Fantasy Football 2021: Rankings for Top Sleeper and Bust Candidates

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 6, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Rankings for Top Sleeper and Bust Candidates

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    If the order has been set for your league's fantasy football draft, you probably already know who you're looking to take with your first pick. And you may have potential targets for the next few rounds as well.

    But fantasy drafts can take unexpected turns in the second half as managers look to find possible sleepers who could potentially be difference-makers during the upcoming season. Everybody ranks players differently, so one person's sleeper could be a bust candidate for another.

    Regardless, the later rounds of a fantasy football draft can be crucial to determining success, considering it's always important to have depth for when inevitable injuries and underperformances occur.

    Here's a look at some potential sleeper and bust candidates heading into the 2021 season. (All average draft positions are courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.)


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    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    Sleeper: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

    If the hype surrounding Lance continues to build, he may not be a sleeper by the end of the month. But at this point, his average draft position is late in the 12th round. And if he gets the opportunity to play in 2021, he could easily exceed that production considering all the playmakers on the 49ers' offense.

    Lance has been impressing early in San Francisco training camp, and it's only a matter of time before he unseats Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback. If that happens this season, Lance could put up impressive numbers, making it worth taking a chance on him as a second quarterback on your fantasy roster.


    Bust: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

    Hurts' average draft position is early in the eighth round, making him the QB11. But there's a chance he may not produce as much as some of the quarterbacks getting taken later than him as he looks to build off the flashes of potential he showed as a rookie in 2020.

    The Eagles have a young receiving corps and a crowded running back room, so it may take time for the offense to come together. Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is getting drafted later than Hurts and is a much safer pick for 2021.

Running Back

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Sleeper: Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

    All of the preseason fantasy hype out of Baltimore's backfield is surrounding second-year back J.K. Dobbins. But don't forget about Edwards, who is likely to have a substantial role in the Ravens' offense and could put up numbers that make him a steal with an ADP late in the eighth round.

    Baltimore is likely to utilize several backs, and Mark Ingram II is out of the picture. Edwards has been consistent, rushing for between 711 and 723 yards in each of his first three NFL seasons, and he set a career high with six touchdowns in 2020. He's only 26 and could build off that during the upcoming season.


    Bust: Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

    Hunt's biggest games last year came when Nick Chubb was out injured. Heading into 2021, Chubb is fully healthy. And if he stays that way, then Hunt's fantasy value may not be what it was at times during the 2020 season.

    Over the Browns' final seven regular-season games last year, Hunt was held to 37 or fewer rushing yards six times. And he only had more than three receptions in a game once during that stretch. That may be more indicative of what to expect for 2021, with Chubb likely to lead the way out of the Browns' backfield, making Hunt a risky pick at his ADP in the fourth round.

Wide Receiver

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Sleeper: Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders

    Ruggs will likely be the No. 1 wide receiver on the Raiders' depth chart. Yet his average draft position isn't until the 11th round. There's a chance for the second-year receiver to have a huge breakout this season, providing potentially enormous value at that point in the draft.

    Las Vegas is sure to give plenty of touches to tight end Darren Waller and running backs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. But quarterback Derek Carr is going to need to get his wide receivers involved, and none have the talent and potential that Ruggs possesses.


    Bust: D.J. Chark Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

    Chark was an inconsistent player in 2020, making it difficult to ever feel confident plugging him into your fantasy lineup. He also only broke the 100-yard mark in a game once, while he scored just one touchdown after Week 8.

    There are plenty of new playmakers on Jacksonville's offense, and Chark is going to be competing for targets with veteran receiver Marvin Jones Jr., second-year receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and rookie running back Travis Etienne. Chark is not worth taking at his ADP in the seventh round, especially considering there's a ton of receiver talent still on the board at that point.

Tight End

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Sleeper: Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

    Jimmy Graham is getting older (he's set to turn 35 in November), meaning Kmet should continue to get increased opportunities in Chicago's offense. He only got to show a glimpse of what he could do in 2020, hauling in 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games.

    Kmet is too risky to plug in as your starting tight end in Week 1. But considering he's going undrafted in some leagues, the 22-year-old is somebody to keep an eye on, especially with how tough it can be to get production at tight end.


    Bust: Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

    Thomas had a late breakout in 2020 at age 29, emerging as one of the top players in Washington's passing game. But the offense is going to look a bit different this season, and veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to take more deep shots down the field than Alex Smith and others did.

    With players such as wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel and running back Antonio Gibson potentially poised for big seasons, there may not be enough to go around for Thomas also to have a standout year. His eighth-round ADP seems a bit high as he may be less of a factor in 2021.