Training camp is in the rearview mirror and we’re approaching the final set of preseason games. That means that the start of the NFL season is right around the corner.
While there are plenty of ways to enjoy the action, there’s no doubt that fantasy football is king. Whether you’re a casual fan or one who dabbles in wagering on online sportsbooks, odds are you have a fantasy football draft coming soon.
While big names like Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Davante Adams are likely to highlight the first few rounds, everybody knows that championship-winning moves are made around the margins. So, your headliners are obviously important but being smart in the later rounds and on the waiver wire can separate you from the pack or makeup ground if one of your stars succumbs to injury over the course of the season.
Using Rotowire’s ADP (Average Draft Position) Rankings, we’ve compiled this list of some under-the-radar sleeper picks that could lead you to glory this year.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Positional ADP: 10
The product of Oklahoma & Alabama showed flashes of fantasy potential last season. Taking over for struggling starter Carson Wentz in the latter half of the 2020 season, Jalen Hurts presented himself as a potentially potent dual-threat quarterback. While his legs, IQ, and work ethic all check the correct boxes, his arm talent raises some eyebrows. Whether he’ll be able to make tough passes in high-pressure situations remains to be seen.
He will no doubt be in a better position to succeed in 2021, however. With the aid of a healthier offensive line, 2021 1st round pick Devonta Smith at receiver, and veteran playmakers Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Miles Sanders, Hurts has a ton of upside this year.
Currently being drafted as the 10th QB off the board, Jalen Hurts has the potential to be a top 5 fantasy signal-caller when it’s all said and done.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Positional ADP: 40
The absence of Leveon Bell opened up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backfield for James Conner in 2018. He made the most of his opportunity that season, amassing almost 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. It looked as though Conner was a star-in-the-making.
However, injuries have somewhat hampered his production in the two seasons that have followed his breakout campaign. While he’s still been a solid back, he hasn’t reached that RB1 potential that it looked like he had. After signing a one-year contract with Arizona over the offseason, a change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered for Conner.
Although he’ll be in a timeshare with Chase Edmonds, there should be enough touches to go around for everyone in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Conner is being drafted as a flex option right now, but he has RB2 upside if he can come close to regaining his 2018 form.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills
Positional ADP: 59
As a rookie 4th round pick last season, Gabriel Davis made an immediate impact. The UCF product ranked fourth on the Bills in receptions, third in receiving yards, and second in touchdowns. He also established himself as a deep threat, averaging 17.1 yards per reception.
There’s little reason to think that Davis’ role will not continue to grow in his second season. With quarterback Josh Allen continuing to improve year-over-year and veteran receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley attracting a ton of attention, the sky is the limit for Davis this season.
Despite currently only being a fringe draft pick, Davis has all the room to grow into a WR2 or flex option in 2021.
OJ Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Positional ADP: 28
Another year, another prediction of a breakout season for OJ Howard. Since being a highly-touted prospect out of Alabama, experts have slated Howard to become a top tight end just about every season he’s been in the league, but he’s always come up a bit short.
In his first season with Tom Brady last season, Howard looked like he might be ready to finally have his moment before a torn Achilles tendon ended his year after just 4 games. While he is coming back from a major injury and sharing time with Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate in a loaded Bucs offense, now might be the perfect time to buy low on Howard as a post-hype sleeper.
He is currently the 28th highest-drafted tight end, meaning he may not even be drafted in your league, but the über-talented Howard could finally reach his potential and be a fringe starter in his first full season with the GOAT.
Xavier Jones, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Positional ADP: 61
With Cam Akers out for the season with a torn Achilles, someone will need to step up in the Rams’ backfield. That leaves Darrell Henderson and Xavier Jones as the two best options Sean McVay has.
While Henderson was solid last season, he hasn’t shown much to indicate that he is capable of being the bell cow in an elite offense. That leaves Jones as the potential next man up. LA signed Jones as an undrafted player from SMU in 2020. Despite making 13 appearances only as a special teams player last year, early reports indicate that he will be heavily involved in the running game this season.
While he’s going undrafted quite often, if Jones does have a prominent role in the Rams’ upgraded offensive unit, he has potential to become a solid flex or even RB2 option.