One of the difficult things about writing sleepers columns in the middle of the preseason is that it's not static. At all.
For instance, Gus Edwards has an ADP of 93.3 as of August 30th. But we all know Edwards is being drafted no later than Round 6 now that J.K. Dobbins is out for the year. Sure, I could call Edwards a sleeper at his ADP, but that doesn't help anyone right now.
What would be more helpful is if I could tell you for sure who the 1B running back will be. Right now, it looks like a battle between Justice Hill and Ty'Son Williams. Hill has the veteran's edge, but Williams has flashed this preseason, picking up 130 yards on 24 carries. Hill is also battling an ankle injury, which could give the role to Williams by default.
For now, I'm treating both running backs as late-round sleepers with eventual top-30 upside. I'd be more inclined to believe that Hill could see a majority of the targets out of the backfield, but either should be in line for 10-13 touches per week based on the Ravens touch distribution the past couple of years.
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The one other possibility is that the Ravens treat Edwards like more of a workhorse back now that Dobbins is out. If that happens, we should be talking about this position group in the breakouts article and not the sleepers article, because Edwards would have Nick Chubb upside.
Here are the rest of my 2021 sleepers:
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
I struggled with this one because in industry drafts, Shenault goes three rounds earlier. But I'm not writing this list for people drafting in industry drafts. The loss of Travis Etienne and Jacksonville's offensive line struggles have really opened my mind to the idea of Shenault leading the team in targets in a higher volume version of what Deebo Samuel does. Shenault should get plenty of work around the line of scrimmage and he has the skillset to thrive in that role.
Marvin Jones WR
JAC Jacksonville • #11
Age: 31 • Experience: 10 yrs.
While Shenault may lead the team in targets, he's not near as likely to see downfield passes as Marvin Jones. Jones has taken advantage of D.J. Chark's absence to form a solid bond with Trevor Lawrence and is now my favorite to be Jacksonville's top outside wide receiver. Every year Jones ends up in this column and every year he finishes the year as a top-30 wide receiver. His points come in bunches, so he's an even better option in Bestball leagues.
CHI Chicago • #1
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fields is a rare combination of extreme accuracy and athletic ability. He's one of the fastest quarterback prospects in recent years and he completed nearly 70% of his passes in his final two years at Ohio State. And unlike some college quarterbacks, that's not because Fields threw everything within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He won't score 14 rushing touchdowns, but everything else about Cam Newton's rookie season is available to Fields once the team sees what it needs to from Andy Dalton.
TB Tampa Bay • #25
Age: 29 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Like Leonard Fournette last year, Giovani Bernard was hand-picked by Tampa Bay to fill a need that's very important to Tom Brady, the pass-catching running back. Unlike Fournette, Bernard started earning rave reviews from the coaching staff the moment he hit the practice field. This team threw 117 passes to running backs last year despite not having a true pass-catching back on the roster. James White averaged 113 targets per year in his last two seasons with Brady. That may be extreme, but there's plenty of room for Bernard to carve out a role like Nyheim Hines did last year and finish as a top-20 PPR back.
NE New England • #16
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Slowly but surely Jakobi Meyers' ADP is creeping up, but he's still in Round 12 so it appears you guys just aren't going to buy into him. I know that's at least partially because of the zero career touchdowns. And Cam Newton's 2020 inaccuracy probably doesn't help. But either Newton is going to bounce back or the team is getting turned over to Mac Jones, who would be a perfect fit for a slot receiver like Meyers. So 2020 is probably below the reasonable floor for Meyers, and he was on a 1,000-yard pace without Julian Edelman.
BAL Baltimore • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
It's been a rotten preseason for Brown and the Ravens passing game, but there's been nothing to change the fact that when healthy, we should expect Brown to be the team's leading wide receiver. And we were drafting him 70 picks higher last year, I'm not sure that much has changed. Brown remains a fragile, boom-or-bust No. 3 wide receiver, but he still has upside in his third year in the NFL.
DET Detroit • #30
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
In Anthony Lynn's offense, Jamaal Williams should have weekly flex appeal even if D'Andre Swift stays healthy and would become an instant starter should Swift's going injury linger into the regular season. Lynn's offenses have historically dedicated 10-14 touches per game to the second running back and there's an excellent chance Williams gets short yardage work to start the year. Worried the Lions are too bad for this to matter? That's mitigated by heavy involvement for the running backs in the passing game, which means even garbage time can result in PPR Fantasy points.
Tony Jones RB
NO New Orleans • #21
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
All indications are that Tony Jones has the inside track to be the No. 2 back in New Orleans behind Alvin Kamara. This should be a similar role to Williams', only on a better offense, and Jones has shown more juice this preseason as well. Bonus, he's available in the last round of almost every draft.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.