Fantasy Football 2019: Bounce-Back Players and Sleepers to Target in Mock Drafts

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2019

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) looks to pass during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Thursday, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

When it comes to preparing for your fantasy draft, most managers know which players are at the top of their lists. We're deep into 2019 mock-draft season, which has turned up players like Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey as potential top selections.

Successful fantasy teams don't just consist of first picks, however. To put together a winning team, you need to identify value in all areas of the draft.

There are two types of players who typically provide immense value in fantasy: Sleepers and bounce-back players.

Sleepers are relatively unheralded players primed to break out in fantasy. Bounce-back players are those who have been fantasy staples in the past but who underperformed the previous season.

Here, we'll examine some top targets in each category, along with their average draft positions (ADP) according to Yahoo Fantasy.


2019 Sleepers to Target

1. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (77.1)

2. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals (86.5)

3. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans (94.4)

4. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (104.6)

5. Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (105.5)

6. Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (123.0)

7. Kalen Ballage, RB, Miami Dolphins (123.7)

8. James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (124.3)

9. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets (125.3)

10. Tyrell Williams, WR, Oakland Raiders (126.9)


Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants

The New York Giants traded star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns early in the offseason. This leaves New York without one of its best offensive players, but it also means that fantasy managers should be able to find value in former No. 2 receiver Sterling Shepard.

With Beckham gone, Shepard moves into the No. 1 receiver role for New York. Furthermore, he's going to be one of the few reliable targets for Eli Manning early in the season—offseason acquisition Golden Tate is facing a four-game suspension to start the year.

Shepard's status as a late-round pick likely stems from the fact that he's dealt with a broken thumb for most of training camp. However, he has returned to practice and appears poised to start in Week 1.

"It's actually healed up pretty fast," Shepard said, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. "I wouldn't say I'm all the way back, but I'm pretty close. I'm where I need to be."

With Shepard taking over the No. 1 role, he should be able to build upon last year's 872-yard, four-touchdown campaign.


James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Like the Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded away their No. 1 receiver in the offseason. With Antonio Brown now with the Oakland Raiders, JuJu Smith-Schuster steps into that role.

Smith-Schuster isn't a sleeper, but potential No. 2 receiver James Washington is.

Take in the second round of the 2018 draft, Washington caught just 16 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown in 2018. However, he appears ready to break out, much like Smith-Schuster did last season.

Washington has had an impact in each of Pittsburgh's two preseason contests. In the opener, he caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, he caught another four balls for 78 yards. He's played both games without future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

If Washington can average the same 81 yards per game he's had in the preseason so far, he'll be on pace for 1,296 yards in 2019. That's the kind of breakout production that would make him a certifiable fantasy star.


Bounce-back Players to Target

1. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (35.2)

2. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (59.9)

3. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (64.3)

4. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (74.9)

5. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (86.3)

6. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (91.4)

7. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (113.1)

8. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (114.8)

9. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (118.7)

10. Randall Cobb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (120.4)


Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

If you're looking to wait until Round 6 or 7 to grab your quarterback, you may want to target Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Yes, he's coming off shoulder surgery—an iffy prospect for any signal-caller—but Newton has been active in camp.

Newton is also set to start this week in Carolina's preseason matchup with the New England Patriots. How long he'll play remains to be seen.

"A lot of it will be about the flow of the game more than anything," head coach Ron Rivera said, via the team's official website. "Ideally you'd like to have three or four really good possessions and then go from there and make your assessment."

It's a good sign that Newton is able to start at all—especially considering the more than year-long recovery for Andrew Luck after his shoulder surgery.

If Newton is back or at least close to 100 percent, he should put up numbers similar to those in 2017—3,302 yards passing, 754 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns. His dual-threat ability makes him a solid fantasy option.