Sleeper is an ambiguous term in fantasy sports. So, to clear up any confusion, it’s paramount to set parameters for who qualifies as a sleeper. The Underdog Fantasy best ball starting positions are one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, and one flex. There are also eight bench spots. So, fantasy football sleepers aren’t drafted as starters, meaning quarterbacks and tight ends drafted after the QB12 and TE12, respectively.
And since there’s a flex spot frequently filled by a running back or wideout, sleepers at those positions must be after RB30 and WR42.
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Quarterback Fantasy Football Sleepers
Daniel Jones (NYG): QB14/114.5 ADP
Veteran fantasy analyst Rich Hribar coined the term Konami code quarterback to describe dual-threat quarterbacks since they’re essentially a cheat code in fantasy, and Daniel Jones fits the bill.
Jones is a potentially ascending passer and a genuine weapon as a runner, rumbling for 44.3 rushing yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns in the regular season last year.
Even with limited pass-catching weapons, per FantasyPros, Jones was the QB10 in points per game during the fantasy season (Week 1 through Week 17) last year. Moreover, the modest in-season addition of Isaiah Hodgins did wonders for Jones’s production.
Daniel Jones to Darren Waller tight pic.twitter.com/ZE8qUMCyIH
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) August 14, 2023
He was the QB7 among quarterbacks who played more than one game from Week 10 (Hodgins’s debut for Big Blue) through Week 17 and averaged 20.5 points per game. And according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), when including New York’s two playoff games, Jones’s 17-game pace in games with Hodgins was 3,813 passing yards and 18.7 passing touchdowns.
So, on that note, I encourage readers to head over to Underdog Fantasy’s NFL season section and smash the higher button on Jones’s passing props for 3,250.5 passing yards and 18.5 passing touchdowns. And with Darren Waller, Jalin Hyatt, and a host of slot wideouts added to the mix, Jones can build on last year’s fantasy production and significantly outperform his QB14 average draft position (ADP).
Brock Purdy (SF): QB23/166.6 ADP
Brock Purdy was a revelation as last year’s NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant turned high-level performer for the 49ers. From Week 12 (when he relieved an injured Jimmy Garoppolo) through Week 18, Purdy averaged 18.1 points per game, which would have ranked as the QB14 during the entire fantasy season. He has a bevy of weapons, and Purdy leans heavily on them.
In a five-game sample (which includes the playoffs) when Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle were healthy, they accounted for 81% of San Francisco’s receiving yards and eight of 10 touchdown receptions. So, let’s combine their highly-concentrated usage with Underdog’s Fantasy NFL season-long props to create a back-of-the-napkin projection for Purdy’s passing yards.
Underdog Fantasy’s props for receiving yards and touchdown receptions for CMC (599.5 and 4.5), Samuel (815.5 and 4.5), Aiyuk (800.5 and 4.5), and Kittle (700.5 and 5.5) have sums of 2,916 yards and 19 touchdowns. Thus, if they account for 80% of this year’s yards and touchdowns, a reasonable projection for Purdy should be 3,650 passing yards and 23.75 touchdown passes, which would have ranked 12th and 13th in 2022.
It’s fair to wonder if the league will catch up to Purdy or if his recovery from elbow surgery will hinder his production. But that’s baked into Purdy’s ADP. The sophomore quarterback is an excellent target on Underdog Fantasy best ball teams that draft three quarterbacks or on two-QB teams with an elite signal-caller.
Running Back Fantasy Football Sleepers
Rashaad Penny (PHI): RB34/102.0 ADP
Sadly, Rashaad Penny has battled many injuries throughout his career. Thankfully, his injuries have varied. So, the explosive running back hasn’t had the same recurring injury. And Penny is a home-run hitter and efficient runner when on the gridiron.
Furthermore, injuries haven’t hampered his production in the previous two years. Instead, Penny averaged 73.0 rushing yards per game and 6.22 yards per carry in 15 games for the Seahawks since 2021. And according to PFF, among running backs who carried the ball at least 50 times in 2021 and 2022, Penny was first in Yards After Contact per Attempt, posting 4.52 YCO/A in 2021 and 4.23 YCO/A in 2022.
What a run by Rashaad Penny. The Eagles RB’s are looking good. pic.twitter.com/1V5bT7bbSo
— Brenden Deeg (@BrendenDeeg_) August 13, 2023
Penny can now shine behind Philadelphia’s butt-kicking offensive line. PFF graded the Eagles fifth in run blocking and the Seahawks 18th in 2022. Penny’s not a flawless player and will almost certainly cede passing-down work to D’Andre Swift or Kenneth Gainwell.
Nevertheless, Jalen Hurts hasn’t used his backs often in the passing attack. And Penny’s rushing ability should allow him to pile up yards in chunks and splash paydirt in Philadelphia’s high-octane offense. I love his upside, and in addition to being one of my favorite Underdog Fantasy best ball selections, I also like choosing higher for his rushing prop of 685.5 rushing yards.
Sean Tucker (TB): RB79/215.6 ADP
A last-round bet on Sean Tucker is also a bet against Rachaad White. The Buccaneers didn’t make any significant moves to improve their backfield. They cut Leonard Fournette, signed Chase Edmonds after he busted on a high-salary deal for the Dolphins last year, and signed Tucker as an undrafted free agent.
Typically, a player going undrafted in the NFL Draft would make them a non-factor in fantasy leagues during their rookie campaign. However, there were extenuating circumstances for Tucker. Namely, doctors discovered Tucker had a heart condition at the NFL Draft Combine, which almost certainly contributed to Tucker going undrafted. Thankfully, Tucker is healthy, practicing, and doing his part to claim a spot on Tampa Bay’s roster.
Tucker had a highly productive collegiate career, rushing for 2,577 yards, 5.71 yards per carry, and 23 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Syracuse. Meanwhile, among 69 running backs who carried the ball at least 50 times last season in the regular season and postseason, White was PFF’s 59th-ranked runner. If he stumbles again this year, Tucker could Wally Pipp him.
Wide Receiver Fantasy Football Sleepers
Skyy Moore (KC): WR45/92.4 ADP
Skyy Moore epitomizes a post-hype sleeper after a quiet rookie season. Moore had a limited role in Kansas City’s offense while he worked through a steep learning curve in Andy Reid’s offense. Matt Harmon of Reception Perception had words of encouragement about Moore’s performance when he played while noting Moore received an education in playing all three wide receiver roles as a rookie.
Fantasy football tweet: Skyy Moore has been with 1s every rep at training camp when KC has had 2 WRs. Rashee Rice/Justyn Ross have occasionally mixed in with 1s but overwhelmingly been with 2s. Things can change, of course, but every indication as of now is Moore is ahead those 2
— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) August 7, 2023
Moore’s baptism by fire last year can pay significant dividends this year since he appears positioned to stay on the field in two-WR sets. And, obviously, the ecosystem is dreamy for Moore’s Underdog Fantasy best ball outlook. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league, and Reid runs a fast and pass-happy offense. According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs were seventh-fastest in situation-neutral pace in 2020, third in 2021, and third in 2022. And, per nfelo app, the Chiefs were first in Pass Rate Over Expected (PROE) in those three seasons. Moore’s ADP has climbed in Underdog Fantasy best ball drafts, but he remains an attractive sleeper at his present ADP.
Puka Nacua (LAR): WR92/212.9 ADP
The Rams need pass-catching talent, and Puka Nacua is turning heads in training camp and has a legitimate chance to start in three-wideout sets. Starting in three-wideout alignments would make Nacua a mainstay on the field since the Rams heavily utilize 11-personnel sets. In fact, per nfelo app, LA’s 90% 11-personnel usage on first down in 2022 was the highest in the NFL, eight percent higher than the second-highest rate.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 7, 2023
Additionally, while it’s unwise to overreact to training camp highlights, seeing Nacua make a challenging contested catch for a touchdown was encouraging. Matthew Stafford’s willingness to throw a 50/50 ball to the rookie speaks to his confidence in Nacua, which will presumably grow if the rookie keeps making eye-catching plays. There might be growing pains for the rookie. Still, money is made in Underdog Fantasy best ball tournaments in the playoff weeks, and Nacua can shine during the most critical weeks of the year.
Tight End Fantasy Football Sleepers
Sam LaPorta (DET): TE18/151.5 ADP
Sam LaPorta was, unfortunately, attached to a stagnant offense at Iowa. However, he dominated the usage in the offense. According to PFF, LaPorta was responsible for a 25.8% target share, 30.2% of the team’s receptions, and 31.9% of the club’s receiving yards.
LaPorta is also an athletic freak. The rookie’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) ranked 110 out of 1,105 tight ends from 1987 through 2023. The athleticism might help him hit the ground running while he learns the nuances of playing the position in the NFL.
Leaving Lions camp. My biggest takeaway: this offense plans on throwing a lot of passes to Sam LaPorta, and he caught everything in his vicinity.
St. Brown, LaPorta, and Gibbs might account for 90% of the targets while Jamo is out.
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) August 5, 2023
And LaPorta doesn’t have to overtake a veteran roadblock on the depth chart. Instead, he’s been taking first-team reps from the jump, and Benjamin Solak from The Ringer believes LaPorta will be targeted at a high rate. This year’s rookie class of tight ends is loaded, and LaPorta is an exciting dart after the 150th pick.
Luke Musgrave (GB): TE28/203.8 ADP
Most of the analysis for LaPorta could be copied and pasted to Luke Mugrave’s write-up. He doesn’t have veterans ahead of him to bypass on the depth chart, and his usage in camp is ideal for a massive role in the regular season. The seemingly unchallenged gig as a starter is critical for LaPorta’s and Musgrave’s outlooks. As Dwain McFarland of Fantasy Life pointed out on X, Kyle Pitts and Evan Engram were the last two tight ends to reach 75% route participation, and both were top-12 fantasy tight ends.
Rookie TEs that earned targets in college often display the same traits in Year 1.
Why don't they succeed? Playing time.
Last 2 rookies to reach 75% route participation:
Kyle Pitts 80%
Evan Engram 77%
Both top 12.
Sam LaPorta clear No. 1 on a thin Lion's depth chart.
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) August 4, 2023
Sadly, injuries prevented Mugrave from piling up massive production in college. However, he got off to a fast start in his two healthy contests last year. Moreover, as athletic as LaPorta tested, Musgrave was more athletic, sporting the 25th-best RAS out of 1,104 tight ends tested from 1987 to 2023. Musgrave’s a single preseason highlight from screaming up Underdog Fantasy draft boards, and Josh Norris believes Musgrave’s ADP will rise more than any other player’s from now until Week 1.
Thankfully, Musgrave has ample room to climb while remaining a value. Still, the time is now to snag Musgrave in drafts.