16 Sleepers to Target (2022 Fantasy Football)
The 2022 fantasy football season is just around the corner. The FantasyPros mock draft simulator is the best preparation for your fantasy drafts. Each year you want to construct your team with a proper mix of good value players and upside sleepers while avoiding players with high bust potential.
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Sleepers to Target
Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF): ADP 9.8 | WR39
Aiyuk had an impressive rookie season. He averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game and ended the season as the WR35. Furthermore, Aiyuk ended his rookie season on fire, averaging 18.6 fantasy points per game over the final 10 weeks of the year, making him the WR5 during that span on a points-per-game basis. Many had high expectations for him after his rookie year. Unfortunately, Aiyuk failed to live up to those expectations in the first half of the 2021 season.
Last year was a season of two halves for Aiyuk. He started the year in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse, averaging only 2.7 targets and 4.3 fantasy points per game over the first six games. Aiyuk played fewer than 73% of the snaps in all but one game. However, he turned things around over the final 11 games of the year. He averaged 6.2 targets and 13.2 fantasy points per game in those games. More importantly, Aiyuk was the WR16 during those final 11 games, ahead of Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, and other elite wide receivers. After an impressive rookie season, Aiyuk is out of the doghouse and primed for a big year in 2022 with Trey Lance under center.
I have faith we are going to see some great plays by Lance. If we have him chemistry boys on the field he’s going to ball. He had the most chemistry with Brandon Aiyuk. #49ers #FTTB pic.twitter.com/xFpGMFRXfd
— 49er_Edits (@49er_edits) August 24, 2022
Trey Lance (QB – SF): ADP 102.2 | QB13
When the 49ers traded multiple first-round draft picks to secure Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft, many in the fantasy community were excited to see him on the field. Unfortunately, Jimmy Garoppolo stood in his way. Garoppolo earned the starting role, and Lance spent most of his rookie season learning from the bench. He played sparingly in several games last year, entering the game on designed packages. However, Lance shined when given a chance as a rookie.
Lance started two games last season for an injured Garoppolo. He also played the entire second half of the Week 4 matchup after Garoppolo suffered an injury right before halftime. In those 2.5 games, Lance scored 54 fantasy points. Adjusting for playing only 10 quarters of football instead of 12, Lance averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game last season in a situation where he was the starter. Last season, he would have been the QB4 over a 17-game pace with that average. Once Garoppolo gets traded or released, Lance’s ADP could jump into the top 75. Be sure to draft him on the cheap while you can.
Jameis Winston (QB – NO): ADP 180.7 | QB21
Despite a lack of weapons, Winston had 14 passing touchdowns and only three interceptions in seven games last year before tearing his ACL. He scored over 25 fantasy points in two of those contests. Thanks to his productive play despite a poor supporting cast, the Saints re-signed Winston to a two-year deal worth $28 million in the offseason. More importantly, the Saints used their two first-round picks in the NFL Draft to help Winston instead of replacing him.
New Orleans drafted Chris Olave with the 11th overall pick while grabbing Trevor Penning with the 19th overall pick. Both rookies have flashed during training camp and should have an immediate impact this season. Furthermore, the Saints added Landry in free agency shortly after the draft. More importantly, Michael Thomas has reportedly been outstanding during training camp and appears 100% healthy after missing the past 1.5 years with an ankle injury. Last year Winston was the QB14 on a points-per-game basis throwing to Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty. He has top-10 ability, thanks to the new additions in New Orleans.
Desmond Ridder (QB – ATL): ADP 297.1 | QB41
Typically rookie quarterbacks fail to turn into productive fantasy players. However, several rookie quarterbacks have finished in the top 10 over the past few years. Justin Herbert was the QB9 in 2020, while Kyler Murray was the QB8 in 2019. Furthermore, Deshaun Watson was on pace to be the QB1 as a rookie in 2017 until he tore his ACL in practice. Still, Watson ended the year as the QB1 on a points-per-game basis. While he doesn’t have the talent or upside of those three quarterbacks, Ridder does have a pathway to a top-15 finish.
In 1QB leagues, Ridder shouldn’t get drafted. However, he is an excellent late-round target in superflex leagues. Ridder has two elite athletic freaks to throw to in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. He is also a capable runner and could average over 45 rushing yards per game once he takes over as the starter. More importantly, the Falcons will be in a negative game script most of the season. Even though Marcus Mariota was named the starter to begin the year, it’s only a matter of time till Ridder takes the job. If he can develop a connection with Pitts and London early in the season, Ridder could sneak into the top 15 as a rookie.
Rookie QB1 https://t.co/1VDLr3n7u9
— Mike Fanelli (@Mike_NFL2) August 18, 2022
Cole Kmet (TE – CHI): ADP 139.1 | TE13
Many expected Kmet to have a breakout sophomore season after a quiet rookie year. Unfortunately, he ended the year as the TE20, averaging only 7.1 fantasy points per game. While that is disheartening, Kmet was second on the team with 93 targets last season. Furthermore, his play improved when Robinson missed time. In the five games without Robinson, Kmet averaged 6.8 targets and 9.2 fantasy points per game. He scored over 13 fantasy points twice during that span and had seven or more targets in three contests. More importantly, Kmet was very productive in Fields’ final four starts last season.
While Fields left the Week 11 matchup early with an injury, Kmet averaged 7.3 targets and 10.8 fantasy points per game in the other three games. His targets per game were up 25.4% from his season average, while his fantasy points per game were up 34.3% from his season average. More importantly, his 10.8 fantasy points per game average would have made him the TE5 over a 17-game pace despite not scoring a touchdown. As a result, Kmet is a prime breakout candidate this year and my favorite tight end to draft in the double-digit rounds.
The late-round TE fantasy players should target… Cole Kmet.
His final 4 games with Justin Fields last year
— Mike Fanelli (@Mike_NFL2) July 28, 2022
Romeo Doubs (WR – GB): ADP 192.5 | WR67
I have led the Doubs hype train since early May. After trading away Adams and losing Valdes-Scantling in free agency, the Packers have arguably the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. The duo had a combined 224 targets and 37.8% target share last year. Instead of using either of their two first-round draft picks on a wide receiver, the Packers used a pair of mid-round draft selections on Christian Watson and Doubs. Unfortunately, Watson’s first NFL offseason hasn’t gone as planned. He struggled with drops earlier in the offseason and started training camp on PUP. With Watson sidelined, Doubs took advantage of the situation.
In his final year at Nevada, Doubs was very productive. He had 80 receptions for 1,109 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns in 11 games. Furthermore, he had the fourth most receptions and the second-most receiving touchdowns in the Mountain West Conference. More importantly, Doubs has repeatedly received praise from Rodgers. He has made several impressive plays in training camp, repeatedly beating starting cornerbacks in one-on-one situations. Allen Lazard projects as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Packers, but his career-high in targets is 60 (from last season). Doubs has a chance to become Rodgers’ top pass catcher as a rookie and massively outperform his late-round ADP.
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 13, 2022
Tony Pollard (RB – DAL): ADP 82.2 | RB32
Ever since he entered the NFL, Pollard has been a favorite of the fantasy football community, and the hype around him has grown during the offseason. He has averaged 7.5 yards per touch in his career. Pollard also averaged a career-high 5.5 yards per rushing attempt last season. Furthermore, he had a career-high 719 rushing yards last year. The 719 yards were only 171 fewer than his career total entering the season. More importantly, Pollard looked like the best running back on the roster as Ezekiel Elliott struggled at times last year.
Despite Elliott playing all 17 games and averaging 16.7 touches per contest, Pollard was the RB28 last season. He averaged 10.4 fantasy points per game despite averaging only 11.3 touches per contest. The Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper this offseason and won’t have Michael Gallup to begin the year. There have been reports about the Cowboys playing Pollard in the slot in certain situations. If Elliott struggles to start the year, Pollard could take over as the lead guy and turn into a top-12 running back. Even if Zeke remains the lead guy, Pollard should see enough volume to end the season as a low-end RB2.
Curtis Samuel (WR – WAS): ADP 206.5 | WR89
Last year Samuel was a popular sleeper wide receiver. He was coming off a career year in 2020 with the Carolina Panthers, averaging 14.1 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, Samuel struggled to stay healthy last year and played in five games, totaling only 84 offensive snaps. The Commanders recently signed Terry McLaurin to a massive extension and used their first-round draft pick on Jahan Dotson. While his fantasy outlook has drastically changed from a year ago, Samuel has the potential to become a steal at his current ADP.
The last time Samuel was healthy was in 2020. That year he had a career-high 77 receptions on 97 targets for 851 receiving yards and three touchdowns. However, his work in the running game made him an appealing option to fantasy teams. Samuel had 41 rushing attempts for 200 yards and two touchdowns that year. By comparison, he totaled 35 rushing attempts for 289 yards and three touchdowns in the other four years of his career. Hopefully, Samuel will earn some rushing attempts this year. In standard-size leagues, he should go undrafted. However, Samuel is worth a late-round pick as a high upside dart throw selection in deeper leagues.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC): ADP 83.7 | WR34
Smith-Schuster is not your typical sleeper candidate as he has produced three top-20 finishes in his five-year career. However, he is criminally underrated at his current ADP. The other two years of his career were held back by injury or incompetent quarterback play. While some are worried Smith-Schuster has turned into a short-area slot receiver, that won’t be the case now in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes.
When he had a healthy Ben Roethlisberger under center, JuJu had an average depth of target (aDOT) of 10.3 yards. Meanwhile, Hill had a 10.7 aDOT last year, his lowest average since his rookie season. Yet, he was the WR6 last year despite barely playing in Week 17. Now, Smith-Schuster likely won’t replace Hill’s production and become a top-10 wide receiver. However, Hill had 159 targets last year, and JuJu is the most qualified to take on that target load on the team. With defenses focused on slowing down Travis Kelce, Smith-Schuster could quickly become Mahomes’ favorite target at wide receiver.
Gerald Everett (TE – LAC): ADP 185.2 | TE20
I am a big fan of the “great or late” tight end strategy this year. If fantasy managers don’t want to spend an early pick on an elite tight end like Kelce, Mark Andrews or Kyle Pitts, they should wait till the final few rounds to grab a tight end with upside. One of my favorite late-round tight end targets is Everett. While he has averaged only 5.8 fantasy points per game in his career, Everett had his best year last season.
He had 48 receptions on 63 targets for 478 receiving yards and four touchdowns while averaging 7.9 fantasy points per game, all career highs. More importantly, fantasy players saw Everett play with a talented quarterback in Seattle. He scored more than 14 fantasy points in three of the six games with five or more targets last year. Furthermore, Everett averaged 10 fantasy points per game in the eight games with four or more targets last season. Over a 17-game pace, he would have been the TE8 with that average. With Justin Herbert under center, Everett could have the first top-12 season of his career.
Robert Woods (WR – TEN): ADP 102.5 | WR41
Given Cooper Kupp‘s historic season, it’s easy to forget Woods was the WR12 in the nine games he played last season. However, he had three top-12 weekly finishes in the nine games played and accounted for nearly 10% of the team’s total touchdowns scored for the season. Furthermore, Woods had three straight seasons from 2018-2020 as a top-14 wide receiver in Los Angeles despite catching passes from Jared Goff. More importantly, Ryan Tannehill supported two top-30 wide receivers in 2020 as Brown was the WR14, while Corey Davis was the WR30.
Woods will start the year as the No. 1 wide receiver. While the Titans used a first-round pick on Treylon Burks, his first offseason in the NFL has been far from perfect. He has spent much of training camp running with the second team offense and is listed as a second-string wide receiver on the team’s depth chart. It will take some time before the rookie is ready for the No. 1 role. More importantly, Woods is 100% after suffering a torn ACL last season. If he and Tannehill can build a connection quickly, Woods could finish the year as a top-20 wide receiver.
Brevin Jordan (HOU): ADP 257.7 | TE30
Everyone loves a late-round tight end, and Jordan is my favorite deep sleeper this year. He was the TE25 last year on a points-per-game basis among tight ends with more than eight games played. More importantly, Jordan finished the week as a top-12 tight end in 50% of his games, including two top-six weekly finishes. Furthermore, he had a higher top-12 finish rate than Dallas Goedert (46.7%) and Kyle Pitts (43.8%) last season. The Houston offense lacks proven weapons other than Brandin Cooks, so Jordan has a path to a second-year breakout.
More importantly, Jordan averaged nine fantasy points per game in the four games he saw more than three targets as a rookie. Furthermore, the Texans leaned on Jordan in the red zone. Despite seeing only 28 targets last year, 14.3% of them came in the red zone, resulting in three touchdowns. Unfortunately, the rookie John Metchie likely won’t play this season after being diagnosed with Leukemia. While everyone wishes him a speedy recovery, his absence will open up more snaps and targets for Jordan. If you play in a deeper or two tight end league, Jordan is the perfect last-round pick at tight end.
Chase Claypool (WR – PIT): ADP 107.5 | WR42
Claypool had an impressive rookie year in 2020. He was the WR19, averaging 11.5 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he was eighth among wide receivers, with nine receiving touchdowns that year. After a strong rookie season, many had high hopes for Claypool in 2021. Unfortunately, he struggled last season and ended the year as the WR37, averaging only 11.1 fantasy points per game.
Part of the drop in his production was the quality of his targets. Claypool’s aDOT dropped from 13.3 as a rookie to 11.5 last season. Furthermore, Claypool saw a massive dip in deep targets. Last year, 19.3% of his targets were deep targets, while it was 29.5% as a rookie. However, the change at quarterback should change that this year. Whether it’s Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett, the Steelers should be able to push the ball downfield more this season. Assuming he can stay healthy, Claypool is an excellent post-hype sleeper candidate.
David Njoku (TE – CLE): ADP 164.3 | TE17
The last time Njoku was on the fantasy radar was in 2018. That year he was the TE9, averaging nine fantasy points per game and a 16.9% target share. Njoku has totaled 92 targets over the past three seasons after seeing 88 in 2018. Part of his fantasy decline was the addition of Austin Hooper. In their two years together in Cleveland, Hooper had 131 targets while Njoku saw only 82. Thankfully, the Browns released Hooper and signed Njoku to a long-term deal in the offseason.
While Amari Cooper is the top pass catcher on the team, Njoku has a clear pathway to the No. 2 role. The Browns have several young pass catchers, including Donovan Peoples-Jones, Harrison Bryant, Anthony Schwartz, and David Bell. However, those four players have a combined 103 receptions in their NFL careers. Regardless of how many games Deshaun Watson misses with the suspension, Njoku should have a higher ADP than the 17th tight end off the board. Don’t let his struggles the past few years sway you from drafting him. Njoku is prime for a breakout this year.
Rhamondre Stevenson (NE – RB): ADP 113.8 | RB39
The Patriots backfield is a two-headed monster of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Harris was the RB14 last season, while Stevenson was the RB47. However, Stevenson was equally as good when given the touches. Both running backs averaged 4.6 yards per rushing attempt last season and had between 120 and 135 receiving yards. Neither had a receiving touchdown, and both had under 20 receptions. The big difference between their fantasy production was touchdowns, where Harris had 15 compared to five for Stevenson.
However, Stevenson averaged five yards per touch compared to 4.8 for Harris. He also had the same amount of weekly top-12 finishes as Harris (two) despite seeing only 38.9% of the backfield workload. More importantly, Stevenson has impressed so far in training camp and has taken on more of a pass-catching role as James White recovers from a hip injury. Last year, Harris averaged 14 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, Stevenson averaged 16.2 fantasy points per game in the two games without Harris. If he can take over as the third-down back and steal some touchdowns from Harris, Stevenson could be a league-winner this year.
Sony Michel (RB – MIA): ADP 191.6 | RB60
When the Dolphins hired former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, he brought the Kyle Shanahan/San Francisco running game mindset to Miami. The Dolphins completely redid their backfield in free agency, signing Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert before adding Sony Michel in May. Many are excited to draft Edmonds at his 93.2 ADP. While there is potential value with Edmonds at that ADP, Michel is a better value nearly 100 picks later.
While he has excellent advanced metrics that make him an appealing breakout candidate, Edmonds has never had over 120 rushing attempts in any year of his career. Despite a limited workload, Edmonds has a career average of 4.6 yards per rushing attempt. Meanwhile, Michel rebounded last year with the Rams. He averaged 14.8 fantasy points per game over the final six games of the year. Michel is a player you want to target in the final few rounds of your draft, especially if you use a Zero-RB strategy.
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.