Finding sleepers in fantasy football drafts is top of everyone’s mind on draft day, but most sleeper lists feature many of the same names. However, diving deeper for lotto tickets who likely won’t even be selected in redraft leagues is another key to success, especially if you play in especially deep leagues (oversized rosters, 14 or 16 teams). In deep leagues, you’ll have no choice but to keep a keen eye on these under-the-radar players who might not even be in the rankings on your cheat sheet. Targeting these undervalued assets is smart if you’re trying to get the absolute most bang for your buck.
This bring us to our 2021 Deep Sleeper Team. Below, we’ll highlight potentially worthwhile lotto tickets at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. If you find yourself with holes at any of these spots after your fantasy draft concludes, this list will be especially important to you. Add them to your watchlists and see if they’re getting opportunities early. Some of these guys might be inactive in Week 1; others might not get off the bench. That’s OK. It’s a long season, and if you’re a deep league, hundreds of players will be cycled on and off rosters all year. You might as well start the revolving door early with your last one or two roster spots.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet
2021 Fantasy Football All Deep Sleeper Team
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos
Depending on the size of your league, Bridgewater might not even be selected in your drafts (unless it’s a superflex/two-QB league). However, he has a realistic path to being Denver’s starter all year. Drew Lock will always be lurking, but Bridgewater has shown the ability to at least run an offense that resembles efficiency. Via Playerprofiler.com, Bridgewater ranked No. 1 at the position in accuracy rating last year. With all the weapons in the Mile High City, the Broncos will simply want Bridgewater to facilitate the ball. In 2020, Bridgewater finished 19th among quarterbacks in total fantasy points. Of course, that isn’t flashy, but at his current cost, he’s worth a stash in deeper leagues.
Honorable Mention: Taylor Heinicke, Washington
Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
The 49ers have been notorious for their ‘running back by committee’ approach, and Mitchell could greatly benefit. He rushed for 3,267 yards and 41 touchdowns during his college career at Louisiana Lafayette. In the 49ers backfield, it seemingly just takes a good week of practice or a flip of the coin to be rewarded with a respectable number of carries. Sure, he won’t startable week to week, at least right away, but he’s worth monitoring in deep leagues. Given Raheem Mostert’s injury history, Wayne Gallman’s mediocrity, and Trey Sermon’s lack of experience, you never know when it will be Mitchell’s week to shine, making him especially valuable in deep best-ball leagues.
Update 9/1: Mitchell has made the 49ers’ 53-man roster, while Wayne Gallman has been cut. This obviously further enhances Mitchel’s prospects in the 49er rushing attack.
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
Stevenson is in a similar situation as Mitchell. How often do we see the Patriots pull a running back out of nowhere even after he produces solid fantasy outings? Pretty often. Stevenson was also a fourth-round pick, relatively high for a “depth piece.” Don’t expect him to ever become a workhorse because he wasn’t even that at Oklahoma, but New England isn’t afraid to roll out numerous backs any given week. Given his size (6-0, 229 pounds), he could at least be a menace around the goal line if Bill Belichick alters his usual approach of “redshirting” rookie backs.
Update 8/25: Stevenson receives a boost with the news of Sony Michel being traded to the Rams. He has flashed in preseason thus far, leading all players in rushing yards with 191. Grab him quick in deep leagues before his ADP gets out of control.
Honorable Mention: Darrynton Evans, Titans
Josh Palmer, Chargers
Palmer being selected in the third round in the 2021 NFL Draft came as a surprise to many, but it’s a good indication of how the Chargers’ front office views him. Outside of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, no other Chargers WR looks all that impressive, hence why they made Palmer a priority. Palmer’s collegiate numbers (99 catches, 1,514 yards, seven receiving touchdowns) won’t amaze anyone, but when you consider the atrocious Tennessee passing offense he played in, his production was respectable. Being tethered to a promising young stud in Justin Herbert bodes well for his chances early in his career. Keep him on your watchlist in shallower leagues early in the season, and scoop him up late in deep redraft leagues and dynasty leagues.
Bryan Edwards, Raiders
Edwards is turning heads at Raiders training camp and is set for a potential breakout 2021 campaign. While the comparisons to Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are a bit extreme, he does possess an alpha WR profile that John Brown and Henry Ruggs III simply do not. Outside of Darren Waller, no Las Vegas pass-catcher is guaranteed to receiver a high number of targets. Edwards has the ability to be Derek Carr’s second option. In 2016, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both finished the season as top-12 fantasy wide receivers in standard formats, evidence that Carr can produce two fantasy studs. However, don’t be surprised when Edwards has a slow start to the season. The first six games of their season are against the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers, Bears, and Broncos — a death row for a passing attack. If he does impress during this stretch, you know he’s the real deal.
Update 8/31: John Brown has been released by the Raiders. He has an even better chance at taking over the No. 1 WR spot in Las Vegas.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions
The Lions have a new quarterback and three new wide receivers, so obviously there is no assumed target share. This season, they are tasked with replacing over 400 carries and receptions. You read that correctly. Like Edwards, St. Brown’s main competitor for targets will be at the tight end spot with T.J. Hockenson. Tyrell Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Khalif Raymond are currently listed as the Lions’ starting wideouts. While Raymond is more of a slot flanker player, Williams and St. Brown are the top contenders to be the No. 1 WR in the offense. Yes, Jared Goff is tough to trust, but that didn’t keep Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, or Brandin Cooks from being valuable fantasy assets.
Update 9/1: Breshad Perriman has been cut by Lions, helping St. Brown’s chances to receive flurries of targets.
Honorable Mention: Byron Pringle, Chiefs; Tutu Atwell, Rams
Mo Alie-Cox, Colts
After being irrelevant in the receiving game during his first two seasons in the NFL (15 catches, 226 yards), Alie-Cox showed a little bit of what he can do last year (31 catches, 394 yards). Remember, when he entered the NFL, he hadn’t played organized football since his freshman year of high school. Instead, he played basketball at VCU. Per PlayerProfiler.com, last season, Allie-Cox ranked first in yards per target, fourth in yards per route run, and third in true catch rate (divides total receptions by total catchable targets). He was among the most efficient tight ends and an increased role in the passing game could mean fantasy relevance. At tight end, relevance is the most we can hope for deep at the position. We know Carson Wentz likes to throw to TEs from his time in Philadelphia (especially when Colts coach Frank Reich was his offensive coordinator), so perhaps Big MAC can finally break out.
Honorable Mention: Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos
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