After writing out five busts, there’s no better way to wash your mouth out from the disdain of being greatly disappointed in some year prior talent. It’s tough to hit on your talent, but some of the best ways, if not what some would say is the best way to overtake the competition is hitting on your sleepers. Sleepers can come at you due to general opportunity leverage, or trade/free agent scenarios. There are some very interesting names going into new roles, as well as dynamic and very stocked up rookie class. I’ll roll out five names I think could beat out their average draft positions. Let’s dive in!
Chris Carson (ADP 35, RB 20)
Chris Carson doesn’t get his due. He’s like the tenth best Simpsons’ character, who is basically just behind all the characters fans not even of the show happen to know about, but just not enough to have anyone put any respect on his name. No, he’s not Homer. He’s not Lisa. He’s not even Comic Book Guy. But what he is is currently the 20th drafted running back, coming off three fantasy seasons in a row where he respectively finished 14th, 9th, 16th (2018-2020). So why is he being drafted underneath even his worst season since his rookie season? Carson has some potential injury risk attached to his name, and the unlikely path to success coming out of the 7th round of the draft often leaves a touch of worry he’ll inevitably turn into a pumpkin and you’ve got to revise your whole draft theory. Here’s the thing. When Carson is healthy, he’s treated as the de facto number one rusher, with a career average of 4.6 yards per carry. You could do so much worse than taking Carson in the middle of the third round, or end of the third round if you’re lucky for him to fall to you, and you back up your pick with Rashaad Penny much, much later (somewhere around 15, basically a free space.) Penny could take the role, and as someone whose been a fan of Penny since college and always felt a bit lower than others on Carson, it certainly seems feasible to me, I also know that maybe the best offense is a good defense. Take a running back who’s definitely not getting his due, and take his very talented and flawed backup 12 plus rounds later.
Jonnu Smith (ADP 131, TE 15)
With Jonnu Smith, I’m looking at another “opportunity” based option and hoping to capitalize on some draft shine wearing off due to situations they’re placed in. The Patriots went absolutely bananas over the free agency period, spending $159.6 million in guaranteed money over the free agency signing period, per ESPN.com. They signed Jonnu Smith to be their big body, blocking threat tight end. They also signed Hunter Henry to be the same thing. So, this pick comes with a bit of creative cost, but you could do worse than picking Jonnu as your backup tight end and save a bit of draft capital, taking a first tight end just inside the top tight ends, and stocking up your team in between say…Tyler Higbee to your Jonnu Smith pick. Jonnu has only been not active for four games in his first four seasons. In 2019, Jonnu’s clearly closest season to his upside showcased, he had a catch percentage of almost 80 percent. Putting that in perspective, Travis Kelce’s career AVERAGE catch percentage is 71 percent. It was clearly an outlier season, as Jonnu averages 67 percent overall throughout his four seasons, but it also helps to show that Jonnu is a sure-handed bruiser, and has also started to put up his best run blocking numbers of his career. Jonnu tied for 4th in touchdown receptions for tight ends in 2020, and after signing a 4-year deal worth 50 million dollars, it’s very clear there’s some fascination by the Patriots coaching staff to create the B or B+ version of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. I’m completely here for it. The offense is greatly upgraded from the season 1 experiment with Cam Newton, as they’ve added Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agoholor as well to man the outside and keep secondaries guessing and honest. If Jonnu even can keep you somewhere in the top 10 realms, or even peek into the top 6, there’s a massive opportunity for him to overtake his value. It’s very clear that the Patriots felt he was well worth getting, even with the addition of Hunter Henry. I think both could have massive seasons.
Raheem Mostert (ADP 70, RB 29)/ Trey Sermon (ADP 92, RB 36)
San Fran went from playoff darlings to essentially do things all over again from scratch, and as a fantasy owner, this can be a bit tense of a situation to tie yourself to, as we have no idea where this team will attempt to benefit, but it would likely be best to go back to where this team has often leaned on, especially on the heels of bringing this team from the failed Jimmy Garrappolo era to the Trey Lance era. This will likely require some reliable running games. Raheem Mostert when healthy is one of the most capable rushers to do that, and definitely the most ideal one in San Fransisco. While this team often prefers a Grecian-era Cerberus or four-headed demon of sorts to make their hay, it may behoove them to just give Mostert the chance and see if he sticks. Mostert is 29 years as of April, and I know his career doesn’t have much of a pedigree, but that only makes this a more enticing opportunity. San Fransisco loves to play aggressive football. I’d imagine that they want to try and punch some teams in the mouth early. Mostert has young mileage on him and can be the veteran many teams covet. Mostert hadn’t even STARTED a game as the lead back until just last season. There are some intriguing playmakers behind him like Trey Sermon, but like the double dunk above, I’d rather draft Mostert late in the 6th/early in the 7th, and combo him with a Trey Sermon 9th round pick overreaching on some unsexy “starters”. Mostert has fresh legs while also carrying the veteran presence of grinding in the league since 2015. I’d love to see how the Niners work on building out their offense and deciding if Mostert is a piece for a few more years, or if Sermon is the back in waiting.
Trey Sermon was drafted in the third round, potentially a new name and face for a blooming Niners’ offense looking to rebuild itself after a likely failed Garrappollo squad attempts to see who it can be. Sermon doesn’t possess much “Burst between the tackles” per NFL combine scales, but where he fails, Mostert usually shines. I think this pairing could be incredibly sneaky if you’re willing to take the risk and lean on two backs who are in an out-of-favor backfield. It may not be the most exciting play to make, but neither are a lot of plays that make champions.
Matthew Stafford (ADP 85, QB 13)
Matthew Stafford may just go down as one of the most unfortunate quarterback stories in decades if the Rams don’t help him out as a team and win him a Super Bowl. Other than a fantasy career where he’s remained undervalued, Stafford has consistently taken his lumps, played through them, and muscled out so many incredible performances. In his last 10 seasons, 8 of said 10 seasons, Stafford has both been active and started 16 of those games. Durability is the name of his game. In fact, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a major part of his allure. Now, I myself would love to get someone like Kyler Murray or Ryan Tannehill as a top 10 quarterback option, but if for some reason I’m unable to latch myself to any of them in the right spot in the draft room, I’m more than willing to wait past quarterback ten and either make Stafford my starting quarterback or pair him with another unheralded resource. Over just the past two seasons, Stafford has had Quarterback Ratings of 106 and 97.3, two of his four highest-reviewed seasons so far. The man hasn’t lost much on his game, and if anything the only thing that’s really setting him back are worries about his age and eligibility.
Stafford is going to a high octane offense that just lost their likely lead back in Cam Akers to a torn ACL. They have options but now even more than before, they will have to center more on a passing offense directed to Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee. Kupp has become an almost quintessential top 10 receiver highlighted on boards, and Woods has seemingly snuck under the radar and right out behind corners for some significant numbers.
Stafford may have less time than ever to be a top 10 quarterback due to the sheer amount of mileage and wear and tear on his body these days. A more than fair counterargument. I’d look at it more as an option to get an unsexy offering (Sorry Mr. Stafford) given his role in a great head coach’s squad, on a star-studded team. And one you won’t even likely need to reach on!
(Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire)