“Fantasy football sleeper” can mean different things to different people. For recreational players, someone going 100th overall could be a sleeper, but in the best ball streets I’m defining “sleeper” as a player who is not being drafted every time in Best Ball Mania III, where you can get a $100 deposit match by using promo code ‘UNDERBLOG’.
Last year, players with an average draft position of 170th overall or so were drafted just about every single time. There were a few exceptions based on injuries or late-camp news, but as a general rule of thumb the players inside the top-14 rounds are getting drafted every time. Players with an ADP in the 170-190 range get drafted about 85% of the time, and then players in the 190-210 range are just about 50% or lower to get drafted.
What is interesting is that we don’t have to go into 215.9 ADP hell to find unique sleepers. A player with a 206.1 ADP is already pretty unique, and the difference in projected points from a 206.1 overall ADP player and a 215.9 overall ADP player is surprisingly large, so today’s goal is find our “sleepers” in the 190-215 range.
Titans TE Austin Hooper (190.1 ADP, about 75% drafted)
After busting in a 3-TE rotation in Cleveland, the Titans signed Hooper to a one-year, $6M contract, solidifying him as a near every-down player. Tennessee is an offense that actually uses their tight ends, and that'll especially be the case in a post-A.J. Brown world. OTA and minicamp reports have been extremely positive for Hooper and maybe more importantly have been extremely negative for Treylon Burks. Ryan Tannehill is a good enough passer to have at least two pass-catchers viable in fantasy land, and Hooper could easily be a volume-based TE2 despite his TE25 price tag.
Free Agent WR Julio Jones (198.4 ADP, about 80% drafted)
The most likely outcome is that Julio's hamstring is toast and he offers next to nothing. But we play for upside and Julio's price tag will climb the second he signs somewhere, especially if Green Bay comes calling -- something every Packers reporter has mentioned throughout June. Julio also wasn't nearly as bad the last two seasons as it seems. He averaged 85.7 yards in 2020 and 61.8 yards in his six games that he played more than 50% snaps last year. And for the efficiency bros, Julio was the WR25 in yards per route run last year on a weakened hammy. Julio could vault from WR86 to the Jarvis Landry range at WR58 if the Packers ultimately sign him. He's my third most-drafted player through July 1st.
Texans WR Nico Collins (192.4 ADP, about 75% drafted)
The 2021 Texans offense won't be good, but it'll be better than it was in 2021 based on OL talent, having a year two QB, and promoting stud assistant Pep Hamilton to OC. With John Metchie likely heading to reserve/PUP (4+ missed games), Collins is a near lock to start in 2-WR sets in September and has reasonable odds of holding onto that job as the team's true X-WR, where Metchie projects best as a slot/Z. Collins would have to be a stone-cold disaster to not pay off based on his routes run projection, especially with his above-average 11.6 aDOT.
Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie (206.6 ADP, about 33% drafted)
I was sad to see McKenzie only signed for two years, $4.4M with little guarantees. I was even sadder to see Jamison Crowder sign in Buffalo, too. But Crowder is only making $1.975M (less than the Best Ball Mania III winner), which makes this a financial tossup between who will start in the slot. McKenzie is faster and potentially the better man beater, while Crowder is the more veteran player versus zone. Minicamp reports call this training camp a complete tossup, yet McKenzie goes largely undrafted while Crowder goes 133rd overall. Get McKenzie shares now before training camp reports go mainstream.
Bears WR Byron Pringle (211.9 ADP, about 20% drafted)
Pringle was signed for $4.1M this offseason to be a starter in this Justin Fields offense. Aside from Darnell Mooney, who should be a No. 2 WR to be honest, the Bears only have 25-year-old rookie Velus Jones and a bunch of veterans who are making less than $1.5M. I like Pringle's odds of holding onto a 2-WR set starting job the entire season based on his contract and experience. Stack him on Fields teams.
Jaguars WR Zay Jones (211.0 ADP, about 10% drafted)
SI's John Shipley projects Christian Kirk (slot), Marvin Jones (X), and Zay Jones (Z) to start in 3-WR sets. Jones was given $14M guaranteed this offseason, which means he'll be out there a ton. Trevor Lawrence still has a top-8 QB ceiling despite last year's shenanigans, and Jones is free to stack. A 14.4 aDOT gives him a "better in best ball" profile, especially with how much Lawrence likes to attack downfield.
Panthers RB D’Onta Foreman (202.9 ADP, about 50% drafted)
Foreman (6'0/223) is bigger than Chuba Hubbard (6'0/208), makes more money ($2M versus $1M), and is just straight-up better based on the eye test. He was a clear priority when he was signed on March 15th -- right after free agency opened -- and is considered the No. 2 back by team reporters. If Foreman is in your best ball starting lineup, that means someone with a top-five pick is without their first-round pick. Sign me up for the insurance backs behind first-round RB selections for game-theory reasons.
Bengals RB Chris Evans (206.5 ADP, about 33% drafted)
For that same reason, I'm very much tracking news on the Bengals RB2 battle between rare athlete Evans and veteran Samaje Perine, who is making $1.8M in his age-27 season. Josh Norris is hammering Evans as the dude following conversations with Bengals superfan/analyst Joe Goodberry. I'm following. Evans has the potential to be the third-down back even if Joe Mixon is healthy, and the second-year pro has the size (5'11/216) to be an early-down option if Mixon misses time. In an offense as explosive as Cincy's, it's best to be overweight on Evans before his ADP climbs in training camp.
Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin (213.7 ADP, about 10% drafted)
From ESPN following minicamp: "With Chase Edmonds leaving in free agency, Benjamin, who said he feels like it has taken longer to see the field than he expected, will be the front-runner to be Conner's backup when camp starts. It'll be up to him to continue his offseason pace and keep the job." The thing about Darrel Williams is that he is bad -- he was 59th out of 61 RBs in yards after contact per carry and 58th in PFF’s elusiveness rating last year -- and is only being paid $1.2M as a true veteran. It's insane behavior to draft Williams at 160th overall when Benjamin is legit free with lower ownership.
Falcons QB Marcus Mariota (211.9 ADP, about 20% drafted)
In 20 starts since 2018, Mariota averaged 28.5 rushing yards, including a 9-88-1 rushing line in his lone "start" with the Raiders most recently. The Falcons will be in catch-up mode given their terrible defense, so rushing yards and garbage time passing yards are up for grabs. More importantly, Mariota has two studs in Kyle Pitts and Drake London to throw the ball to. Adding Mariota in the last round adds correlation and uniqueness, and he's free because drafters are overrating the likeliehood that future NFL OC Desmond Ridder (Round 3 rookie) matters. Only 15 third-round rookie QBs have scored 50 fantasy points across a season ever.
Steelers QB Kenny Pickett (214.5 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
Pickett is probably my favorite deep sleeper. Yes, he is a slight dog to be starting Week 1 based on minicamp reports, but he was by far the most pro ready rookie QB this year and could end up making 10+ starts, including late in the year when scoring means the most. Pickett has weapons we're drafting early, so we're adding more correlation by picking Pickett in Round 18 than any other option in the last round. There's also a good argument for having a QB3 based on Underdog Fantasy tournament advancing because there is a carryover affect to advance into the finals. Having a unique player at the highest-scoring position could pay dividends. Oh, and Pickett wasn't nearly as bad as you think because he's an underrated play-maker. Read my scouting report on him here, or watch this video:
Patriots WR Tyquan Thornton (214.6 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
Fun fact: Thornton was drafted ahead of Skyy Moore in the 2022 NFL Draft. Thornton didn't check every analytical box, but he was by far the No. 1 WR for a top-5 Baylor team and he has elite, elite speed. I was much higher on him than the market pre-draft, and Thornton's draft capital has me intrigued, especially with the rest of the Patriots roster notoriously slow. He'll compete with Nelson Agholor for deep routes at Z receiver, so Thornton will likely be a Post Bye Rookie Bump candidate that could luck into a 65-yard TD in Week 17 when we need it most. And what if Mac Jones is simply a good NFL QB after winning being recruited by Nick Saban, throwing 41 TDs to 4 INTs in college, and then leading a top-10 DVOA offense as a rookie????
Patriots TE Jonnu Smith (214.8 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
Speaking of Patriots, Smith will get far more playing time in 2022 with the offense being trimmed down post-Josh McDaniels and with the Patriots removing the fullback from the offense. Smith will get 2-TE snaps and has contingency value if Hunter Henry misses time. There are simply not TEs who are making $13.7M this late in drafts. That's the second-highest cap hit at the position. Not bad for the TE33 in best ball. He's the new Round 18 TE3 pick with Cameron Brate graduating from the category (nailed that, too).
49ers WR Jauan Jennings (214.9 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
OTA and minicamp reports suggest Jennings is the No. 3 WR ahead of Ray-Ray McCloud ($1.9M) and 105th overall rookie Danny Gray. Jennings is the only viable 49ers pass-catcher who is being drafted after Trey Lance, so he's a fine last-round stacking option with contingency upside if Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk were to miss time. Jennings (6'3/208) has inside/outside versatility.
Eagles WR Quez Watkins (215.5 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
The Eagles are high on Watkins, who was out-playing Jalen Reagor last year. Watkins offers big-play speed in 3-WR sets behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, so there are at least outs to a couple of fluky 50-yard TDs this season. OTA and minicamp reports suggest he's the clear-cut No. 3 WR, and I think he does enough (WR56 in YPRR) to play in 2-WR sets if either Brown or Smith were to miss time. He's a fine Round 18 selection on Jalen Hurts teams.
49ers RB Trey Sermon (215.5 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
He stunk last year (sorry about that) and I'm certainly high on Eli Mitchell in Round 6 of best ball drafts, but there is some contingent-based upside here with the post-hype sleeper. Third-round rookie Ty Davis-Price (6'1/232) missed a chunk of OTAs and minicamp and was behind Sermon on the depth chart, so Sermon is still very much competing for the thunder role to Mitchell's lightning. Sermon has the size to be a potential goal-line back in an offense that will be top-10 (at the very worst) in rushing scores. Jeff Wilson (6'0/194) signed for $530k guaranteed this offseason.
Jaguars RB Snoop Conner (215.8 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
Travis Etienne was pretty healthy in minicamp following a lisfranc injury, but James Robinson just began running in June following a December 26th torn Achilles. The usual timeframe is 9-12 months for that injury, so the most likely outcome is that Robinson does next to nothing this year. Conner (5'10/222) fills the bruiser role, meaning he could sneak in some goal-line scores and has the size to be a potential three-down back if Etienne misses time. The only RB brought in by this coaching staff was Conner.
Steelers RB Benny Snell (215.8 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
The Steelers barely even use a second RB, so Snell is purely insurance to Najee Harris who led the position in snaps as a rookie in 2021. Snell has a plodder profile, but minicamp reports were positive because he looks faster after losing weight this offseason. Snell is only competing with Anthony McFarland, who is too small (5'9/198) to handle a big workload. If Harris misses time, Snell projects for 50% or more snaps and all the goal-line work.
Bucs RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn (215.8 ADP, about sub-10% drafted)
I'm a notorious Vaughn denier -- good players don't transfer from Illinois to Vanderbilt, folks -- but there is a universe where 25-year-old Vaughn in year three plays ahead of third-round rookie Rachaad White in 2022. Vaughn (5'10/218) has the size to handle a big workload if Leonard Fournette misses time, and this offense's RB workload is a gold mine. Take a couple RB6 bullets here if you're max-entering Best Ball Mania III.