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A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (which can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the Top 150 and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.
Here are the players who received the most votes:
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Player Receiving 6 Votes
Phil Alexander: The departure of Jared Cook makes Trautman the de facto No. 3 option in the Saints passing game. Trautman is a small-school (Dayton) athletic specimen with the ability to stretch the seam as a receiver. If Jameis Winston wins New Orleans' quarterback competition, Trautman has the tools to finish comfortably inside the top-10 fantasy tight ends.
James Brimacombe: Trautman is entering year two in New Orleans, and Jared Cook is now out of the equation. Outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, the Saints do not have a pass-catcher that has stepped up in recent years, and there remains a hole there for targets and one that Trautman can start to secure. The tight end position as a whole doesn't have a lot of breakout candidates, but looking deep down the list, you can take some shots on Trautman in an offense desperate for playmakers behind further down the depth chart.
Victoria Geary: Everyone has hit on the main reasons Trautman can break out this season. Tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill were both waived this season and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was cut, leaving the #2 receiving role wide open. Trautman boasted a 38.1 College Dominator Rating playing for the University of Dayton, accounting for 38% of his team's receiving production. It's worth noting that his Dominator score was higher than that of both Darren Waller and Travis Kelce. Trautman was PFF's best-rated run-blocking tight end in his rookie year, meaning he will stay on the field and see plenty of snaps this season. He has the athleticism and skill set to highly outperform his ADP.
Ryan Hester: Even without Drew Brees, this offense can still be effective. Last season, Brees’ best days were a thing of the past. Jameis Winston has the arm talent to make at least a couple of pass-catchers fantasy-relevant. And Trautman should be third in the team’s pecking order behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. His outlook is good, and that doesn’t even factor in his athleticism, which is high-end among his tight-end peers in the NFL.
Matt Waldman: Trautman will break out with strong quarterback play, but I'm not convinced that's going to happen in New Orleans. He is the most likely option to move up my board at this position. He's a promising talent who acclimated well as a rookie, even if it didn't show up in the box score as a fantasy option. He's a great late-round target at this point because he proved he had NFL-caliber route skills and the Saints' staff praised his work ethic and ability to learn fast.
Jason Wood: The Saints let Jared Cook walk and then did nothing in free agency or the draft to bolster the position. That's a massive endorsement of Sean Payton's confidence in Trautman, who has above-average athleticism and profiled as more of a receiving threat than a blocker coming out of college. Trautman could be the Saints No. 3 target behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, which puts him in line for a top-12 finish if healthy.
Players Receiving 5 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: Everett is a pure pass-catching tight end, and he was signed to a one-year, $6 million deal after his passing game coordinator with the Rams, Shane Waldron, was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks. There are signs that the team will up the tempo on offense under Waldron, and that should lead to more passing opportunities for Russell Wilson. The team used a second-round pick on wide receiver DWayne Eskridge to improve three-wide sets, but Eskridge was sidelined during OTAs with a toe issue. As a speed-based receiver, that's worrisome for the rookie, but if the problem persists, Everett should be the clear No. 3 target in a passing offense that will be more like what we saw in the first half of 2020 than what we saw in the second half of the season.
James Brimacombe: Everett signed a 1-year, $6-million contract with the Seahawks this offseason and gets a huge upgrade at quarterback play with Russell Wilson now throwing him the ball. Behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks will be looking for a third option to catch passes, and Everett slots in nicely for that job. He was always second fiddle to Tyler Higbee in LA, but now Everett has a shot at really breaking out in a new offense with one of the league's best quarterbacks.
Drew Davenport: The distribution of tight end targets in Seattle is cause for concern for Everett's chances. They did throw the ball to their tight ends 108 times (20.4%), but Everett would need to grab a larger share of that pie than they were willing to give last year as Jacob Hollister led the team with only 40 targets. Nevertheless, he's the most exciting player they've had at the position in a while, and they gave him $6 million guaranteed to have an impact. Drafters are naturally skeptical, so he's cheap to roster and has as good of a chance as any late tight-end target to sniff the Top 12 if things come together.
Pat Fitzmaurice: Everett goes from playing with Jared Goff to playing with Russell Wilson, and there should be ample opportunity for Everett to contribute. Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister combined for 77 tight end targets in Seattle last year. They're both gone, and Seattle doesn't have much at wide receiver beyond D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. And as Sigmund noted, Everett has already worked with Seattle's new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, which should help Everett fit in seamlessly with his new team.
Andy Hicks: The Los Angeles Rams had the luxury of two highly skilled and proficient tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. With Everett signing in Seattle, both could see their fantasy stock explode. Everett is ready now, despite only averaging one 50+yard game a season. He has never had the volume of work likely to occur with the Seahawks. The presence of Will Dissly is a concern and if you have deep rosters, take both. I cannot get the first five games of 2019 out of my head where Dissly was the number one fantasy tight end. Seattle will use the position if they believe in a guy.
Sigmund Bloom: The Cowboys liked Jarwin enough to sign him to a four-year, $22 million extension last year before he tore an ACL in Week 1. Jarwin was already establishing himself as one of the best big-play tight ends in the league in a limited role behind Jason Witten. If he had stayed healthy last year and gotten Dalton Schultz's target share, he would have easily been a fantasy TE1. Even with Dak Prescott out for almost 3/4 of the year, the Cowboys pass offense supported fantasy values of three wide receivers and a tight end, and we don't know what this unit can do with Prescott for a whole season. He's a no-brainer choice as your TE2 late.
Drew Davenport: Dalton Schultz put up a PPR TE11 season in 2020, filling in for Jarwin after his injury. But he was uninspiring at less than 10 points per game which was a mediocre 18th overall. Jarwin was the starter for a reason before he went down, and this should become apparent again in 2021. If starting quarterback Dak Prescott plays the whole season, Jarwin can thrive even as the fifth option on a high-powered offense. Surprisingly, he's still dirt cheap despite the buzz leading up to last season. However, that hasn't carried over to this summer, so he should be considered late in almost every draft.
Troy King: Jarwin missed the whole season essentially after being injured in the first game. His replacement, Dalton Schultz, finished the season last year as TE7 in PPG with a carousel of quarterbacks. In 2019, Jarwin finished the season as a high-end TE2. It is assumed that Jarwin will be the starting tight end for Dallas this year. With a healthy Dak Prescott, Jarwin will have a chance to at least put up high-end TE2 numbers once again.
Chad Parsons: If Jarwin is not the right answer here, then expect Dalton Schultz. Jarwin was a breakout candidate last season before an injury derailed those plans. Schultz was a top-20 aPPG option in relief. Will Jarwin be healthy this season? Dallas paid Jarwin to bring him back on a new contract a year ago and should be considered the incumbent. Jarwin has more athleticism and upside than the chain-moving Schultz. Paired with a healthy Dak Prescott, this offense can support three top-50 wide receivers, a strong RB1 in Ezekiel Elliott, plus have room for a top-15 tight end.
Ryan Weisse: The Jarwin hype train was in full force to start last season, but nobody seems to care in 2021. That is a mistake. The Cowboys will likely throw the ball more than any team in the league, and, even with Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup ahead of him, Jarwin is likely to see 80+ targets. Dalton Schultz was targeted 89 times last year and finished as the 11th best fantasy tight end. If Dalton Schultz can be a top-12 in this offense, Jarwin will finish in the top-10.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Jordan McNamara: Cook saw a drop in efficiency in 2020, but that was more in line with a decline of the entire New Orleans offense than it was specifically a problem with Cook. Cook can still play, should have a TE1 job in LA, and is in an offense without a clear WR2. Cook, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler should be a lot of fun to watch with Justin Herbert this year. Cook has a top-10 positional finish well within his range of outcomes.
Chad Parsons: Cook has two top-10 aPPG seasons over the past three years. The veteran is on the move yet again, but the Chargers is a soft landing for Cook as the projected clear starter, pairs with Justin Herbert, and the passing game has plenty of question marks outside of Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. Beyond adding Zach Ertz, Cook is a sturdy bet to outproduce his draft position and be a streaming special (or even weekly starter) this season.
Matt Waldman: Unless Tre McKitty is a revelation or Zach Ertz winds up in L.A., it's amazing that Cook is not on this list. Cook still has the vertical skills of a top producer, and Justin Herbert has experience and skill with attacking the vertical seams. This is a good fit for the two players, and I expect another quality season for both options in LA.
Victoria Geary: Most people have fallen out of love with Firkser as a late-round steal since Julio Jones was traded to the Titans, but Firkser is still a fantastic dart throw. Firkser ran over 70% of his routes lined up from the slot in 2020, the highest rate out of all tight ends in the league. The volume for targets won't be as high as we once projected, but the team still needs a capable red-zone threat as defenses laser-focus on Jones and A.J. Brown.
Ryan Weisse: Just a few short weeks ago, Firkser would have probably been near the top of everyone's deep sleeper list. Then, Julio Jones happened. While the addition of Julio certainly caps Firkser's value, he is far from being irrelevant in fantasy. Jones will take all of Corey Davis' 92 vacated targets plus at least 30 more. The tight end in this offense was targeted 138 times last year, so that still leaves 100+ targets up for grabs, and Firkser will see most of them. If he can score four to six touchdowns, he will be a top-12 tight end in 2021.
Ryan Hester: Ryan laid out a great case for Firkser, even with the acquisition of Julio Jones. With Jonnu Smith’s departure, Firkser goes from an annoying fantasy backup who capped Smith’s upside to a true starter. He’ll see at least 80 targets, including a boost of red-zone looks. Remember, Jones has never been a dominant red-zone player, and this offense gets closer to the end zone more often than it has in years past. Firkser has a path to 8 or more touchdowns with a 10+ touchdown ceiling.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Pat Fitzmaurice: After averaging 86 receptions, 914 receiving yards, and 5.6 touchdowns from 2015 to 2019, Ertz dealt with a high-ankle sprain for much of 2020 and turned in his worst season as a pro. It seems unlikely that a player who was so consistently good for so long would suddenly hit the wall in his age-29 season, so I'm inclined to blame the bad ankle and give Ertz a mulligan. Ertz is displeased with his current contract, and if, as expected, the disgruntled tight end is traded, his fantasy value will immediately spike.
Jason Wood: Unless the Eagles do an about-face and keep Zach Ertz, he's grossly undervalued. Wherever he lands, he'll be a starter and a high-volume target. Let's not forget we're 12 months removed from talk of Ertz getting a contract extension in line with George Kittle and Travis Kelce. While last year was a disappointment, holding the 2020 season against any Eagles skill player is foolhardy.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Jeff Haseley: Mo Alie-Cox is currently listed as the No. 2 tight end in the Colts offense. He showed glimpses of success, including a Week 2 start last year against Minnesota, where he totaled 111 yards on 5 receptions. He followed it up with two consecutive scoring weeks, but a knee injury kept him out of action and slowed his rise in 2020. Jack Doyle may be the team's top tight end target, but Alie-Cox is the team's top-scoring threat at the position. The Colts under Reich, and Carson Wentz, also under Reich, heavily utilize the tight end, and Ali-Cox is the best bet to see a rise in fantasy stardom.
Phil Alexander: Arnold was both productive and efficient in limited playing time for the Cardinals in 2020, and he possesses the requisite size and athleticism we want in a fantasy-friendly tight end. Before Adam Gase tried square-pegging Chris Herndon into a blocking role, Sam Darnold frequently looked for his young tight end during his time with the Jets. If Arnold can beat out Ian Thomas for an every-down role, he could become a favorite of Darnold's, especially in the red zone where D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson aren't the types of receivers we should expect to box out defenders for jump balls.
Andy Hicks: The first season of Hayden Hurst in Atlanta was considered a disappointment. He finished as a starting fantasy tight end. Of course, the addition of Kyle Pitts will be seen as a problem. The departure of Julio Jones necessitates another target. Hurst will benefit the most from that decision. Expectations on Pitts will justifiably be high, but until he adapts and is ready to be a star, Hurst will carry the load. Historically the highest-drafted rookie Tight End has failed to finish the season as a starting fantasy option for at least the last 20 years. Hurst won't win you a championship, but he will be an occasional starting option or provide solid depth to your lineup.
Anthony Amico: Kmet was the 43rd pick in last year's draft, a two-sport athlete with excellent athleticism. We know that it takes some time for tight ends to develop, but Kmet already displayed promise towards the end of his rookie season. He played 87% of snaps and averaged 5.5 targets per game after the bye. A move to Justin Fields at quarterback could kick-start this offense, improving Kmet's efficiency and scoring opportunities.