I did a little something different when putting together the sleeper list below. Well, I should say someone else did something a little bit different.
I've had someone helping me out the past few weeks, a young man by the name of Jonny Lazar. You may see his name in one of our mock drafts very soon, and I would be surprised if that's the last time you see his name. He's helped make my projections better, and last week he put together a list of every player who I was higher than Dave, Jamey, and the Fantasy Pros consensus. It's a pretty big list. The nine players you'll see below were all on that list. They were also outside the top 100 for Dave, Jamey, and the consensus.
The surprising thing is that there were no late-round quarterbacks on the list. The closest two were Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady. I just wrote about Hurts in my and calling Brady a sleeper is a bridge too far even for me. But I do think there's one potential league-winning sleeper at quarterback, even if he didn't show up on the list. It's Justin Fields. In fact, I'm afraid even my ranking is too low.
Like most of the 2021 quarterback class, Fields struggled as a rookie. But he also gave us plenty of reason for hope. In his final four complete games, he averaged 307 total yards of offense per game. In fact, in his final nine starts, he completed 61.7% of his passes and averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt. Considering he completed 68% of his passes in college and averaged 9.2 yards per attempt, there's still plenty of reason to hope that he can be an above-average passer.
As an above-average passer, Fields would be a must-start Fantasy quarterback with easy top-five upside. He's an elite athlete who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at Ohio State and averaged 5.8 yards per carry as a rookie. His new offensive coordinator is Luke Getsy. The last time Getsy called offensive plays was in 2018 at Mississippi State. That year quarterback Nick Fitzgerald led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
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Much has been made about the fact that the Bears haven't put enough around Fields for him to break out this year. And compared to what Trey Lance has in San Francisco, his weapons are certainly lacking. But in a sleeper context, that just means more opportunities. If Fields comes close to his ceiling this year, it's very likely Cole Kmet, Velus Jones, or someone else with a triple-digit ADP greatly outperforms their cost. The Bears may have multiple sleepers.
Here are nine other sleepers who I'm higher on than the industry:
HOU Houston • #31
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
If I was only using the consensus rankings then Tyler Allgeier would have been on this list as well, but Dave and Jamey like Allgeier almost as much as I do. Both of these rookie running backs are available after Round 10 and have a clear path to important touches. I prioritize Pierce because he has a better chance of catching passes and the Texans don't appear to be as invested in Marlon Mack as the Falcons are with Cordarrelle Patterson. In non-PPR, it's much closer. Both of these rookies could be Fantasy starters as early as Week 1 and they're almost free.
Mark Ingram RB
NO New Orleans • #5
Age: 33 • Experience: 13 yrs.
People are slowly starting to wake up to the fact that Mark Ingram could be an enormous value if Alvin Kamara misses time. That could come via a suspension due to Kamara's altercation in Las Vegas or via injury. Last year Ingram played three games without Kamara. He averaged 95 yards and 18.5 PPR Fantasy points in those three games. There is also a narrow path to Ingram being a flex even with Kamara healthy if the team uses the run-heavy approach it employed at times last year.
Robert Woods WR
HOU Houston • #2
Age: 31 • Experience: 11 year
I have been very encouraged by offseason reports and videos of Robert Woods. He appears to be way ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery, doing far more with the team this offseason than first-round pick Treylon Burks. And once again, Woods looks like he'll be overlooked on Draft Day. Woods ranked as WR23, averaging 15 FP/G before his injury in 2021. In 2020 he finished as WR19 per game, averaging 15.4 FP/G. He's currently being drafted as WR42. Even if Burks gets going at training camp, I'd expect Woods to be much better than a No. 4 wide receiver.
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #17
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Apparently, I'm the only person who likes Garrett Wilson over Elijah Moore. They're both blazing fast wide receivers, with exceptionally high upside. Moore flashed in a very small sample size last year, but Wilson's draft capital is enough to break the tie for me. If Zach Wilson takes a leap, both could be top 24 wide receivers. They're that talented. But if I have to bet on one, I'm betting on Wilson, who was my favorite receiver in this class before the NFL Draft.
NE New England • #1
Age: 30 • Experience: 9 yrs.
I'll admit, it's much easier to get excited about Garrett Wilson than it is DeVante Parker. But that's OK because Parker is much cheaper. Comparing pedigree, there's not a receiver on the New England roster who can match Parker's past production or potential upside. If he stays healthy we should fully expect him to lead the wide receivers in targets and production. If the Patriots loosen the reins on Mac Jones in his second year, then that could mean 120-plus targets for Parker. The one season Parker topped that mark he delivered a 1,200-yard season.
PIT Pittsburgh • #14
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
George Pickens is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound wide receiver who ran a 4.47 at the combine. Injuries cost him most of his junior year at Georgia and the Steelers still made him a Round 2 pick. In terms of overall upside, Pickens matches Diontae Johnson and tops Chase Claypool. There's an outside chance he could beat Claypool out in camp, and he's just one injury away from a large target share. In the late rounds, you should be betting on upside and Pickens has it all.
Irv Smith TE
CIN Cincinnati • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
A year ago, Irv Smith was pretty close to a consensus top 12 tight end. Then he tore his MCL in the preseason and missed the season. Now he's back, and the team has a new head coach who is looking to go more pass-happy. Smith won't turn 24 until August and has very little competition for tight end targets in Minnesota. The history of Kevin O'Connell and Kirk Cousins suggests 80-plus targets for Smith this year, which should put him right back in the top-12 discussion.
Tyler Higbee TE
LAR L.A. Rams • #89
Age: 30 • Experience: 8 yrs.
I'm guessing Higbee's ADP is a reflection of his perceived lack of upside. I'm not sure I buy that. Even excluding his incredible run at the end of 2019, Higbee showed upside potential as recently as last year. Upside starts with volume and he had 85 targets in 15 games. That absolutely gives him a 100-target upside. If he bounces back to his 2018-2020 efficiency, Higbee could give us a 75-catch season with 850 yards and six touchdowns. That's easily top-10 and probably top-six production.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #7
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Everett started off as a deep sleeper, but I'm becoming more convinced he could be a surefire starter. This is one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the league and Justin Herbert threw 137 passes to his tight ends last year. That gives Everett every bit as much upside as his former teammate, Higbee.