What's fantasy football draft season without sleepers?
Don't worry, I won't waste your time with some convoluted explanation of what constitutes a sleeper. That's because these picks were created with specific guidelines I was given, so it removed some of the brainwork required and left more in the tank for me to elaborate on why I picked these players.
This isn't really a "team" so much as a list because it's too many players to make a starting lineup, even in Superflex, and too few to fill out an entire roster. All-Sleeper Team just makes for a catchier title; I'm sure you understand.Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Sign Up Now!
FantasyPros recently invited its expert rankers to pick their top sleepers at each position based on the following criteria relative to the Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR).
"Each expert submits 13 sleepers at the following positions. For positions where multiple sleepers are entered (QB/RB/WR/TE), the expert must rank-order their picks.
- 2 QB
- 4 RB
- 4 WR
- 2 TE
- 1 DST
We define Sleepers as players that fall outside of specific Expert Consensus Rank cutoffs. All experts have access to the same player selection pool that corresponds to the following:
- QB: outside top 15 ECR
- RB: outside top 45 ECR
- WR: outside top 55 ECR
- TE: outside top 15
- DST: outside top 10 "
You may be tempted to stop reading as soon as you see Mitch Trubisky below but rest assured that stat-based rationales are forthcoming. Among the many players I'm targeting in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts this year, here are my top choices at each position.
Top Sleeper Picks for 2020
Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Let's start with the selection that is sure to draw some pitchforks and torches from the fantasy community. This isn't a contrarian pick or simply done to justify the fact I still have Trubisky on my roster in the RotoBaller Dynasty Superflex league. I won't go so far as to call myself a Trubisky defender, but I have never thought he was quite as bad as everyone else seems to, so I guess I'm one of the few people on his side. I truly believe Trubisky can bounce back and be at least a top-20 fantasy QB, if not a serviceable streamer.
First, the Foles factor is vastly overblown. The guy had a great postseason run in Philly but has never succeeded elsewhere and was basically ditched in favor of a sixth-round pick who wasn't expected to even play last year (Gardner Minshew II). If you get outplayed by Uncle Rico, that should spell trouble.
Foles wasn't signed to replace Trubisky, who cost the team the second overall pick and three other mid-round picks back in 2017. Foles was brought in to push and mentor the young QB so that he would take advantage of what is effectively his last chance to retain the starting job in Chicago.
Trubisky gets ripped by fans and the fantasy community all the time, but it's not as if he was an unmitigated disaster last year. His 64.2% xComp% sits in the middle of the QB pack and was higher than both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He can also pitch in with his legs, having rushed for 421 yards in 2018 before tapering off last year.
Don't be surprised if Trubisky gets off to a hot start, especially if David Montgomery misses the first game or two, forcing the team to pass more often than they'd like. The start of the Bears' season has a tasty schedule for opposing passers. The first five weeks of 2020 they will face the Lions (#1 in passing yards allowed per game in 2019 - 284.4), Giants (#5 - 264.1), Falcons (#11 - 244.9), Colts (#10 - 248.9), Bucs (#3 - 270.1).
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Based on the above criteria, players like Jared Goff and Cam Newton qualify for this spot. I know Goff will likely end up with better numbers than Burrow but I can't consider him a sleeper after he's thrown for 4,600 yards two seasons in a row. Let's go with the better value in Joe Burrow, who is QB20 on RotoBaller's preseason rankings and going at 150 overall according to average industry ADP.
Relative to the competition, Burrow is worth a shot as your QB2. I predict a hard fall back to Earth for Ryan Tannehill, fewer pass attempts for Baker Mayfield, and as much as I like Daniel Jones this season, he has every bit as much risk. Even as a rookie, Burrow could be less turnover-prone than Jones.
There's no real way to know how Burrow will handle the transition to the pros but preseason reports have been positive.
Joe Burrow again “impressive” in Bengals scrimmage, as the top pick prepares for the regular season https://t.co/vd26Uq4gB5
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 31, 2020
With a healthy A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and second-round pick Tee Higgins, not to mention a strong all-around running back in Joe Mixon, Burrow has a great situation and upside that surpasses many of the aging veterans in the same tier.
Running Back Sleepers
Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans
This is the hill I will most likely die on as a fantasy analyst in 2020, aside from the fact I'm taking Cam Akers everywhere I can. I'm also targeting Evans as my RB4/5 as much as possible for the same reason - opportunity.
It goes without saying Derrick Henry is the workhorse and undisputed RB1. Then, Evans is the clear backup and passing-down back. After that comes... *checks Titans depth chart* Khari Blasingame? Senorise Perry?? Maybe Jeremy McNichols will finally stick with a team???
There's no way Tennessee gives Henry 300 carries again after investing $50 million in him. Evans will see the field more than you might expect, especially on passing downs which already gives him PPR value.
The biggest appeal is that he is automatically the most high-end insurance policy of all at RB if Henry were to get injured. That would leave a ton of touches available. Assuming that doesn't happen, Evans can at the very least fill the role Dion Lewis tried to the past two years, hopefully with more success. That could mean close to 1,000 scrimmage yards and 50+ receptions if he matches what Lewis did in 2018. If he proves to be better, you've got a weekly flex starter at the cost of a last-round pick.
Darrynton Evans, cheap lottery ticket
- 3rd rd draft capital
- 4.41 speed
- 80th+ percentile in speed & burst
- OC Arthur Smith spoke highly of him
- Slated for role on passing downs
- Derrick Henry had 409 touches in '19
- ADP: RB60 in Best Ball leagues#FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/sLnnHtj0ba
— Frank Ammirante (@FAmmiranteTFJ) June 10, 2020
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers
Resisting temptation to show his incredible SPARQ scores again, seeing as how that NFL Combine was six years ago, let's instead focus on the touches McKinnon could get in 2020.
As part of an RBBC in San Fran, McKinnon should at least take over Matt Breida's touches from last year. If he manages to stay on the field most of the season, it could be even more. I went into greater detail on McKinnon in my Bold Predictions for 2020, so just go straight to that article after you're done here.
Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers
It's hard to believe the Bolts spent a third-round pick on a running back so he could sit behind Justin Jackson. Kelley will have to battle Jackson for the job but he has the goods to do so. He also won't usurp Austin Ekeler any time soon, but he could be the thunder to Ekeler's lightning and more than just a backup. Ekeler saw an average of 38.1 snaps per game while Melvin Gordon III took 36.1 on average in the 12 games he played. If Kelley continues to earn the coaching staff's trust, he could be that complementary back.
The Athletic's Daniel Popper claimed that Kelley “might be having the best training camp of any player on the roster” and is "already looking like a mainstay in the Chargers' running back room." It's not a guarantee he sees a ton of usage and it may not come until later in the season, but this is the type of player that could emerge at the right time and become a waiver-wire must-add. If Justin Jackson's preseason toe injury keeps him on the shelf, Kelley could emerge sooner than later. For the time being, stash him on your bench and save yourself the in-season FAB.
Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars
I'd like to say this wasn't a late addition to my sleeper list but that would be mostly fibbing. I've picked Thompson in a couple of best-ball leagues for the same reason he becomes a more viable fantasy presence now that Leonard Fournette is gone. He is a reliable pass-catcher with a defined role that will now grow larger. He was brought in by new OC Jay Gruden, who coached him in Washington.
Thompson has even been seeing red-zone work throughout training camp. Although he didn't score a single TD last year, he should have done better. FantasyPros' Touchdown Regression rankings have him as the leader among RB in projected positive TD regression. There may not be many scores to go around in Jacksonville this year but there will be plenty of playing from behind, which works in a pass-catching back's favor. Thompson could be a solid RB3 each week, even if he isn't a league-winner.
Wide Receiver Sleepers
Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
To be clear, I am not drinking the Tompa Bay Kool-Aid anywhere else. I have Gronk as a bust, Brady as overvalued, and will not reach for any Bucs running back, including Leonard Fournette.
I am buying the preseason hype on Miller. Ignore this as a cliche of the diminutive white slot receiver becoming Brady's target of choice, but it's based on years of factual evidence as well as very recent beat writer observations.
Tom Brady said WR Scotty Miller is "displaying things and showing everyone that he deserves a big role."
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) August 28, 2020
For the cost of a last-round pick, why not take a chance?
This is gonna be Scotty Miller week 1 pic.twitter.com/MJVAuZSQuO
— Joel 🛸 (@Breesoverrated) August 28, 2020
Breshad Perriman, New York Jets
Somebody's got to catch passes for the Jets, right? With Denzel Mims sidelined throughout training camp, his rookie year could be a wash if he doesn't recover soon. Recently signed Chris Hogan is listed as a starter opposite Perriman with Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone, and Jehu Chesson backing them up on the outside. Yeah, Perriman's going to see a ton of targets. His recent MRI is disconcerting but thankfully revealed no serious injury, so he may be ready for Week 1 and may even see a drop in ADP as a result.
While Jamison Crowder is a solid pick, he's also the type of boring player that won't win you a week, much less a league. Michael Florio is on board with this, as he advises Perriman is the type of player to target while avoiding Crowder based on limited upside.
We talk a lot about advanced stats and regression in baseball but it applies equally to football. Perriman wasn't a YAC monster in 2019, falling in the middle of the pack at 4.2 yards after catch. He was the biggest underperformed in that category compared to xYAC/R, as NextGenStats say he should have averaged 6.2 YAC, which would have placed him eighth among wide receivers. For what it's worth, A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith both massively overachieved in this stat, with Corey Davis also at +1.5, so expect a major step back for Ryan Tannehill's yardage totals. Just sayin'
Perriman is the type of home run threat you want as a backup receiver. There are plenty of boring slot receivers that you can stream throughout the season if he turns back into a pumpkin.
Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers
Opportunity is everything in fantasy, right? Lazard has the WR2 role in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers at QB. I know we've said that to build up other Packer receivers before but this is the guy to watch in 2020.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling ranked last among qualified receivers in catch rate at 46% and moved backward in his second NFL season. Ignore Rodgers trying to build him up in the media - he has no other choice at this point.
Without other reliable options at receiver or tight end, Lazard should be Rodgers' clear No. 2 option near the sidelines and in the red zone. Jimmy Graham and Geronimo Allison leave 18 RZ targets vacant. With Devin Funchess opting out, nobody else is inheriting those precious throws. His value will be higher in standard than PPR but Lazard is a great plug-and-play option for byes and injuries throughout the year.
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders
I felt good about this pick when I drafted Edwards in a dynasty rookie draft and traded for him in an FFPC Startup draft back in May. I felt really good about it when he was announced as the starting X receiver for the team about a week ago. Now that Tyrell Williams is on IR, it's nice to see that he's finally getting on some fantasy radars before the final weekend of draft season.
Edwards has a great chance to not only outsnap and outproduce first-round pick Henry Ruggs on this team, he has a legit shot to be a top-three rookie receiver in 2020. That's saying something considering the depth of this class. It isn't the most pass-happy offense, finishing 22nd in pass plays per game and 25th in pass play percentage last year. For that reason, we can't expect huge volume. Nonetheless, Edwards could be a solid WR4 with a high weekly floor.
Tight End Sleepers
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
I changed my second pick here several times. First, it was Jack Doyle but my growing interest in Trey Burton made me think to replace him. Then I realized two tight ends on the same team might cancel each other out, so it was between Ian Thomas and Jonnu Smith. Finally, I gave in to the conclusion that Blake Jarwin is just too great a value to ignore.
I haven't been completely sold on a Jarwin breakout but this man knows the Cowboys as well as anyone, so I'm starting to come around. If Witten managed to finish as fantasy TE11 last year at age 37 after a year off, I imagine Jarwin can do better. https://t.co/hSMCvnvN9v
— Pierre Camus (@Roto_Chef) August 28, 2020
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
It troubles me that I have not one but two Jets players on this list. On the other hand, if Perriman gets hurt or busts, then that just means more receptions for Herndon, right?
He's catching on as a sleeper in the fantasy community, partly due to the injuries across the Jets' WR corps. Also, he's a great athlete at tight end and could finally fulfill the promise of a year ago before suspension and injury cost him essentially all of 2019. As much as I don't trust Adam Gase's offense, he praised Herndon quite a bit upon first arriving in Gotham and the team still has big plans for him. They'll have no choice at this point.
You may be thinking, "Didn't the Jets target the tight end just 11.6% of the time last year at the third-lowest rate in the NFL?" True, but that's largely because they were without Herndon and had precious little depth behind Ryan Griffin. As I stated previously with Chris Thompson and the Jags, this team may be losing quite a bit and have no choice but to air it out and Herndon might wind up being the best target Sam Darnold has outside of Jamison yawn Crowder.
Team Defense Sleepers
Tennessee Titans Defense (D/ST)
The original pick here was the L.A. Chargers but the news that safety Derwin James would be out for the season changed my mind quickly. The Titans are an underrated defense that has been streamable but not a weekly lock in fantasy. The Titans finished 12th in total DST scoring last year, which placed them as a fringe starting unit. That may change this year.
Young players Jayon Brown, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans, and Adoree Jackson are all 25 or younger and coming into their own. The addition of second-round pick Kristian Fulton out of LSU solidifies the secondary further. If pass-rusher Vic Beasley can get on the field, that could give them a nice boost as well. Recent reports indicate that the Titans may have an offer out for Jadveon Clowney as well.
Tennessee has a favorable strength of schedule (.498) and face divisional opponents like Jacksonville and Indy twice. Philip Rivers tossed 20 INT last year and the Jags are just going to be terrible. For Weeks 13-15, a.k.a. fantasy playoff time, they face Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Detroit. You may want to find a better option for Week 16 though, as they travel to Lambeau to play the Pack.
With Henry toting the rock and Ryan Tannehill limiting turnovers, the defense can rest easy and do its thing. Although the star of this team is really going to be Darrynton Evans...
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