Every time I write a sleepers column I feel the need to start with the rather silly exercise of trying to explain my process or justification for why the guys below are sleepers. The industry has grown to a point that there are no longer players who could have an impact in a standard league but are also complete unknowns. Well, almost. There are a couple of mostly unknowns below. If they aren't unknown to you then congratulations on being above average.
For the purposes of this column I looked for players currently outside the top 120 in NFC ADP for the month of June. Immediately, two names stick out and they are in no shape, fashion, or form traditional sleepers; Cam Newton and Antonio Brown. While everyone knows who they are, neither is going to be drafted anywhere close to their most likely outcome if they play 16 games. So let's start with our two superstar sleepers and then we'll get to the rest of the (more conventional) sleepers.
We'll start with Newton because he already has a job, or at least a fighting chance at a job. Newton will battle Jarrett Stidham in training camp to be the starter for the Patriots. I think we can all agree a healthy Newton wins this competition going away. While his current ADP of 259.3 doesn't reflect his new home, it's also unlikely he'll crack the top 15 in ADP based on the industry consensus right after the move. He'll almost certainly be available in the double-digit rounds of one-quarterback leagues, and that makes him a mega-sleeper.
Newton was the No. 2 quarterback in Fantasy as recently as 2017, and in 2018 he completed a career-best 67.9% of his passes. If he's healthy we have no reason to expect anything other than very good quarterback play. In his past three full seasons as a starter he averaged 533 yards on the ground per season, and he's never have fewer than 359 rushing yards or four rushing touchdowns in a full season. At age 31 we might expect Newton to cut back on the rush attempts, but he'll still be a force in the red zone. And it shouldn't be surprising at all if Josh McDaniels helps him to his most efficient season as a passer.
Brown doesn't have a team yet, but he's being drafted (ADP: 179.9) as if he never will. As much of a circus as last year was, he's still one of the most talented receivers in the world and it appears his legal issues have been resolved. If a team like the Seahawks or Packers signs Brown, his ADP will be slashed in half. We don't know for sure that will happen, but what do you really know about any player you're drafting in Round 12 or later? This is the part of the draft for lottery tick,ets and Brown is a league-winner if he signs somewhere and plays 16 games.
Here are 10 more conventional sleepers for you to target in the double-digit rounds:
JAC Jacksonville • #15
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Minshew was a borderline Fantasy starter as a rookie, and we should expect him to be even better in 2020 partially because most quarterbacks improve from their first to their second year. But also, the additions of Chris Thompson, Laviska Shenault and Tyler Eifert make his weapons deeper, and more talented. Finally, Jacksonville figures to have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. If Minshew can be even average, Jacksonville figures to be among the league leaders in pass attempts.
Tyrod Taylor QB
LAC L.A. Chargers • #5
Age: 30 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Tyrod Taylor is nearly free on Draft Day and could get your team off to a very good start. His first three games are against the Bengals, Chiefs and Panthers. With that kind of schedule and weapons that include Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Mike Williams, it's not hard to imagine how he could be a top-12 quarterback over the first month of the season. The presence of Justin Herbert does mean you need to draft a third quarterback if Taylor is one of your starters in a two-quarterback league. But the Chargers are good enough that I'm not sure Herbert sees the field because Taylor could lead them to the playoffs.
LAR L.A. Rams • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
It was just a year ago we were drafting Darrell Henderson as an eighth round pick because we were worried about Todd Gurley's knees. Now Gurley is in Atlanta, replaced by Cam Akers, and Henderson hype has fallen out of style. While I do rank Akers higher, I expect an interesting camp battle that Henderson could absolutely win. He's the best pass-catching back on the roster, so he should have a role at the least. But there's top-20 upside here, and the shortened offseason means he'll start with a leg up on Akers. Speaking of which, Malcolm Brown is available in last round of most drafts. Don't forget about him either.
ARI Arizona • #29
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Chase Edmonds, Tony Pollard and Alexander Mattison are all excellent sleeper options with big upside if the back in front of them gets hurt. The reason Edmonds stands out is he's going at least two rounds after Pollard and Mattison. That's a bit odd since Edmonds has a less-proven feature back in front of him. Kenyan Drake has never been a feature back for an entire season. As we saw last season, this Cardinals offense should be good for whoever is playing running back. Edmonds, Drake and David Johnson all produced like a top 10 running back whenever they were given the chance.
JAC Jacksonville • #23
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
While the Jacksonville Jaguars are talking nice about Leonard Fournette now, they made it pretty clear earlier in the offseason how they feel about him. Fournette may start the season as Jacksonville's starting running back, but that's no sure thing and he's on a short leash at the very least. Armstead is the guy who would benefit if Fournette was jettisoned or benched. In Armstead's lone game as a starter he caught five passes, recorded 85 total yards and scored a touchdown. He belongs much closer to Mattison, Pollard and Edmonds than his ADP suggests.
NYG N.Y. Giants • #87
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
The New York Giants have too many mouths to feed, but all the evidence we have suggest Sterling Shepard should be the first receiver drafted. And he should be drafted at least two rounds earlier than he currently is. Shepard was close to a 25% target share when he was healthy in 2019 and was over 8 yards per target in both 2017 and 2018. If he can combine those two numbers, he's got a shot at being a low-end No. 2 receiver. At the very least he should be a solid No. 3 if he stays healthy.
MIA Miami • #18
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Before Preston Williams went down with a torn ACL he had more catches, targets and yards than DeVante Parker. In current ADP, Parker is being drafted about five and a half rounds before Williams. Last we heard, Williams recovery was on track, so I'm expecting him to be ready for Week 1. Assuming he is, you should view both Parker and Williams as No. 3 receivers with top-20 upside. And you should draft the one available in the double-digit rounds, not the one going in the sixth.
Allen Lazard WR
GB Green Bay • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
The Packers did absolutely nothing to help Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. While that may be bad news for Rodgers, it's great news for Allen Lazard, who established himself as Rodgers' second-favorite receiver in 2019. Expect an increased target share for Lazard and while he might not improve on his 9.2 yards per target, he should be efficient with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback and Davante Adams on the other side. Barring something crazy, I'd expect Lazard to finish the year as a solid No. 3 receiver.
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
This is a bit of a dart throw, but Shenault is being drafted well after the high-upside dart throw range. There's a path to Shenault immediately becoming the team's No. 2 receiver, and Jacksonville has talked about using him in the running game, perhaps as a wildcat QB. A season like Deebo Samuel's 2019 is certainly possible, and there's upside from there on a squad that should throw more than 600 passes.
Jonnu Smith TE
TEN Tennessee • #81
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
With Delanie Walker completely out of the picture, Jonnu Smith should get a chance to prove he can be a starting Fantasy tight end. He has the athleticism and he could very well be Ryan Tannehill's second-favorite target in the passing game. Smith needs the Titans to throw a little more than they did last year to crack the top 10, but the odds are they will. Smith scored at least 11 PPR Fantasy points in three of his final four games of 2019.
So what Fantasy football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which WR1 candidate can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that was all over Derrick Henry's huge season, and find out.