Dustin Ludke’s Five Sleepers for 2021

Dustin Ludke gives you 5 players that will make you look smarter if taken late in drafts.

Sleepers are always a big off-season topic. I define a sleeper as someone who doesn’t have a ton of hype around them, will outperform their ADP, and will actually make your starting roster during the fantasy season. Here are my 5 players that may not be the big names or top any week in scoring for their position but will be solid starters for your fantasy team and will come at the end of your draft or available after your draft in free agency.  These players are a little older but still can contribute.

All stats from Pro Football Reference and ADP from FantasyPros

 

Nelson Agholor (ADP 183, WR61)

 

If you were in or around the Philadelphia area or followed the Eagles from 2015 through 2019 you are probably sick of the name Nelson Agholor. He was marred with drops and disappointing seasons after so much draft hype. The Eagles let him go and he went to the Raiders where he produced a good season of 48 receptions, 896 yards, and 8 touchdowns. That came on a team with a hyped receiving core of Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow combined with the running game of Josh Jacobs, and an average quarterback in Derek Carr.

Agholor leaves the Raiders and heads to a team in the New England Patriots where he projects to be the number one Wide Receiver, which is a new role for him. Some will point to last season as an outlier for Agholor. What most fail to remember is he posted similar numbers in 2017 where he had 62 receptions, 768 yards, and 8 touchdowns. The other hit to Agholors value is Cam Newton‘s lack of passing in 2020, where Cam only had 368 attempts and 2657 yards and 8 touchdowns.  The attempts and yardage numbers ranked him as the 25th and 24th ranked quarterback respectively. QB List has the Patriots’ Quarterbacks (Newton and Mac Jones) projected for a combined 3844 yards and 26 touchdowns. Those numbers are very similar to what Carr put up last year where Agholor had his best season. If the combination of the New England quarterbacks produce numbers similar to what Carr did last season Agholor will have a good year. He goes from a team that gave Wide Receivers 45.5% of the total targets to a team that gives their wide receivers 62.9% of the passing targets. Getting a team’s number one target in the last few rounds of your draft will be a huge win for your team. He will be a solid flex this season with WR2 upside.

 

Malcolm Brown (ADP 296, RB 80)

 

Malcolm Brown is basically free in drafts. You don’t even need to draft him but you should. Brown played all 16 games last year for the Rams and totaled 101 carries for 419 yards and 5 touchdowns. That was splitting carries with both Cam Akers and Darrel Henderson. Early in 2020 fantasy analysts were saying that he was the back to have in the Rams backfield. Even with losing touches to both Henderson and Akers when he got the ball he produced and finished with 4.10 yards per carry.

He was let go by the Rams and signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins with a chance to compete in a backfield filled with no-name stars. Last year’s waiver darling Myles Gaskin finished the year with a similar stat line as Brown in only 10 games. Gaskin is currently the 22nd ranked running back with an ADP of 53rd overall, and projects to be the starter going into camp. Brown is 27 years old heading into the season but has a proven track record of being a producer for fantasy. In 2019 he had 5 touchdowns on 69 carries and 255 yards. He is also capable in the passing game, recording 23 catches for 162 yards on 33 targets in 2019 on a team loaded with passing options. Now on the Dolphins, he is being ranked as the 3rd best RB on the team behind both Gaskins and Salvon Ahmed (RB 65 ADP216). Both played well last year behind a poorly ranked offensive line that started three rookies at times so there is room for improvement.

If Gaskin goes down again this year the Dolphins are more than comfortable trusting Brown with the workload. He should easily be ranked over Ahmed and higher than where he is going. He is poised to be in a timeshare and could see the bigger piece of the pie of Gaskin’s struggles.  The Dolphins brought him in on a 2-year deal and did not draft a running back until the 7th round. This shows they are happy with what they have in the backfield with Gaskins, Brown, and Ahmed.

 

CJ Uzomah (ADP 321, TE 35)

 

Tight end is a tough position outside of the top three of Kelce, Kittle, and Waller. Every year there seems to be another tight end hyped as the next to join that group. What happens more often than not is there are a group of tight ends who are startable but not great, and then a group of streamers. I put CJ Uzomah as a very startable tight end with a top-three upside. We have a very small sample size of games with Uzomah and Joe Burrow together – two games where Uzomah totaled 8 receptions on 11 targets for 87 yards and 1 TD. Burrow is coming back from a massive knee injury last year, while Uzomah is coming back from a torn Achilles he suffered in Week 2. He was the clear starting tight end before the injury for the Bengals, and if you started him in those games last year you were not disappointed with his 4 receptions for 40+ yards in each game and an added touchdown in the game he got hurt.

After his injury, Drew Sample took over as the starting Tight End. If you take the games that Burrow played and combine Uzomah and Samples numbers you get a tight end with a stat line of 43 targets, 36 receptions, and 299 yards, though with only one touchdown which is concerning. Those stats are also only in 10 games. Project that out over 16 games and you get a stat line of 69 targets, 58 receptions for 478 yards. The touchdowns lacking is alarming from a stat line perspective but it’s also a sign that Uzomah will be the starter. Drew Sample only had one touchdown last season and that came after Burrow went down with his injury. He also had 4 games where he had one or fewer catches. It has shown that he did not have the upside that the 28-year-old Uzomah has.

The Bengals offense as a whole is on the upswing. They drafted Ja’Marr Chase to add another weapon for Burrows. Chase joins a receiving group of Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Auden Tate. Early reports are that Joe Burrow will be ready for week 1 and shouldn’t feel much lingering issues from the knee injury. Joe Mixon looks poised to be a solid running back which takes some pressure off Burrow. Having three solid wide receivers on the outside of the field in Chase, Boyd, and Higgins should open the middle of the field for Uzomah. He’s also a big body at 6’6” 260 pounds. That’s eight pounds lighter than Rob Gronkowski and the same height. Uzomah should be a solid red-zone target for Burrow. QB List has Burrow projected to score 25 passing touchdowns which should equate to a few for Uzomah. As the last-round pick in your draft, you can focus on other positions or add Uzomah as a second tight end if you miss out on one of the top three and want some insurance.

 

Andy Dalton (ADP N/A, QB 38)

 

I know what you are thinking, Justin Fields was drafted in the 1st round at 11th overall and they moved up to get him. Yes, Fields is the future at the Quarterback position in Chicago, but Andy Dalton will start the year and will win you games in fantasy. Let’s start with how long Dalton will start. The Bears have a week 10 bye week. Bye weeks are usually a good switching point unless there is an utter collapse at the quarterback position. So will Dalton collapse? Only four of the first nine weeks does he play a top 10 ranked secondary. Weeks four and five he plays two of the worst-ranked secondaries in the Lions and the Raiders. He should have good weeks there which will probably buy him time till the bye. You can pair Dalton with another late quarterback and pick up some early-season fantasy wins that will set you on a playoff birth path. He is also a great late-round flier for best-ball leagues where he can have those Red Rocket throwback games and put up 3 or 4 Touchdowns and 300 yards. He probably won’t be a starter all year but should be solid for the first half of the season.

The Bears’ offensive weapons are projected to do well this season. Allen Robinson is currently ranked as the 11th best wide receiver with an ADP of 39th overall. Darnell Mooney is currently ranked as the 56th wide receiver and has an ADP of 146. If both of them are projected to do well then Dalton will do well. Let’s not forget that last year filling in for the injured Dak Prescott Dalton put up the respectable number in 11 games of 2170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He also had a completion percentage of 64.9%. He had two games with three TDs and only two games where he didn’t throw a touchdown outside of the game he was injured. The Bears also have a solid running game with David Montgomery and Damian Willams. Williams is an excellent pass catcher as well as Tarik Cohen who is coming back from injury. The running game will help take pressure off Dalton. The Offensive line is suspect with a lot of questions but a newer group of players that could surprise people. The 34-year-old Dalton will be a solid streaming option with the potential to be a weekly starter if he can click with his new wide receivers.

 

David Johnson (ADP 88, RB35)

 

Long gone are the years of David Johnson being a 1st round pick. Long gone are the years of David Johnson being an RB1 for your fantasy team. David Johnson IS a solid fantasy RB2. Last season in 12 games Johnson put up 691 yards and 6 touchdowns and hauled in 33 receptions for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Texans brought in both Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram to complement Johnson which shows their want to lean on the run game in 2021. A lot of that has to do with the nebulous situation surrounding Deshaun Watson and if he can play in 2021 and if he plays for the Houston Texans after requesting a trade. The Texans are looking at possibly heading into the season with veteran Tyrod Taylor starting and rookie Davis Mills waiting in the wings. The wide receiver group in Houston also leaves something to be desired. Brandon Cooks is the only returning starter from 2020. Rookie Nico Collins and recent trade acquisition Anthony Miller fill in the top 3 wide receiver spots. All of this leads to a team that wants to run the ball.

If Watson is not the starter for the Texans in 2021, his 444 yards and 3 touchdowns look to trickle down to the running backs. The Texans have a lower to mid-range offensive line, but with some new pieces have the potential to produce a top 15 offensive line. A good offensive line will lead to better play from Johnson, who still has the vision that produced top-end years but lacks the speed he once had. At age 30 Johnson still has stuff left to produce. You are looking at a solid RB2 for your fantasy team or flex if you go heavy RB early. Getting David Johnson at his ADP spot is a steal. Five teams have two RBS with higher ADP. (Arizona, Tampa Bay, Denver, Jacksonville, and Cleveland). Getting a team’s RB1 on your fantasy team when other owners are drafting handcuffs and pass-catching backs is a win for your team.

 

 

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