Sniff the air.. you smell that? That’s the football season in the air! With the NFL season on the horizon, fantasy managers are over their fantasy baseball league they joined just to take the edge off, as they’re performing mock drafts, reading fantasy magazines, listening to podcasts & essentially doing anything fantasy football they can get their hands on.
This is where I come in. You know the big-name guys in the early rounds, but drafts are won in the later rounds. David Montgomery was drafted as RB27 last year according to fantasy pros and ended up RB4 in PPR scoring. Kareem Hunt was drafted one spot below him and finished as RB10. Stefon Diggs was drafted as WR23 and finished the year as the third-best fantasy wideout.
Fantasy managers who find those diamonds in the rough increase their odds dramatically at winning their leagues. So who are those players in this year’s draft?
My first suggestion is JK Dobbins, who’s being drafted as RB15. He finished as RB17 last year.
Rookie running backs take a while to get adjusted to the NFL and have much better success in the back half of the season. Nick Chubb in 2018, Miles Sanders in 2019, and Jonathan Taylor in 2020 are all examples of rookie running back success in the latter half of the season.
JK Dobbins in weeks 13-17 was the RB5 in standard scoring. Being much more comfortable and improved coming into his 2nd season, I can genuinely see a top 5-10 finish for Dobbins this season on the run heaviest team in the league.
You could draft Travis Kelce round one, Calvin Ridley round two, and Dobbins round three and end up with the TE1 and a top 5 wide receiver & running back. HUGE value for fantasy managers.
The next running back I want to bring up is rookie running back, Travis Etienne. His ADP is RB26.
Etienne and Najee Harris both were drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. There have been ten running backs selected in the first round since 2015, not including this year’s draft. Here’s a list of those backs with their fantasy finishes that season:
- Todd Gurley (RB5 in 15′)
- Melvin Gordon (RB55 in 15′)
- Ezekiel Elliot (RB2 in 16′)
- Christian McCaffery (RB15 in 17′)
- Leonard Fournette (RB8 in 17′)
- Sony Michel (RB25 in 18′)
- Rashaad Penny (RB60 in 18′)
- Saquon Barkley (RB2 in 18′)
- Josh Jacobs (RB14 in 19′)
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB21 in 20′)
Only two first-round rookie RB’s finished with a lower ranking than Etienne’s ADP out of ten since 2015, with six of the rookies having a top 15 season. As I eluded earlier, rookie running backs start the season slow, but Etienne will be a league winner in the back half of the season.
My third and last sleeper running back is Damian Harris. His ADP is RB31.
After missing Weeks 1-3, Damian Harris had 100 yards in Week 4. In Week 5, he had a bye and in Week 6 he only saw seven opportunities and had his lowest snap percentage on the season. From weeks 7-14 he got double-digit carries each game (missed weeks 15-17) and In those games, he was RB14 in standard fantasy scoring with only two touchdowns in that stretch.
That was with Sony Michel, James White & Cam Newton crowding the backfield. Harris should score more touchdowns this season, as Cam Newton’s NEVER had back-to-back double-digit rushing touchdown seasons, not including the fact that the odds are likely Mac Jones becomes the Patriots’ starting quarterback at some point in the season.
Harris could very well be a top 24 back this season if he stays healthy even with Newton as the full-time starter, with top-15 upside if Mac Jones becomes the man in Foxborough sooner rather than later.
Antonio Brown’s ADP is WR38 & is in an offense with both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, so why did he make my list? The Buccaneers signed Brown in week 9 of last season. From weeks 10 on, Brown was the WR18 in fantasy. That’s higher than Tyler Lockett, Ceedee Lamb, Chase Claypool, Keenan Allen, and Terry McLaurin.
Let’s crunch some numbers here. From 2013-2018, AB was a top-five wideout for fantasy and talked about as being the best WR in the league. He played one game in 2019 before putting up WR18 production from the moment he was on the field last season. We have NEVER seen him perform outside of the top 20 at the wideout position since 2012. There is no reason for AB’s ADP to be so low. Draft him in the 8th-9th round in your fantasy drafts and reap the benefits.
Next up for the WR position is Mike Williams and his ADP of WR45. Let’s just look at his resume. It’s not very often that you can draft a former top-ten pick this late in fantasy drafts. Especially when they’ve already had a 1,000-yard season and a ten touchdown season in their young career.
His Quarterback, Justin Herbert is coming off of a Rookie of the year season and should be even better in year two.
With Keenan Allen taking a lot of pressure off of him and Herbert taking a step up, there’s a possibility that Williams, who’s already had a 1,000 yard and ten touchdown season at different points in his career could put up those statistical achievement’s THIS season. As a late to last pick dart throw, Williams could be a league winner.
Ruggs is my last sleeper pick for the wide receiver group and for this article. His ADP is WR50. Like Williams, it’s rare to be able to draft a top WR draft pick this late in fantasy drafts.
With Nelson Agholor signed with the Patriots, it’s also rare to draft a wideout projected to be the number one WR option for an offense that ranked 8th last season in total yards per game (7th in passing yards).
Ruggs has too much upside and opportunity to not be a late addition to your drafts.
Wrapping things up:
That concludes my Fantasy Football sleepers guide. I hope you guys enjoyed it and will apply it to your fantasy drafts later this month! If you have weekly start sit questions or just want to talk about fantasy you can find me on Twitter @Trenton_corn.