Deep sleepers are the hardest gems to find in fantasy football. But if you strike gold, it can make an enormous difference in your fantasy fortunes.
So let’s get straight to it. Here are 10 deep sleepers to keep an eye on late in your drafts and perhaps even on the waiver wire. Some of these guys are unknowns, while some are established players who have fallen under the radar.
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10. Tyler Conklin (TE – NYJ)
Conklin was the other tight end the Jets added in free agency, inking him to a 3-year, $21 million contract this offseason. The signing that garnered more headlines was former Bengals veteran C.J. Uzomah. But it’s actually been Conklin who has stood out in training camp, developing a rapport with Zach Wilson. And Conklin is coming off a decent season, during which he caught 61 balls for 593 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota. He actually finished as the TE17.
Conklin is currently ranked as the TE38. He’s virtually undraftable right now. However, keep him on your radar if you’re looking for a starter on the waiver wire.
9. Evan Engram (TE – JAC)
Tight end is a great position to throw darts at because basically everyone outside of the top six guys are complete crap shoots. If you choose to wait until the last minute to draft a tight end, Engram could be a decent upside option.
Engram has been a fantasy-relevant tight end in the past, but he’s battled drop issues and injuries. Now, he arrives in Jacksonville with head coach Doug Pederson who makes the tight end a priority in his passing game. In 2020 (Pederson’s last year in Philadelphia), his tight ends combined to catch 106 passes for 1,204 yards and six touchdowns.
It might not be that prosperous for Engram. But all you’re looking for at tight end is 60 catches, 800 yards, and six touchdowns. That’s certainly feasible for him, and he’s ranked as the TE22.
8. Baker Mayfield (QB – CAR)
Quarterback is a hard position to find a “deep” sleeper at since there are only 32 starters. But Mayfield is being a little slept on after being shipped out of Cleveland to Carolina. Mayfield will be plenty motivated to revive his career in Carolina, where he’ll have DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey as a nice foundation to work with.
Mayfield finished as the QB17 in 2020 before stubbornly playing through a shoulder injury last season. He’s more of an option in 2QB leagues but could be a viable streamer in certain matchups. All is not lost like his QB27 ranking would indicate.
7. Samaje Perine (RB – CIN)
Perine isn’t going to wow or excite you. But the Bengals have been transparent about not wanting to overwork Joe Mixon in the passing game. And with Chris Evans struggling in his preseason start Friday night, it looks like Perine will hold Cincinnati’s third-down role when Mixon is out of the game.
Being the passing down back in an offense as good as Cincinnati’s could offer useful standalone value. But it’s good knowing Perine, ranked as the RB67, would likely shoulder the load should Mixon get hurt.
6. Jalen Tolbert (WR – DAL)
Tolbert is an electric receiver out of South Alabama who caught 84 balls for 1,474 yards and eight scores in his final season with the Jaguars. The Round 3 pick could be walking into a really favorable receiving room in Dallas.
Veterans Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson are now in Cleveland and Miami, respectively. Michael Gallup will likely start the season injured. James Washington has a fractured foot and is out for the season. The depth chart is open for Tolbert to see the field immediately. And Dallas’ unofficial depth chart currently lists Tolbert as a starter alongside CeeDee Lamb.
5. Nico Collins (WR – HOU)
Nico Collins could serve as the big-bodied X-receiver opposite Brandin Cooks in Houston. As a rookie, he caught 33 passes for 446 yards and a touchdown. Coming into year two, Collins has shown improved route running in camp.
Houston’s passing game isn’t an outstanding situation unless Davis Mills takes significant strides. But with an uninspiring depth chart around him, Collins has an opportunity to start right away and could be an impact player in the red zone given his 6-foot-4 frame. As the WR65, you’re essentially getting Collins for free in drafts.
4. Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU)
Pierce is a rookie out of Florida who walks into a wide open running back depth chart. When Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead are your competition, you have to at least take a look at the alternative.
The good news is Pierce has impressed thus far at Texans camp.
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 10, 2022
Pierce scored 16 touchdowns on just 119 touches during his final year at Florida, where he was grossly underused. Ranked as the RB47, he could be worth a flyer as you fill out your tailback depth chart.
3. Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)
Two spots behind Pierce is Hines. By now, we know Hines is primarily a pass-catching specialist. But after catching just 40 balls last season, Hines could be a greater fixture in the passing game. Heck, back in May, coach Frank Reich essentially endorsed Hines as a worthy fantasy pick.
The Colts are expected to throw the ball more in 2022 now that Carson Wentz is out of town. New QB Matt Ryan isn’t afraid to check the ball down, and let’s not forget that Cordarrelle Patterson caught 52 passes and five receiving touchdowns with Ryan at the helm last year.
Jonathan Taylor caught 40 balls last year, but I’d expect that number to go down as the Colts place greater emphasis on keeping their star back fresh. In an offense with no proven receivers outside of Michael Pittman, Hines could line up as a wideout on occasion too. In PPR leagues, he’s a must-draft as the RB49.
2. George Pickens (WR – PIT)
Despite tearing his ACL in 2021 and playing just four games in 2022, the Steelers still selected Pickens in the second round. The Georgia product is an athletic, 6-foot-3 outside threat with plenty of burst for his size.
Like plenty of guys on this list, Pickens has opened eyes during training camp with some highlight reel plays and has developed a rapport with likely starter Mitchell Trubisky.
— NFL (@NFL) July 31, 2022
Pickens, ranked as the WR70 could challenge for playing time immediately. He’ll have to compete with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Najee Harris for targets. And the quarterback play isn’t overly inspiring. But Pickens could be someone to stash late in drafts.
1. Romeo Doubs (WR – GB)
If you haven’t heard of Romeo Doubs by now, then you’ve been living under a rock during training camp. The fourth-round pick out of Nevada has been the main storyline of Packers camp as the team looks to replace Davante Adams. Doubs backed up his strong start to camp with three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown in the team’s preseason opener.
Now, it’s been hard for rookies to establish trust and rapport with Aaron Rodgers in the past. But this year’s team is wholly unique without Adams in the fold. And while training camp hype often leads to nothing, I’m willing to believe what I’ve seen and heard about Doubs so far, given Green Bay’s need for receiving help.
Considering that fellow rookie Christian Watson is still sidelined with a knee injury, Doubs could be poised to start for Green Bay alongside Allen Lazard, who I’m far from sold on. Doubs is the WR106 right now. That won’t be the case in a few weeks.
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