We are well within our draft season and it has been already a crazy year. The NFL season is going to hopefully restore some normalcy in our lives, which means for us some fantasy football. Sleepers have changed over the recent months as the public has begun to catch on as you can tell when a former sleeper now has a higher average draft position. Now a sleeper doesn’t necessarily mean some 14th round pick as you can have a sleeper go in the eighth round because you feel like he can produce as a 4th round guy. We are simply looking for draft values and not overpaying for the same production. As always, you can find our fantasy football rankings updated throughout the week during the season.
Cam Akers – RB – Los Angeles Rams
Cam Akers is not one of the main rookie running backs you will hear about but has a big chance to lead the Rams in touches out of the backfield. He is a talented back out of Florida State and dealt with a poor offensive line yet still produced nearly 1400 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. With Todd Gurley gone, the backfield sits with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Neither looked impressive last season and have made a big mark so far in the offseason. Akers is going as the 28th RB off the board. This is a strong value for the rookie who can easily finish as one of the better RB2s in the game.
The Rams play at one of the faster paces in the game and run a ton of plays. So despite having some of the higher passing attempts, the Rams did run quite a bit last year despite the lackluster production in the backfield.
Nyheim Hines – RB – Indianapolis Colts
While the Colts did draft, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines is still a guy I have interest in for PPR leagues. All three guys will certainly get work. The addition to the team that matters most here is Philip Rivers, as the dump-off machine is going to pump in plenty of targets to the backs. The Colts have also talked about using Hines all over the field. The Colts also set up with one of the best strength of schedules for running backs. The other two backs do not have quite the pass-catching skills of Hines and Frank Reich has praised Hines. Chargers running backs have had a great history with Rivers in the passing game and that should carry over here.
Preston Williams – WR – Miami Dolphins
If you scroll through my 2019 waiver wire articles, Preston Williams is in a majority of them. He did not get enough recognition, and when he finally did, he goes down with a season-ending injury. Any time we are thinking of drafting a player coming off a major knee surgery there is some risk, but towards the end of your fantasy drafts you can start taking that risk. Williams didn’t come into the league as a tremendous athlete. He posted below-average combine numbers, and eventually went undrafted. Williams played two years at Tennessee before transferring to Colorado State where he saw more playing time. He finished with a 96-1345-14 before heading into the draft. Williams was largely looked at as a big red zone target, sitting at 6’5 and 218lb.
Williams will be just 23 years old heading into next season, and this is going to be a big offseason for the Dolphins, who are loaded with draft picks. Davante Parker finally emerged in a fully healthy season and clicked with Ryan Fitzpatrick. While they can still use more help offensively, Williams and Parker should emerge as the main target contenders next season. Williams saw 60 targets in eight games this season, posting a 32-428-3 line. Most of his success came with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, which was when the offense took off anyway. As long as he returns in full health, he should be back in the mix next year.
James Washington – WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
Both James Washington and Diontae Johnson are intriguing second year players to look at later in drafts. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense dropped an absolute dud this year in fantasy, but we can easily chalk this one up to injuries. Having Mason Rudolph and the Duck Man throwing to you isn’t exactly promising for upside. Washington finished the season with 735 yards and three touchdowns, which was good for WR52 in PPR leagues. He saw 79 targets, catching 44 of them, and efficiency wasn’t going to be a strong suit given the quarterback play. The Steelers quarterback play is still in a limbo given Ben Roethlisberger is turning 38 this year, and we have seen quite a few big named quarterbacks see that age sneak up on them. However Roethlisberger with one arm would be an upgrade from last season.
Washington came out of Oklahoma State, and is smaller wideout at 5’11 but is extremely athletic. He was used as a down field threat, as his average target distance was 14.9, which ranked 11th in the league. Washington didn’t see a ton of quality targets, and 2020 should bring some change in that department. I loved his upside coming into the NFL, where he dominated in college. Falling to the Steelers, who have developed wide receivers well over the last decade and a half, this is a strong spot for success.
Diontae Johnson – WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
Diontae Johnson had the most successful season out of Pittsburgh wide receivers, and saw 90 targets, competing 63% of them for 57 receptions. He had 19% of the targets in a wonky year for the Steelers given the injuries. This team has done well drafting wide receivers and they have looked to hit on Johnson and Washington. He had five touchdowns on the year, and finished as WR40 on the season in PPR formats. Yards after the catch was a big aspect of Johnson’s game this year, finishing 24th in the league. Johnson came out of Toledo, and was a three year wideout who did miss a year. He finished with 21 touchdowns in his final two seasons. Johnson got terrific separation from opposing defenders, averaging 2.39 yards. At such a young age this is a big number to get. He isn’t the fastest wideout out there, but excels in route running. I expect the Steelers offense to be more fantasy friendly this upcoming season, of course they remain healthy.
Parris Campbell – WR – Indianapolis Colts
I expect the Colts to revamp their passing game this offseason. Jacoby Brissett didn’t look great, especially for fantasy. The receiving core was banged up this offseason, including T.Y. Hilton. Parris Campbell played in just seven games this season, and didn’t have a huge impact on the field. He saw just 24 targets in those seven games, catching 18 of them for 127 yards and one touchdown. Campbell was a highly touted pick, and called one of the steals in the draft. He was a burner running a 4.3, and incredibly fast. It was a bit odd to see Frank Reich struggling to use him, given the creativity he has as a play-caller.
There were some positives to take away where he caught most thrown his way. The injury concern is downside here, where he had three surgeries in 2019, and a hamstring strain in preseason. With Hilton showing his age, the Colts are desperate for someone to step up. I would expect another wideout to come in here, but that doesn’t exactly knock down the Colts receiving options. I would look for a successful year in year two given the talent and likely change in the offense.
Jonnu Smith – TE – Tennessee Titans
We are going to see a changing in the guard at a few tight end spots around the league. Delanie Walker is up in age, and struggling to stay healthy. It is time for Jonnu Smith to take over, who is a fast tight end, running a 4.6 40, and has one of the better catch radiuses of tight ends. He had 277 yards after the catch this season, which ranked 8th, and he averaged 9.8 yards per target, and 12.5 yards per reception. His 78% catch rate ranks fourth overall, and he gets a ton of separation. As mentioned with Corey Davis, adding in Ryan Tannehill was a big plus for the offense. There is going to be a gap between the top tier tight ends of course and then the rest of the options. Smith is going to go later, and that upside is there. He finished as TE19 this season and it was in a limited fashion. He has a chance to be a top 10-15 tight end next season.
Ian Thomas – TE – Carolina Panthers
Much like Jonnu Smith, Ian Thomas is going to take over for the aging Greg Olsen. He is expected to retire or join another team. Thomas is a 6’4 tight end and very athletic, and like Smith he is on the younger side. We tend to see tight ends have a slower start to having fantasy production in the NFL in comparison to other positions. Thomas filled in for a few games this season, and will see more targets next year. Carolina’s passing attack was up and down this season, and next year they will be in a limbo at the position. Thomas should be relied upon with a solid catch rate in shorter routes, but can also stretch the field a bit. This is great for either Cam Newton to return, or go a younger route where Thomas becomes a check down option or a reliable option in the middle of the field. With three other pass-catching options like Moore, Samuel, and McCaffrey, Thomas will fight for some targets, but it keeps his ADP fairly low.
Jack Doyle – TE – Indianapolis Colts
This one ties into the name above, as Jack Doyle will get a bump with Eric Ebron heading out of town. The Colts are going to need to address some offensive needs, but Doyle’s role is still fairly safe. He saw 13 red zone targets last season, which was tied for the most on the team and that was 18% of the red zone targets. With the injuries in Indy, Doyle also led the team in targets, and caught 63% of the targets thrown his way (72). Doyle isn’t the most athletic name out there, nor is he going to have long chunk plays. However he can rack up receptions as we have seen, and in PPR formats he will go a bit higher than standard formats. He has a chance to post a 70-600-5 type of line this year, which would put him around the top ten mark in scoring if things duplicate. Despite a poor year from the Colts offense, and sharing targets with Ebron for half the year, Doyle finished as TE15. I like him quite a bit this year, and expect his ADP to rise closer to the season.
Noah Fant – TE – Denver Broncos
Two second year tight ends standout as they have a chance to regroup after an average start to their careers. Noah Fant wasn’t bad, but was in and out of the offense at times. With Drew Lock under center, I love the upside of the pass-catching options moving forward. Noah Fant was the other Iowa tight end from the draft, and resembled some of the top tight ends over the last decade. He graded out extremely well coming into the year, and is a monster athlete. He saw 67 targets this season, and ranked 11th in deep targets. He also had 300 yards after the catch, but wasn’t a factor in the red zone or touchdown department. Then again, neither was Denver as a whole. His efficiency was strong, averaging 14.1 yards per reception, and he had a 7.9 average target distance, and got plenty of separation in coverage. Fant saw the the second most targets on the team, and finished TE14 in PPR leagues. This is a good start to his career as the offense should get better moving forward.
T.J. Hockenson – TE – Detroit Lions
This was a more disappointing season for the rookie tight end, but overall Detroit battled injuries all year, and T.J. Hockenson was included. He is an extremely athletic tight end, who drew comparisons to Rob Gronkowski out of the draft. He went 8th overall to the Lions, who needed a tight end desperately. As long as Matthew Stafford can be healthy, the upside is there for Hockenson moving forward. However he needs to stay healthy as well. The Lions averaged 38 pass plays per game, which was a talking point given they wanted to be a heavy run offense. He ranked 15th in deep targets when on the field, and was looked at in the red zone when healthy. Outside of the Week 1 game against Arizona, where he posted a 6-131-1 line, he failed to top more than 50 yards in all but one game for the rest of the year. He also had just one touchdown. It was disappointing because it was a great fantasy schedule for him, but health hurt him in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
A fantasy football sleeper is considered to be a player that is being overlooked by the fantasy football community and will go later in drafts. They are also expected to outperform their average draft position to give you a bargain.
Usually, sleepers will be drafted after about five or six rounds, however, a fourth-round player might be expected to outperform his ADP. Most sleepers do tend to go in deeper rounds because you are expecting them to outperform their ADP.
A post-hype sleeper refers to a player who was a bust in the year prior after being labeled a potential breakout fantasy player. Their average draft position will usually dip down after a disappointing season resulting in a chance to buy low on them.
Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater are two 2020 sleeper quarterbacks. Both have strong receiving cores to throw to and the Panthers and Lions both have bad defenses that will keep the offense trying to move the ball with some urgency.
Justin Jackson for the Los Angeles Chargers will see consistent touches this season with Melvin Gordon out of town. David Johnson is going towards the 9th round and is going to be a featured back in Houston. Don’t sleep on Johnson.
With a lot of targets up for grabs in Houston, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills are in a prime position to catch a lot of balls and don’t have high ADPs. Anthony Miller, Preston Williams, and Parris Campbell are a few others.
Pairing up a player with Stafford, look at TJ Hockenson coming off a down rookie season. The Detroit Lions tight end is a prime bounce-back candidate and sleeper. Hayden Hurst and Jack Doyle are two other names to keep an eye on.
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