As we sit here, exactly three weeks away from an NFL Draft that, given the current state of the sports world, will undoubtedly shatter every ratings record ever established… maybe even surpassing Trump’s Coronavirus briefings, it is clearly far too early to lock in our sleepers for the 2020 season. But what the hell else do we have to do.
For those that missed this article last season, these are not the deep sleepers, or even sleepers at all based on the traditional definition of what a ‘sleeper’ is. These are our ‘go get ’em guys’. Forget the ADP, forget the ‘expert’ rankings… just go get ’em.
Our favorite picks from last season’s article included: Matthew Stafford, who finished as QB4 in fantasy PPG, Derrick Henry, who finished as RB2, Chris Godwin, who finished as WR2, and Austin Hooper, who finished as TE4.
For the sake of this year’s article, given there is essentially no reliable ADP data available in early April, we are going to base these picks on the current overall expert rankings from Fantasy Pros. Half-point PPR, everybody knows the rules.
So, who are we going to stake our reputation to this offseason? Let’s take it position-by-position:
QB – Carson Wentz
QB | Philadelphia Eagles | Current Pos. Rank: 11
First off, everyone was dying to see me put Stafford here again, and he rightfully should be… QB12 this year after being QB4 last year, despite their QB 26 rating? Eat my shorts. He will be top 6 again this year, but I won’t give you the satisfaction of seeing me call him our pick two years in a row.
It was surprising to see everyone around the league more than happy to watch Carson Wentz drown in Philadelphia last season. The ship went down, Jordan Howard was gone… Alshon Jeffery was gone… DeSean Jackson was gone… Nelson Agholor was gone. Ertz, Arcega-Whiteside, and Hollins were all in and out of the lineup to end the season, and yet we want to let Wentz drown. Not so fast, we are throwing him a life preserver.
Entering year 5, the stars are finally aligning for Wentz. He has spent most of his career playing behind a great offensive line that has been constantly injured. I think that changes this season. Center through right tackle is flat out dominant with Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson… as good as it gets. At left tackle, Andre Dillard was my favorite player in last year’s draft, and he needs to step up with Peters gone this season. I think he will. Dillard allowed just 39 total pressures on nearly 2,000 pass blocking snaps in his career at WSU, that is absolutely ridiculous.
Speaking of getting help, Wentz will see a massive upgrade at the skill positions this season. The team gets back a healthy Jeffery and Jackson, and will add a legit number one receiver in this ridiculously loaded WR draft class. Give Wentz something… anything… more than Greg Ward and Dallas Goedert and he’s top 5 again, and clearly a bargain at QB11.
Digging Deeper – Tyrod Taylor
QB | LA Chargers | Current Rank: 36
I get it, ‘until they draft Tua or Herbert’… Anthony Lynn has said Taylor is the guy and their is a damn good chance Tua and Herbert are gone before the Chargers are on the clock. Granted that is a nightmare situation for LA, but one that could play out in the favor of Tyrod.
Whoever starts at QB for LA inherits a relatively loaded cupboard. Keenan Allen is a top 15 NFL WR, Mike Williams give you a red zone and big play guy on the outside, Hunter Henry has loads of untapped pass-catching ability, and Austin Ekeler is a nightmare out of the backfield. Combine with that the addition of Bulaga at left tackle, and Shane Steichen actually getting an offseason as coordinator to prepare, and I think this offense will take a massive step forward in 2020. If Taylor is the guy at the controls, I think he ends up being a fantasy starter.
RB – Austin Ekeler
RB | Los Angeles Chargers | Current Rank: 11
Let’s stay in LA, and talk Austin Ekeler. After spending time at RB1 early in the season, Ekeler withstood the return of Melvin Gordon to finish the season as RB6 last year (RB4 in PPR leagues).
Ekeler’s snap count went from 75% in the first month+ of the season to only hitting 50% in 4 of the final 8 weeks of the season. If we can just get a consistent 65% snap count, this pick is a lock in 2020. In games where Ekeler got 65%+ snaps he averaged 26 fantasy PPG, which not only would have made him RB2 last season, but would have put him over 5 PPG clear of RB3 (Dalvin Cook).
Fantasy Pros currently has Ekeler at RB12, which would make him a third round pick. Go get him in the second and you are locking up a top 5 fantasy asset at a bargain.
Digging Deeper – Derrius Guice
RB | Washington Redskins | Current Rank: 30
Entering year three of his rookie contract, this is a make-or-break season for Guice. Clearly Washington will take the training wheels off and give him at least a shot at being the feature back here.
Ron Rivera and Kyle Smith have already said the believe Guice can play a role similar to what McCaffrey did in Carolina. The obvious concern when you hear that is the fact that Guice has not been able to stay on the field since leaving LSU.
When he has been on the field, he has been electric, averaging nearly 6 YPC and 65 YPG with 3 touchdowns despite seeing only a 30% snap count in his 5 games.
When you compare him to the guys ranked ahead of him, you have to love that upside. There is a group of backs with zero upside being drafted before Guice, including Sony Michel, Kareem Hunt, and Phillip Lindsay.
WR – Cooper Kupp
WR | LA Rams | Current Rank: 17
I feel like we are clearly missing the point with Cooper Kupp here. He’s currently ranked at WR17 despite finishing last season as WR4. Keep in mind this was a season that Kupp started just 10 months removed from a torn ACL, and that saw the Rams drop from the 2nd overall offense in the NFL to 10th.
Where is the regression going to come from? His role in the offense? He caught 13 if 18 red zone targets with 6 red zone touchdowns. Those aren’t going anywhere. His play? He has improved every year in the league, going from WR27 in 2017, to WR14 in 2018, to WR4 last season.
His current ranking on FantasyPros would make him a fourth round pick in the 2020 fantasy draft. You are getting a legit WR1, top 20 fantasy player, in the fourth round of drafts right now.
Digging Deeper – Anthony Miller
WR | Chicago Bears | Current Rank: 44
Anthony Miller is an absolute lock to explode in 2020. Write it down. We were bullish on him at the end of 2020, then you add Foles, Lazor, and DeFilippo (all guys that love peppering slot receivers with targets) and he becomes the can’t miss sleeper pick for the year.
Miller started last season with a 20%-50% snap count, but finished at 85%+ in 5 of the Bears final 6 games. In fact, Miller managed to average 8 targets per game from week 11 on, and averaged nearly 18 fantasy PPG in a five week stretch from week 11 through 15.
I think Miller can sustain that production given the changes the Bears made this offseason, and Bears nation seems to agree with me. At WR 44, he would likely be drafted in the 9th-10th round of most leagues. I would not hesitate to go get him in the 7th or 8th as a WR3 or WR4.
TE – Hayden Hurst
TE | Atlanta Falcons | Current Rank: 33
There is only one tight end right now that matters right now, whether we are talking early round sleeper, go get ’em guy, or deep sleeper, and that is Hayden Hurst.
Forget his current ranking at TE33, that is a bunch of ‘experts’ that haven’t seen this guy play football. He is a top 15 tight end talent-wise in the NFL, is every bit as good as Austin Hooper, and gets to play with Matt Ryan in a Dirk Koetter offense.
Do we remember what Koetter did with OJ Howard and Cameron Brate in Tampa two seasons ago? Did we see what he did for Hooper last season? Hayden Hurst will be a top 7 fantasy tight end this season and is a guy you should be targeting as your TE1 in the middle rounds of your 2020 fantasy draft.