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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 targets deep sleeper value (players that 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 is the player who received the most votes:
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Sam Darnold, Carolina
Ben Cummins: The list of players who have gone on to find success after escaping Adam Gase has grown quite large, and former third-overall draft pick Sam Darnold is a candidate for the list as well. In Carolina, Darnold gets to play with a fantasy-friendly coaching staff in head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady alongside an incredible supporting cast featuring Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall. There is a risk that Darnold, who has been bad, can’t turn it around and gets benched for exciting backup P.J. Walker. However, I’m not predicting that and if Darnold stays healthy and plays well enough to keep the job, he’s almost certain to beat his ADP by providing numerous usable weeks as a streamable option.
Pat Fitzmaurice: Is it reasonable to place all the blame for Darnold's early-career struggles at the feet of former Jets head coach Adam Gase? Probably not, but it's certainly reasonable to think that Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady give Darnold a much better chance to fulfill his potential than Gase did. Running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson will make Darnold's job easier, and Darnold has a favorable schedule to open the season, facing the Jets (revenge game!), Saints, Texans, Cowboys, and Eagles in his first five games.
Andy Hicks: Sam Darnold has strong weapons at his disposal in D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr and of course, Christian McCaffrey. He has a coaching staff dedicated to playing to his strengths. All that is his upside. The downside is the ghost of Adam Gase. If he starts the season with confidence, you have yourself a fantasy steal. If the Jets experience has ruined him, we will find that out soon enough when real NFL defenses attempt to rattle Darnold.
Jeff Haseley: The bottom line about Darnold is that he's essentially free as a QB2. If he doesn't rise to the occasion in the first three weeks (NYJ, NO, at HOU), then you can elect to drop him for the better quarterback on the waiver wire. Don't forget, Carolina had three top-25 wide receivers last year, and rookie Terrace Marshall is looking like a decent, if not better, replacement for Curtis Samuel. Carolina has weapons on offense and the coach to make it happen. If Darnold extends drives and cashes in inside the 20, he can be well worth the later pick it took to acquire him.
Jason Wood: Sam Darnold has a lot to prove in Carolina. And his performance as the Jets franchise quarterback leaves more questions than answers. But his pedigree is without reproach, and it's easy to see the Adam Gase era in New York as a failure of epic proportions. Investing in Darnold is an exercise in trusting Joe Brady. Brady is on a meteoric rise up the coaching ranks and is one strong season from Darnold away from an NFL head coaching job. Darnold will finally have a coaching staff dedicated to calling plays suited to his skill set and has a collection of skill players that will make his job easier than it ever was in Gotham.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Andrew Davenport: This ADP must reflect the general lack of confidence in the Pittsburgh offensive line and the negative buzz around Roethlisberger last year as his deep ball accuracy fell. As 2020 unfolded, those watching the Steelers' offensive struggles began to feel as though they were watching a quarterback who was finished, and at times Roethlisberger didn't play well. But his numbers tell a different story for fantasy purposes. He still threw over 600 passes (third in the league) and 33 touchdowns while posting a 5.4% touchdown rate. Roethlisberger may be nearing the end, but he still has three excellent wide receivers for fantasy purposes and now has a new running back to help the offense. His ADP is a massive overreaction to what people saw on the field in 2020.
Jordan McNamara: I'll agree with Jason. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool as perimeter weapons, Roethlisberger has a good core of weapons to throw to. The offensive system should change under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and could incorporate more efficient passing schemes than in prior iterations of the offense. Roethlisberger also has another year of recovery for his throwing arm injury in 2019, which should help him perform at a higher level in 2021.
Chad Parsons: Roethlisberger is an obvious choice considering his improved health status compared to last year, strong trio of wide receivers (plus James Washington as a luxurious WR4), and Najee Harris added over the lagging running back position a year ago. His seven career top-12 aPPG seasons should be valued more by the market, and he was a borderline QB1 in the category in 2020.
Jason Wood: It's hard to fathom how Roethlisberger isn't everyone's choice. You would think he was on a downward spiral, but he played 15 games last year, completed 66% of his passes, had a 5.4% touchdown rate, threw 33 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. He averaged close to 21 fantasy points per game. Yet, he's being treated like a desperation backup in most leagues. By all accounts, he's healthy, focused, and had a cadre of great receivers. Last year, the Steelers' only shortfall was an inability to run the ball, and Najee Harris and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will fix that. Roethlisberger may no longer have top-5 upside, but he has a rock-solid QB2 floor and is most likely to finish in the Top 10 to Top 12 range.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington
Victoria Geary: Fitzpatrick gives the Washington offense a semblance of continuity after they went through a carousel of quarterbacks last season. In 2020, he finished with a QBR of 76.9, good for fifth-best amongst all quarterbacks and the best rating of his entire career. Capable playmakers now surround Fitzpatrick in wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel and breakout running back Antonio Gibson. The Washington Football Team has a middling strength of schedule, and their defense will need help from Fitzpatrick to keep them in games. He looked composed and ready in his first preseason game and has the potential to outperform his ADP by a large margin this year.
Jordan McNamara: I like Fitzpatrick a lot in the Washington offense this year. In 2020, Ryan Fitzpatrick had his lowest time to throw since NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking the statistic in 2016. Unsurprisingly, Fitzpatrick also had his second-best yards per attempt (7.8) since 2016, despite a weaker supporting cast than prior seasons. Fitzpatrick’s 2020 completion percentage over expectation was also the best of the five-year period. Fitzpatrick’s move from Miami to Washington should improve with Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and Antonio Gibson as targets in the offense.
Chad Parsons: Fitzpatrick remains a dual-threat option with enough rushing to not fall behind the Peloton much at the position. The weapons are bullish for Washington with multiple pass-catching running backs, Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, plus the additions of Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, and the underrated Adam Humphries. Fitzpatrick has snuck into the Top 12 of aPPG twice in his career, and challenging for a third is within reach for 2021.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans
Andrew Davenport: There seems to be a lot of people saying Jameis Winston is the man for this job, but nothing is settled yet in the bayou. Hill's starts last year for the Saints were what fantasy managers should want to see. He put up eight total touchdowns, and four of those came on the ground. Additionally, he had over 52 rushing yards per game in his starts. Even when he didn't play quarterback, he was still involved near the goal line and had eight rushing touchdowns by the end of the year. If he wins the starting job, his rushing production alone could skyrocket him into the Top 12 at the position.
Jeff Haseley: For those in superflex leagues, Hill could be a gem in the making. Last year he had eight rushing touchdowns as not the starting quarterback in most games. Even if he doesn't see many snaps under center (which is still a debate), he has fantasy appeal, especially in Superflex leagues, and likely can be an every-week starter regardless of whether he's the starting quarterback.
Ryan Hester: If Hill were named the starter today, his draft price would rise to where he's not a deep sleeper anymore. So fantasy GMs should use that ambiguity to their advantage and draft him at this low price. New Orleans' best pass-catcher is a running back, so they need the shot in the arm that a running quarterback can give them. And we all know what rushing quarterbacks bring to the table in fantasy football. Hill could be projected for 230-250 passing yards and 40-50 rushing yards in any given week. That's fringe-QB1 production with a touchdown or two thrown in. The Saints should embrace a college-style offense led by Hill because that's the hand their personnel has dealt them. This selection is especially recommended in redraft leagues where Hill can safely be dropped early in the season if he doesn't earn the job.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Carson Wentz, Indianapolis
Phil Alexander: Signs point to Wentz recovering from foot surgery in time to play in Week 1, which means he still has a shot to finish in back-end QB1 territory. Wentz's situation has gone from rags to riches in every way that matters for fantasy football. His offensive line, pass-catchers, running game, and coaching staff improved significantly in Indianapolis compared to last year in Philadelphia. Wentz is the perfect upside QB2 if your league has enough roster spots to warrant drafting two quarterbacks.
Andy Hicks: Carson Wentz has seen his ADP slide following news of his foot surgery. While he does not have a great track record with injury, he does present a very high upside should it all come together in 2021. Despite being at rock bottom last season with the Eagles, Carson Wentz was still a borderline fantasy quarterback for the first 12 games. With the receiving unit significantly better in Indianapolis, a strong running game, and a good offensive line, Wentz will find it difficult to underachieve again in 2021. Add in a coach who believes in him and has no threat from any backup, and Wentz is primed to easily exceed his draft slot for the year.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Derek Carr, Las Vegas
Ryan Hester: If looking for veteran players with high floors and low ceilings that could add value as a bye-week fill-in or starter in two-quarterback leagues, Carr should be the priority over Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Wentz, and Ben Roethlisberger. Carr has command of his offense (the other three are either on new teams or have a new coordinator), youth and better health history on his side, and a pass-catcher being drafted higher than the others in fantasy drafts. Carr won't crack through the glass ceiling and be a top-6 fantasy quarterback, but a QB1 finish is more likely than the rest.
Daniel Jones, NY Giants
Pat Fitzmaurice: As a rookie in 2019, Jones finished 15th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. His fantasy value cratered last year because the touchdowns dried up. Jones had 11 touchdown passes in 14 games, with a puny touchdown rate of 2.5%. The return of Saquon Barkley and the addition of Kenny Golladay will put more arrows in Jones' quiver, and it's reasonable to expect the 24-year-old quarterback to take a step forward in his third NFL season. It also helps that Jones adds value as a runner, so he can still be a worthwhile fantasy asset even if he doesn't mature into a high-end passer.
Mac Jones, Patriots
Matt Waldman: Jones is a good fit with the Patriots coaching staff. Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have 20 years of experience with Tom Brady, a pocket passer with a strong feel for those confines like Jones. More stylistically similar to Peyton Manning, Jones has more improvisational flair to his game but must acclimate to the speed and complexity of Sundays. If this summer is any indication, so far, so good. Expect Jones to start by November and show promise for the Patriots. Even the discount types that New England famously targets, there are enough weapons for Jones to deliver starter-caliber production. He could be worth a late-season addition.
Zach Wilson, NY Jets
Ben Cummins: It’s easy to want nothing to do with the Jets after Adam Gase tore down this franchise, yet Gase is now coaching high school football and the Jets have been remodeled. New head coach Robert Saleh brought over Mike LaFleur (previously the passing game coordinator in San Francisco) as his offensive coordinator, and the offense looks completely different. Zach Wilson will have the pleasure of throwing to free-agent acquisitions Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Tevin Coleman, and draft picks Elijah Moore and Michael Carter. The second overall pick, Wilson has a rocket arm and rushing upside (10 rushing touchdowns in his final season at BYU). That’s a recipe I’m looking for in a late-round quarterback.
Jameis Winston, New Orleans
Victoria Geary: Uncertainty is where the value lies. Both Hill and Winston remain value picks in redraft leagues, especially due to the uncertainty at the quarterback position in New Orleans. Winston is just one year removed from an overall QB3 finish, scoring 21 fantasy points per game. Taysom Hill's versatility as a weapon from anywhere on the field makes the offense much less predictable than if he were their starting quarterback, but it remains to be seen who will be the starter. The heart and soul of the New Orleans' offense, running back Alvin Kamara, tallied just six total targets from Hill in Weeks 11 through 13 after averaging nine targets per game with Drew Brees. Winston looked the part in his first preseason game, but the situation is one to monitor.