The 49ers were ravaged by injuries in 2020, but one positive that came out of their nightmare campaign could be the emergence of Jeff Wilson. He might be their best running back heading into this season and he's one of my favorite sleepers for 2021. Now, Wilson will have to prove he's better than Raheem Mostert, which won't be easy. And we don't know how San Francisco plans to replace impending free agents Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. JaMycal Hasty also might take on a bigger role.
But Wilson proved in 2020 he can be the 49ers' top running back, and he ended up helping Fantasy managers in a big way. With Mostert banged up, Wilson had four games to close the season with at least 12 total touches, and he averaged 17.8 PPR points over that span. For the season, Wilson had six games with at least 12 total touches, and he scored at least 12 PPR points in five of them. In four of those games, he had at least 21 PPR points.
We know San Francisco can get production out of its backfield, and the 49ers were No. 3 in total Fantasy points scored from their running backs last year. They were No. 1 in 2019.
Jamey's 2021 Breakouts 1.0 | Busts 1.0
Hopefully, fullback Kyle Juszczyk will remain to help the rushing attack, but Wilson and Mostert should be able to produce at a high level if they remain atop the depth chart. And going into the season, I like Wilson slightly better than Mostert. Both are worth drafting in the Round 6 range.
Again, we'll see what happens this offseason to round out San Francisco's backfield, but Wilson has the chance to be a quality flex option to open the season -- and maybe become a weekly starter. He's someone you should be excited about heading into this year.
Jamey likes some Year 2 WRs as 2021 sleepers We break down his list of early sleepers on the Fantasy Football Today in 5 podcast. Listen below and subscribe at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Now, let's look at some other players I have listed here in Sleepers 1.0.
Taysom Hill QB
NO New Orleans • #7
Age: 30 • Experience: 5 yrs.
This listing could clearly change if the Saints decide not to give Hill the starting job once Drew Brees eventually retires. But Hill was Sean Payton's guy last year when Brees was out with a rib injury, and Hill proved to be a reliable Fantasy option, scoring at least 22 Fantasy points in three of four starts. His rushing ability is something to covet, and he ran for at least 33 yards in all four starts, along with four rushing touchdowns. And he continued to improve as a passer, with 523 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception in his final two starts. He's flawed as a quarterback, but having Payton, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara on his side give him an edge, along with his ability to run. I have no problem using Hill as a No. 1 quarterback in 2021 -- if he's the starter for the Saints.
Kirk Cousins QB
MIN Minnesota • #8
Age: 32 • Experience: 10 yrs.
a decent Fantasy starter in 2020, finishing as the No. 11 quarterback. And he has the chance to finish in that range again, especially if Minnesota's defense continues to struggle, forcing Cousins to throw late in games. Cousins has amazing skill players around him with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Irv Smith, and those guys helped Cousins score at least 21 Fantasy points in 11 games last year. He also got better as the season went on, averaging 27.0 Fantasy points per game in his final nine outings. If you like waiting on quarterbacks then Cousins is a great Fantasy option because he should be available in all leagues with a late-round pick.
Other sleeper quarterbacks to consider: Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa
Benny Snell RB
PIT Pittsburgh • #24
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The Steelers are likely moving on from impending free agent James Conner, and we'll see if Snell gets the chance to be Pittsburgh's starter this season. He didn't have a great year in 2020, but in three games with double digits in carries he scored at least 11 PPR points in each outing. He'll have to improve as a receiver to become a weekly starter in all Fantasy leagues since he only has 13 catches for 84 yards in two seasons, but he has a great opportunity if the Steelers don't add anyone of significance this offseason to replace Conner. As of now, I plan to target Snell with a late-round pick in all leagues, but his value will skyrocket if he's starting for Pittsburgh in 2021.
ARI Arizona • #29
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Like Snell, Edmonds could be in a great spot for the Cardinals if Arizona moves on from impending free agent Kenyan Drake and no one of significance replaces him. Edmonds proved to be a borderline flex option last season in tandem with Drake, scoring at least 11 PPR points in seven games. He had one chance to be a featured option in Week 9 against Miami when Drake was hurt, and Edmonds struggled with 25 carries for 70 yards, along with three catches for 18 yards on three targets, which doesn't bode well for his starting chances. But he can clearly be a weapon in the passing game, and his 53 catches were No. 7 among running backs in 2020. If he does get the chance at more carries, Edmonds could become a low-end starter in all leagues.
Tarik Cohen RB
CHI Chicago • #29
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
In 2018, Cohen was the No. 11 PPR running back. In 2019, he was No. 27. He only played in three games in 2020 because of a torn ACL, so things have gotten progressively worse for him since his breakout campaign. But Cohen still has plenty of value in PPR leagues as long as he's healthy for the start of training camp, which should be the case. In three seasons prior to 2020, he averaged 67.7 catches per year on an average of 88.7 targets. He could repeat as the No. 27 PPR running back again given his role in the passing game, which shouldn't change in tandem with David Montgomery. You're not going to love Cohen in non-PPR leagues since he's never had more than 99 carries in a season. But in PPR, Cohen is worth drafting as a flex option with a mid-round pick.
Zack Moss RB
BUF Buffalo • #20
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
I liked Moss as a sleeper last year after the Bills selected him in the third round from Utah, and I expected him to be better than Devin Singletary in 2020. When healthy, Moss had his moments, but he never proved to be the better running back in Buffalo. We'll see if that changes this year, and Moss should be healthy after hurting his ankle in the playoffs. Moss had eight games with double digits in touches as a rookie, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in four of them. He never had the chance at a consistent workload because of Singletary's presence, and the Bills were among the best teams throwing the ball last year. But I'm hopeful Moss can improve with a full training camp, and we'll see how much the Bills trust Moss (and Singletary) if they don't bring in significant competition this offseason. As of now, Moss is worth drafting with a mid- to late-round pick in all leagues.
IND Indianapolis • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
The Colts might go into the season with Pittman as their No. 1 receiver if impending free agent T.Y. Hilton doesn't return, and that would be great for Pittman's Fantasy value. Even though Pittman refused to give up the No. 11 jersey for new quarterback Carson Wentz, we expect Wentz to lean on Pittman quite a bit in the passing game. As a rookie in 2019, Pittman didn't do much with 40 catches for 503 yards and a touchdown on 61 targets, but he showed his potential in the playoff loss to Buffalo with five catches for 90 yards on 10 targets. Hopefully, that's the type of target volume he gets this season, and the replacement for Hilton could determine just how good Pittman is in 2021. As of now he's worth a mid-round pick in all leagues.
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The Jaguars are expected to add a receiving option this offseason, whether it's another wide receiver or tight end, so we'll see what that means for Shenault. But I like Shenault as a sleeper and D.J. Chark as a breakout candidate right now heading into this year. The expected upgrade at quarterback with Trevor Lawrence going No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft should help all of Jacksonville's receivers, and new coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell should be creative in getting Shenault the ball. He closed last season on a high note with at least 15 PPR points in three of his final five games, and hopefully that becomes the norm for him in his sophomore campaign.
NE New England • #16
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Julian Edelman (knee) might not be ready to play for the start of the season, which would put Meyers in the position of once again being the leading receiver for the Patriots this year. Now, that's not great for New England as a team because Meyers doesn't profile as a true No. 1 receiver, but he did help Fantasy managers in 2020. Despite Cam Newton's struggles, Meyers scored at least 13 PPR points in five of his final 10 games of the season. New England will hopefully upgrade at quarterback over Newton, and we'll see what the Patriots do to enhance their receiving corps. But prior to the NFL Draft and free agency, Meyers looks like a great bargain with a late-round pick in all leagues. The only thing he has to do now is catch a touchdown since he hasn't done that yet in two years in the NFL.
Jalen Reagor WR
PHI Philadelphia • #18
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The Eagles made the mistake of selecting Reagor one spot ahead of Jefferson in the NFL Draft, and the gap between the two is immense after their rookie campaigns. But now is the time for Reagor to prove the Eagles right since he should be No. 1 or 2 on their depth chart this season with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson gone. Injuries were a problem for Reagor in 2020, and he appeared in just 11 games, finishing with 31 catches for 396 yards and one touchdown on 54 targets. He should prove to be a top target for Jalen Hurts, and Reagor is worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues. Hopefully, we're talking about Reagor in 2021 the same way we're looking at guys like Jefferson, Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk, among others, as standout sophomore receivers.
Cole Kmet TE
CHI Chicago • #85
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Kmet isn't going to be a tight end to target as a starter on Draft Day in the majority of leagues, but he could emerge as a starting option as the season goes on, especially if the Bears part ways with impending free agent Allen Robinson. But even if Robinson returns, Chicago should feature Kmet along with Mooney, Montgomery and Cohen. As a rookie in 2020, Kmet had at least seven targets in three of his final five games, and he averaged 10.3 PPR points over that span. I'm expecting him to do better than that in his sophomore season, and hopefully the Bears can get improved quarterback play in 2021. Kmet is a great late-round target in all leagues if you can afford to carry two tight ends on your roster.
NO New Orleans • #82
Age: 24 • Experience: Rookie
Like Kmet, Trautman is worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues as a No. 2 tight end to stash on your roster. He's the likely replacement in New Orleans if Jared Cook leaves as a free agent, and Trautman could become a significant weapon for whoever starts at quarterback for the Saints this year. In two seasons with the Saints, Cook has 16 touchdowns in 29 games. And over the past two seasons, the Saints tight ends have 21 touchdowns as a group. Trautman could emerge as a weekly Fantasy starter during the season if he starts for the Saints in 2021.