Fantasy Football 2020: 4 Sleepers Generating Buzz Ahead of Regular Season

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2020

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams (18) misses the pass against New York Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts (27) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Whether it's an auction or traditional draft, the name of the game in constructing your fantasy football roster is value. Those who find it tend to win and those who don't wind up fearing whatever punishment awaits your league's last-place finisher. 

It's difficult to win a championship without uncovering at least one hidden gem in your draft. With no preseason for the 2020 season, getting a live look at what players could be 2020's league-winners is a difficult task. 

Instead of getting to watch players in game action, reports from training camp are more important than ever. With teams unable to get a live look at their players, these practices take on a renewed importance, and shrewd fantasy owners are keeping an eye on reports to see who is winning their coaching staff's trust. 

Looking across the headlines the following are some players who appear to be impressing and could be in line to outperform their current consensus average draft position on FantasyPros


Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots

If you drafted Damien Harris last season, you were bitterly disappointed. The Patriots spent a third-round selection on the running back out of Alabama and proceeded to give him just four carries. 

In his second season under Bill Belichick, that number could see a huge turnaround in 2020. The Patriots offense will obviously have a new look with Tom Brady gone, and the backfield is in flux.

Presumed starter Sony Michel hasn't practiced since the beginning of training camp, although the team is still hopeful he will be ready by Week 1. The team signed veteran Lamar Miller but he has yet to practice with the team, and Harris has reportedly done well with his opportunity to shine in camp. 

Jeff Howe of The Athletic noted that Harris has not only looked good running the ball, but he could be a receiving threat as well:

Jeff Howe @jeffphowe

Damien Harris continues to stand out, and it's not just as a runner. He did a nice job picking up a block today and looks comfortable in his route tree. He's been the best back in camp.

Even Belichick, not known for profusely praising his own players, has chimed in on Harris. 

"He's a smart player, and he has a lot of skills that I think we'll be able to utilize," the head coach told reporters. "He's had an opportunity to get quite a few reps here in the work that we've done to this point, so I think that's helped him, but he seems like he's in good shape and ready to go. Looking forward to seeing him."

Outside of Michel, Harris' primary competition for touches will come from Rex Burkhead, James White and J.J. Taylor. That's not exactly a killer stable of backs to choose from. 

Harris can be had in drafts for next to nothing. His current ADP is 208.5, which makes him RB58 off the board. The Patriots certainly aren't what they used to be without Brady, but this is still the opportunity to snag a player who could become the top rushing option with some receiving work in a Belichick offense. 

If the hype is to be believed, he's well worth his draft spot. 


Bryce Love, RB, Washington Football Team

Finding a running back in late rounds with the potential to have a meaningful role in their offense can be a game-changer. Especially if employing a "zero running back" approach or simply targeting one of the top tight ends or quarterbacks early, you're going to need to make up for that in the running back position by hitting on a sleeper. 

That's why the reports out of Washington surrounding Bryce Love should have fantasy owners paying attention to the 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up. 

Love's run in the NFL has been snake-bitten. The man who once finished ahead of Lamar Jackson and Saquon Barkley in the voting for college football's most prestigious award saw his draft stock take a huge hit from a torn ACL in his final year at Stanford, and injuries to his knee kept him off the field for his rookie season. 

However, all indications from camp are that Love looks healthy for the first time since he dominated his junior season at Stanford. After praising how hard the running back has worked to get healthy, head coach Ron Rivera was high on Love's skill set and potential as an all-purpose back. 

"He's a guy that's multidimensional," Rivera told reporters. "At Stanford, he didn't have to do a lot of routes and pass-catching, but he's very capable and we're getting to see that. This is a guy that could be an every-down back for you. He's an explosive, dynamic player."

The Washington backfield is a bit of a mess right now. With Derrius Guice's release, it would appear the only all-purpose back on the roster outside of Love right now is Adrian Peterson. 2020 draft pick Antonio Gibson figures to factor in, but he could be receiver/running back hybrid as he was used at Memphis. 

Love had his breakout season at Stanford while rushing for over 2,000 yards as the replacement for Christian McCaffrey. Now he'll have his first NFL season working with the coach that saw McCaffrey become a star in the NFL. 

That isn't to say that Love will be McCaffrey. He won't. But there is potential for Love to take over the No. 1 spot. Considering his ADP of 300 is nearly nonexistent and well below Peterson (152) and Gibson (188), he's worth a shot as a lottery ticket at the end of drafts. 


Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins

After his breakout season last year, DeVante Parker gets all the headlines for the Miami Dolphins and the ADP (53.5) to match. But if the preseason hype is to be believed, the Dolphins may have two fantasy-viable receivers on the roster. 

That's because Preston Williams is impressing in camp. The receiver from Colorado State is looking good in his return from an ACL tear that cost him the second half of his rookie season. 

Before the injury, Williams was on pace for 120 targets and ranked 37th among wide receivers in point-per-reception formats. He was neck-and-neck with Parker. 

Those on the Dolphins beat are reporting the comeback could be real. 

Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Parker "looks like he's close to 100 percent as can be from a ACL year he sustained last season."

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald noted Williams is making plays all over the field, while Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post said Williams and Parker will be "1a and 1b" if Williams is healthy. 

The Dolphins offense showed signs of growth toward the end of the season last year. If Williams can return to anywhere near the volume he got in the first half of the season, he could be a steal. His current ADP (147) has him as the 55th wide receiver taken. 

He's already shown he can outperform that ADP considerably. The positive reports from camp should be an indication that he will be ready to go when the season starts and make those who draft him look like geniuses.


Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets

Let's face it. If you aren't spending an early pick on Travis Kelce or George Kittle and miss out on the second tier with the likes of Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews and Darren Waller, you are better off to wait on tight end and hope to land one who makes a leap. 

Chris Herndon is a perfect late-round target at the position. His ADP (171) has him as the 23rd tight end off the board. His contemporaries around that ADP don't have the same upside, though. 

That's because head coach Adam Gase has been high on Herndon and his athletic ability. Charles McDonald of the New York Daily News reported the Jets have lined him up on the line, in the slot and on the outside.

In short, Herndon could be a featured weapon in an offense that is short on them. 

"Chris gives us a lot of flexibility," Gase said, per McDonald. "It's rare to have a guy with the ability to be as effective as a pass-catcher and a guy that's explosive when he gets the ball in his hands and still be an on-the-line tight end that can block in the run game and also pass-protect."

It isn't just the coaches who are high on Herndon, although that's what's most important. Those covering the Jets have noticed as well as his teammates. Receiver Jamison Crowder called him the team's "X-factor," providing even more confidence in the third-year player. 

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

1) TE Chris Herndon is a vital player here, and the early signs are good that chemistry between he and Sam Darnold is right where it should be with Herndon back from injury. And Herndon remains a very impressive physical specimen—which was obvious while I was out there.

Herndon flashed serious potential as a rookie in 2018 but missed nearly all of 2019 with injuries. If he bounces back and makes the usual leap that tight ends make in their second and third years, he could be a TE1 on rosters sooner rather than later.