Greetings, Falcoholics! It’s somehow already that time of the year again where we slowly dip our toes into the world of fantasy football. This will mark my third annual “32 NFL Teams, 32 fantasy football sleepers” article, as I also did a write-up in 2019 and 2020 which you can view by clicking the respective years.
Before we get started on 2021’s list, let’s go over the criteria. The list will be comprised of one player per NFL team who could bring tremendous value to your fantasy team, and is based on points-per-reception (PPR) scoring format. Some of these players will be recognizable, in that their average draft position (ADP) has great value. Also, some of these players may be unknown to you, because they’re likely a rookie who is flying under the radar or a player battling for a starting job. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Arizona Cardinals — RB Chase Edmonds
2019: QB Kyler Murray
2020: WR Andy Isabella
A running back who I plan to target in earlier rounds is Cardinals’ running back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds split carries with Kenyan Drake for much of his time in the desert, and now in theory, has the backfield to himself. In 2020, Edmonds recorded an impressive 448 yards and 5 total touchdowns playing in a backup role.
His current ADP is in the 60-70 range, which may change by the start of draft season due to the addition of James Conner to the offense. I still like Edmonds’ upside enough to bank on him becoming a quality RB2 for your fantasy team.
Atlanta Falcons — WR Russell Gage
2019: TE Austin Hooper
2020: TE Hayden Hurst
It’s a new year and Russell Gage has a new number for this season, No. 14. With the departure of Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans, there’s all of a sudden more balls up for grabs as Gage is expected to slide into the WR2 spot. Although his current ADP is 266, I expect this will rise a little bit towards the heat of draft season. With that being said, it likely won’t rise that much and Gage will have good draft value as fantasy owners and analysts will shift their attention to Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts.
In 2020, Gage was quietly second in team targets and also had a passing touchdown, which should’ve been two passing touchdowns. He has the potential to make an impact in fantasy lineups while also having an insanely quality average draft position.
Baltimore Ravens — WR Rashod Bateman
2019: RB Mark Ingram
2020: RB J.K. Dobbins
Hopefully you took my advice and were able to secure Dobbins last year, as he had a very productive rookie season where he rushed 134 times and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. This year, we have to reach deep into the Ravens’ depth chart to find someone who can qualify as a “sleeper.” My pick is rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Although I personally like Bateman’s attributes, the problem for him is simple: How many passes can he expect to come his way?
The team has Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown already, and also added Sammy Watkins this offseason. The other issue is quarterback Lamar Jackson doesn’t throw that often compared to other high-end quarterbacks in the league. For reference, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan had 407 competitions in 2020 while Jackson has 507 over the last two seasons alone. I wouldn’t reach for Bateman, or maybe even draft him in general if you have other strong options lined up, but with his potential I’d definitely take him as a flier and hope for the best.
Buffalo Bills — WR Gabriel Davis
2019: WR Cole Beasley
2020: WR John Brown
Sticking with the trend of recent years, I’m predicting the Bills to have another fantasy valuable piece in the receiving game. Now entering his sophomore year, Gabriel Davis had a productive first year as he played in all 16 games and recorded 35 receptions, 599 yards and 7 touchdowns. I expect his numbers to increase in 2021, and he’s certainly worth drafting with a late-round pick in all formats.
Carolina Panthers — QB Sam Darnold
2019: WR D.J. Moore
2020: TE Ian Thomas
Don’t laugh, hear me out; It’s possible that Sam Darnold could be productive in fantasy football this season. The Jets never surrounded him with such talent as Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Terrace Marshall and he’ll be reunited with former teammate Robby Anderson.
This is more of a flier quarterback and should not be who you target as a starter to start the season. Darnold’s ADP is going to be towards the end of the quarterback group, but I’d say he has potential to at least be serviceable later in the season.
Chicago Bears — WR Darnell Mooney
2019: WR Allen Robinson
2020: WR Anthony Miller
One of the better rookie wide receivers from 2020, Darnell Mooney likely found his way into many of your lineups as a weekly fill-in. During the season, Mooney’s target share was 16%, but in the final three games of the season, Mooney had a 24% target share among Bears receivers.
That’s a solid number which clearly places him as the Bears’ WR2. His current ADP has him going around the 14th round of fantasy drafts, which is solid value for a wide receiver who can easily fill-in during bye weeks and injuries. He might fare better with Andy Dalton and especially Justin Fields, too.
Cincinnati Bengals — QB Joe Burrow
2019: QB Andy Dalton
2020: QB Joe Burrow
We have our first repeat player, as Joe Burrow remains a fantasy sleeper in 2021. This is mainly due to his ADP having him as the 16th best quarterback according to ESPN, and the value you’ll get in return considering the weapons he has.
The knocks on Burrow are obvious and also not his fault; he’s entering his sophomore year which sometimes comes with a slump and he’s coming off of a season-ending injury. I still think he has potential to turn into a top-10 quarterback, so look for Burrow in later rounds as a QB2.
Cleveland Browns — WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
2019: QB Baker Mayfield
2020: QB Baker Mayfield
Here’s a fun sleeper that you can bury on your roster in hopes of hitting it big during the season — Donovan Peoples-Jones. His ADP currently has him going undrafted, which is fine and also understandable as the Browns have a plethora of wide receivers on the roster. But Peoples-Jones bring big play potential to a Browns unit who can always use some more.
Toward the end of the 2020 season is when he really stepped up, having three straight games of 18+ yards per reception. He’s a deep ball threat and someone to stash away.
Dallas Cowboys — WR Michael Gallup
2019: WR Michael Gallup
2020: TE Blake Jarwin
After taking a break in 2020 as a fantasy sleeper, Michael Gallup has returned following the addition of some offensive weapons in recent years. Gallup has a very favorable ADP entering this summer and he’s also entering the final year of his contract, giving him an extra boost to impress a future team. Gallup has been buzzed about for a while now, but this should be a big year for him.
Although he’s currently ranked as WR4 on the Cowboys, he’s never finished as worse than WR38 among league wide outs. Look for him in late rounds to add some depth to your roster.
Denver Broncos — RB Javonte Williams
2019: WR Courtland Sutton
2020: QB Drew Lock
He’s a name you’re sure to recognize as he was often mocked to the Falcons leading up to April’s draft. Javonte Williams is a talented running back who slides into a great spot with the Broncos who will need to lean on the run.
Williams is currently going between rounds 7-9 and at worst is a high-end handcuff to pair with Melvin Gordon, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Detroit Lions — WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
2019: WR Kenny Golladay
2020: TE T.J. Hockenson
One of the best names in the NFL, the rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown could also bring some interesting value to fantasy owners this Fall. St. Brown happens to be a slot receiver which quarterback Jared Goff tends to favor.
St. Brown’s competition, Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, are both outside receiving options, so in theory, St. Brown could flourish inside in 2021. His ADP is favorable, so you should have no issues adding him to your roster this summer.
Green Bay Packers — RB A.J. Dillon
2019: WR Geronimo Allison
2020: RB A.J. Dillon
Remaining a sleeper in 2021, Dillon is on the fringe of being a deep sleeper due to his positioning behind Aaron Jones. Dillon is a monster at 6 ft, 250 lbs and just brings a different style of running than Jones.
In all, Dillon has immense upside and should be added in all leagues as an insurance policy in case something happened to Jones during the season.
Houston Texans — WR Keke Coutee
2019: WR Keke Coutee
2020: RB David Johnson
If there was ever a team to avoid in fantasy football, it just might be the 2021 Houston Texans. When you consider that the Texans have names like Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks and David Johnson to name a few, you’d think surely there’s a sleeper in there somewhere. The backfield is way too crowded and we still don’t know what’s ultimately going to happen with the Watson situation.
For the sake of this article, I’ll pencil in Keke Coutee who always seems to be a reliable, desperation play in fantasy year-after-year. His current ADP is around pick 260, so you can get him for close to nothing.
Indianapolis Colts — QB Carson Wentz
2019: WR Devin Funchess
2020: WR Michael Pittman Jr.
Before you laugh, keep in mind that Carson Wentz is re-joining his former offensive coordinator with the Eagles, Frank Reich. With Reich, Wentz was able to make the Pro Bowl in 2017 and had a career-best 33 passing touchdowns.
Also, Wentz joins a Colts offense that has a much better offensive line than the Eagles’ line which allowed him to get sacked 50 times in 2020. His ADP is currently in the 170 range, so he can be selected in later rounds with minimal risk.
Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
2019: WR Marqise Lee
2020: TE Tyler Eifert
Laviska Shenault Jr. had very good rookie season on a team that literally finished last in the NFL. Now with a new regime in place, and a talented, young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence added in the draft, things can only go up for the offensive weapon.
His ADP is currently all over the place, with him going as high as 75 and at worst 196. I definitely wouldn’t reach for him, but in some leagues he may fly under the radar and you’ll definitely want to snag him if he starts freefalling. Has great flex-appeal in 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs — WR Demarcus Robinson
2019: WR Mecole Hardman
2020: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
One of the better “sleepers” out there is Demarcus Robinson. Mainly it’s due to his current ADP having him go undrafted in fantasy leagues, but also the opportunity he has to win the Chiefs’ WR2 job.
Imagine being able to take someone who could be Patrick Mahomes’ third or fourth target with your final pick in the draft? Sounds like a steal.
Los Angeles Chargers — TE Jared Cook
2019: TE Hunter Henry
2020: QB Tyrod Taylor
The Chargers have a good one in quarterback Justin Herbert who will enter his sophomore season in 2021. In 2020, Herbert threw the ball to his tight end on roughly 21% of passes, and with Hunter Henry now in New England, veteran Jared Cook will step in and fill that role in the offense.
Cook’s fantasy career has largely been touchdown dependent as he doesn’t catch a whole lot of passes during the game. But given how thin the tight end position is overall in fantasy, and his favorable ADP of 158, Cook can be considered a starting fantasy tight end for the time being.
Los Angeles Rams — TE Tyler Higbee
2019: WR Josh Reynolds
2020: RB Cam Akers
One of the teams I’ve really been able to hit on fantasy wise for sleepers is the Los Angeles Rams. This year I’m going with tight end Tyler Higbee who isn’t a sleeper in the traditional sense of the word, but his ADP is 138 which is a steal for a thin position.
Higbee’s been up and down the last few years, but now add a better quarterback in Matthew Stafford and subtract his competition in Gerald Everett, all of a sudden the window is wide open for Higbee to make some noise.
Miami Dolphins — QB Tua Tagovailoa
2019: WR Kenny Stills
2020: WR Preston Williams
Although he didn’t have a stellar first year in the league, Tua Tagovailoa has the potential to turn into a quality fantasy starter in 2021. The Dolphins have essentially showed that they have total confidence in the young quarterback after drafting wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and adding Will Fuller in free agency.
Tua has the weapons, and he has a nice ADP in the 190-200 range. I wouldn’t draft him expecting immediate returns, but he’s a solid QB2 that could turn into QB1 is things go the right way.
Minnesota Vikings — TE Irv Smith Jr.
2019: QB Kirk Cousins
2020: WR Justin Jefferson
One of my favorite “boom” candidates in 2021 is Vikings’ tight end Irv Smith Jr. His first two seasons have been solid for a backup tight end, but 2021 is going to be his year, I just know it. Kyle Rudolph is no longer on the team and Smith slides into the starting job with basically no competition.
His current ADP is about what you’d expect, and he has the potential to be a top-12 tight end, even with all the weapons on that offense. That’s how thin the tight end position is.
New England Patriots — WR Jakobi Meyers
2019: WR N’Keal Harry
2020: WR N’Keal Harry
It’s very difficult to predict a fantasy sleeper on the Patriots because almost always it never goes according to plan. I’m done getting my hopes up for N’Keal Harry to be a thing, so let’s try Jakobi Meyers. Meyers had a solid sophomore season in 2020, but he definitely has room to improve. What works in his favor is he primarily lines up in the slot, conveniently where quarterback Cam Newton likes to throw. If rookie Mac Jones gets playing time, it shouldn’t hurt Meyers, and the Patriots still don’t exactly have a deep receiving corps.
Meyers’ ADP is currently at 326, which means you can select him very late, if you want to. But again, anything Patriots-related is a toss up.
New Orleans Saints — QB Jameis Winston
2019: TE Jared Cook
2020: RB Latavius Murray
As Falcons fans, we naturally all dislike the Saints. I certainly don’t enjoy talking about them. But in the fantasy football world they have provided owners with a lot of fantasy value over the last several years. In 2021 that becomes more murky as tbe team no longer has Drew Brees at quarterback, and they plan to apparently roll with Taysom Hill.
I don’t buy that, as Winston is a much better passer and seeing that his ADP is very low in the 213 range, he’s worth adding as a late-draft QB2 who could develop into more later in the season.
New York Giants — QB Daniel Jones
2019: WR Golden Tate
2020: QB Daniel Jones
Call me crazy, but I’m sticking by Daniel Jones. His sophomore year was awful but this team has too many weapons around him for him to not be a decent fantasy quarterback. They already had Darius Slayton, but now they’ve added Kenny Golladay and John Ross while drafting wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Similar to Winston, Jones has a low ADP and you should be able to snag him relatively late in your drafts with the hopes of a bounce back season.
New York Jets — QB Zach Wilson
2019: TE Chris Herndon
2020: WR Denzel Mims
I really like to add rookie quarterbacks late in drafts, as long as their ADP isn’t high. Wilson is a perfect example of a rookie who could do well or could struggle. Either way, his ADP of 251 will allow you to take him as a low-end QB2 with hopes of developing into more later in the season.
Justin Herbert last year went undrafted in a lot of fantasy drafts and turned out to be one of the better fantasy quarterbacks in 2020. Wilson has some decent options, so who knows, maybe he will be useful in year one.
Las Vegas Raiders — WR John Brown
2019: RB Josh Jacobs
2020: WR Hunter Renfrow
John Brown has been with a few teams now, and this offseason he joined the Las Vegas Raiders where he has an opportunity to be the team’s WR1. Even with Henry Ruggs on the roster, Brown should slide into the second-best target for Derek Carr behind Darren Waller as he takes over for Nelson Agholor who was WR1 in 2020 recording 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers are now free and Brown should secure most of them.
Philadelphia Eagles — WR DeVonta Smith
2019: WR DeSean Jackson
2020: QB Carson Wentz
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft the Eagles took wide receiver DeVonta Smith who is expected to become their WR1. He currently has a favorable ADP of 124 and has apparently gone as low as pick 222.
Smith has the potential to be a WR1 but don’t expect this right away, he should be viewed as a WR3 for fantasy teams to start this season with the hope of him growing into his new role in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Steelers Defense
2019: WR James Washington
2020: WR Diontae Johnson
We have the first sleeper team defense on the board, as the Steelers defense can quietly be a top-5 unit right away. Yes, they lost Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson in the same offseason but they still have a talented group. I wouldn’t do anything crazy and reach for them, but they may go overlooked and if you get them they’re essentially a start every week until their bye.
San Francisco 49ers — QB Trey Lance
2019: RB Tevin Coleman
2020: WR Brandon Aiyuk
Back to my rule of always taking a rookie quarterback because the sky is always the limit for them. Unfortunately for Lance, the only thing hold him back is Jimmy Garoppolo being the current starter. Once the preseason begins and we get to see Lance excel in the offense, his current ADP of 171 will sky rocket.
Definitely don’t take him early as your QB1 but if he’s there in later rounds he could give you a big return later in the season assuming he gets to eventually start for the 49ers. He’s also a great pickup in dynasty leagues.
Seattle Seahawks — WR D’Wayne Eskridge
2019: WR D.K. Metcalf
2020: TE Will Dissly
This is a super sleeper, as D’Wayne Eskridge is currently going undrafted in most fantasy leagues. He brings a lot of speed and solid hands to the Seahawks passing game led by quarterback Russell Wilson who can always use another deep target.
The team also has D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but Eskridge will stand out on Jet Sweeps and underneath routes where he can pick up easy yardage and fantasy points. Again, I wouldn’t take him earlier than your final pick but he could turn into something down the road.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — RB Giovani Bernard
2019: WR Chris Godwin
2020: RB Ronald Jones II
Throughout his entire NFL career, Tom Brady has done two things very well: Win Super Bowls and check-down to running backs while passing. Giovani Bernard has caught passes out of the backfield very well while in Cincinnati but they cut him this offseason and now he joins a Buccaneers team where he’s instantly the best pass-catching running back on the roster.
It does come with some question marks, however, as the backfield is loaded with talent and we don’t exactly know how many times he will get on the field this Fall. But with that being said, his ADP of 181 will allow him to go in later rounds and he could be useful to Tampa on third down plays. I would avoid him in non-PPR leagues, and definitely snag him as depth in full-PPR leagues.
Tennessee Titans — WR Josh Reynolds
2019: TE Delanie Walker
2020: QB Ryan Tannehill
It was easy to predict last year that Ryan Tannehill would have a solid season because of who his offensive coordinator was. Now with Arthur Smith being in Atlanta, it becomes more of an overall offensive question mark on how well this team will do. Assuming they are (at minimum) good, then I like the potential that wide receiver Josh Reynolds brings to the team.
He’ll line up mostly in the slot with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown on the outside, so he should see plenty of targets. With a steal of an ADP in 243 and the potential to be a flex/WR3 in fantasy lineups, Reynolds is someone to look at in later rounds.
Washington Football Team — QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
2019: RB Adrian Peterson
2020: RB Adrian Peterson
In 2021, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may be one of the best sleepers in the NFL. His ADP is currently 256 which is insanely low for someone who has put up QB1 numbers in the past. He’s joining a new team where he’s “the guy” and won’t have to look over his shoulder. He’s probably not going to be a top-5 quarterback or anything, but don’t be shocked if he enters top-12 quarterback territory during the season and becomes a must-start in all fantasy league formats.
Well, that’s it, folks. Another year of my way-too-early fantasy sleepers article is in the books. I enjoy doing these every year and I hope you enjoy reading them. As always, if you ever want to talk fantasy football or need any advice, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Remember, when drafting in your league, ALWAYS go with your gut.