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A big part of a successful draft is finding players after Round 10 who will surprise. The quest for deep sleepers is one all fantasy players undertake. We asked our staffers for help finding them. To focus our search, we will go through each division. Today, the NFC East.
And to clarify, by Deep Sleeper, we are talking about players who generally not drafted in the first 10 rounds.
Jalen Reagor is a slam dunk for an NFC East sleeper in 2020. The Eagles wide receiver corps has nothing but question marks with Alshon Jeffery losing a step (two? three?) in recent years and working through another injury recovery heading into Week 1. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a non-factor as a 2019 rookie, and the players on the rest of the depth chart are low-pedigree rookies or fringe NFL receivers. Reagor has an elite metric profile plus Round 1 pedigree and is one of the favorites to lead all rookie receivers in targets and production. Paired with Carson Wentz (hopefully healthy), Reagor has top-24 upside even as a first-year wide receiver, typically a slow-starting subset for fantasy utility.
I will cheat a bit and name two. One is exactly the type of guy who you expect to be on a sleeper list and the other is not.
The first is Jalen Reagor. The Eagles wide receiver situation is a mess. Alshon Jeffery is on the PUP list and doesn't look like he's going to be a factor any time soon. Desean Jackson hasn't played a full season since 2013 and turns 34-years old in a few months. The door is wide open for Reagor to be Philadelphia's WR1 right away. He is a dangerous deep threat and really excels with the ball in his hands. He should get a lot of screens and short passes that will pad his PPR numbers. In an offense starved a reliable playmaker at wide receiver, Reagor has as good a shot as anyone of being the top rookie wide receiver in 2020.
The second is Sterling Shepard. Typically these sleeper lists are all young guys with unknown upside. Shepard is 27-years old and we pretty much know what he is at this point in his career. However, there is a bit more upside for Shepard than his ADP and most analysis would suggest. In 10 games, he averaged 5.7 catches per game last season (a 91-catch pace) and saw 9+ targets in 60% of his games. Some of that increased usage was due to injuries to other pass catchers (most notably, Evan Engram) but we cannot rule out somebody like Engram having another season where he struggles with injuries.
Plus, even if Shepard doesn't hit his 90-catch upside, he still has value in PPR leagues. He's averaged 4.7 catches per game in his career despite some stretches where he was playing at less than 100% and is a guy you feel good about at least giving you 5+catches and 50+ yards in any given week. 2020 is likely to be a year where having quality depth will give you a huge advantage. Having solid bench options you can slot in if your starters end up in quarantine will have extra value.
I'm glad I'm not the first to throw Jalen Reagor's name into the ring, as the resident Eagles homer. But I do agree with the selection for the reasons Chad and Dan put forth. The Eagles had the least productive receiving corps of the last five years (league-wide, not team specific) and I believe were the first team in the passing era with two tight ends and a running back as their three leading receivers. Reagor needs to be on the field immediately for the Eagles, with Alshon Jeffery hurt and on the outs, and DeSean Jackson being unreliable at this point in his career.
Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert are both attractive. Philadelphia played Goedert in plenty of 2-TE sets last year and without a clear answer at WR1 on the team, I think Philadelphia repeats the strategy. At attractive costs, I built a Wentz-Ertz-Goedert-Reagor stack in a large event, full-on embracing the variance. I also like Golden Tate as a potential 110 target WR3-type performer in 2020.
I have to agree with others that Jalen Reagor jumps out as the one I'd go with who could return legitimate fantasy value for the cheapest cost. I say that but it's worth noting that he's not the highest projected player based on the qualifications (outside the first ten rounds by ADP). I actually have a few players that fit the bill - Golden Tate, Desean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert.
I picked Reagor, though, by a slim margin of Goedert because the Eagles arguably need him to produce immediately even more than they need Desean Jackson to be Desean Jackson, or Goedert to do more than he did last season. I expect the team to give Reagor every chance possible outperform his ADP for fantasy. I'm also completely out on Alshon Jeffery even if the Eagles remain bullish about his prospects. In fact, I'd rather take a flyer at the end of a draft on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or a shot in the dark on rookie John Hightower than have a single share of Jeffery.
Technically, I should pick Golden Tate because I have him projected to score the most points. He could back his way into being the most viable of the Giants receivers, too. As much as I like Sterling Shepard, his two concussions last year spook me. In the same way, I'm having a difficult time drafting Brandin Cooks (even though I think he could be one of the biggest bargains on the draft board). Darius Slayton will have a difficult time building on his rookie campaign and staving off regression after scoring 8 times on 48 receptions. Tate could be the rugged old guy on the receiving corps that ends up playing the most snaps, running the most routes, seeing the most targets, and being the most consistent fantasy asset.
There are so many great options here:
- Dallas has Blake Jarwin
- New York has Sterling Shepherd and Golden Tate
- Philadelphia has Boston Scott, Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert
- Washington has no one worth considering. Maybe Steven Sims Jr. or a running back
Before anyone stops reading, what we look for late in a wide receiver is that hidden gem that can become a WR1. Alshon Jeffery has reached that peak twice in his career and even in Philadelphia has been a WR2 twice. The upside is obvious. The injury history is as well, which explains why he is available where he is in 2020 fantasy drafts. The will he, won’t he be available by week one is another layer of concern. Putting him on preseason PUP means nothing in terms of his availability for regular season week one. Even if he is regular-season PUP, I would rather take 10 weeks of Jeffrey than most of the others in his current draft slot. If we are going to be serious though we just have to look at his production in the last game he finished. 16 targets for nine receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Good luck finding someone who can do that late in drafts. If Jeffery is fit, he starts. The Eagles drafting Jalen Reagor in the first round doesn’t affect that. Jeffery has a good connection with Carson Wentz despite the off-field issues and if he can play, he will produce. If he doesn’t he is an easy and inexpensive cut to your roster.
I like Dan's pick of Sterling Shepard. I know Darius Slayton is exciting, but when the offense was healthy it was Shepard leading the way in that wide receiver corps, not Slayton. I'm taking lots of Shepard in my drafts.
I think my favorite deep sleeper though, is Blake Jarwin. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Dallas so I understand the limitations, but the Cowboys did see fit to give him a four-year deal this offseason, and Jason Witten has moved on to Oakland. Witten's numbers weren't very exciting last year, but he did haul in 63 passes and surpass 500 yards as a 37-year-old. Jarwin is exponentially more athletic, and with Witten's 83 targets gone it is possible Jarwin can push for 100 targets despite the other weapons on offense. For argument's sake, let's say he received exactly 83 targets as Witten did in 2019. Does anyone think he won't do more with them than a 37-year-old at the end of his career? Witten's PPR finish last year was TE11, despite averaging a little under 9 points per game. Nine points a game isn't winning you any leagues, but there are paths for Jarwin to exceed those numbers and move into the top ten at the position. For a guy who is going in low-TE2-territory, there is very little risk to see if he is going to make a leap with Witten out of the picture.
You guys have included several good names already so I will share my thoughts and add some of my own. More coming
Jalen Reagor - The Eagles wide receiver corps is ripe for someone to come in and be a consistent weapon of production and Jalen Reagor fits the bill. There are durability concerns with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, not to mention both are eight and twelve years deep in the league respectively. They aren't getting any younger. Reagor has an opportunity to blossom into a key piece of the offensive structure as early as this season.
Dallas Goedert - This is year three for Goedert. He has grown and developed each year in the league. There is no reason to think his ascension up the hill won't continue in 2020. Philadelphia has adapted their offense to cater to both Zach Ertz and Goedert and both have thrived. If Philadelphia decides to move on from Ertz at the end of 2020, Goedert would assume the role and be a big-time performer.
Antonio Gandy-Golden - I'm not sure if Gandy-Golden will make a fantasy impact in 2020, but his future outlook is one to be aware of. Gandy-Golden comes from a smaller school (Liberty) and may take some time to adjust to the speed and strength of the NFL, but one thing he possesses which is starting to become more commonplace among Washington receivers is intelligence on and off the field. He has a mind for the game and the position just like Terry McLaurin. This will help in his adjustment from a small-school scene to the bright lights of the NFL. I feel he has the tools to make an impact, the only question is when.
Steven Sims Jr. - Washington used Sims mostly in the slot last year and he excelled, especially in the last three games against NFC East foes New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas. He caught four touchdowns in those three games, all inside the 10-yard line. None of those games did he exceed 39 snaps. The 2020 season will likely bring more opportunity for Sims especially if Washington elects to move him out wide opposite Terry McLaurin. The loss of Kelvin Harmon (ACL) makes that option more of a possibility.
I'll give one for each position:
QB - For deep 2-QB/super-flex leagues keep tabs on Alex Smith. Washington should run more plays this year and have a much more potent pass offense. Smith's story is inspiring and even if he doesn't retake the starting job, it's a testament to his will and character to make it this far.
RB - Tony Pollard is the upside call here, if Ezekiel Elliott goes down, he can be a league winner. Boston Scott is the most likely to be a consistent contributor in PPR leagues after a strong finish to 2019 that will open the door to earning an even larger role in 2020.
WR - Steven Sims Jr. was very good in December last year and should be able to have a top-three wide receiver role in Washington's offense. He and Dwayne Haskins displayed great chemistry in the red zone.
TE - Blake Jarwin is one of my favorite late-round tight ends. Only Jared Cook had a higher percentage of catches go for big plays last year and now Jason Witten is in Las Vegas, giving Jarwin a big opportunity after signing a four-year, 22 million dollar extension this offseason.
Jarwin leads the way on a stacked list of tight end breakout candidates.
As Sig mentioned, he was hyper-efficient last year. Jarwin ranked eighth among qualifying tight ends in both yards per route run (1.8) and yards per target (8.9). He also scored a touchdown on 7.3% of his targets, which was a top-10 rate, and you may still remember when he dropped 36.9 fantasy points on the Giants in Week 17 of the 2018 season.
The market is underrating Jarwin's ability to command targets in a seemingly crowded offense. But will CeeDee Lamb exceed the 83 targets vacated by Randall Cobb as a rookie, with limited off-season preparation? Even if you pencil Lamb in for 100 targets in year-one, there is still room for Jarwin to command at least 100 of his own -- a threshold reached by only four tight ends in 2019.
Jason Witten leaves behind another 83 targets from last season, and Jarwin earned 41 of his own. Assuming the offensive pie stays about the same size for Dallas this year, Jarwin stands to keep his own volume and soak up most of Witten’s. The Cowboys signed Jarwin to a rich extension, and brought in only former-Chief, Blake Bell, to pair with him. Bell was a blocking complement to Travis Kelce in Kansas City, which is what he’ll be for Jarwin in Dallas.
If everything clicks for the Cowboys, their offense will be surpassed only by the Chiefs and Ravens. Jarwin has proven efficiency, plus-athleticism, the trust of his quarterback and coaching staff, and is stepping into a target void. The fact he barely gets drafted inside the top-20 at the position is absurd. Draft this man.
Everyone seems to forget that DeSean Jackson is still the resident speedster and starting wideout for the Eagles. Jackson exploded in Week 1 last year, adding two more 50+ yard touchdown receptions to his all-time record list, cementing him as one of the best big-play receivers in NFL history. Jackson my be 34 entering this season, but he will start for Philadelphia while mentoring the younger wideouts like Jalen Reagor (his understudy) in 2020. Jackson can be had later in drafts as a WR4 or WR5 on a roster and offers significant upside and is a fantastic pick in best-ball leagues due to his huge game potential in any given week.