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15 Sleepers to Target or Fade (2022 Fantasy Football)

15 Sleepers to Target or Fade (2022 Fantasy Football)

When it comes to fantasy football, sleeper is a term you’ll see everywhere this time of year. While it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly what a sleeper is, there are definitely names that buzz each and every summer ahead of new NFL seasons. We’re here to help you determine if you should target or fade these popular fantasy football sleepers.

Rankings noted using FantasyPros half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and Consensus ADP.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

15 Fantasy Football Sleepers to Target or Fade

Elijah Mitchell (RB – SF)
ECR RB24 | ADP RB21

Elijah Mitchell ran away with the job last season en route to finishing as the RB14 in fantasy points per game. He was third in opportunity share, but his underlying rushing metrics were a lackluster ball of meh. He was 36th in juke rate, 30th in breakaway run rate, and 34th in yards created per touch. With his 7.0% target share and 25th ranking in route participation, he doesn’t have the pass game usage to save him if the rushing volume and efficiency aren’t there. It’s still possible that the 49ers roll it back in 2022 with him as the primary rusher, though, as long as he doesn’t face plant in camp.

Verdict: Fade

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
ECR RB26 | ADP RB28

Miles Sanders opened the year playing 60-83% of snaps in the first six games but only averaging 9.5 rushing attempts per game. He did see 3.8 targets per game. He then sustained an ankle injury that landed him on the injured reserve. When he returned from the ankle injury, he was the Eagles’ clear lead back (Weeks 11-15), averaging 16.8 carries per game, although his pass game usage dried up (1.8 targets per game). Despite seeing 23 touches inside the 20, he failed to get into the endzone in 2021. While Sanders will see touchdown regression this season, he will still have to deal with Jalen Hurts near the goal line and the looming specters of Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. He could return RB2 production this season, but there’s the risk with his injury history and how high-value touches could be divided up in 2022.

Verdict: Derek Brown Says Target, Andrew Erickson Says Fade

Ken Walker (RB – SEA)
ECR RB35 | ADP RB36

Kenneth Walker could also emerge from camp as the starter. Walker’s 99th percentile college dominator and 96th percentile speed score will be a welcome sight for Pete Carroll. We know the Seahawks want to establish the hell out of it with one of Drew Lock or Geno Smith looking like a possible Week 1 starter at quarterback. Since 2018 the Seahawks are third in neutral script rushing rate, so the volume will be there to support one elite-level back or tandem of backs with weekly RB2 or high RB3 potential.

Verdict: Derek Brown Says Target, Andrew Erickson Says Fade

AJ Dillon (RB – GB)
ECR RB25 | ADP RB27

A.J. Dillon started to emerge from his protege’s shadow with 187 rushing attempts, 803 rushing yards, and an RB29 fantasy points per game finish last year. Dillon isn’t the home run threat that Jones is (43rd in breakaway run rate), but he can still punish an opposing defense. He was 17th in yards created per touch in 14th in yards after contact per attempt (minimum 100 carries, per PFF), immediately behind Jones. Unless Jones succumbs to injury, Dillon is likely stuck in a 1B role with a healthy red-zone role.

Verdict: Target

Travis Etienne Jr. (RB – JAC)
ECR RB21 | ADP RB24

Travis Etienne Jr. was a standout college football running back for the Clemson Tigers from 2017 to 2020 and was selected by the Jaguars in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft -25th overall. However, his rookie season was cut short by a preseason Lisfranc injury. Some NFL personnel reported that Etienne could have come back towards the end of the year had the Jaguars been in playoff contention instead of being the league’s laughing stock.

Etienne is expected to be fully cleared by training camp, giving him a leg up on the RB1 role as the Jacksonville Jaguars install a new offense under new head coach Doug Pederson. With James Robinson attempting to come back from a torn Achilles injury suffered on December 26th, Etienne figures to be the featured back during this spring/summer.

Do not forget what this guy did at Clemson with Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC) as his quarterback. During his final season as a Clemson Tiger, he led the country in receiving yards and ranked second in receptions among running backs. Etienne also racked up the most rushing attempts of 20-plus yards (40) from 2018 to 2019 while only carrying the ball 20-plus times once since 2018.

Verdict: Target

Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC)
ECR QB18 | ADP QB18

Joe Burrow‘s massive second-year jump is encouraging for this year’s second-year QBs like Trevor Lawrence. The Jags quarterback finished with the same expected fantasy points per game average as Burrow in 2021 (17.3) but underwhelmed tremendously in a poor situation. His -72.3 fantasy points versus expectation were the most of any QB in 2021.

Lawrence posted a season-high 85.1 PFF passing grade in the season-finale, offering some hope that he can turn things around in 2022 with a new coaching staff in place.

There’s a strong chance that Jacksonville dials up the passing attempts with Doug Pederson calling the shots on offense. During his five-year tenure in Philadelphia, only once did the offense not finish top-10 in pass attempts.

Verdict: Fade

Trey Lance (QB – SF)
ECR QB13 | ADP QB14

Trey Lance is falling in best ball ADP because of reports surfacing that he is underwhelming at OTAs and because Jimmy Garoppolo remains on the roster. But after the 49ers beat reporters butchered the Trey Sermon situation last season and the 49ers’ massive investment in Lance last year, I view this situation as an easy buy-low scenario.

Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery is the reason he hasn’t been traded. Once he is deemed healthy, I’d presume he gets moved to a QB-needy team or to a roster that sustains an injury at the position.

Lance only started two games but showed off the rushing that excited fantasy managers during draft season. The 49ers’ first-year signal-caller averaged 22.4 expected fantasy points and 60 rushing yards per game.

Verdict: Target

Derek Carr (QB – LV)
ECR QB14 | ADP QB15

The biggest winner in the aftermath of the Davante Adams trade is Derek Carr. He now has the luxury of throwing to a surplus of offensive weapons including arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL in his old college teammate.

Let’s not forget that when Carr had everybody available last season, the Raiders quarterback ranked second in the NFL in passing yards and 15th in fantasy points per game. However, his ceiling was limited due to his lack of mobility and weaponry; Carr did not finish better than a top-8 quarterback at any point in 2021.

But Adams figures to provide Carr with a red-zone weapon like no other that will unlock his fantasy ceiling. He’s the exact positive touchdown regression that should launch Carr’s fantasy numbers. Carr’s 3.7 TD rate in 2021 was below his career average (4.3). And his 23 total passing touchdowns were seven below expectation.

Fully anticipate Carr throwing for 30-plus laser scores bare minimum with Adams at his disposal. Every quarterback last season that threw for at least 30 touchdowns finished inside the top-10 in 2021.

Verdict: Target

Chris Olave (WR – NO)
ECR WR49 | ADP WR49

The Saints aggressively moved up for a player they have faith in with Chris Olave. If Michael Thomas isn’t fully healthy, Olave could be pressed into number one wide receiver duties as Jarvis Landry is merely a complementary piece at this stage of his career. Olave is a polished prospect who finished 11th or better in yards per route run in two of the last three seasons (minimum 50 targets per PFF). Olave is a WR4 with massive upside if Thomas isn’t ready to rock.

Verdict: Target

Christian Kirk (WR – JAC)
ECR WR41 | ADP WR44

Everything came together for Christian Kirk in 2021 because he was finally used from the slot. Unsurprisingly, Kirk established career highs across the board in targets (112), receptions (83), and receiving yards (1,035) while filling the void left by an injured DeAndre Hopkins.

Kirk commanded a 21% target share without Hopkins in the lineup and averaged 13.8 fantasy PPR points per game – a top-10 per-game average. In addition, he finished with the second most receiving yards from the slot among all wide receivers.

Kirk should stay kicked iside with the Jaguars after they got little production from that position in 2021. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault ranked in the bottom 10 with 1.30 yards per route run from the slot. Kirk ranked 13th with 1.80 yards per route run from the slot. He is shaping up to be the new Amari Rodgers for Trevor Lawrence, operating from the inside.

At worst, Kirk takes shape as a strong WR3 asset who can elevate to WR2 status quickly with an up-and-coming quarterback.

Verdict: Target

Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
ECR WR25 | ADP WR24

Entering Year 3, Jerry Jeudy finally has a quarterback who can take full advantage of his ability to separate from defenders – 96th percentile separation percentage in 2021 – with Russell Wilson taking the reins.

With Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick operating from the outside, Jeudy figures to become Wilson’s go-to target in the slot unless K.J. Hamler pushes him out. Jeudy’s efficiency metrics should also see a massive boost now that he’s catching passes from a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, but it remains to be seen if Jeudy will play an ancillary role as a red-zone threat.

Upgrading from Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater to Wilson is great for Jeudy, but we have to remember that he is still an unproven fantasy commodity. Great route-running and separation skills aside, he hasn’t scored many fantasy points the last two seasons.

And that’s not the case with every Denver receiver, because Patrick’s production last two seasons earned him a three-year, $34.5 million contract extension.

Even so, Jeudy should easily experience his best NFL season to date in 2022, but it may not be as great as some die-hard Jeudy stans would care to admit. There are a lot of weapons in Denver, and predicting Wilson’s best option on a week-to-week basis was often a challenge when it was only between DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

As with those Seahawks receivers, there are going to be inconsistent weeks from Jeudy. And his lack of red-zone usage makes him more susceptible to bust games without having a touchdown opportunity to fall back on.

Verdict: Fade

Adam Thielen (WR – MIN)
ECR WR34 | ADP WR31

The 32-year old wideout has made his hay in fantasy because of his “ability” to find the end zone 24 times since the start of 2020, but it’s something that just isn’t sustainable in the long term. Based on Thielen’s targets and yardage totals, his total TD number should be closer to 16.

Justin Jefferson is an ascending rocketship that will only see his TDs rise entering Year 3, most likely coming at the detriment of Thielen. Not to mention, AT’s age may finally be catching up to him after he posted his lowest PFF receiving grade and yards per route run since he first became a starter back in 2016.

Verdict: Derek Brown Says Target, Andrew Erickson Says Fade

Irv Smith (TE – MIN)
ECR TE17 | ADP TE14

Assuming Irv Smith is at full health to start the season, he could compete with Adam Thielen as the second target in Minnesota behind Justin Jefferson. Let’s not forget that Smith was eighth in yards per target and second in QBR when targeted among tight ends in 2020. The Vikings surprised everyone by ranking 12th in neutral passing rate and eighth in neutral pace last year. If that repeats, the volume will be there for Smith. As an unrestricted free agent in 2023, Smith should be heavily motivated to post career-best numbers.

Verdict: Target

Cole Kmet (TE – CHI)
ECR TE12 | ADP TE13

Cole Kmet ranked inside the top 12 amongst tight ends in targets (93, eighth), target share (17.7%, 11th), receiving yards (612, 12th), and air yard share (17.6%, 11th). With the depth chart devoid of receiving talent outside of Darnell Mooney, Kmet should see a similar share of the passing offense (if not more) in 2022. With touchdown regression poised to strike his box scores, Kmet is a high floor and ceiling option in fantasy.

Verdict: Target

Evan Engram (TE – JAC)
ECR TE21 | ADP TE19

Evan Engram‘s PFF receiving grade has declined over the last four seasons, bottoming out in 2021 at 54.9 – 40th among 44 qualifying tight ends.

And he hasn’t disappointed due to a lack of opportunities, either. He finished top-15 in route participation (68%) and had almost zero competition for targets with injuries to Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepard.

Alas, Engram failed to command any worthwhile target share with his abysmal 14% target rate per route run. So consider me slightly hesitant to buy into Engram breaking out in 2022 because his new head coach has a history of featuring tight ends. Sure, it works in Engram’s favor, but last I checked Dan Arnold is still on the team. And Doug Pederson has also been known to heavily feature two tight ends in his offense, which doesn’t always translate to fantasy success.

Verdict: Fade

FantasyPros Staff Consensus 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings

 

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