Any fantasy football manager knows the key to a championship roster is carefully selecting sleepers and next-man-up players among the favorites at each position.
All it takes is a couple of ill-timed injuries for the top of your roster to crumble, and when that happens, you'll need to know you have players on your bench ready to step in.
Sometimes, your sleepers do more than step in. Think about some of the players who were regarded as sleepers in recent fantasy seasons who ended up unexpectedly producing eye-popping numbers: Denver running back Phillip Lindsay, Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper, Kansas City wideout Mecole Hardman.
Within fantasy football, people can have different definitions of what constitutes a "sleeper." For our purposes, we'll count it as any player being drafted outside the top 20 for quarterbacks and top 30 for each of running backs and wide receivers, based on a 10-team league.
Let's break down the top sleepers you should keep an eye on at each position as you draft your 2020 fantasy teams. The following projections are for PPR leagues.
Top QB Sleepers
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (ADP: 22.6)
Drew Lock didn't have a large sample size in 2019 with only five starts. In those appearances, however, he threw seven touchdowns to three interceptions, and he didn't have any picks in his last two outings.
In fact, despite the small sample size, there's a clear progression in the 23-year-old's play even from his first two games to his last two.
Even though his best performance was the Dec. 8 game against Houston—three touchdowns and a completion percentage of 81.5—his ball security had improved by the end of the season, and he was working on some sloppy footwork issues, even with less-flashy numbers.
With Pat Shurmur now at the offensive helm in 2020 and new weapons in rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and veteran running back Melvin Gordon, Lock should continue to improve and perhaps even become more than a bye-week fill-in in 2020.
Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 33.0)
If you're in a 10- or even 12-team league and looking at quarterbacks with an ADP of 33.0, something may have gone very wrong in your season.
Nevertheless, whether you're in a bye-week crunch or hit with unexpected injuries, Tyrod Taylor, not rookie Justin Herbert, is "in the driver's seat" to start for the Chargers in 2020, per Chargers general manager Tom Telesco.
Taylor's production at his previous stops in Buffalo, Cleveland and Baltimore was inconsistent, but it showcased his ability to be a dual scoring threat as a passer and a rusher.
This season, with Philip Rivers out the door, the 30-year-old will quarterback an offense that includes a top-10 fantasy running back in Austin Ekeler and a top wideout in Keenan Allen.
Throw in Hunter Henry and Mike Williams, and there's a lot of groundwork in place for Taylor to have a better season in Los Angeles than he has elsewhere in his career.
Top RB Sleepers
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 30.0)
It's a brave new world for the Los Angeles Rams backfield after the release of Todd Gurley.
While the team still has Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson at the ready, it nevertheless addressed the position in Round 2, suggesting Cam Akers has some serious sleeper potential this season.
Even if the Rams' backfield remains a committee approach, Akers should easily be able to make his case for the lion's share of touches.
If you play in a dynasty league, the 20-year-old is a no-brainer, but even traditional-league managers may find that stashing him on their bench if (or when) he blows up is a savvy move.
The concern about relying on Akers for production is that the Rams didn't do much to shore up their offensive line, one of the league's worst in 2019.
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 36.7)
If there's one thing we learned watching the Tom Brady–led New England Patriots, it was that any running back to whom he handed off the ball could become a star in any given game.
Now, credit for that almost assuredly goes to the New England scheme, and we'll find out for sure this season. But fantasy managers should keep an eye on who is getting the most touches out of the backfield in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs let Peyton Barber, who earned many of Ronald Jones II's would-be snaps, walk in free agency. They did draft Ke'Shawn Vaughn, but Jones, who has improved his pass-catching ability since his rookie season and dramatically upped his yards per carry from 1.9 to 4.2, should get a fair shake this year.
Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 55.0)
One of the deepest sleepers on this list, at a position that would make him the No. 5 running back on rosters in 10-team leagues, is the Chargers' Justin Jackson.
While teammate Austin Ekeler is extremely hot heading into the season with an ADP of 15.7, perhaps managers shouldn't be so quick to assume he'll be the clear No. 1 option for the Bolts.
According to Daniel Popper of The Athletic, the Chargers are "very high" on Jackson as part of a "one-two punch" with Ekeler.
While the report did indicate Los Angeles' brain trust views Ekeler "as a No. 1 starting back," it's good news for fantasy owners who perhaps want to handcuff the two or have a plug-and-play option ready to go on the bench.
Top WR Sleepers
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 28.3)
Michael Gallup is right on the edge of being considered a sleeper; in 12-team leagues, managers will have an eye toward starting him, while he might be the next man up in 10-team leagues.
However, the 24-year-old could prove to be a flex player week in and week out in 2020.
At first, things looked promising for Gallup in the lineup behind Amari Cooper when receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jason Witten departed in free agency.
Gallup had 66 receptions for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns last season and averaged 8.1 targets per game, so more potential opportunities to build on that production were enticing. However, Dallas drafting CeeDee Lamb in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL draft could complicate things for Gallup, who will need to make a splash early to make his case for more snaps.
Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 65.5)
Another deep sleeper on this list, Allen Lazard presents a quandary for fantasy managers who have been burned by drafting any Packers wideout not named Davante Adams in recent years.
But the reason many are high on the 24-year-old's potential this year is the fact that the Packers didn't draft a single wideout in the 2020 NFL draft, despite it being considered a position of high need.
That could mean the front office is confident in the weapons it has for Aaron Rodgers, a group that includes Adams, Lazard, free-agent signing Devin Funchess, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Last season, Lazard caught 35 of 52 targets for 477 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 9.2 yards per target. If anyone on the Packers can break out besides Adams, he's the top candidate.
Breshad Perriman, New York Jets (ADP: 63.5)
Another player those in 10-team leagues would be drafting in mid-to-late rounds, Breshad Perriman has a new team in 2020, and his success will largely depend on whether he can build chemistry with his new passer, Sam Darnold.
In 2019, on a one-year contract with the Buccaneers, the 26-year-old had a slow start to the year before catching fire late with five touchdowns on 20 receptions in his last four games. He surpassed 100 yards in each of his last three games.
With Robby Anderson having departed in free agency, Perriman has a ripe opportunity to earn the majority of looks from Darnold and have his best season to date.
ADP information per FantasyPros.