Joe Orlofski’s Five Sleepers for 2021

Joe Orlofski takes a look at a few of his favorite late round picks that could help win you a fantasy football championship.

Every season there are players drafted in the later rounds that far exceed their ADPs. We refer to these players as sleepers, and if you guess right (or do solid research), they could be the one that leads you to a fantasy football championship.

It could be a backup, it could be a disrespected veteran, or it could be a rookie who just hasn’t garnered the hype as others do. Whatever the reason, these players tend to fall to the later rounds, meaning you can spend a lot less draft capital on guys who could bring huge fantasy points.

Let us take a look at five players currently being drafted in the later rounds, and why they might hold some sleeper value.

All stats and ADPs (PPR) come from FantasyData unless linked otherwise.

 

Russell Gage (Atlanta Falcons, ADP:132 WR51)

 

The Atlanta Falcons vacated anywhere from 129 to 203 targets this offseason, thanks to the departure of star Wide Receiver Julio Jones. That leaves wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage to pick up the slack, and if I were a betting man I’d venture to say Gage is going to be the beneficiary of most of those new targets.

It’s no surprise that the Falcons are one of the worst defenses in the league. Pair that with the fact that they have no run game, you have a perfect recipe for massive amounts of passing volume. quarterback Matt Ryan has averaged 4300 yards and 27 touchdowns over his 13-year career, which includes some iffy early years. Now that target and yardage hog Jones is gone, Gage has a great opportunity to reach 1000 yards. To add to this hype, Julio Jones finished as WR5 and Calvin Ridley finished as WR23 in 2019, meaning Ryan can deliver two top wide receivers.

As the offseason continues, Gage’s ADP may rise as people recognize how much he will be targeted. Till then, Gage’s late-round ADP makes him one of the least risky sleepers of the draft. You could legitimately be getting a Top 24 Wide Receiver at the 51st position….a massive steal.

 

Xavier Jones (Los Angeles Rams, ADP:151 RB57)

 

Xavier Jones was relatively unknown until Cam Akers ruptured his Achilles this month, but he is quickly becoming a highly talked about fantasy asset heading into training camps. Jones didn’t touch the ball in his 2020 rookie season, thanks to the Rams’ running back depth of Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown.

Xavier Jones played five years at SMU, rushing for over 1000 yards twice. In his last year at SMU, Jones rushed 244 times for 1276 yards and a whopping 23 touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen what he can do at the NFL level, but it is safe to say that Jones must have shown the Rams something to keep him around (even as an undrafted Free Agent).

With Malcolm Brown gone and Darrell Henderson often injured, Jones could see a lot more playing time this season. If Henderson does go down, Jones will be thrust into a much larger workload. You could even make a case that Jones could battle with Henderson for more carries regardless of health. Frankly, Henderson didn’t look great at times, which is what led to the emergence of Cam Akers in the first place. The only other back the Rams currently have is 7th round pick (2020) Jake Funk, who has battled multiple ACL injuries himself.

Xavier Jones could easily see a split workload with Henderson to begin the season, and if Henderson plays poorly, Jones could start to see a majority of the carries. At pick 151, he is easily going later than round 12 in 12-team leagues and could bring tremendous value.

 

Adam Trautman (New Orleans Saints, ADP:150 TE16)

 

If you’ve been doing some research this offseason, you may have heard a little bit about Tight End Adam Trautman.  Trautman is quickly becoming one of the most hyped Tight End fantasy assets (after Kyle Pitts) but still sits at TE16 in PPR ADP.

Trautman was a 3rd-round pick in 2020 and sat behind fellow Tight Ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill, and heck let’s throw in Taysom Hill as well. He caught 15 passes for 171 yards and 1 touchdown and was well known for his blocking abilities.

Now Trautman has the Tight End position mostly to himself, thanks to the departure of Cook and Josh Hill.  Taysom Hill also is looking like he will win the quarterback job, so that takes away another player at the Tight End position. Trautman will easily see the field a lot on his blocking alone, but his pass-catching abilities should give him plenty of opportunity for a big uptick in targets. 

Speaking of targets, the Saints are relatively thin at the Wide Receiver position. Michael Thomas will miss the beginning of the season after a mid-summer ankle injury. Deonte Harris was arrested earlier this month with a DUI and will probably miss the first two games as well. That leaves Trautman and Wide Receiver Tre’Quan Smith as the only viable options to begin the season.

As the TE16 off the board, you can get Trautman in the double-digit rounds and save a lot of draft capital. He easily could be a top 12 Tight End, or even better this season.

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown (Detroit Lions, ADP:168 WR66)

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown might just have the coolest name in the NFL, but that’s not the reason he is included in this article. St. Brown is an intriguing late-round Wide Receiver that has a very good opportunity to push for a big role in the brand new Lions’ offense.

St. Brown was drafted 112th overall (4th round) in the 2021 NFL draft and joins a Lions’ team that has now lost Quarterback Matthew Stafford and Wide Receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. Now in return the Lions got Quarterback Jared Goff and picked up Wide Receivers Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman. Some may argue, but I believe this is a massive downgrade to the Lions’ offense. Hence why St. Brown could easily get a starting role early in this season. And other fantasy players must see that too because St. Brown is going 20 picks higher than Perriman and Williams already.

Tyrell Williams sat out last year after injuring his labrum, and Perriman has never really come to fruition in the NFL. On the other hand, Goff (although overpaid), has had some solid seasons at the helm and should be able to support at least two Wide Receivers. He has thrown for over 4500 yards twice in his six-year career and is due for positive regression in touchdowns after throwing for only 20 last season (His first two seasons were 28 and 32 touchdowns).

St. Brown was a solid receiver at USC and is hoping to make an impact early in this season. This is a pretty big sleeper pick, so aim to grab him at the tail end of the draft so you can drop him if it doesn’t pan out. If he leapfrogs either Williams or Perriman early and shows good chemistry with Goff, St. Brown could easily be a top 40 receiver on a team that will probably have to throw the ball a lot to keep up.

 

Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings, ADP:150 QB19)

 

Ok so it’s not like you don’t know who Kirk Cousins is, but he is one of those players who seems a bit disrespected when you look at his ADP and compare it to his stats. Cousins has consistently thrown for over 4000 yards (besides an off 2019 season) and has averaged around 30 touchdowns over the last three seasons. That’s pretty good for a QB19, especially one that finished as the QB11 last season.

Cousins has plenty of firepower on his offense that will allow him to keep these numbers up. Second-year Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson was dominant in 2020 and should continue that trend. Adam Thielen has also proven to be a huge fantasy asset and even though he had a down year, he still has performed great for fantasy even when Stefon Diggs was there. Running Back Dalvin Cook also adds a huge element to the run game, which helps the play-action.

Cousins may not be the most exciting Quarterback out there, but if want to wait on drafting one till the later rounds, Cousins is a great option. With that offense, he could easily be a top-10 Quarterback at the end of the season.

 

Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

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