2020 Fantasy Football: Sleepers 1.0 includes Matthew Stafford and a pre-NFL Draft rookie for first time
Only Matthew Stafford breaks the mold in our annual pre-NFL Draft rendition of Sleepers 1.0 that features mostly young talent, including a QB still biding his time at LSU.
We interrupt your enjoyment of the XFL for just a moment to bring you back to that other league. It's time to start talking about sleepers, breakouts and busts for the 2020 campaign -- in the NFL.
We know it's early in the process -- before free agency and the NFL Draft -- and we'll adjust these lists accordingly throughout the offseason. But we like talking about Fantasy options as much as possible, so let's begin.
This is Sleepers 1.0 for 2020. These are players who will likely be selected with late-round picks in most leagues, but I expect them to have a chance to be special this season and potential starters in all formats.
I've been writing about sleepers for almost 15 years, with the early edition always before the NFL Draft. This is the first time I've included an incoming rookie in Sleepers 1.0, but it seems like a lock that Joe Burrow is headed to the Bengals. And I like the setup for him if Cincinnati is able to keep A.J. Green and upgrade the offensive line, which seems likely, especially with left tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder) healthy after missing his rookie year in 2019.
Burrow was a star at LSU last year with 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions, as well as 368 rushing yards and five touchdowns. We don't know how quickly he'll adapt to the NFL, but having Green would be a nice advantage. Along with Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Joe Mixon, that's a good group of skill players. He might not get drafted in most seasonal Fantasy leagues, but I expect he'll be a waiver-wire addition sooner rather than later.
DET Detroit • #9
Age: 32 • Experience: 12 yrs.
I get it, Fantasy managers don't want Stafford. Sometimes it seems like the Lions don't want Stafford either based on some offseason reports. But he'll be back in Detroit this year, and hopefully he builds off what he accomplished in eight games in 2019 before being shut down with a back injury. In half a season, Stafford had 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Over 16 games, that puts him at the second-best numbers of his career (4,998 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions), and he was the No. 3 quarterback in Fantasy points per game at 24.9. Stafford has a solid receiving corps led by Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson, and he should have the chance for big numbers again. Just wait for him on Draft Day, and you should enjoy the results.
Other quarterbacks of note: Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Daniel Jones
Gus Edwards RB
BAL Baltimore • #35
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
I love Mark Ingram, and he should still be a solid Fantasy option in 2020 as the lead running back in Baltimore. But he's 30 now, and you never know when age will catch up to him, leading to any potential breakdown. That's where Edwards comes in. We saw in Week 17 last year when Ingram was out with a calf injury that Edwards can be a star when he had 21 carries for 130 yards. He likely won't offer much in the passing game -- he had seven catches in 2019 -- and Justice Hill should have a bigger role in his sophomore campaign. But I plan to draft Edwards in all leagues in 2020 as a handcuff to Ingram or as a solo act. He could pay big dividends if Ingram misses any time due to injury.
KC Kansas City • #34
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Damien Williams was a star in Super Bowl LIV and has been great for the Chiefs when healthy. But he has a hard time staying on the field because of injuries and missed five games in 2019. With LeSean McCoy not expected back in 2020, Thompson should share touches with Darrel Williams if Damien misses any time due to injury. And after speaking with Thompson before the Super Bowl, I was impressed with his attitude heading into his sophomore campaign this year. "I've worked hard in my life, but this next offseason ... in two years, I'm going to be worth more money than I've ever seen in my life," he said. "If I don't, just take me out of the league. I don't deserve to be here. I'm going to put in so much work, it's going to be crazy." I expect him to be the handcuff to Damien Williams, and he's someone I plan to draft with a late-round pick in all leagues.
Boston Scott RB
PHI Philadelphia • #35
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Meet the new Darren Sproles, who should be the No. 2 running back in Philadelphia behind Miles Sanders. We saw what Scott could do in 2019 when given an expanded role. He had three games with at least six catches in his final four games of the season -- with 23 total catches on 25 targets over that span. He scored at least 12 PPR points in three of his final four outings, and he's an excellent late-round pick in all PPR leagues. Philadelphia is almost certainly going to add another running back to help Sanders and Scott, but Scott's role should be solidified. He's someone Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson appear to trust, and you should also in PPR leagues.
LAR L.A. Rams • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Henderson was someone I liked as a sleeper last year, but we know that didn't pan out. Todd Gurley managed to play through any knee issues he might have had in 2019, and Henderson ended up on injured reserve with an ankle injury. But I'm hoping Henderson has a bigger role in 2020, and Gurley might not even return to the Rams depending on what happens this offseason. If Gurley is gone, without a significant replacement being brought in, then clearly Henderson's value will rise. And Malcolm Brown, for now, remains on the roster. But I expect Henderson to be better as a sophomore than he was as a rookie, and he's someone to gamble on, even if Gurley remains in Los Angeles to open the season.
Other running backs of note: Tevin Coleman, Justin Jackson, Ryquell Armstead, Benny Snell, Chase Edmonds
LV Las Vegas • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: Rookie
The Raiders could have a new quarterback when they move to Las Vegas this year, but right now we'll go with Derek Carr as their starter. And he seems to like Renfrow a lot, which is understandable. He's the second-best receiving option on the roster behind tight end Darren Waller, and Renfrow had a solid rookie campaign in 2019. Over his final seven games, he had four with at least 17 PPR points, including two with at least 22 PPR points in his final two outings of the year. I expect the Raiders to add at least one more receiver of significance to go with Waller, Renfrow and Tyrell Williams, but Renfrow's role should be solidified. He's a great reserve receiver to target in all leagues, but especially in PPR.
MIA Miami • #18
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
DeVante Parker was the breakout receiver for the Dolphins in 2019, but Williams was headed there first before suffering a torn ACL in Week 9. He was starting to take off before he got hurt with at least 12 PPR points in two of his final three games. And he started the season with three games in a row with at least 10 PPR points as the Dolphins were trying to figure out their quarterback situation with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Miami could have another quarterback problem this season depending on what happens in the NFL Draft, but Williams should be a primary target as long as he's healthy for training camp, which appears to be the case. He has the chance to be a sensational sophomore in 2020, and he's someone to draft with a late-round pick in all leagues.
CAR Carolina • #10
Age: 23 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I'm going back to Samuel again this year since I expect him to improve on his 2019 stats. Hopefully, the Panthers can get quality quarterback play in 2020, whether it's a healthy Cam Newton (foot) or a quality replacement. Samuel wasn't bad in 2019 as the No. 2 receiver in Carolina behind D.J. Moore, but he wasn't consistent. He had seven games with at least 13 PPR points and nine games with eight points or less. New offensive coordinator Joe Brady will hopefully get the most out of Samuel, who should be third on the team in targets behind Moore and Christian McCaffrey, but the big key for Samuel will be the quarterback. Samuel's speed should help him make plays down the field, and the right passer could unlock his potential.
N'Keal Harry WR
NE New England • #15
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
The Patriots could have a dramatically different look in 2020 if Tom Brady leaves New England, but I would like to see Brady end his career throwing passes to Harry. He has the chance to be a quality contributor if the Patriots have a good quarterback in place. New England is desperate for playmakers in the passing game, and Harry should be the No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman this year. Harry had a choppy rookie season in 2019 after opening the year on injured reserve with a bad ankle, and he scored just two touchdowns in his final six games. But only once did he have more than four targets, and he definitely has more to offer after being selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Arizona State. We'll see what happens with Brady and the quarterback situation in New England, but Harry is a high-upside player to target with a late-round pick in all leagues.
Other wide receivers of note: Anthony Miller, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Parris Campbell, Steve Sims
DET Detroit • #88
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Hockenson looked like a star in Week 1 last year when he had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown on nine targets against Arizona. We later found out that was just the Cardinals being awful against opposing tight ends. Hockenson quickly faded after that, catching one more touchdown and going over 50 receiving yards one other time before ending up on injured reserve in Week 14 with a bad ankle. I like his chances to rebound in 2020 with a healthy Stafford, and Hockenson has the chance to be a sophomore sensation this year. He's a great tight end to wait for on Draft Day, and hopefully he's a star for more than just one week.
PHI Philadelphia • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
On any other team, Goedert is likely considered one of the top Fantasy tight ends and best players at his position. But not with the Eagles. Zach Ertz limits the upside for Goedert, but we got a taste of his potential in 2019 when he was actually the No. 10 Fantasy tight end in PPR. He had 58 catches for 607 yards and five touchdowns on 87 targets, and he was a key contributor for Philadelphia when the receiving corps was ravaged by injuries. We'll see what the Eagles do to enhance their receiving corps this offseason, but Goedert still has the potential to be a low-end starter in all leagues. Ertz is still the best tight end in Philadelphia, but Goedert isn't far behind. And he should continue to improve in his third year in 2020.
Other tight ends of note: Jonnu Smith, Jack Doyle, Greg Olsen
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