Writing about Fantasy Football sleepers when free agency is still going on is a tricky business, because value is so dependent on context. That's obviously not true for every player – Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Taylor would be elite Fantasy options pretty much anywhere – but it's especially true when you are talking about the kind of players who are going to be relevant in a deeper category like sleepers.
Because, it doesn't matter how much you like one of your late-round picks, if they don't get the opportunity to play, it doesn't really matter how talented they are. Oh, we'd like to believe talent wins out in the long run, but just ask the countless Fantasy managers and analysts who spent all year waiting on the Broncos to finally hand the reins to Javonte Williams over Melvin Gordon full time how making that assumption can work out. The truth is, the first speed bump every sleeper needs to get past is playing time.
And that's harder to project in the middle of March than any other time in the offseason calendar. Not only are plenty of big names still out there waiting to be signed (or traded, in this wild offseason cycle), but we also have the NFL Draft looming to potentially shake up our assumptions, too.
Which is all to say, this list of sleepers is going to look a lot different from where I land in July or August as we're really prepping for the season. A lot is going to change between then and now. But here's who I'm looking at as potential steals for the 2022 Fantasy season as this stand:
- Chris' 1.0 Series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Dave's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Jamey's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Heath's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
JAC Jacksonville • #16
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
This one is fairly straightforward: It's a bet on an elite talent who will hopefully find himself in a much better situation than he was in as a rookie. Every leak from Jacksonville since the start of last training camp highlighted in no uncertain terms how completely in over his head former coach Urban Meyer was, so it seems fair to give Lawrence the benefit of the doubt that he's better than he looked last season. That's no guarantee that he'll take a huge step forward, and I'm not sure the Jaguars offseason moves have convinced me that this is an especially well-run organization yet, either. However, even if you aren't a fan of the Evan Engram, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones additions, it seems reasonable to think the supporting cast around Lawrence is likely to be better, and Doug Pederson's track record in unlocking a breakout from Carson Wentz in his second season is a good sign, too. Lawrence has enough athleticism to be a factor in the running game, and it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect a bump to 4,000 passing yards and 20 touchdowns (he had 3,641 and 12 as a rookie), with upside beyond that. If you don't want to spend on QB, Lawrence is a worthwhile late-round upside flier to pair with someone like Kirk Cousins or Derek Carr.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
We've seen stretches from Trubisky where he looked like a viable starting Fantasy option, but they were few and far between as the Bears mostly refused to take advantage of his athleticism. It remains to be seen if the Steelers will do so, mostly because they never asked Ben Roethlisberger to run and he had no interest in doing so in recent years. Given that the Bears were unwilling to make the most of Justin Fields' rushing ability for much of his rookie season, I'm willing to chalk that one up to a Matt Nagy issue, and I'm hoping that means the Steelers will be a bit more flexible. This isn't a bad landing spot for Trubisky otherwise, with solid pass-catchers at pretty much every level of the offense, so if he can just be decent as a passer while making a few plays every week with his legs, he could be a very solid QB2. I'm not sure the upside is much higher than that – I don't buy the idea that spending one season behind Josh Allen working with Brian Daboll changed Trubisky's career trajectory in any meaningful way. But if Trubisky can emerge as a viable weekly streamer, that's not a bad outcome.
JAC Jacksonville • #1
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
I'm not sure if Etienne is going to count as a sleeper by the time draft season rolls around, but I'll include him here because I'm not sure people are as excited about him as they should be. He went 62nd in our 0.5 PPR mock back in January, and that just isn't high enough for someone who will likely be the clear No. 1 RB for his team next season. Sure, James Robinson is still around, however coming back from a ruptured Achilles, I don't know if you can expect much from him; Etienne's Lisfranc injury in his left foot last preseason shouldn't be as much of an obstacle. Obviously, we've never seen Etienne in the NFL, but he was a dynamic all-around playmaker in college who should be used as both a pass-catcher and a rusher, and that skill set means his Fantasy upside is significant. The Jaguars offense needs to take a step forward for him to realize all of that potential, but it's not out of the question he could have a similar role to D'Andre Swift in Detroit. That gives him top-10 RB upside, which isn't currently factored into his price nearly enough.
SEA Seattle • #20
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Penny finally got healthy and got a chance to show what he could do late last season and he looked like the guy the Seahawks spent a first-round pick on back in 2018, rushing for 671 yards and six touchdowns in five games to close out the season. The Seahawks rewarded him with a one-year deal that could be worth up to $6.5 million, and despite the presence of Chris Carson, I'm not sure the Seahawks brought him back just to be a complementary back. Carson had neck surgery last season, and there were rumors that the injury could impact his ability to play in the NFL moving forward, so I don't know how much you can expect from him at this point. The fact that Penny said he turned down more money elsewhere suggests he's happy with the role he expects. Penny's own injury track record is, obviously, a red flag in its own right, as is his lack of a track record as a pass-catcher and concerns about the Seahawks offense in the aftermath of the Russell Wilson trade. Still, Penny could be the lead back in a run-heavy offense, and while he probably doesn't have No. 1 RB upside, he could provide similar production to someone like Damien Harris at a much cheaper cost.
Ronald Jones RB
KC Kansas City • #2
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Jones' status as a sleeper is obviously going to depend on where he ends up signing as a free agent. If he returns to Tampa, that would be a pretty interesting outcome; he probably won't get any kind of passing game role of note, however he could rush for 1,000 yards and a bunch of touchdowns in this offense pretty easily. That might end up being close to a best-case scenario, though it's worth noting that it's not out of the question he could end up somewhere else where the coaching staff isn't completely opposed to the idea of using him as a pass-catcher like Tampa has been. He's obviously a talented runner – remember, he was a difference maker down the stretch in 2020 and pushed Leonard Fournette into a healthy inactive at one point – and I would like to see the 24-year-old get a chance.
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Will Fuller WR
MIA Miami • #3
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Fuller basically never got a chance to get going in 2021. He missed the first game finishing up his suspension from 2020, missed the next game due to personal issues, and then suffered a fractured finger in his second game that effectively ended his season. Not great for a guy with an already lengthy injury history. We still don't know where Fuller is going to play in 2022 as of this writing, but given how poorly his 2021 went, it's hard to see there being much hype around him no matter where he ends up. However, let's not forget, he averaged 79.9 yards with eight touchdowns in 11 games in 2020 and has generally been productive pretty much wherever he ends up. The ideal outcome would probably be a reunion with Deshaun Watson on a Cleveland team that is lacking in WR talent. Hopefully, his price stays so low that there's no risk in taking a shot.
BUF Buffalo • #6
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Gabriel Davis is going to be the more popular Bills breakout WR, but McKenzie is an intriguing option in his own right after the team released Cole Beasley. We haven't seen a ton from McKenzie in his five NFL seasons, but there have been impressive showings when Beasley has been out, most recently in Week 16 last season, when he caught 11 passes on 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown. In three games with Beasley out over the past three seasons, McKenzie has averaged 19.9 PPR points per game. That's a tiny sample size to go on, and McKenzie's limited overall role suggests that we shouldn't expect anything close to that kind of production in a full season. However, he's shown he can be a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands, and the Bills have used him as a running back at times as well, so that adds some potential value as well. With one of your late-round picks, McKenzie looks like an intriguing PPR flier.
ARI Arizona • #4
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Moore's rookie season was a disappointment, overall, but there were still signs of how he can be a difference maker in this offense. His role in the offense served largely as an extension of the running game, either directly – 18 carries – or indirectly – 1.4 yard average depth of target. The Cardinals tried to get the ball in Moore's hands with blockers in front of him, and he showed the ability to make plays at times. The next step is to increase his snap share – he was usually fourth among wide receivers on the team – and find more ways to get him involved down the field. Moore doesn't have the size or strength of a Deebo Samuel, but you're hoping he follows a similar path, combining his excellent YAC skills with a larger overall role that helps his numbers take off.
DEN Denver • #85
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We haven't seen a ton of Okwuegbunam in the NFL, both because he's dealt with some injuries and because he's been stuck behind Noah Fant for a couple of seasons. However, there's a ton to like in his profile, starting with his size and athleticism – he's 6-foot-6, 258 pounds and ran 4.49 40-yard dash coming into the league. He scored 23 touchdowns in 27 games at Missouri, including 11 as a true freshman, and he's been effective in his opportunities in the NFL, averaging 8.2 yards per target with a 5.5% touchdown rate in a mediocre (at best) Broncos offense. With Russell Wilson at QB and Fant out of the picture, this is Okwuegbunam's first chance to show what he can do. He should be one of the first 12 tight ends drafted in all formats, and there's top-five upside in a best-case scenario.