Christian McCaffery, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Davante Adams are no-brainers among fantasy football draft choices, but what about the “brainers” — those picks accompanied by a greater risk/reward influence?
These mid-round choices often determine whether a fantasy manager makes the playoffs. And they can lead to much more fun and profit.
As any manager knows, there are virtually limitless options in seeking advice on the “sleepers” out there. Today, we’ll spotlight a few — with an experts’ opinion — and analyze the gravity of making that pick.
We’ll use quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers for this exercise.
Sleepers, by this definition, will be players to target after the QB1s, RB1 and 2s and WR1 and 2s have been selected (based on 12-team PPR league).
Quarterbacks of the non-QB1 variety who are worth considering as fantasy football sleepers
From the Bleacher Report analysis: Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Daniel Jones could take a big step forward in 2021, after struggling a bit during his first two NFL seasons. The Giants added Kenny Golladay to their receiving corps and running back Saquon Barkley will return from injury, so Jones will have better playmakers around him and could put up bigger numbers as a result.
Our comment: Jones’ passing ability is the obvious question – and if you know for sure how that arm will perform this season, well, you’re a psychic – and yes, he could take a big stride with the added receiving help.
The point we’d make, though, is that Jones’ rushing numbers could mitigate any lack of progress from the passing game. And if the passing game improves, Jones could challenge for QB1 status (top 12 fantasy quarterbacks) this season.
CBS Sports has Jones projected to score 250 fantasy points, which would have been good for No. 11 on the QB list in 2020. The potential is there; do you feel it?
AFC East duo flying under the fantasy football radar?
Others Bleacher Report suggested as QB sleepers were Cam Newton, the current No. 1 for the New England Patriots, and Tua Tagovailoa, the Miami Dolphins’ starter.
Newton? We don’t buy it. He threw three TD passes in his final game last season but tossed only five TD passes otherwise. Yikes. Newton’s downfield passing suffers by comparison to other teams’ No. 1 QBs and his rushing ability falls off a little every season. There’s no guarantee, either, that Newton holds off rookie Mac Jones all year.
Tagovailoa? We understand the excitement, given his breathless assessments from the college football world as he entered the NFL. Clearly, injuries and inconsistency plagued the left-hander from Alabama, but the book remains open on him.
Tagovailoa, another year removed from that awful hip injury and with the addition of Crimson Tide star receiver Jaylen Waddle, could be a terrific gamble as long as he’s still a value in ADP.
Running backs of the non-RB1 or RB2 variety who are worth considering as fantasy football sleepers
Michael Salfino of The Athletic: Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans
Lindsay is a very good runner on a team without a good running back. I get that he’s on a terrible team but remember we don’t care a whit about the team the running back is on in-season, especially when he walks into a role where he’s getting the majority of carries. We just pick that guy up, toot sweet. I don’t believe much in true skill level, especially at RB, but Lindsay’s 17th all-time in yards per carry, first three seasons, minimum 500 carries.
That’s just ahead of LeSean McCoy and just behind Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s also a GREAT goal-line runner — 9-for-12 converting carries into TDs from the three-yard-line in, since 2018. That’s tied with Alvin Kamara for the best rate in football in the period, min. 10 attempts. He’s going absurdly late now at RB51 in NFFC since June 1. Mark Ingram is going to get cut. David Johnson has been a zombie for five years. This is the easiest, cheapest RB sleeper call of my life.
Our comment: Even if Lindsay receives significant volume, this offense is unlikely to prosper. Lindsay could see the short end of a split with David Johnson and should probably be left sleeping.
Sporting News: Michael Carter, New York Jets
Carter is competing with Tevin Coleman and La’Mical Perine for carries, but it’s tough to trust either after they averaged 1.9 and 3.6 yards/carry last year, respectively. Carter posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at North Carolina and averaged a whopping 8.0 yards/carry in his final season. He’s the most explosive player in New York’s backfield and should eventually see the most touches.
Our comment: Yes, yes. With an ADP of 31 at CBS and 32 at Fantasy Football Calculator, Carter could reward early investors with a nice payoff that could approach the tail end of RB2. Take a swing.
Pass catchers of the non-WR1 or WR2 variety who are worth considering as fantasy football sleepers
FantasyPros: Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
When (Ja’Marr) Chase was selected at No. 5 overall, everyone seemed to downgrade Higgins significantly and move him down draft boards. However, we shouldn’t overreact and completely move off of Higgins. After sitting down and working through projections, you’ll see that there’s more than enough volume available for both of these players to be top-24 WRs as early as this season. Higgins might take a back seat to Chase from a targets perspective, but Higgins should also be Burrow’s favorite target in the red zone due to his size. If people are scared off of Higgins because of Chase’s presence in this offense, that’s all the opportunity you need to buy Higgins at a discount this year.
Our comment: Line-by-line, word-for-word, we agree. Tee Higgins was an elite receiver out of Clemson, and his chemistry with Bengals QB Joe Burrow shined. Now, with a very elite college wideout – Ja’Marr Chase – Higgins has slid a bit too much down the draft boards. That means value for a pick that will benefit from a dramatic amount of volume. Sure, Chase will be huge in this offense, but with Burrow primed to land among the top QBs in pass attempts, Higgins will be a popular target.
CBS Sportsline: Tyrell Williams, Detroit Lions
A former 1,000-yard receiver for the Chargers, Williams signed a four-year, $44.3 million deal with the Raiders prior to the 2019 season, but was released in February after missing all of 2020 with a torn labrum.
Williams should be completely healthy in 2021 as he joins a Lions offense that needs a game-changing receiver after Kenny Golladay left in free agency to join the Giants. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Williams will be a top option in the Lions passing attack along with Breshad Perriman. That volume is a big reason why the model ranks Williams ahead of 14th-round options like Mike Williams and Corey Davis despite Williams having a 17th-round 2021 Fantasy football ADP.
Our comment: A deep sleeper here, Williams would have to convince fantasy managers that the Lions’ volume outweighs their offensive challenges. That starts with Jared Goff, who takes over from Matthew Stafford. Perriman is the one who should move forward based on increased targets, and Williams seems more like a NFL fantasy replacement-level receiver.
If your glass is half-full, though, some sites agree. Although he’s an ADP around 80 at CBS, the site’s projections have Williams challenging for a top-50 WR spot in company with Curtis Samuel and Christian Kirk. The Lions will be trailing quite a lot this season; can Goff generate the volume to lift both Perriman and Williams into the top 50?
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