Fantasy Football 2021: Latest ADP for Top Sleepers and Tips to Strategize

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 22, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Latest ADP for Top Sleepers and Tips to Strategize

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    It's fantasy football draft season, and that means you're probably knees deep in research. Sure, you can't win your league's championship at the draft. But you can build a core for your roster that will set you up for success in 2021.

    Early in the draft, you're going to get some star players (unless you make some off-the-walls picks, which isn't advised). But so will everybody else in your league. The differences in draft strategies don't fully show up until the later rounds, when every manager is digging for sleepers.

    If your sleeper picks break out, you're likely on your way to the fantasy playoffs and perhaps a championship. If they're busts, then you're going to be busy putting in work on the waiver wire all year.

    Another advantage if you convert sleeper draft picks into breakout stars? There's no mad rush to the waiver wire when they break out, because they're already on your roster.

    Here's a look at a bunch of sleepers to keep an eye out for in your fantasy drafts, along with tips on when you should be targeting them. (All average draft positions based on points-per-reception leagues, per Fantasy Football Calculator.)

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Plenty of fantasy managers aren't high on Tagovailoa heading into 2021, and that makes sense. He wasn't too impressive during his rookie season, and he didn't show any indication that he was going to be fantasy relevant in the near future.

    But the Dolphins' offense is much better now. They bolstered their receiving corps by signing Will Fuller V and drafting Jaylen Waddle, who is Tagovailoa's old teammate from their Alabama days. DeVante Parker is back, as are running back Myles Gaskin and tight end Mike Gesicki. Plus, Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer in the quarterback picture now that he's in Washington.

    The job belongs to Tagovailoa, and he seems to be improving. In Miami's preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, he went 16-for-23 for 183 yards and one touchdown.

    "No matter how much talent you have, I don't think it ever overrides experience," Tagovailoa told's Judy Battista earlier in training camp. "For me, it's a lot of learning. I learned a lot last year and continue to learn a lot."

    Tagovailoa's ADP in fantasy drafts is the 14th round. If he plays up to potential, that could be a steal. And while it could be risky to wait and take him as the top quarterback on your roster, it makes a ton of sense to use a 13th- or 14th-round selection on him, stash him on your bench and wait to see if his breakout is coming soon.

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Lance may not play in Week 1 of the 2021 season. He may not play a ton by midseason. He may not even play at all this year. But if the 21-year-old rookie can get onto the field, he has the potential to quickly become a fantasy football star.

    Considering Lance is currently the 49ers' backup quarterback behind Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance's ADP late in the 11th round seems fair. He can't be immediately be plugged into a lineup (unless things change over the next few weeks), but his ceiling is so high that he needs to be drafted, just in case.

    There's going to be growing pains. Lance completed only five of his 14 pass attempts in San Francisco's preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. But he also showcased why he could be special, throwing for 128 yards, 80 of which came on his lone touchdown pass.

    If you end up with a riskier QB1 (such as Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow), it could be smart to take Lance soon after that in your draft. Maybe it won't pan out and you'll eventually need to drop him if it's clear he's staying on the bench. Or maybe he could end up being a star who leads you to a fantasy title.

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    A lot of the attention on the Ravens' backfield is on J.K. Dobbins, who many expect to have a breakout sophomore season in 2021. But he's not going to get every touch out of Baltimore's backfield. Especially when the Ravens also have Edwards on their roster.

    Edwards has been a safe fantasy flex option for much of his three-year NFL career. In his first three seasons, he's rushed for 718, 711 and 723 yards. And after scoring only four touchdowns in his first two years, Edwards got into the end zone six times in 2020.

    That's why it's a bit surprising that Edwards' ADP is around the middle of the ninth round. There are quite a few less reliable running backs being drafted ahead of him, which shouldn't be the case, because Edwards is going to get opportunities. In fact, he and Dobbins were listed as co-starters on Baltimore's first unofficial depth chart of camp.

    "Right now, I see it as a 1AA," Ravens running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg said earlier in camp, per Ryan Mink of the team's official site. "We have different types of knives; we're going to use them."

    If you're worried Edwards may be gone by the ninth round of your draft, take him in the seventh or eighth. His upside is too high to let him slip down the board and onto somebody else's roster.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Williams has never been a fantasy stud, but that's because he was stuck behind Aaron Jones on the Green Bay Packers' depth chart the past few years. The 26-year-old likely won't be a star in Detroit, either, considering he's clearly going to be behind D'Andre Swift.

    But when Williams is needed to fill in, he's proven he can do so more than adequately. And that's the kind of RB depth you're going to want to have on your fantasy bench.

    Swift has already been dealing with an injury in camp, missing some time due to a groin ailment. If that lingers, the Lions will need to rely more on Williams, who is the clear No. 2 back on their roster. Even if Swift gets fully healthy, Williams could still be in the mix and get enough touches to be a fallback fantasy option on a given week.

    Williams' ADP is around the middle of the ninth round. But if he ends up with a substantial role (either because of injuries or performance), there's a solid chance he'll outperform the projections. And fantasy managers who drafted him will be glad they can plug him in off the bench.

Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    If you drafted Reagor in 2020, then his disappointing performance as a rookie may be enough to steer you away from taking him again this year. But don't let that be the case, because there's a good chance that he's going to be much more productive during his second season in Philadelphia.

    For one, the Eagles' offense now has Jalen Hurts under center. Hurts is getting an opportunity to work with the receivers during training camp knowing that he's the starter, which should help the unit click better. Plus, Reagor will be lining up alongside rookie receiver DeVonta Smith, who could draw more attention from opposing defenses.

    Reagor has a year of NFL experience, and it seems he's using that to his advantage, as he's been impressing so far during training camp.

    "That guy for sure is getting better every single day," fellow Eagles receiver Greg Ward recently said, per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "His attention to detail, his aggression, his love for the game. That guy’s come out here and worked every single day. You can tell that he wants to get better and he is."

    With an ADP not even in the first 15 rounds, Reagor could be a huge steal. He just needs to start carrying over results from practice to games. If that happens, he may be one of the breakout stars of the fantasy season, so he's more than worth taking with a late-round pick.

Jakobi Meyers, WR, New England Patriots

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Meyers' first touchdown of the 2021 season will also be the first of his NFL career. Through 29 games over two seasons, the Patriots wide receiver has never found his way into the end zone. But that's likely to change in the near future.

    On Thursday night, Meyers hauled in a nice 28-yard touchdown catch in New England's preseason matchup against Philadelphia, as he trucked through several Eagles defenders to get into the end zone. It was the continuation of a strong camp for Meyers, who is likely to have a large role on the Pats' defense.

    Although New England added receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in free agency, those players may open things up a bit more for Meyers. And whether it's Cam Newton or rookie Mac Jones under center, the Patriots' offense should be more efficient than it was in 2020.

    Meyers' ADP is in the 14th round, even though he could end up as New England's top fantasy receiver if Agholor can't build off his breakout 2020 season. Regardless, Meyer should exceed his career-high total for receiving yards (729) and finally get into the end zone, likely a few times, as he continues to get better. So make him a priority in the late rounds of your fantasy draft.

Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The Giants signed Kenny Golladay and took Kadarius Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, bolstering their receiving corps in a big way. Those moves also may have pushed some of their returning receivers, such as Slayton and Sterling Shepard, down the depth chart.

    For Slayton, though, he's excited about the additions to New York's offense. After all, it could potentially make all of the players better while lining up together.

    "We went and got Kenny because he’s a good player. Went and drafted Kadarius because he’s a good player. I think you can never have too many good players on one team," Slayton recently said, per SNY's Ryan Morik. "I’m happy they’re here and looking [forward] to playing alongside them this season."

    As for Slayton's fantasy value, many seem to no longer think he's relevant, considering he doesn't have an ADP in the first 15 rounds. But don't forget that Slayton has 1,491 yards and 11 touchdowns in 30 games over his first two NFL seasons. New York should want to find ways to keep him involved, and he could be a solid fantasy option, especially once it's clear how the Giants' offense will operate.

    Like Reagor and Meyers, Slayton is a great wide receiver to target with a late-round pick in fantasy drafts. There may not be roster space for all of them, so compare them and decide who you feel most confident in. However, there's clear potential for any of them to put up big numbers in 2021.

Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    It can be difficult to find a sleeper tight end, because it can be challenging to get any consistent production at all out of the position. If you don't come away with any of Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Darren Waller in the early rounds of your draft, there's at least a chance you'll end up streaming the position in 2021.

    But there are likely to be a few tight ends who end up producing better than expected. And one of them could be Kmet, who is entering his second NFL season. He didn't put up huge numbers in 2020 (243 yards and two touchdowns) while playing behind Jimmy Graham, but that could change this season.

    Eventually, the 22-year-old Kmet is going to earn more playing time than the 34-year-old Graham. Once that happens, Kmet's fantasy stock will improve, as he's flashed his potential at times, he just needs to be on the field consistently to capitalize on that.

    That could happen soon. Kmet may have missed some time earlier this week due to a hamstring issue, but Bears head coach Matt Nagy said the team was taking an "extremely conservative" approach, according to Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times, so it doesn't seem like a major concern.

    Kmet may not be getting drafted in a ton of leagues, but he's a tight end who could end up solidifying the spot for those who do take him. If you're planning on streaming anyways, it's not a bad idea to draft Kmet and potentially even plug him into your lineup for Week 1.

    The Minnesota Vikings' Irv Smith Jr. and the Los Angeles Chargers' Jared Cook are other solid options to consider in the later rounds of the draft.