If you drafted Austin Ekeler at his ADP (average draft position) in 2019, chances are you had a fun fantasy football season. The diminutive running back was the kind of sleeper who won leagues after finishing as the fourth-highest scoring running back despite a seventh-round ADP.
Everyone knows the names at the top of the draft. Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas and Saquon Barkley dominate the opening round, but surrounding your studs with high-upside players who wind up meeting or exceeding their potential can take your team from middle-of-the-pack to holding bragging rights for the year.
At this time last season, Ekeler was an afterthought. With Melvin Gordon in front of him and a small role the previous year, he wasn't exactly blowing up during draft time last season. But with Gordon's holdout, the Chargers being forced to throw the ball and Ekeler stepping up his game, he ended up being a strong piece for many successful teams last season.
Finding the next Ekeler or equivalent at other positions isn't easy. Even with Ekeler's talent, it still took some breaks and developments for him to become a breakout star.
Heading into the 2020 fantasy draft season, here's what the first two rounds are looking like using the FantasyPros Mock Draft Simulator and assuming a 12-team league with full PPR (point per reception) scoring.
Two-Round Mock Draft
1.01: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
1.02: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
1.03: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
1.04: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
1.05: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
1.06: Davlin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
1.07: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
1.08: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
1.09: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
1.10: Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
1.11: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
1.12: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
2.01: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
2.02: Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
2.03: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
2.04: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
2.05: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
2.06: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
2.07: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
2.08: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
2.09: Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2.10: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
2.11: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
2.12: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Sleepers to Target
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills
Finding value at running back in the mid-to-late rounds can be tricky—there's a reason you see the studs fly off the board in the first two rounds. In today's NFL landscape, there are few backs you can trust to consistently get the volume week in and week out to be locked in starters.
However, sometimes those early-round receivers and tight ends are too good to pass up, and drafters will need to strike it rich on some running back sleepers with high upside.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Zack Moss can be had for cheap in drafts right now and has the ability to make a big first-year impact on a team that should have a good offense. His ADP sits at 136.0, according to FantasyPros data, which makes him the 46th running back off the board.
The case for Moss lies in his potential as a touchdown vulture in his timeshare with Devin Singletary. The Bills starting running back is being taken 83 spots ahead of Moss at 53.0.
There's reason to believe Moss will still see enough work to be relevant. Particularly, he has the potential to be a touchdown vulture for Singletary, which would make him a boom-or-bust player who could help you win on any given week.
First, Brian Daboll's offenses have been run-heavy in the past. Buffalo was seventh in run-play percentage last season, and that was with the remains of Frank Gore splitting the work with Singletary and T.J. Yeldon.
Now, the team spent a third-round pick on Moss, which is the same draft capital they spent on Singletary. At 5'7" and 203 pounds, the diminutive Singletary is built to be an elusive, pass-catching back with big-play ability. He'll be used in that role, but he wasn't trusted with goalline carries in his first season.
Singletary only had three carries inside the 10-yard line. By comparison, Gore had 18 such carries, and Josh Allen had 11. With the Bills committed to Allen as their quarterback of the future, it would make sense to look at the addition of Moss as an investment in a more efficient short-yardage back.
And even at 5'9" 223 pounds, Moss was a competent pass-catcher at Utah. He had more receptions than Singeltary did at Florida Atlantic, with 65 catches over his final three seasons as a Ute.
The coaching staff has already raved about Moss' ball security, pointing out that he never fumbled the ball in college. Singletary struggled with ball security at times with four fumbles. Now that there's another young back in the mix, those fumbles could affect his share of the work.
Even if Singletary stays healthy (he missed four games lasts season with a hamstring injury), Moss could surprise with how big his role is from the jump.
Other Running Back Sleeper Targets (ADP)
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (81.7)
Ronald Jones II, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86.3)
James White, RB, New England Patriots (110.3)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
Bill O'Brien became a punching bag this offseason when he made the curious decision to trade DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. While Nuk will continue to be a fantasy asset in the desert, the hole left by Hopkins leaves an opportunity for a fantasy sleeper.
To offset the loss of Hopkins, the Texans brought in Brandin Cooks. While it was a confusing move for O'Brien it will turn out to be a brilliant move by fantasy owners who do the same.
Cooks' ADP is 82.0, making him WR34. Here's where he has finished in PPR over the last six seasons.
- 2019: WR62
- 2018: WR13
- 2017: WR15
- 2016: WR10
- 2015: WR13
- 2014: WR56
2014 was his rookie season in New Orleans. Last season, his stock plummeted like everyone involved in the Los Angeles Rams offense. The reality is that Cooks has been passed around to three teams in six seasons, but he has posted WR2 or better numbers everywhere he has gone.
Hopkins is a fantasy stud because of his talent, but his volume in Houston was never an issue either. He saw 150 targets last season. Even if all of those don't directly transfer to Cooks, there are still plenty of targets from a talented quarterback in Deshaun Watson to go around.
As PFF noted, Cooks is one of the most talented downfield threats in the league:
Cooks might not be Hopkins, but the odds are that if he can stay healthy, he's going to get a similar opportunity. He should have well over 100 targets and reward whoever takes him with a much higher finish than his WR34 ADP.
Other Wide Receiver Sleeper Targets (ADP)
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions (100.7)
N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots (144.0)
Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins (145.7)
Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Getting one of the elite tight ends like George Kittle or Travis Kelce will cost drafters this season. Both are usually off the board once the first two rounds are over. There are other strong options, but the most efficient strategy is to hold off on the position for a while.
There are mid-round targets who have top-five potential, and the Atlanta Falcons' new tight end is one of those options.
Austin Hooper finished as the sixth-highest scoring tight end in the PPR format last season as he hauled in 75 of his 97 targets. Regardless of Hooper's talent level, that kind of volume at the tight end position is valuable.
With Hooper off to Cleveland in free agency, the Falcons acquired Hurst from Baltimore. The former first-round pick showed signs of life with the Ravens last season in catching 30 of his 39 targets, but Mark Andrews' emergence rendered him obsolete.
Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones will obviously command a lot of targets but they also command a lot of attention from opposing secondaries. With Matt Ryan at the helm, the Falcons have plenty of volume to go around, and with the departures of Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Hooper, the Falcons have over 250 non-Ridley and Jones targets to go around next season.
The result should be plenty of work for a guy with a first-round pedigree and the potential to outperform his 137.7, TE16 ADP.
Other Tight End Sleeper Targets (ADP)
Jonnu Smith, Tight End, Tennessee Titans (156.0)
Ian Thomas, Tight End, Carolina Panthers (164.0)
Chris Herndon IV, Tight End, New York Jets (172.0)