Fantasy Football Sleepers: 32 teams, 32 breakout candidates

It’s not easy to identify a potential fantasy sleeper from every team for the upcoming season. Some teams are loaded with established talent at nearly every position (New Orleans), while others have precious little talent at all (Washington). Others have so many potential sleepers that it’s tough to find just one (Miami). That doesn’t stop us from trying to pick at least one sleeper candidate, though. As we saw last year with DJ Chark, Austin Ekeler, and Darren Waller, breakouts can come in a variety of ways.

Hitting on any sleeper on draft day is tough, as you’re trying to predict which lesser-known and little-used player is suddenly going to see a big uptick in production. If it were easy, fantasy football wouldn’t be any fun because everyone would have stacked teams. When you limit yourself to just one roster from which to choose, your margin of error is slim and you’re forced to swing for the fences with a backup running back or possession receiver — not exactly inspiring choices when they’ve yet to do anything.

Some of the players below are probably already on your radar (Daniel Jones, Jonnu Smith, Diontae Johnson) but still underrated; others won’t get drafted in anything outside of deep leagues (Devin Duvernay, La’Mical Perrine, Drew Lock). We also have guys you’re probably sick of hearing about as “sleepers” because they always disappoint (Anthony Miller, Ian Thomas, Josh Reynolds). Either way, given the dynamics of each team and the increased possibiliy of players missing time this season, all of these guys are worth watching and potentially moving up your draft boards.

2020 Fantasy Sleepers:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team

Kenyan Drake was brought back to remain Kliff Kingsbury’s lead back after he produced at a high level coming over in midseason to replace David Johnson. Edmonds, who had a flash as Johnson’s top backup before Drake was acquired, remains a strong No. 2 for 2020. Drake’s volume suggested the Cardinals would be OK giving him more than 300 touches, but keep in mind he never came close to that workload with the Dolphins. The Cardinals did draft Eno Benjamin for further backfield insurance, but Edmonds looks like a good fit for Kingsbury to the point they would be fine with simplyplugging him into a key role should Drake go on the shelf. File Edmonds under another premium handcuff, and keep Benjamin in mind should he look good early. —VinnieIyer

Smith was a major disappointment in trying to be the new Tevin Coleman for Devonta Freeman last season. He looked good in limited work, but he was operating in Dirk Koetter’s ineffective rushing offense with shaky blocking and a neck injury limited him to seven games. Now he’s the default No. 2 back to Todd Gurley,who is no longer the bastion of durability. Smith isn’t a particularly inspiring handcuff in a pass-happy offense where he won’t catch much, but it seems likely some backup Atlanta RB will get significant touches at some point this season. Brian Hill is also in the mix. —Iyer

The Ravens have a pretty set hierarchy of producers, so it’s not easy to identify a legit sleeper. Third-round rookie Duvernay is a boom-or-bust pick for this list, as he’ll be no higher than the No. 3 target for a team that doesn’t pass often, but the 5-11 speedster could get still break enough big plays to have value. No. 1 WR Marquise Brown wasn’t consistent or healthy all of last season, and it’s possible Lamar Jackson is unleashed as more of a passer this year in order to save some wear and tear on his body. All that makes Duvernay someone to watch early in the season. —Matt Lutovsky

The rookie is an upgrade from Frank Gore in complementing Devin Singletary as a power runner. Singletary, who averaged 15 touches per games as a rookie, remainsthe speed/quickness back in the committee, and the Bills plan to keep him busy in the passing game for Josh Allen. Moss showed some complete skills at Utah and has underrated burst. He can both pound between the tackles and finish drives in the red zone, but he also can catch passes on early downs if needed. Given this is a pretty situational split, Moss has some flex appeal and can raise his profile to an RB2 should Singletary have more durability issues. —Iyer

Thomas put up modest totals with revolving-door quarterbacks in his first two seasons with the Panthers, but the addition of Teddy Bridgewater — and more important, the official exit of Greg Olsen — gives thethird-yeartight end a new-found opportunity. Thomas might be a better fit in PPR leagues early in the season, and he’ll need to score more TDs to be anevery-week option. Still, he won’t cost much on draft day and has big upside in Carolina’s ball-control offense. —BillBender

This might be the third year in a row Miller has been on this list for the Bears, and fantasy owners are probably sick of hearing preseason hype about him. We sympathize, but this really could be the year. Not only might he be playing with a potential upgrade at QB in Nick Foles, but he also should get more targets after the departure of Taylor Gabriel, who received 141 targets the past two seasons. He showed flashes of upside last year, particularly a five-game stretch from Weeks 11-15 when he averaged 6.6 catches and 86.2 yards on 10.4 targets per game. Perhaps coincidentally, Gabriel missed three-and-a-half of those games. —Lutovsky

Uzomah’sproduction slipped last season, but the good news is he no longerhas tosplit targets with Tyler Eifert, who left for Jacksonville.That,coupled with the addition of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow,should lead to a more prominent role in the offense. IfUzomahcan revertto his 2018 form and tack on a few moreTDs, then he will emerge as at least a streamingoption in standard leagues. —Bender

Last season, we were all over the Jaguars as a potential D/ST bust, as fantasy owners were overrating them on the premise they were the same “Sacksonville” defense that took the fantasy world by storm a few years ago. After being burned, it seems like the reaction is too strong in the other direction, with the Jags sporting aNo. 24 consensus experts ranking on Fantasy Pros. Some big names left in the offseason, including A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, but stud pass-rusher Josh Allen returns along with DE Yannick Ngakoue and LB Myles Jack, who missed five games last year. Jacksonville also spent two first-round picks on defensive players, grabbing LB K’Lavon Chaisson and DB C.J. Henderson in the top 20, and signed former Browns’ Pro BowlLB Joe Schobert to help shore up the middle. The Jags might take some lumps early as the new guys get acclimated to playing together, but there’s plenty of high-upside talent on this roster.

Jarwingets the chance to emerge in Dallas’offense now that Jason Witten, who signed with the Raiders, is out of the picture. That means more receptions and yards, but that’s not the biggest upside to takingJarwin. Seven ofJarwin’s31 receptions last season went for 20 yards or more, and he will continue to be a down-field threat and red-zone target given the receiving talent theCowobyshave around him. —Bender

Lock took over the starting job for Denver late last season, and he averaged 13.6 fantasypointsper game in those starts.He should be able to build on that in a full offseason, and the Broncos invested inLock’sfuture by signing Melvin Gordon and drafting receivers Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamer, and red-zone monster Albert Okwuegbunam at TE. With WR Courtland Sutton coming off a big year and TE Noah Fant showing big-play flashes, Lock has plenty of options in the passing game.There is upside here, but some early-season patience will be required. —Bender

Hockenson was a major disappointment after a huge Week 1 last year, and while we can chalk some of that up to Matthew Stafford’s injury, there’s no doubt last year’s top-10 pick needs to get more consistent. Hockenson has all the tools to be a consistent fantasy producer, so it really comes down to whether the Lions utilize him properly and he can execute, but he has as much upside as any TE outside the “starters” tier. —Lutovsky

Dillon is an unusual talent. The rookie from Boston College comes in as a very effective power back with rare speed and explosiveness, but despite that burst, he offers little-to-nothing as a receiver. The key to Dillon’s value in Green Bay will be whether the team continues to carry Jamaal Williams behind Aaron Jones. Williams saw ninetouches per game as an interchangeable fill-in for Jones across running and receiving situations, getting half as much work. There was some good receiving and red-zone production, but the drop-off came in not having the same big-run juice as Jones. That’s what Dillon can better provide, making him thehigher-upsidehandcuff to Jones. —Iyer

David Johnson, coming over in the DeAndre Hopkins trade with Arizona, is tabbed to be Houston’s new lead backreplacing Carlos Hyde, who replaced Lamar Miller. In Bill O’Brien’s offense, that role has usually meant around 250 touches per season, or an average of just fewer than 16 per game. Duke Johnson looked good with about half as many touches (127) during his first Texans season in 2019. David has shownsigns of real wear and tearfrom his past heavy volume as a runner and receiver and will turn 29 in December. Duke is a couple years younger and always has been a timeshare back. Although he established himself as a great receiver in Cleveland, Dukedoesn’t get enough credit for his pure running ability. He probably is set for minimal role when David is healthy and effective all-around,but that’s far from guaranteed.Because of Duke, Deshaun Watson was willing to check down a lot more than usual. He’s a good fit for the scheme and the Texans shouldn’t mind trusting him should David not deliver in his big role. —duk

Pittman Jr enjoyed an outstanding senior season at USC,totaling 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 TDs. That suggests he could make an impact in PPR leagues a rookie. He will take some pressure off T.Y. Hilton,anda chance to workwith a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers doesn’thurt. Pittman Jr. will be cheaper than the other rookie receivers on this list, too. —Bender

Last season, we were all over the Jaguars as a potential bust, as fantasy owners were overrating them on the premise they were the same “Sacksonville” defense that took the fantasy world by storm a few years ago. After being burned, it seems like the reaction is too strong in the other direction, with the Jags sporting aNo. 24 consensus experts ranking on Fantasy Pros. Some big names left in the offseason, including A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, but stud pass-rusher Josh Allen returns along with DE Yannick Ngakoue and LB Myles Jack, who missed five games last year. Jacksonville also spent two first-round picks on defensive players, grabbing LB K’Lavon Chaisson and DB C.J. Henderson in the top 20, and signed former Browns’ Pro BowlLB Joe Schobert to help shore up the middle. The Jags might take some lumps early as the new guys get acclimated to playing together, but there’s plenty of high-upside talent on this roster.

Hardman needed just 26 catches to total 538 yards – a 20.7 yards per catch clip that makes him one of the more-exciting fantasy plays on any given week.Hardman’s six TD catches covered 287 yards, an amazing average of 47.8 yardson scoring plays. That blend of home-run speed fits perfectly in Kansas City’s offense and should lead to more production in 2020. —Bender

Renfrow was a cult hero during his college days at Clemson for his knack for the big catch, and he started to find his role with the Raiders late last season. He had back-to-back 100-yard gameswith a pair of TDsin Weeks 15 and 16, and owners tend to remember those players who come throughin the fantasy playoffs.Renfrowwill earn an increased role in the offense in 2020 and has a chance to be a real PPR stalwart. —Bender

Austin Ekeler is the non-traditional feature back and despite his massive balanced production as a runner and receiver last season (224 touches, 1,550 scrimmage yards, 11 TDs), but he did it with hyperefficiency, averaging only 14 touches per game. Through his 204 touches in 12 games, current Bronco Melvin Gordon averaged 17 touches. So, there’s a good chunk of complementary power work to be had. Justin Jackson is getting the first crack at it. He has flashed at times filling in for Gordon, but he has limited pop and hasn’t proved to be durable. Kelley, in contrast, is an explosive rookie with fresh legs. With better upside, he carries the more ideal value behind Ekeler as an RB5. —Iyer

The departure of Brandin Cooks means 72 WR targets from last season are up for grabs in L.A., and if you throw in Todd Gurley’s49 targets, there’s plenty to go around for a viable WR3 in fantasy. We can’t say for certain that Reynolds will get the bulk of those, as second-round WR Van Jefferson could just as easily be the prime beneficiary, but Reynolds is established in the Rams system and has had some good games in the past as a fill-in for various starters. With Tyler Higbee establishing himself a legit option for the Rams, it’s possible this offense can no longer support three viable fantasy WRs, but Reynolds and Jefferson are still worth watching.– Lutovsky

Williams totaled 32 catches for 428 yards and three TDs as a rookie before a torn ACLended his season. He was a consistent PPR receiver up to that point, and that role will be important when TuaTagovailoatakes over at quarterback for the Dolphins. The 6-5 Williams (knee) is on track to be ready by Week 1, and he’ll will start the seasonas a WR4 or WR5 on fantasy rosters. The upside isthereto move up the ladder. —Bender

Smith had two games with more than 50 yards receiving as a rookie, but he is poised to make the jump in his second season.A 76.6 catch percentage shows that Smith makes the most of his targets. Smith still is fighting for looks with veteran Kyle Rudolph, however, so the key will be taking advantage of red-zone opportunities and converting big plays when given the chance. Given his athleticism, Smith Jr. has major upside. —Bender

Injuries limited Harry to just seven games as a rookie, and he was a bit player in the New England’s offense as a result. The 6-4 former first-round pick can make New England’s new starting quarterback comfortable with his size, especially if it’s Cam Newton under center. He will need toimprove his catch percentage to be more consistent, but the buy-low appeal is there on a team that lacks playmakers. —Bender

Hill is now listed as a tight end/flex play in ESPN leagues for 2020, and that adds to his switch-blade appeal in any format. Hill had 19 catches on 22 targets last season, andhe scored seven TDs on just 46 offensive touches. Hillhad more than 50 total yards in just one game, but the TD appeal at the position is nice. —Bender

Jones closed last season with a pair of 300-yard games and averaged close to 25 fantasy points per game inWeek 15 and Week 16– fantasy playoff weeks that are easy to remember.Jones was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, totaling three games with four TD passes or more and rushing for at least 20 yards in seven contests.He enters his sophomore campaign with three solid wide receivers (Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton), a stud tight end (Evan Engram), and one of the best receiving backs in football (Saquon Barkley). When you throw in his rushing ability, everything is in place for Jones to have a big statistical season. —Bender

With Frank Gore positioned behind Le’Veon Bell for Adam Gase, here’s digging evendeeper for one final sleeper. The rookie Perine is third on the depth chart after Gore but ahead of Kenneth Dixon. Bell doesn’t exactly have a big fan in Gase and Gore is 37, coming off not doing much with the Bills. Perine is an excellent receiver who can hold his own on early downs. He’s a good late-round stash in deep PPR leagues. —Iyer

This is a PPR alert for a back who seems ideal for the “Sproles Role” — confirmed by the fact Scott was drafted by one of Sproles’ former teams (the Saints) and now works for another. With Jordan Howard gone, second-year lead back Miles Sanders is in line to see 250-300 touches.Scott was key for the Eagles as a hybrid back down the stretch last season when their wide receiver corps was a depleted mess, and they would like to keep him involved as a unique cog for the passing game. With Corey Clement still in the mix behind him, it wouldbe a committee should Sanders go on the shelf as opposed toScott seeing a suddenly expanded role, but in a prolific offense behind Sanders, Scott could easily get something like 100 carries and 50 catches, giving him flex appeal. —Iyer

Johnson was inconsistent early last season, but he turned it on in Pittsburgh’s final four games with 23 catches on 31 targets for 257 yards and a pair of TDs. He will be featured more in the offense, and the return of Ben Roethlisbergershould translate into far more production.–Bender

Garoppolo, who finished with 27 TDs and 13 interceptions last season,is a fairly high-scoring QB to be considered a “sleeper.”He did not have a bunch of monster games, posting just four with 20 or more fantasy points, but keep in mind that it was Garoppolo’s first full season as a starter. He should grow with a young receiving corps that includesDeeboSamuel, Kendrick Bourne, and BrandonAiyuk, as well as elite tight end George Kittle. The 49ers will undoubtedly be a “running team,” but Kyle Shanahan has proven in the past that his offenses can support a stud fantasy QB, too. Garoppolo has the talent, and he could produce as a low-end QB1 or high-end backup despite not getting a lot of hype heading into drafts. —Bender

Normally when a defense has a reputation like Seattle’s, fantasy owners overvalue them for several seasons after they’ve stopped being productive, but the consensus seems to be that the Seahawks are past their prime. The “Legion of Boom” days are definitely over, but that doesn’t mean the ‘Hawks can’t have fantasy value. The additions of S Jamal Adams, DE Bruce Irvin, and first-round LB Jordyn Brooks will help, as will full seasons from last year’s first-round DEL.J. Collier and DB Quandre Diggs. K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, and Shaquill Griffin make up one of the best lineback corps in the NFL, so the pieces are in place for this unit to thrive relative to itsNo. 17 consensus ranking on Fantasy Pros.

The offseason vibes haven’t been great for the rookie from Vanderbilt. He started his first training camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, on top of hearing coach Bruce Arians saying he is comfortable with Ronald Jones as the Bucs’ lead back and Dare Ogunbowale resuming his receiving role to help Tom Brady. The team also signed LeSean McCoy Arians is concerned about trusting Vaughn, especially in pass protection. That said, Jones is nothing special, McCoy is ancient, and Ogunbowale has a limited skill set. This seems like a backfield situation to avoid, but because of the offense’s high-scoring upside, Vaughn is worth a late-roundstash because things can go quickly south for Jones. —Iyer

Smith is a reliable target, catching 35-of-44 targetslast season.There is a boom-or-bust-factor at work, asSmith also had four games with no catches in 2019 and relied on big plays in other games to pad his stats. Still, the increased consistency in the second half of the season showed his potential, andwith Delanie Walker officially out of town, he should see a big uptick in targets. Given his explosiveness, that could mean big things at a traditionally touchdown-reliant position. —Bender

Washington’s backfield has been thrown a training camp curveball with the release of Derrius Guice. Somehow, there’s still a camp crowd with Adrian Peterson, Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic and Bryce Love. Then there’salso the rookieGibson, a non-traditional option forScott Turner’s offense as a running back/wide receiver hybrid. They want to see what Gibson can do catching passes in open field. The problem is, that may be lead to only a handful of touches because Gibsondoesn’t offer the power option of either Peterson or Barber or well-rounded game of Love, coming off a major right knee injury. There also are some concerns about Gibson being trusted in the passing game when he’s not catching passes. Where there’s some optimism for Gibson is that Washington is starved for impact receivers after Terry McLaurinwith Steven Sims Jr. emerging as the next best option. With Chris Thompson gone, there are targets to be had to support them out of the backfield. It’s hard to see Gibson carving out too a big of a role unless the backfield committeegets reallypared down, but given the unpredictabilityof this situation, everyone bears watching. —Iyer

Source: Read Full Article