Fantasy Football 2020: Sleeper Cheat Sheet and Strategy Tips for Mock Drafts

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz works out prior to an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia. The Seahawks won 17-9. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

In a normal year, early August usually brings about the Hall of Fame Game and the start of the NFL preseason. However, 2020 has been anything but normal, and with no NFL preseason, so too will August—with one notable exception.

Preseason or not, fantasy draft season is here. In the coming weeks, fantasy enthusiasts will engage in the familiar pastime of picking players for season-long leagues. With no preseason to provide insight, those picks will largely be based on past production and training camp reporting.

While the approach to fantasy drafting may be a bit different, the goal remains the same. Managers will look to find value at all levels of the draft. With this in mind, let's examine some potential 2020 sleepers and run down some noteworthy tips for traditional standard drafting.

We'll be focusing on point-per-reception (PPR) leagues here. All average draft positions (ADP) are according to FantasyPros.


Fantasy Sleeper Cheat Sheet


  • Daniel Jones, New York Giants
  • Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
  • Jared Goff, Los Angeles Chargers

When it comes to identifying potential sleepers at quarterback, it's smart to examine the supporting cast. Take second-year New York Giants signal-caller Daniel Jones, for example. With pass-catchers like Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton on the roster—not to mention do-it-all back Saquon Barkley—Jones has the potential to take a big step forward this season.

Jones threw for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games as a rookie and could be a viable fantasy starter if he can overcome his fumbling issue—he coughed up 18 balls in 2019. With an ADP of 109, Jones is at least worth taking a flier on as a streaming option.


Running Backs

  • Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
  • Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins
  • Matt Breida, Miami Dolphins
  • Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers
  • LeSean McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There are two approaches to take when looking for running back sleepers. Either target a potential starting back who is trending late in drafts or target high-volume complementary backs with PPR upside.

Rookie Los Angeles Rams back Cam Akers is a good example of the first approach. Though the Rams also have Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, the second-round pick is likely to get the first crack at replacing Todd Gurley as L.A.'s workhorse runner.

With an ADP of 83, Akers could be a tremendous value if he wins the starting job.

Recent Tampa Bay Buccaneers addition LeSean McCoy is a good example of the second approach. Though he'll likely split time with Ronald Jones II, he could be Tom Brady's new go-to receiver out of the backfield—McCoy has topped 50 receptions five times in his career.


Wide Receivers

  • Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams
  • Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears
  • Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints
  • Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

When looking for receiver sleepers, it's smart to combine the aforementioned approaches. As is the case with quarterbacks, a supporting cast can make or break a receiver in fantasy. Targeting potential No. 1 options or high-volume complementary receivers in prolific offenses is the way to go here.

For example, Emmanuel Sanders will be the No. 2 option behind Michael Thomas for the New Orleans Saints. However, he'll be the No. 2 in an offense that ranked seventh in passing and third in scoring last season.

Sanders has 1,000-yard potential and could be a steal with an ADP of 101.

Brandin Cooks may replace the departed DeAndre Hopkins as the Houston Texans' No. 1 receiver this season. With an ADP of 83, he's also an excellent value.


Tight Ends

  • Chris Herndon, New York Jets
  • Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
  • Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

Finding true sleepers at tight end is tricky because the position isn't worth drafting early except for in a few instances—players like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle can be valued like No. 1 wide receivers.

However, value can be found by targeting relatively unproven tight ends in favorable situations. Take former Baltimore Ravens draft bust Hayden Hurst, for example. He's replacing Pro Bowler Austin Hooper in a prolific Atlanta Falcons offense and, from a potential standpoint, might be just as good.

"They actually upgraded at the position by trading for Hayden Hurst," Senior Bowl director and ESPN analyst Jim Nagy tweeted. "If Hurst were in this year's draft, he'd be the first TE selected."

Hooper had 787 yards and six touchdowns last season. If Hurst can approach those numbers, he could be a steal with an ADP of 129.


Fantasy Draft Tips and Strategies

Target Dual-Threat Running Backs Early

Most fantasy managers tend to target starting running backs in Round 1 because of their projected volume of work and resulting high floor. While more receivers tend to slip into the first rounds of PPR leagues, it's smart to target at least one high-level starting back in the first two rounds. Waiting too long to grab an RB can result in not having a reliable starter on your roster.

Ideally, managers should target back who do more than just run the ball—especially in PPR formats.

Multifaceted backs like Christian McCaffrey and Barkley should be high on any pick order, though quality dual-threat backs can be found after the first round. Philadelphia Eagles back Miles Sanders, for example, currently has an ADP of 18.

Though he made just 11 starts in 2019, Sanders had 818 rushing yards and 50 receptions for 509 more yards on the season.


Don't Overdraft Quarterbacks

With few exceptions, quarterbacks are rarely worth taking over starting running backs or No. 1 pass-catchers. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season, is one of those exceptions—provided, of course, that your league awards points for quarterback rushing.

The reality is that starting-caliber quarterbacks can be found later in the draft than starters at other positions. While it can be tempting to reach for a guy like Jackson or Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it's not always the right move.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, for example, has an ADP of 90. Yet, his production in 2019 rivaled that of Mahomes, who has an ADP of 19.

Wentz passed for 4,039 yards with 27 touchdowns last season. Mahomes passed for 4,031 yards and 26 touchdowns. While it's worth noting that Mahomes did miss time because of injury, injuries are a big part of the NFL.

By waiting and grabbing Wentz in Round 8 or 9, a fantasy manager could theoretically fill out the rest of their starting lineup before drafting a quarterback.


Get to Know Your Rookie Options

While the lack of a preseason can make it tricky to predict roles for first-year players, it's smart to familiarize yourself with rookies because of their potential sleeper value.

Rookies can be risky because they are unproven, but they can often be drafted late for that very same reason. The trick, of course, is identifying rookies who are likely to get early opportunities, as players like Josh Jacobs and DK Metcalf did in 2019.

Jacobs racked up 1,150 rushing yards, 166 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for the Raiders last season. Metcalf caught 58 passes for 990 yards and seven touchdowns with the Seattle Seahawks.

Likely rookie starters this year include Akers, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Raiders wideout Henry Ruggs III. Of course, it's worth following these rookies in camp to see if they are indeed ready for their projected roles.