Fantasy Football 2020: 5 Rookie Sleepers Undervalued in Drafts

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor in action during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola, Pool)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

When it comes to drafting for season-long fantasy leagues, value is key. Regardless of your positional strategy—targeting running backs first, prioritizing receivers, etc.—a draft can be successful if quality players are found through all stages of the draft.

This is why fantasy draftniks do everything they can to avoid potential busts early, and why the term "sleeper" has become part of the fantasy lexicon.

NFL rookies can be terrific bargains because they're unproven, unpredictable and often underdrafted. That's not the case for all rookies, of course—Kansas City Cheifs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has an average draft position (ADP) of 16—but there is plenty of value to be found among first-year players.

Here, we'll examine five incoming rookies whose upside outweighs their current draft positioning.


Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Former TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor could be walking into a starting role with the Philadelphia Eagles, at least to start the season. According to CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr, Reagor has been working with the first-team offense in training camp, as J.J. Arcega Whiteside remains sidelined and Alshon Jeffery is on the PUP list.

Reagor, who averaged 14.2 yards per reception last season, is an explosive playmaker who can take advantage of Carson Wentz's strong arm and field vision. In an offense that ranked eighth in passing attempts and 11th in passing yardage last season, there's a ton of upside for Reagor as a rookie.

With an ADP of just 132, there's also a lot of value to be found here.


Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

With an ADP of 65, Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers isn't exactly a deep sleeper. However, he's being valued far below Edwards-Helaire, and he could have comparable production once the season gets underway.

Akers appears poised to be Los Angeles' lead runner over longtime backup Malcolm Brown and second-year man Darrel Henderson. Akers racked up 1,369 combined rushing and receiving yards with Florida State last season and is well-built for an every-down role.

Gurley had that role in 2019, and while he had arguably his worst season as a pro, he still finished with 31 receptions, 1,064 combined rushing and receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. Akers can have similar numbers in his first pro season.


Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

John Raoux/Associated Press

The Jacksonville Jaguars have one budding fantasy stud in wideout DJ Chark Jr., and rookie receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. could soon follow suit. The supremely talented Colorado product has been impressive in training camp and could be homing in on a starting role opposite Chark.

"He's a lot better route runner, a lot better at catching the ball than I even expected," quarterback Gardner Minshew II said, per John Reid of the Florida Times-Union.

Minshew passed for an impressive 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns in 14 games as a rookie, and he should be able to open up the offense more with Shenault and Chark in the lineup. Shenault could be a serviceable WR2 or flex option by midseason and currently holds a meager ADP of just 226.


Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Like Shenault, Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tee Higgins is a potential late-round sleeper (ADP of 201) who could emerge as a starting option as the season wears on. He'll be playing in a high-upside Zac Taylor offense and with reigning Heisman-winner Joe Burrow at quarterback.

The 33rd overall pick in the draft would likely be a starting fantasy option out of the gate if Cincinnati wasn't already deep at receiver. Assuming A.J. Green is back to 100 percent, Higgins will likely open the season behind Green, Tyler Boyd and speedster John Ross.

However, given Higgins' upside and Ross' inconsistency at the pro level, he could be the No. 3 receiver early. He could also pass Boyd as the No. 2 before season's end. If Burrow can replicate the success he had at LSU last season—when he threw 60 touchdowns asses—the 6'4" Higgins could be a touchdown machine.


Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Chase Claypool is the deep, deep sleeper of this list and is a bit of a risk-reward option (ADP of 245). He joins a deep Steelers receiving corps and will be dependent on Ben Roethlisberger's ability to return to 100 percent. 

If Big Ben can return to his Pro Bowl form, though, Claypool will have a chance to rise up the depth chart and to outdo what Diontae Johnson did as a rookie last season—Johnson finished with 680 yards and five touchdowns on 59 receptions.

Claypool, Pittsburgh's second-round draft choice, has shined in training camp and could be one of the biggest mismatches on the Steelers' roster.

Joe Haden @joehaden23

He’s going to be a PROBLEM! You heard it first from me! https://t.co/7mzTAeiy7J

At 6'4" and 238 pounds with 4.42 speed, Claypool has the size and speed to be a matchup nightmare next season.