Final Countdown: The Best Fantasy Football Sleepers In 2019
The final countdown for the start of the 2019 NFL season has begun. We are less than two weeks from the kick-off of the season and more importantly, we are heading into the biggest fantasy football draft weekend of the year. Over the next 10 days, there will be an almost unlimited number of fantasy football drafts that take place and everyone will be asking themselves the same question: who are the best fantasy football sleepers to draft? We aren’t just talking about the Tony Pollard’s and the Lamar Jackson’s of the world; RotoExperts readers have been interested in drafting Pollard and Jackson for months now.
An important distinction is defining a fantasy football sleepers candidate. For the sake of this discussion (and most of our content here at RotoExperts), we will define them as a player who is going after pick 100 in 12-team PPR leagues who has the ability to finish as a fantasy football starter. For quarterback and tight end, that means in the top 12. For running back and wide receiver, that means in the top 24.
The Best Fantasy Football Sleepers In 2019
Quarterback Fantasy Football Sleepers
Dak Prescott: We are now to the point of the fantasy football draft season where Lamar Jackson is no longer a sleeper. He is going at 125 overall in ADP according to Fantasy Pros but we routinely see him go earlier than that. If you can get Lamar Jackson as your primary quarterback in a single QB league, you should do that. He has some of the best fantasy upside that we might ever see in the double-digit rounds.
However, Dak Prescott is another of our favorite quarterback sleepers. He has finished as a top 12 quarterback in every season of his careeer, he has rushed for at least six rushing touchdowns in every season of his career and has been flourishing in new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s system. The biggest thing holding back the Cowboys offense the last three seasons was not talent, it was play calling.
Now the starting 11 personnel for the Cowboys will be Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin, Jason Witten and one of Ezekiel Elliot or Tony Pollard. That is one of the fastest (minus Witten), most skilled personnel groupings in the NFL. Dak averages more career yards per passing attempt than Carson Wentz, so the idea that he is “bad” or average is just untrue. With improved weapons, improved play-calling and rushing upside, Dak is one of the best fantasy football sleepers.
Josh Allen: Our own Michael Leone took a deep dive into Josh Allen and the future of the Bills and I came away with one thought: the best way for this team to succeed is for Josh Allen to keep scrambling. From Week 12 until the end of the year, Josh Allen was the number one quarterback in fantasy and it is easy to see why. Allen ran for at least nine attempts in each of his final five games of the 2018 season and topped 95 yards in three of those games.
Allen is a player that many people will have a tough time with in fantasy football, similar to Lamar Jackson. He may not be able to pass accurately (or even semi-accurately) but the things that he does do well matter for fantasy. Allen has one of the strongest arms in football and had the highest average intended air yards on passes of any quarterback in football last season. Those throws, when completed, are likely to turn into more fantasy points than short throws. Add in his incredible scrambling ability and you have a quarterback who can have a great fantasy season while not having a great real football season.
Running Back Fantasy Football Sleepers
Justice Hill: At this point, I would hope that you know Justice Hill but understand if you don’t! Fantasy football is not a 365-day-a-year hobby for everyone. Justice Hill has an average draft position of RB58 in casual leagues per Fantasy Pros ADP. It is possible some of your league-mates might not even know who he is when you draft him but he is going to win your league for you! Hill was the most athletic running back at the combine in 2019 and had a sterling career at Oklahoma State where he forced future NFL running back Chris Carson to the bench as a true freshmen.
Hill was then drafted to the run-heaviest team in the NFL, a team that lead the NFL in plays run last season and we have projected to run at the highest rate of any team in the NFL in 2019. Justice Hill’s competition for playing time is 30-year old Mark Ingram who is coming off a suspension shortened season where he averaged his fewest yards per game in over four seasons. Ingram is on the way down and Hill is on his way up.
C.J Anderson: This one pains me to write because I would love nothing more than for Kerryon Johnson to become the next true workhorse back in the NFL (we need more of them!) but indications are that is unlikely. After Theo Riddick was released from the team, it was C.J Anderson who spelled Kerryon on three straight third-down plays in the preseason with the facsimile first-team offense for Detriot. Anderson played admirably for the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams last year, averaging seven yards per rushing attempt (!!!) and 63 yards per game in the playoffs.
It is tempting to say that Kerryon is just too good to benched for someone like Anderson but that isn’t the case. We have seen it happen before and we are seeing it happen now. Anderson also seems like a heavy favorite to fill in the vacated role left by LeGarrette Blount that turned into 154 carries and five touchdowns last season. The fact that Anderson goes truly so late in drafts (188th overall, RB60) makes me feel confident in him as a fantasy football sleepers star in 2019.
Malcolm Brown: I have been pounding the table for Malcolm Brown but it really has not seemed to matter much. His Average Draft Position in casual leagues (ESPN/CBS/Yahoo/RT Sports) is currently 240th overall and RB67. He is a little bit higher in competitive leagues like the DRAFT and the Fantasy Football Players Championship but 90% of people are not playing in leagues that competitive and are likely to be able to get Malcolm Brown with their final selection.
Brown was almost a member of the Detroit Lions this offseason but the Los Angeles Rams matched his restricted free agent tender from Detriot to keep him on the team. Despite drafting Darrell Henderson, Brown is still the clear handcuff. He has not played at all this preseason, which is notable for a coach like Sean McVay who hates the preseason as much as he does. Brown has a fantastic agility score for his size (11.01 at 224 pounds) and is a good enough athlete that if Todd Gurley misses significant time, it will be Malcolm Brown who is the lead back, not Darrell Henderson.
Wide Receiver Fantasy Football Sleepers
Tyrell Williams: It has somehow been forgotten in all the chaos with Antonio Brown, Hard Knocks and everything else going on with the Raiders that Tyrell Williams is a very good fantasy football wide receiver. The only year he had as a true WR1 for the Chargers, with Keenan Allen injured, he turned 119 targets into 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the 14th highest scoring fantasy football wide receiver that year. For his career, Williams averages a legitimately elite 9.8 yards per target that would put him in a true superstar category.
After Antonio Brown, the Raiders depth chart thins out fast. Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts and Amari Cooper have all exited. Last years’ target leader, Jared Cook, is now a New Orleans Saint. We can safely give Antonio Brown around 10 targets/game, or 160 for the year. That leaves around 400-430 more attempts to project. Jalen Richard is unlikely to match his 81 targets from the season prior. Simply giving Tyrell the Jordy Nelson target share from last season would make him a weekly flex starter but we can reasonably expect his volume to actually be higher since he is only competing with the likes of Hunter Renfrow, JJ Nelson and converted WR-to-TE Darren Waller.
John Brown: Our projections are sort of ambivalent about John Brown but the reasons for thinking he has an explosive fantasy football season in store are pretty clear. No quarterback had more intended air yards per throw last season than Josh Allen. Five different Buffalo Bills pass catchers averaged over 13 yards per reception. There is maybe no better QB/WR pairing that came from free agency than John Brown to Josh Allen.
Brown has consistently been one of the highest Air Yards wide receivers in the NFL, despite continually changing quarterbacks. For his career, Brown averages 15 yards per reception and was actually at a career 17 yards per reception in 2018 with Joe Flacco. Stylistically, there is a comparison to be drawn between Josh Allen’s addiction to throwing down the field and later-era Joe Flacco with higher Air Yards and a lowered completion percentage. There will be some weeks where Brown wins your a weekly matchup and others where he no shows but at the end of the year, I expect plenty of splash plays.
Michael Gallup: Amari Cooper is dealing with plantar fascitis and no one can really agree if it is likely that he is going to miss any time as a result of it. I feel confident saying that at the very least, it is not a good thing to enter the season with a lower-body injury. Similar to Dak Prescott, Gallup was already primed to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the switch from the Scott Linehan offense to the Kellen Moore-lead scheme.
Gallup was an extremely productive wide receiver at Butler Community College and then Colorado State University before eventually becoming a starting wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys last season. While his historical comparables don’t put him in the same bucket as someone like DJ Moore , simply being able to get on the field and start games at the NFL level as a rookie is a massively positive indicator for rookie wide receivers. With all the arrows pointing up for Dallas, Gallup is the cheapest player on their offense that has a chance at being a real fantasy football difference-maker in 2019.
Tight End Fantasy Football Sleepers
Greg Olsen: For the first time that I can remember, the value equation at tight end has shifted. Older, boring tight ends with projectable volume are sliding down draft boards and talented, highly athletic younger players are being vaulted up. We haven’t seen Hunter Henry in two years, Evan Engram plays on one of the worst teams in the NFL, O.J Howard is third fiddle on his own team, Vance McDonald isn’t an every-down player, and so on and so forth.
Yet, Greg Olsen is going to be on the field every down for the Carolina Panthers in 2019 and we have him projected to be fourth on the team in targets. Olsen had three straight 1,000 yard seasons with Cam Newton before getting injured in back to back years. There is probably a decent chance that Olsen has to miss time this year with injury but the chance to get an every-down tight end with a quality receiving role in an elite offense really shouldn’t exist as late in drafts as Olsen is going.
Jack Doyle: Jack Doyle has always been a target hog in the Colts offense, especially under Frank Reich where dual-tight end sets are his specialty. Drafters seem to have forgotten that the relatively un-athletic Doyle is actually the top tight end in this offense, not Eric Ebron. In games that the two played together last year, Doyle saw both more targets and more total snaps. This is not a mystery.
Part of the reason why Doyle’s ADP has been so low all offseason is that he has been coming back from an offseason surgery that caused him to lose a bunch of weight. However, he was active in the Colts week two preseason game and showed no ill effects. It seems as if Doyle is going to be primed for 75-90 targets in an explosive, high-scoring offense yet fantasy football drafters do not seem to care.