Fantasy Football 2020: Most Exciting Sleepers to Target in Mock DraftsAugust 6, 2020
Training camps are underway in the NFL, which also means fantasy football season is nearly here.
As with other sports, the COVID-19 pandemic provides something of a complication for fantasy sports owners. A number of players have already opted out of the 2020 season, including Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. Moreover, Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suggested earlier this week the owners should cancel the season.
It remains to be seen whether the integrity of the 2020 campaign will be threatened, but one thing is for sure: Depth will be as important as it has ever been for all 32 teams. This also means there could be a treasure trove of sleeper stars in the fantasy ranks.
The following is a breakdown of players who could have some exciting value in fantasy leagues. Whether it be system fit, reliability or breakout potential, these names might turn the tide for owners looking for depth and production.
Exciting Sleepers to Target in Mock Drafts
RB James White, New England Patriots
James White has always been a commodity in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. But with Tom Brady no longer under center in Foxborough, is he likely to replicate previous results?
Actually, there is reason to believe White could be even more productive in 2020.
The Patriots signed veteran quarterback and 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton to a one-year deal this offseason, and figure to give him every opportunity to win the starting job. The 31-year-old's presence might also lead to some new schemes for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Whereas Brady had limited mobility, Newton is at his best when he can move around and make plays outside the pocket. He excelled in run-pass option schemes with Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, and White could present similar value.
The former Wisconsin running back hauled in 72 receptions for 645 yards and five touchdowns last season. He tallied 87 catches for 751 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. Needless to say, he is a bona fide weapon as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
But the 28-year-old can also carry the pigskin. He is averaging a respectable 4.1 yards per carry for his career, including 4.5 yards per carry in 2018.
Given teams will also potentially have to be wary of Newton and quarterback keepers, White might have added opportunities for explosive plays as a change-of-pace back alongside Sony Michel.
White is currently the 32nd-ranked back in mock drafts, with an average draft position (ADP) of 77, per Fantasy Pros. Plus, he is currently going after guys like Kareem Hunt (a backup) and the oft-injured Derrius Guice.
While he will split touches with Michel, White could have tremendous upside with a mobile quarterback like Newton under center. He might be the ideal flex option, especially in PPR leagues.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in NFL history, but he is not getting much respect from fantasy owners.
This is a bit confusing, especially considering the Cardinals acquired three-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason.
Sure, Hopkins figures to have the highest target share among Arizona's wideouts. At the same time, he is likely to draw multiple players in coverage, which might open up the field for quarterback Kyler Murray's other targets. That bodes well for Fitzgerald.
The 36-year-old continues to produce at a high level. He had 75 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns last year, with a catch rate close to 69 percent. Not to mention, he is incredibly durable. The 11-time Pro Bowler has played in all 16 games in each of the past five seasons.
Yet, Fitzgerald is way down on most draft boards. He is the 66th-ranked wideout in mock drafts, with an ADP of 178, per Fantasy Pros.
Kliff Kingsbury could well open up the offense for Murray in his sophomore campaign. With the addition of Hopkins and a full season of running Kenyan Drake, the Cardinals could have one of the more explosive offenses in football, providing Murray gets better protection.
A wide-open offense could lead to a big year for Fitzgerald, who might finish the year with WR2 value in spite of his shockingly low ADP.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
It can be hard to assess rookie wide receivers, but Brandon Aiyuk seems like the perfect system fit for San Francisco.
Indeed, Niners general manager John Lynch traded up six spots to select the Arizona State product in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. There is something to be said when executives get aggressive for a player they desire on draft night, especially one who can make an immediate impact.
San Francisco lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, and Deebo Samuel is still recovering after suffering a foot fracture earlier this summer. The Niners will need Aiyuk to be productive from the jump.
The 22-year-old had a huge season with the Sun Devils in 2019, tallying 1,192 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on a whopping 18.3 yards per reception. He also boasts a 40-inch vertical, making him valuable as a deep threat who can go up and get jump balls.
The Niners figure to establish the run early and often once again in 2020, and tight end George Kittle will account for the majority of the target share.
However, Aiyuk has good value as a guy who can line up all over the field, much as Sanders did for San Francisco last season.
Aiyuk is the 61st-ranked wideout in mock drafts, with an ADP of 164, per Fantasy Pros, but he could end up as one of the more productive rookie receivers in his class.
All stats obtained via Pro Football Reference or Sports Reference, unless otherwise noted. All fantasy information obtained via Fantasy Pros.