Way-Too-Early Redraft Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)
Starting planning for your season-long fantasy football drafts this August is never too soon. While a lot can change between now and then, some players won’t be on anyone’s radar unless you’re plugged in all offseason. Therefore, identifying sleeper candidates — players outside the top 100 in the FantasyPros PPR Expert Consensus Draft Rankings — is critical to getting ahead and staying ahead come draft time.
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Way Too Early Redraft Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)
ECR: 278 (WR100)
Laviska? Yes, I am coming to the table with an almost forgotten name. Despite his freak athleticism and separation speed, he has not maintained a consistent production level in his NFL career. He has five touchdowns through three seasons and has never finished higher than the overall PPR WR45.
Hopes were high in 2022 when Shenault was traded from Jacksonville to Carolina. He did not disappoint in his debut, rattling off a 67-yard catch and run for a touchdown on his way to 17 PPR fantasy points. However, he failed to stay consistent, and despite seeing an increase in volume late in the season, he logged only one more double-digit fantasy point output.
The Panthers were in a trainwreck in 2022, shuffling between QBs Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker and never finding any consistency on offense or defense. However, after the firing of head coach Matt Rhule, the team seemed to come together and narrowly missed making the playoffs in the weak NFC South. New head coach Frank Reich is looking for a fresh start in Charlotte. None of the three starting QBs from 2022 are on the roster. Instead, the team signed veteran QB Andy Dalton and is assumed to be targeting a signal-caller with the recently acquired first-overall pick.
As it stands now, Shenault is listed as the team’s WR2 on their depth chart. While it’s been a slow start to his career, he can showcase his skillset in a new offense. Of course, his fantasy relevancy will depend on how Reich uses the fourth-year wideout. Still, with limited options for whoever lines up behind center, the volume will be there for Shenault to shock the world and have a WR2-tier season in most fantasy formats at a significant discount as a late-round selection.
ECR: 149 (RB52)
Whatever you think of the moves the Denver Broncos have made so far this offseason, you have to know Sean Payton always has a plan, and most of the time, it works out. While the recent signing of free agent RB Samaje Perine may seem like a small move, it isn’t. This is a signal that the team isn’t sold on the idea that fellow RB Javonte Williams will be ready to play any time soon.
Upon signing, Perine immediately became one of only two players at the position rostered by Denver that isn’t currently on injured reserve. However, it’s unlikely Payton and general manager George Paton sit pat. Whether they bring back Latavius Murray or address the position in the draft, more players will be in the RB room come June. However, Perine has shown he is an efficient back, averaging four-plus yards per carry in four of his last five seasons. He is also a reliable pass-catching back, having seen 82 targets over the previous three seasons. He turned his target share into 65 catches for 483 yards and five receiving touchdowns.
Last season, Perine had a career-best fantasy finish, landing at PPR RB34. Until Williams returns, he could see an uptick in volume. While he’s no Alvin Kamara, he has the skill set to be that type of running back for Payton in 2023. His ECR of RB52 is a far cry from his ceiling as an RB2-tier fantasy asset, and you should be able to land him in the last few rounds of your drafts.
ECR: 179 (TE24)
If you need proof that the TE position is a wasteland in fantasy football, here it is. This isn’t a knock on Hayden Hurst but more an indictment of how the position is used in today’s NFL. Hurst finished 2022 as the overall PPR TE21 playing in just 14 games and barely eclipsing a hundred PPR fantasy points (109.9 points).
Unsurprisingly, he was a low-volume option for QB Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, with WRs Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd all at his disposal. It should also be noted that Hurst missed three games towards the end of the season that would have likely helped him creep close to TE1-tier territory. Hurst will have far less competition in Carolina for targets behind Shenault and WR Terrace Marshall. He also gives the team and recently acquired QB Andy Dalton, or whichever QB they take first overall, a big, sure-handed red-zone target.
Hurst should easily eclipse his ECR as the overall TE24 if he stays on the field. The increased red-zone opportunities will get him over the touchdown hump he was stuck on in 2022 when he recorded just two touchdowns. Even if he sees a similar volume to last season (70 targets, 54 catches, 439 receiving yards) but can find the endzone three or four more times, Hurst could creep into TE1 territory in 2023. That’s not bad value for a player you can roster in the late rounds of your drafts.
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Nate Polvogt is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him @NatePolvogt.