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Fantasy Football 2019: 3 Rookie Sleepers Undervalued in Drafts

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2019

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders runs with the ball during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Philadelphia, Friday, July 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

A successful fantasy football draft is all about finding value, and for value, look no further than rookies.

While the lack of proven production creates a risk factor with first-year players, it also causes many fantasy footballers to underrate them. Last year, No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley was heavily hyped during draft season, but guys such as Calvin Ridley, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Nick Chubb were not.

Sure, it took some time for many of these rookies to break out, but if you nabbed Chubb in the 10th round, you were rewarded with a fantasy stud for the playoff stretch.

Which 2019 rookies are likely to be had late in fantasy drafts and help your team make a postseason push? Let's take a look.

            

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders continues to make a push for the starting job. The second-round selection and former Penn State star made a good early impression during training camp, showing himself to be on a different level than Jordan Howard, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood:

Zack Rosenblatt @ZackBlatt

With Miles Sanders, I want to see it in the preseason first, but he’s making it really hard not to expect he’ll be the #Eagles No. 1 RB at some point this season. Probably soon. Maybe very soon. He just looks different than the rest of the group.

Sanders has continued to impress during the preseason. He showed his burst and elusiveness against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, rushing for 31 yards on just five carries. 

"I felt like I was more patient back there, more comfortable, so it was a good day," Sanders said, per Dave Spadaro of the team's official website.

As Sanders continues to adjust to the speed and the nuances of the pro game, he's likely to become even more effective. Sanders still has to prove himself in regular-season games, of course, but he's being woefully undervalued at this point.

According to Yahoo Fantasy, Sanders holds an average draft position (ADP) of 111.1. This places him in the 9th round of 12-league drafts and behind Kareem Hunt, who is suspended for eight games and will likely walk into a backup role upon his return.

                 

DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Considered by many to be a first-round talent in April's draft, former Mississippi receiver DK Metcalf slid into the late second round before finally being scooped up by the Seattle Seahawks. He seems to be sliding in fantasy drafts, too, as his ADP sits at 124.7.

The two things working against Metcalf are Seattle's run-oriented offense and the fact that rookie wide receivers often struggle to make the NFL leap. However, he is definitely worth a 10th-round flier, and he's probably worth picking up a round or two higher if necessary.

When filling out your bench, you should take a few chances on players with upside, and this is exactly what Metcalf is.

From a physical standpoint, Metcalf has everything you could want in a No. 1 receiver. At 6'3" and 228 pounds, he possesses 4.33 speed. This should allow him to both outrun and overpower defensive backs, as he nearly did in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.

Metcalf only caught one pass on four targets against Denver, but he was very close to breaking a couple of big plays.

"He clicked heels with the guy and almost got the first one, and the second one was just off his fingertips," head coach Pete Carroll said, per Liz Mathews of Seahawks Wire. "You could see that he got behind him, just like we're hoping. He's a big threat."

As Metcalf continues to grow as a pro, those big plays are likely to come. Seattle needs a new No. 1 receiver in the wake of Doug Baldwin's retirement. While Tyler Lockett is going to fill that role early, Metcalf could emerge as Russell Wilson's go-to guy by midseason.

    

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 08: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions look to block while playing the New England Patriots during a preseason game at Ford Field on August 08, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson currently has an ADP of 127.0. This makes him a prime target for players who don't land one of the league's premier tight ends—Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Zach Ertz—at the top of the draft.

The second tier of tight ends is both large and congested in terms of expected production. There shouldn't be a huge difference between Evan Engram—who has an ADP of 58.9—and any other above-average pass-catching tight end. 

Things are trending toward Hockenson being precisely this type of player.

"Hockenson's been a fixture on the first-team offense in Detroit since he arrived for the offseason training program, and that's been consistent through the first couple weeks of training camp as well," Tim Twentyman of the team's official website wrote. "I expect him to be a big part of this offense in Detroit."

There will be a bit of a learning curve for Hockenson. However, he has the skill set to be a difference-maker, and he's playing with a Pro Bowl talent in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

While splitting time with fellow first-round pick Noah Fant, Hockenson racked up 49 receptions, 760 yards and six touchdowns for Iowa last season. This is the kind of production the Lions should expect from him this year, even with Jesse James on the roster.

Hockenson is more of a natural pass-catcher and a big-play threat than James, and he should emerge as one of Stafford's go-to targets early in the season. If he does produce yardage in the 750 range, it would make him a top-10 fantasy tight end. Last season, only five tight ends produced that number of yards or more.