Fantasy Football 2021: Top Preseason Sleepers, Funny Team Names and League Names

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Top Preseason Sleepers, Funny Team Names and League Names

0 of 7

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    There are many ways to field a successful fantasy football squad, but uncovering early sleepers is almost always a winning formula. It's important not to miss on early fantasy draft selections, of course, but landing starting-caliber players in the later rounds will ensure a deep and talented roster that can survive even the biggest of bye-week blues.

    This is why the return of the NFL preseason is important for fantasy managers in 2021. With limited training camps and no exhibition games in 2020, it was difficult to predict breakout fantasy seasons like Josh Allen's 45-touchdown campaign or Justin Jefferson's 1,400-yard rookie outing. Finding quality late-round targets will be a little easier with preseason games back on the menu.

    The 2021 preseason kicked off Thursday when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys faced off in the Hall of Fame Game. Few stars were on the field in the contest, but we did get an early look at players like rookie running back Najee Harris and tight end Dalton Schultz. We'll have more early looks over the next three weeks as the preseason unfolds.

    Here, we'll examine some of the top potential sleepers to follow during the preseason, along with their current draft projections from FantasyPros. We'll also dive into our top points-per-reception (PPR) rankings for early round draft targets and some fun and funny team and league names to help get your fantasy season started.

Preseason PPR Rankings, Top 50

1 of 7

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    4. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    5. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

    6. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    8. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

    9. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

    10. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    11. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

    12. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    13. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

    14. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons

    15. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

    16. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    17. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    18. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

    19. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    20. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    21. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    22. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

    23. Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

    24. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

    25. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

    26. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team

    27. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    28. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

    29. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team

    30. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    31. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

    32. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    33. D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

    34. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    35. Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans

    36. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    37. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

    38. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers

    39. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

    40. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

    41. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

    42. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

    43. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

    44. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    45. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

    46. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

    47. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    48. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

    49. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

    50. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens.

Daniel Jones, RB, New York Giants

2 of 7

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was borderline awful in 2020. He finished with 2,943 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a rating of only 80.4. It's worth noting, however, that standout running back Saquon Barkley missed the majority of the season with a torn ACL.

    Barkley is expected to miss time to start the season—Week 3 is a realistic target, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport—but he should be back at some point. The Giants also upgraded Jones' supporting cast by adding pass-catchers Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Kyle Rudolph and rookie Kadarius Toney this offseason.

    This means that managers can expect to see the promising version of Jones they saw during his rookie campaign of 2019. Jones started 12 games that season and finished with 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

    A weekly floor of 250 yards and two touchdowns is not unrealistic for Jones in 2021. This should make him a serviceable fantasy starter and a terrific option for managers looking to stream at the position. With an average draft position (ADP) of 190, Jones can be a potential steal at the bottom of most drafts.

    Other sleeper options to consider at quarterback include New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson (ADP of 196) and Miami Dolphins signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa (152).

    Be sure to follow quarterback competitions during the preseason too. While unsettled signal-caller battles don't often yield high-level fantasy starters, managers looking to stream can find options. Plus, there's a lot of value to be had if a rookie like Justin Fields or Trey Lance leaps into a starting role before Week 1.

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens

3 of 7

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    There are essentially two ways to uncover sleeper running backs in today's game. Finding rookie backs who weren't high draft picks—see Antonio Gibson and James Robinson from 2020—is one avenue. Another is to targets members of committee backfields who are still likely to see significant playing time.

    Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards is a perfect example of the latter option. While he'll be splitting time with second-year back J.K. Dobbins in 2021, Baltimore's offense is run-oriented enough to ensure that Edwards regularly sees touches.

    In 2020, Edwards also shared time with Mark Ingram II. Yet, he still played 34 percent of the offensive snaps and finished with 723 rushing yards, 129 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

    Edwards, who was recently activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, should be in store for similar numbers this season. Ingram is no longer in Baltimore, so the Ravens' ground game will largely be a three-man show involving Dobbins, Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson.

    It wouldn't be a shock to see Edwards reach 1,000 scrimmage yards this season, making him a potential flex steal with an ADP of 109.

    Other potential sleeper backs to consider include Green Bay Packers runner AJ Dillon (ADP of 91) and New York Jets rookie Michael Carter (81).

    Managers should pay close attention to running backs during the preseason because this is where future fantasy standouts at the position often reveal themselves.

Dyami Brown, WR, Washington Football Team

4 of 7

    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The rookie ranks are where to go for receiver sleepers in fantasy. We already mentioned Jefferson and his impressive 2020 rookie campaign, but he is only the latest example of a recent trend. Wideouts DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin and Courtland Sutton all shined during their inaugural campaigns.

    This is precisely why rookie first-round picks like Ja'Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle are going to be heavily coveted on draft day. However, a receiver doesn't have to be a first-round selection to have real sleeper potential.

    Take Washington Football Team third-round pick Dyami Brown for example. The North Carolina product enters a situation where he has a strong-armed quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick and a receiver in McLaurin who is going to demand defensive attention. Brown should see plenty of one-on-one coverage as a rookie, and he has the skill set to capitalize.

    "Overall, Brown projects as an outside-only WR who will bring a vertical threat right away to an NFL offense with the room and traits to develop into a very good No. 2 option," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    If Brown can develop quickly, he could very well flirt with the coveted 1,000-yard mark as a rookie. With an ADP of only 339, he could still be a valuable flex steal with half of that production.

    Other receiver sleepers to consider include Chicago Bears wideout Darnell Mooney (ADP of 133) and Atlanta Falcons receiver Russell Gage (170). Gage is a particularly attractive option with Julio Jones now with the Tennessee Titans.

Anthony Firkser, TE, Tennessee Titans

5 of 7

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Julio Jones is in Tennessee, which will help the Titans move on from departed wideout Corey Davis (Jets). However, the Titans also lost starting tight end Jonnu Smith in free agency, as he signed with the New England Patriots.

    Tennessee is looking internally to replace Smith, and they will likely focus on Anthony Firkser as its primary receiving tight end. Smith racked up 448 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season while playing 69 percent of the offensive snaps—and that role will largely go to Firkser in 2021.

    Fortunately, Firkser should have the physical tools needed to maximize his role.

    "He can get open, he can catch the ball. I think he going to be elite," former Titans tight end Delanie Walker told the Talking w/TD Podcast (h/t Grant Gordon of "... With matchups against linebackers. And that's gonna be hard for them to cover him, cause he destroys linebackers within seconds. It's gonna be good."

    Managers cannot expect Firkser to enter the ranks of the elite fantasy tight end—where players like Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller reside. However, they can expect him to be a serviceable starter and a potential steal in the later rounds.

    With an ADP of 197, Firkser is likely to outperform many fantasy tight ends drafted ahead of him.

    Other tight end sleepers to consider include Harrison Bryant of the Cleveland Browns (no listed ADP) and Falcons No. 2 tight end Hayden Hurst (231). While the Falcons drafted tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall, it's worth noting that Hurst had 571 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season.

League Names

6 of 7

    John Locher/Associated Press

    Now that we've covered some of the top players and potential sleepers for the 2021 season, let's break down some options for fantasy league names.

    While coming up with a catchy league name isn't a requirement to be a successful league commissioner, it's likely to earn a few style points. It's simply not as much fun to play in League #4678 as it is in a league with a more personal touch.

    Here, it's always smart to consider the makeup of the league as a whole—be it a collection of friends, family members or coworkers. Feel free to get a little silly, if not downright cheesy. The Hot Shots, for example, could work for members of a photography studio.

    Keep your group in mind when crafting a league name, but here are some generic suggestions to help get you started:

    • Weekend Warriors
    • Paper Pushers
    • The No Fun League
    • Gridiron Gurus
    • Race to Avoid Last Place
    • The Dirty Dozen
    • The Greatest Show on Paper
    • There Can Be Only One
    • All in the Family
    • Spreadsheet Showdown
    • The Unusual Suspects
    • Any Given Sunday (or Monday, Thursday or Saturday)
    • Monday Morning Hangover
    • Legion of Zoom

Team Names

7 of 7

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Even if you're not the league commissioner, you can help your fellow fantasy managers enjoy the season by picking an innovative team name. While no one likes to lose, losing to a team whose name elicits a laugh can help soften the blow.

    And if you're going to win, you might as well win in style.

    Coming up with a team name can be as simple as playing off the name or names of top draft selections. Are you building around running back Derrick Henry? King Henry's Court immediately becomes an option for you.

    Combining player names with individual interests can further add a personal touch. Music, film and television can provide inspiration here, but feel free to utilize any outlets that suit your personal taste.

    Here are a few examples of team names based around high-profile fantasy options:

    • O, Henry!
    • What's Up, Mahomes?
    • Cobra Kyler
    • Tompa Bay
    • License to Khalil
    • You Mad, Burrow?
    • Lawrence of Arabia
    • Zach Attack
    • Najee, I'm Good
    • Sherlock Mahomes
    • Return of the Dak
    • Dak's Treat's Back, All right
    • Burrow-Ken Mirror
    • Tua-and-a-Half Men
    • Derrick of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    • Game of Jones
    • Wheelin' and Dillon
    • Peaceful, Easy Thielen
    • Fresh Prince of Helaire
    • Baker's Delight
    • D'Wayne's World
    • The Big Gronkowski
    • The Ruggs Really Tied the Room Together
    • The Championship Chase
    • A Cook, a Baker and a Touchdown-Maker
    • To Be or Not Tua Be
    • Draining Treys
    • Ridley Me This
    • Thou Shenault Pass
    • Pitt's Creek