentz (overall QB14) serviceable in 2021.
Ryan is stepping into an improved offensive line situation. Per Pro Football Focus, the Colts had the 12th best offensive line unit in 2021 versus the Falcons’ abysmal 26th ranked unit. With the upgrade in protection, he should be able to effectively run an offense loaded with talent. A return to the 4,000-yard, 25-plus touchdown Matt Ryan isn’t out of the question.
If Ryan’s current ADP holds, he will still be available in the 13th round of most drafts. However, his QB21 ranking is likely his floor in 2022, making him a safe pick in Superflex formats. While it is riskier in single QB leagues, his ceiling has Ryan creeping into QB1-tier territory and could be worth the risk if he can have a productive season in Indianapolis.
D’Onta Foreman (RB – CAR)
ECR: 166 (RB55)
There isn’t much to like about the Carolina Panthers heading into the 2022 season. It appears the team is content to let QBs Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral battle it out for the starting nod behind center. The team also opted to stick with the same WR corps from last season that, outside of D.J. Moore, is one of the worst in the league. The lone bright spot for the Panthers is their RB room. The headline here is that Christian McCaffery is back and seemingly healthy. However, having played just 10 games in the last two seasons, there are concerns around McCaffery’s durability, which the team appears to have addressed by signing RB D’Onta Foreman in free agency.
Foreman was a forgotten name by many fans after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the first game of his sophomore campaign in Houston in 2018. However, he re-emerged this past season in Tennessee when RB Derrick Henry was injured in Week 8. The Titans chose to go with a committee approach early on, opting to shift work between Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Jeremy McNichols, even signing free agent Adrian Peterson for a short time. In Week 15, Foreman saw an uptick in opportunities, earning 20-plus carries in three of his last four games, scoring two touchdowns, and averaging 14.6 fantasy points per game.
As long as McCaffery is healthy, he is the clear No. 1 RB in Carolina. However, Foreman is a physical back who does well as a bruiser, the exact thing this team wants to avoid with “CMC.” You can expect him to get a fair amount of red-zone touches and short-yardage work, and he could factor into the passing game, though likely minimally. Foreman isn’t a player who will provide you weekly value unless he’s thrusted into a more significant role due to injury. He will, however, be a solid spot start depending on a favorable workload. He will still be available as late as the 14th round in most drafts, making him an affordable stash on your bench.
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