The Biggest Fantasy Football Sleepers at Every Position

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2019

The Biggest Fantasy Football Sleepers at Every Position

0 of 6

    Nam Huh/Associated Press

    As a fantasy football manager, you want to stay ahead of the curve. Everyone won't have a chance to draft running back Saquon Barkley or wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, so you have to dig deep to put your squad on top. Where are the sleepers?

    Before we point you toward under-the-radar fantasy assets, let's define which players fell into the sleeper category.

    In standard Yahoo leagues, managers usually go through 15 rounds, so these selections focus on players with an adjusted draft position of 10th round or later. You'll find a mix of breakout candidates and established veterans with good value at their projected spots.

    We'll highlight three players for each position from quarterback to kicker with standard point-per-reception league settings in mind. The average draft position (ADP) is listed next to each sleeper pick.

         

Quarterbacks

1 of 6

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott
    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak PrescottJosh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

    Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (11.10)

    In terms of fantasy points, Dak Prescott slipped from QB10 in 2017 to QB12 in 2018, but fantasy managers should feel good about his trajectory going forward.

    For starters, Prescott will have a full season with wide receiver Amari Cooper; the two connected on 53 of 76 targets for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games last year. Expect to see growth in their on-field chemistry.

    Tight end Jason Witten returns after a year in the Monday Night Football booth. He's 37 years old, but the two-time All-Pro recorded a combined 132 catches for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns with Prescott under center in the 2016 and 2017 terms.

    The Cowboys also added wide receiver Randall Cobb to the pass-catching group—an eight-year veteran with a 69.6 percent catch rate.

    In addition to Prescott's perimeter weapons, he's been a consistent scorer as a ball-carrier, logging 944 rushing yards for 18 touchdowns in three seasons.

              

    Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (12.04)

    Don't expect Lamar Jackson to transform into Deshaun Watson as a passer overnight, but you should take advantage of his ability to rack up rushing statistics. Last year, he recorded 18 carries in three contests and ran for at least 90 yards in those outings. 

    Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh took the over on whether Jackson runs the ball 139 times this season, per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala, though the quarterback thinks he'll log fewer runs than last year. "I've put on weight," he said on The Rich Eisen Show (h/t ESPN's Jamison Hensley). "But I don't think I'll be running as much as I did last year."

    Fantasy owners could have the best of both worlds. Remember, Jackson only started seven regular-season games and registered 147 carries for 695 yards and five touchdowns in 2018. As a starter for a full season, he could run the ball nine times per contest and prove Harbaugh right (144 rush attempts).

    Jackson's average in carries per game may drop in comparison to the previous season. Nonetheless, the coaching staff isn't likely to remove that portion of his game, especially since he's effectively moved the ball on the ground.

    Jackson will likely throw more, which increases opportunities for points through the air, but he could still log 500 or more rushing yards with a handful of touchdowns as a ball-carrier.

            

    Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears (13.09)

    When you think about quarterbacks who consistently threaten defenses with their legs, keep in mind that Mitchell Trubisky ranked fifth in rushing yards (421) among signal-callers last year. He also logged three touchdowns on the ground.

    For perspective, Trubisky had more rushing yards than Russell Wilson (376) and Marcus Mariota (357), two quarterbacks regarded as dual threats out of the pocket.

    In Year 2 under head coach Matt Nagy, Trubisky may see growth as a passer because of his familiarity within the offense.

    The Chicago Bears added two running backs who can catch out of the backfield. Mike Davis has 59 receptions for 408 yards and a touchdown through four pro years. David Montgomery had 71 grabs for 582 yards through three terms at Iowa State.

    Trubisky's potential growth coupled with his ability to run and pick up yards makes him an ascending fantasy asset.

Running Backs

2 of 6

    Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage
    Miami Dolphins running back Kalen BallageJim Rogash/Getty Images

    Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins (11.02)

    ESPN's Cameron Wolfe dropped a fantasy gem for managers to take into account when assessing the Miami Dolphins backfield.

    "An early timeshare prediction could be 45/40/15 touch split for [Kenyan] Drake, [Kalen] Ballage and the Dolphins secondary backs (Mark Walton, Myles Gaskin, Chandler Cox and Kenneth Farrow), respectively," Wolfe wrote.

    We may not see Drake's full breakout year in Miami. Wolfe also pointed out offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea's desire to establish the run. Based on those camp tidbits, the top two running backs on the Dolphins' depth chart will hold significant value. The coaching staff may ride the hot hand in most weeks.

    If Drake goes early in your draft, taking Ballage right after him seems like a shrewd move.

              

    Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons (11.11)

    Ito Smith should have ample opportunities to touch the football in the upcoming campaign. Running back Tevin Coleman signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Furthermore, during Dirk Koetter's first stint as the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014, his lead ball-carrier averaged fewer than 14 carries per game in each of those seasons.

    In Koetter's first year as a play-caller in Tampa Bay, running back Doug Martin averaged 18 rush attempts per game, but Charles Sims still registered 1,090 yards from scrimmage. Recent history suggests the Falcons offensive coordinator will spread a healthy number of touches between two tailbacks.

    Since his 2015 Pro Bowl campaign, Devonta Freeman's rush attempts have dropped each year. He averaged 14 carries per contest during the 2017 term, appearing in 14 contests.

    Freeman comes off an injury-riddled season that limited him to two games, and he's going into his sixth season. Smith can duplicate the lead back with his ability to run and catch out of the backfield. The Southern Mississippi product caught 27 passes for 152 yards and scored a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games last year.

              

    Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (11.11)

    Until running back Dalvin Cook plays through a full season, fantasy managers should keep an eye on the Minnesota Vikings' primary backup tailback. In 2017, Cook tore his ACL, and he battled a hamstring ailment last year.

    The Vikings allowed running back Latavius Murray to walk in free agency. Now with the New Orleans Saints, Murray averaged 11.1 rush attempts and caught 37 passes for 244 yards in two seasons with the NFC North club.

    The Vikings selected Alexander Mattison in the third round of this year's draft; he'll likely fill Murray's old role as the primary backup. The 5'11", 221-pound running back caught 60 passes for 511 yards and a touchdown at Boise State. Because of his pass-catching ability, the rookie can tack on receiving points in PPR leagues in addition to his rushing numbers on 10 to 12 carries per contest.

Wide Receivers

3 of 6

    Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf
    Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK MetcalfTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (10.02)

    Typically, early-round draft picks have to earn their starting roles. DK Metcalf, the No. 64 overall selection in this year's draft, can't expect to just show up and fill a void alongside wideout Tyler Lockett.

    According to The Athletic's Aaron Fentress, Metcalf has generated buzz at training camp. Seahawks defenders have embraced the hype and turned that excitement into friendly competition.

    "The Metcalf hype is so palpable that according to [K.J.] Wright, defensive players have taken notice and look forward to locking him down once the pads go on," Fentress wrote.

    If Metcalf can show glimpses of his potential during the preseason, he'll more than likely open the year as the No. 2 wide receiver. Because of his stature (6'3", 228 pounds) and speed (4.33 40-yard time), he's worth a pickup in the 10th round. The 21-year-old averaged 18.3 yards per catch at Ole Miss.

                

    Devin Funchess, Indianapolis Colts (11.12)

    The Indianapolis Colts could have a breakout fantasy football star in consecutive seasons. Last year, Eric Ebron registered 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, finishing as TE4.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck will have the opportunity to elevate another addition to the pass-catching group in wideout Devin Funchess. At the least, he's a 6'4", 225-pound possession target who will see frequent looks near the end zone. The 25-year-old pulled down 21 touchdown receptions in four years with the Carolina Panthers—16 of those scores within 19 yards of the goal line.

    According to The Athletic's Zak Keefer, Funchess has already put himself in position to start alongside wideout T.Y. Hilton.

    "With Hilton and Funchess the clear starters on the perimeter, [Parris] Campbell can work from the inside early before expanding his repertoire," Keefer wrote.

    Luck continues to recover from a calf injury, but assuming he's ready to go for the regular season, Funchess can follow in Ebron's footsteps and put together season bests as a pass-catcher in his first year with the Colts.

             

    Tyrell Williams, Oakland Raiders (12.06)

    Because of a foot ailment, Antonio Brown has missed recent practices, which allowed the Oakland Raiders to take a look at the wide receivers behind him on the depth chart. Head coach Jon Gruden liked what he saw in former Los Angeles Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams, per NBCS Bay Area's Scott Bair.

    "Williams has made some big plays at multiple positions, and has [shown] great stamina," Gruden said.

    When wide receiver Keenan Allen tore his ACL in the first game of the 2016 campaign, Williams led the Chargers in receptions (69) and yards (1,059) and tied for second in touchdowns (seven).

    Allen has been healthy over the last two years, and the Chargers selected wideout Mike Williams in the first round of the 2017 draft; both cut into Williams' target share. Nonetheless, he's improved his catch rate every year, which shows increased efficiency.

    As the No. 2 wide receiver on the Raiders depth chart, Williams deserves consideration earlier than the 12th round in fantasy leagues. If Brown experiences foot issues throughout the season, Williams could become a nifty pickup at the back end of drafts.

Tight Ends

4 of 6

    Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews
    Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark AndrewsGail Burton/Associated Press

    Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (12.05)

    Fantasy owners may have some concern with a tight end going into his age-35 campaign who's recovering from a broken ankle with ligament damage. With that said, Delanie Walker forged a strong connection with quarterback Marcus Mariota before his injury.

    Mariota has thrown 12 touchdown passes to Walker—tied with wideout Rishard Matthews for the most of any Tennessee Titans pass-catcher. Walker also led the team in reception yards (2,695) from 2015 to 2017 with a 955-yard margin over the second-place Matthews.

    Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline expects Walker to suit up for Week 1. With flashy names such as Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle and Ebron likely to come off the board early, the Titans tight end sounds like a steal in the 12th round.

               

    Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (13.08)

    For any Ravens pass-catcher to break out, Lamar Jackson has to deliver an accurate ball from the pocket with consistency. If he does, Mark Andrews could become the main beneficiary.

    According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, Andrews made significant strides this offseason.

    "In his first week of camp as a rookie last year, Andrews looked unsure of himself and seemed to lack explosiveness," Zrebiec wrote. "This year, he's been the Ravens' most dangerous and productive offensive player. Andrews seems to be well on his way to becoming one of the top young tight ends in the league."

    After Jackson took over for Joe Flacco in Week 11 of last season, he and Andrews connected on several chunk plays through the air. The tight end led the Ravens in receiving yardage (308), averaging 23.7 yards per catch, through the final seven contests.

    The chemistry between Jackson and Andrews puts the 22-year-old tight end on the sleeper radar going into the season.

             

    Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers (13.09)

    The Green Bay Packers selected tight end Jace Sternberger in the third round of this year's draft, but we shouldn't push Jimmy Graham aside yet.

    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters he anticipates a more productive year from Graham, saying, "I expect a big bounce-back year from Jimmy."

    In a down 2018 season, Graham recorded 55 catches for 636 yards and two touchdowns while battling knee and thumb injuries. Based on fantasy points (103.10), he finished as TE14, which is underwhelming compared to his previous campaigns in Seattle and New Orleans.

    Green Bay will operate under a new offensive scheme under head coach Matt LaFleur. Rodgers may look to established veterans as safety blankets—particularly wide receiver Davante Adams and Graham.

    Based on Graham's track record, fantasy owners can count on him for 500 or more receiving yards. He's met that threshold every year since his rookie term. According to NBC 26's Kelly Price, the nine-year veteran will make a concerted effort to elevate his presence in the red zone.

    "I'm completely focused on putting my best foot forward and being the player that I am: scoring in the red zone and being that big threat on third down," Graham said.

    He seems primed for a solid 2019 fantasy season.

Defenses

5 of 6

    Denver Broncos edge-rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller
    Denver Broncos edge-rushers Bradley Chubb and Von MillerAssociated Press

    Denver Broncos (14.05)

    Fantasy managers should buy stock in the Denver Broncos defense with head coach Vic Fangio calling the shots. He put together top-10 scoring defenses in Chicago over the last two years and takes over a unit with two pass-rushers, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, capable of logging double-digit sacks.

    According to The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala, safety Justin Simmons recently snagged his fifth interception at training camp. He's registered seven picks through three seasons. If he continues on this trajectory, the Broncos would have a ball hawk in the secondary to complement a strong pass rush up front.

    Denver could field a top-five fantasy defense in consecutive seasons. Based on ADP, this unit ranks 10th, which seems like a true steal.

             

    Pittsburgh Steelers (14.11)

    In the fantasy football realm, top defenses need sacks and interceptions in addition to giving up few points to rank near the top of the hierarchy.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers registered the most sacks (56) in the NFL in 2017 and tied the Kansas City Chiefs at 52 for a league best last season. On the flip side, the group logged just eight interceptions (28th) in 2018.

    Cornerback Steven Nelson, who recorded four interceptions with the Chiefs last year, could help boost the group's takeaway total. Sean Davis' focus solely on the free safety spot may also lead to more impact plays on the ball—elevating the unit's fantasy value.

           

    Tennessee Titans (N/A)

    Last season, under head coach Mike Vrabel, the Tennessee Titans defense ranked top-10 in both scoring and yards allowed for the first time since 2008. Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan retired this offseason, but they combined for just two sacks last year.

    The Titans defense didn't lose key playmakers from the past season and added pass-rusher Cameron Wake to the edge. He recorded six sacks with the Dolphins in 2018.

    Tennessee's ability to provide pocket pressure from various spots across the front seven gives fantasy managers hope for big numbers. Last year, five different players logged at least four sacks.

Kickers

6 of 6

    Atlanta Falcons kicker Giorgio Tavecchio
    Atlanta Falcons kicker Giorgio TavecchioKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Giorgio Tavecchio, Atlanta Falcons (15.03)

    The Falcons have the ingredients for an electric offense, one that will allow Giorgio Tavecchio to kick a high number of extra points. Harrison Butker made 65 point-after-touchdown attempts with the Chiefs' No. 1 scoring offense last year. He ranked fifth among kickers in fantasy points (147) in 2018.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan's wide receiver corps, featuring Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu, should keep the offense moving through the air. All three recorded at least 60 catches for 800 yards last year. Tight end Austin Hooper had a breakout 2018 campaign, registering 71 catches for 660 yards and four touchdowns. Devonta Freeman goes into the season healthy in the backfield.

    Tavecchio will need to take the field and polish off drives with extra points. He's flashed accuracy with his leg from deep, converting five of six field-goal attempts 50 or more yards out. The 29-year-old is set for a breakout season.

              

    Brett Maher, Dallas Cowboys (15.05)

    In 2018, the Cowboys tied with the New York Jets for fifth in field-goal attempts (36). Running back Ezekiel Elliott led the league in rushing yards (1,434), and Dak Prescott caught fire with Amari Cooper in the passing game.

    While the passing offense could take moderate strides with Jason Witten back on the field, Randall Cobb's addition to the wideout group and Cooper's continued growth, Prescott averages 226.6 yards per game for his career. The offense will rely on Brett Maher to finish drives that stall on the opponent's side of the field.

    Maher converted on 29 of 36 attempts in his first year with the club, but he split the uprights six of seven times from 50-plus yards and only missed one extra point.

    Maher finished 10th in fantasy points (138) among kickers, and his arrow points up going into the 2019 season because of the offense. Prescott and Cooper's growing rapport could put the Cowboys in position to score more points.

               

    Daniel Carlson, Oakland Raiders (N/A)

    The Raiders will put Daniel Carlson's leg to good use.

    Assuming Antonio Brown's foot ailment doesn't force him to miss games, the Raiders should have more scoring opportunities. As well, a revamped offensive line—featuring right tackle Trent Brown and likely left guard Richie Incognito after he serves a two-game suspension—should keep quarterback Derek Carr upright.

    In 2018, Carlson converted on one of four attempts with the Vikings through two contests. Minnesota waived him, and he signed with Oakland, appearing in 10 games and splitting the uprights 16 out of 17 times.

    Carlson's 94.1 percent accuracy rate with the Silver and Black may be a sign of good things to come with a rejuvenated offense.

             

    All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

    Average draft positions are courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

X