Underdog NFL Best Ball: WR and TE Sleepers
In Underdog Best Ball drafts, the wide receiver position takes on strategic importance. While securing a top-tier WR1 like Jefferson, Chase, or Waddle is crucial, the real difference-maker lies in the WR2 through WR4 slots.
As for Tight Ends, stay tuned for why Chigoziem Okonkwo and Sam LaPorta could add immense value as secondary tight ends throughout the regular season.
Christian Kirk: Jacksonville Jaguars | 50.3 ADP (WR27)
Don’t buy the hype surrounding Calvin Ridley magically becoming a top 20 fantasy wideout after last playing a professional football game on October 24, 2021.
Considering Christian Kirk has played in all 17 games his past two seasons and developed incredible chemistry alongside Trevor Lawrence in Doug Pederson’s first year as the Jags Head Coach, buy into Kirk becoming one of the more consistent WR2s in Best Ball this season.
Kirk’s Sleeper Case
Finishing 3rd in slot snaps and 18th in fantasy PPG at the WR position, the former Cardinal is now onto better days in the sunshine state as he’s embraced the slot role and provides the occasional deep threat for T-Law to throw to if in one-on-one coverage.
With Kirk and Engram locked into their contracts long term, it’s tough to see Ridley swoop in and decrease C-Kirk’s target share below 20%. The positive trend for Kirk remains evident in the red zone, where he finished 6th among wide receivers for red zone targets in 2022.
This further shows Trevor’s confidence in targeting him for TDs, despite the fact that Kirk may not be the best at creating separation from man coverage.
Brandon Aiyuk: San Francico 49ers | 51.4 ADP (WR28)
Aiyuk cooked in 2022, eclipsing 100 targets, 70 receptions, and 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. After some injury and maturity concerns to start his career, last season proved to be the breakout year as he secured 8 TDs alongside hitting the 1k-yard milestone.
Aiyuk’s 47 1st down catches nearly doubled the amount Deebo Samuel secured. Another stat that catches your eye is Brandon’s YBC/R, or yards before catch per reception. In 2022, he averaged 8.0. For reference, Deebo only averaged 2.5.
Aiyuk’s Sleeper Case
Although Aiyuk isn’t technically a “sleeper”, his ADP and Underdog positional ranking is too generous to pass on. With Christian Watson, Drake London, Mike Williams, and DJ Moore all ranked ahead of the athletic WR, the 2023 season shouldn’t be any worse for Brandon as the 49ers rotating QB door never hindered the WR’s production.
Also, George Kittle, CMC, and Deebo Samuel have all battled with injuries recently, which has left Aiyuk as the premier red zone target.
With a brilliant mind calling plays, nearly puppeteering this 49ers offense to success year in and year out, bank on Brandon Aiyuk getting his chunk of the touches for a 2nd consecutive season, including more red zone opportunities. Back-to-back WR20 finishes or better is on the table for the 49ers WR and he should be able to grasp it.
Jordan Addison: Minnesota Vikings | 73.4 ADP (WR37)
While the news of Jordan Addison going 140 MPH was a massive red flag in yesterday’s training camp news circle, apparently, it was because of an emergency that cleared some of the air. On the field, the Vikings are poised to produce elite offensive production once again.
Around the betting circles, I’m a bit puzzled as to why this team isn’t getting the hype it deserves outside of superstar wideout Justin Jefferson. Addison proved to be an elite collegiate playmaker at two schools (Pittsburgh & USC) and can be put in any route tree or position on the field and make a difference.
With a similar stature to Devonta Smith out of Alabama a few years ago, I’m expecting a top-25 finish for Addison in his rookie campaign, exceeding expectations by a large margin.
Addison’s Sleeper Case
Jordan is the 2nd WR option in Minnesota. Justin Jefferson will command an abundance of attention from DBs and LBs opposite him. Adam Thielen’s 100 targets, 6 TDs, and 700 yards are up for grabs.
Please do not overthink this when drafting your WR3 or 4 in the middle rounds. Addison might have some duds, as most rookie wideouts do early in the season. However, there will be a few games where Cousins looks to Addison in the red zone and on 3rd down more than Jefferson, who will continuously receive double and triple coverage in key moments.
Drafting mid-round pass catchers is a form of art in Best Ball. Go for the talent, opportunity, and red zone share that Addison should provide in his first season up north.
Brandin Cooks: Dallas Cowboys | 84.4 ADP (WR43)
A fairly new sleeper on my end, Brandin Cooks will thrive this season in a secondary role with the Dallas Cowboys.
After a few extremely rough seasons as a Texan, Cooks finally heads to a team with playoff aspirations and should help Dak Prescott as a 3rd down specialist and deep-threat target in one-on-one coverage.
Cooks’ Sleeper Case
As a WR3 or 4 on your Best Ball squad, Brandin might not start every week, but as the Cowboys’ 2nd or 3rd option in the receiving game, he’s bound to grab at least 5 TDs and 700 yards this season while commanding a 15-20% chunk of the target share.
With Houston, he sported nine games with 10+ targets over the past two seasons. While his career might be winding down, I think this is a fresh start that both sides need as he looks to take over the WR2 role in Dallas.
Chigoziem Okonkwo: Tennessee Titans | 133.3 ADP (TE12)
After starting the season with Austin Hooper as their starting tight end, the narrative shifted around the midway point of the season. Don’t forget how predictable and nearly unwatchable this Titans offense appeared last season, with Derrick Henry being the only focal point yet again.
However, the tide started turning for Chigoziem once Ryan Tannehill returned from injury. From weeks 12 to 15, Okonkwo had 5+ targets, 3+ receptions, and 35 yards or more in each game. This might not seem like much, but do me a favor and go watch the tape during those weeks.
From multiple red zone targets to catches outside the numbers, across the middle of the field, and topping it off with a one-handed catch for a 2-Point Attempt, this guy has all the tools to become a top 10 tight end with a wide receiving skill set.
Chiggy’s Sleeper Case
Okonkwo coming in at TE12 may be a bit rich for some Underdog players. However, among tight ends with 30+ receptions, the Titans playmaker ranked 2nd in YPT (yards per target) only behind Dallas Goedert of the Eagles.
This guy is getting the ball in a plethora of ways from Tannehill, and no matter which quarterback steps onto the field this season for Tennessee, I’m buying Chigoziem as the #2 receiving option behind DeAndre Hopkins, who’s signing actually helped the TE in my opinion.
With Hopkins drawing the safeties’ attention, the defense will have their hands full trying to contain him, which creates a favorable situation for Okonkwo. His speed and agility will be a significant challenge for linebackers to guard effectively, especially when he exploits the flats and takes on vertical routes up the field. The breakout year is coming for Okonkwo. Let’s get Chiggy with it!
Sam LaPorta: Detroit Lions | 162.2 ADP (TE20)
LaPorta’s impressive rookie minicamp catapulted him into the TE1 role in Detroit. After letting T.J. Hockenson, a fellow Iowa TE alumni, left for division rival Minnesota, LaPorta has a great chance to finish inside the top 15 in his position this season alongside securing the crown for top rookie TE.
LaPorta’s Sleeper Case
As LaPorta has seemingly secured his starting role over Brock Wright, it’s only a matter of time until he carves out a solid receiving role behind St. Brown and Gibbs while Jameson Williams misses the first chunk of this season.
While nowhere near a TE1 option on your Best Ball roster, Sam’s a solid secondary TE to go after if selecting a Kelce, Kittle, or Andrews this draft season.
Sports Betting Contributor
Aaron White graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Economics. His industry experience includes projects for the Chicago Cubs, The Sporting News, and QL Gaming Group. At Hello Rookie, he covers the NFL and NBA from a betting and DFS perspective.