Sleepers are hard to define, but in today’s fantasy football landscape they should be viewed as players with the potential to far outperform their average draft position (ADP). Sleepers are a little different at each position. Here I’ll offer up best ball sleepers at each position while considering ADP and roster construction.
Note the positional and overall ADP listed next to each player from Underdog Best Ball drafts on June 22, 2021
Carson Wentz (QB22, 156.3.6 overall)
The Eagles were a disaster in 2020 and Wentz was at the center of the collapse, but he wasn’t as bad as you might think for fantasy football purposes. He finished as a top-twelve fantasy quarterback five times last season in just 12 games played. He comes with sneaky rushing upside as well, as he tied his career-high with 23 rushing yards/game last year. It isn’t unreasonable to draft Wentz as your first quarterback after loading up on skill positions in the first 11 rounds. Adding him to your team also presents great stacking opportunities as all of the Colts pass-catchers are being drafted outside of the first 100 picks.
Zach Wilson (QB24, 173.9 overall)
Rookie quarterbacks aren’t the most reliable fantasy producers but you don’t have much to lose when drafting Wilson as late as he’s going in best ball drafts. We can safely assume he’ll be starting all season long for the Jets. At worst, he should be able to stumble into a few usable best ball weeks, especially given his rushing upside and the likelihood that the Jets will be in comeback mode frequently this season. Stack him a late-round pass-catcher or two and you’re sure to get a few spike weeks.
Taysom Hill (QB32, 209.1 overall)
There’s no guarantee Hill gets the starting job in New Orleans but as one of the last picks in your draft, he’s well worth the shot as your third quarterback drafted. He averaged 21.1 fantasy points/game and was the QB6 during his four-week stretch as the Saints starter in 2020. Given his rushing upside, there’s no need to stack him with teammates, though it isn’t difficult to pair him with one or two for good measure. Hill could be a best ball league-winner if he’s handed the keys to the Saints offense.
Devin Singletary (RB47, 142.9 overall)
Singletary started every game for the Bills last season. He had 44 more carries, 206 more rushing yards, 20 more targets, 174 more receiving yards, and two more top-24 fantasy finishes than teammate Zack Moss. Yet, for some reason, Moss is being drafted four rounds ahead of Singletary. The Bills are likely to be a pass-heavy offense again in 2021 and Josh Allen will find the endzone on the ground himself, but Singletary should see the bulk of the running back touches. A little touchdown luck at he’ll be an absolute steal in the double-digit rounds.
Tarik Cohen (RB50, 168.3 overall)
Cohen isn’t going to see much work on the ground in Chicago but should still do plenty of damage through the air. He saw his targets increase in each of his first three seasons, topping out at 104 in 2019. Unfortunately, he lost the majority of his 2020 season to a torn ACL in Week 3. The Bears don’t have a clear second pass-catcher behind Allen Robinson so there’s at least a chance that Cohen is the second-most targeted player on the team. That’s the kind of player I’m looking to take a late-round shot on at running back.
Giovani Bernard (RB54, 181.5 overall)
The Buccaneers threw 118 passes to running backs last season but none of them were too effective with the work through the air. Bernard is being brought in, theoretically at least, to play the James White role out of the backfield for Tom Brady. Over Brady’s last four seasons in New England, White averaged 94 targets/season. That may be a lofty number for Gio but it’s within the realm of possibilities, and it makes him a great late-round sleeper in best-ball drafts.
Malcolm Brown (RB63, 210.3 overall)
Miami was viewed as a team ready to find their running back of the future in the 2021 NFL Draft. Instead, they settled on signing Brown to a one-year contract. Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed are still on the roster but Brown is a larger back that was brought in for a reason. He could take the majority of the early-down and goal-line work, an extremely valuable role that you can’t usually find for a player you can take with your last pick in the draft.
Micheal Gallup (WR39, 83.0 overall)
Gallup’s eighth-round ADP doesn’t make him the deepest sleeper, but it’s five rounds later than his teammates Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. He’s seen 100+ targets in back-to-back seasons and had the highest average depth of target on the team last season. He put up just as many top-12 weeks as Cooper last year and one more than Lamb. While he wasn’t nearly as consistent as his fellow Dallas wideouts, that’s not as critical in best ball.
Marquise Brown (WR43, 93.1 overall)
In the best ball “must draft” article I detailed how bullish I am on Lamar Jackson for 2021, so it only makes sense that I’m high on Brown as well. The Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman to theoretically be the target hog in Baltimore, but that doesn’t preclude Brown from putting up spike weeks. In fact, it probably increases the odds that he hits a few more big plays throughout the season as defenses won’t be able to dedicate as much attention to the speedy receiver.
Henry Ruggs (WR58, 127.6 overall)
Ruggs’ ADP isn’t likely to stick, as it’s already been slowly climbing throughout June. After a lackluster rookie campaign, it’s easy to forget that he was the first receiver drafted in the stacked 2020 rookie wide receiver class. While that won’t count for any fantasy points, it should remind out how talented he is. Ruggs only saw 43 targets as a rookie but he was extremely effective with them, averaging 10.51 yards/target, good enough for eighth-best in the NFL. Former teammate Nelson Agholor posted an even better 10.93 yards/target on 82 targets. Now that Agholor is out of town, the door is wide open for Ruggs to be the big play wideout he was drafted to be.
Darius Slayton (WR84, 196.6 overall)
There are a lot of new names on the Giants offense for 2020 but let’s not completely forget about Slayton. He won’t be the top target on his team but lining up opposite of Kenny Golladay should benefit him, much like it benefited Marvin Jones in Detroit. He makes an easy value stack with Daniel Jones, but even if you don’t have Jones he makes sense as a volatile wideout that should provide a few big weeks. Not bad for a wideout you can get in the 16th round of best ball drafts.
Austin Hooper (TE24, 181.3 overall)
Hooper has been completely forgotten about in Cleveland but it wasn’t that long ago that he was a consistent top tight end. He finished as the TE6 in both 2018 and 2019 with Atlanta before signing a massive free-agent deal with the Browns in 2020. His first year in Cleveland was derailed mid-season by an emergency appendectomy but he finished strong as the TE4 over the last three weeks of the season. I would rather draft Hooper in the 15th round than any of the tight ends going in the middle rounds.
Zach Ertz (TE25, 191.1 overall)
For five straight seasons, from 2015-2019, all Ertz did was finish as a top-9 tight end or better. Yet for some reason he’s being drafted as the TE26 in best ball. I get that he had a rough go of it in 2020 but so did pretty much anybody associated with the Eagles. It appears to be only a matter of time before Ertz is traded out of Philly, likely to a much better situation. He’s a low-risk/high-reward player given his availability near the end of best ball drafts.
Dawson Knox (TE31, 213.2 overall)
It’s rare to find a starting tight end on a pass-happy offense in the final round of a draft, but that’s exactly what you get in Knox. He may only crack your lineup a few times throughout the season but that’s plenty from your final pick, especially at the tight end position. He makes the perfect tight end complement to pair with an elite early-round tight end or a third tight end if you decide to punt the position into the teen rounds.
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