Fantasy football players are always looking for an edge against the competition, and a great way to do that is to hit on a late-round draft pick that vastly outperforms their average draft position (ADP). We all love a good sleeper.
Let’s identify one player at each of the four key positions that could win you that fantasy football championship. We don’t mess around here. We play for trophies. Let’s dive in.
QB: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins (ADP: QB22, 149th overall)
If you’re playing in a single quarterback league, it can be incredibly tempting to spend one of the early draft picks on a Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Kyler Murray of the world. Please, please do me a favor and promise me that you won’t do that. In terms of positional value, it’s much more important to secure depth at the running back position than it is to take a quarterback. Wait on a quarterback. Please.
Tagovailoa is a perfect late-round quarterback option. Coming off a bumpy rookie season, the Dolphins have prioritized surrounding their second-year lefty quarterback with weapons, providing him with Will Fuller and his former Alabama teammate, Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa is taking more chances in training camp, and the offense should open up a lot for him in his second season. He’s poised to vastly outperform his ADP.
RB: Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: RB37, 97th overall)
Rojo, as he’s known, has been a bit up and down, and his value was dampened last season by the addition of Leonard Fournette in the Tampa Bay backfield. But going as the 37th running back off the board for a back that ran for 978 rushing yards and seven touchdowns with 28 receptions for 165 receiving yards and an additional score in 14 games seems criminally low. The only two games he missed last year were due to COVID. In fact, prior to those two weeks, he hadn’t missed a game since 2018.
Jones figures to be the lead back in this backfield. The presence of Fournette and the offseason addition of Giovani Bernard to be the primary pass-catching option hurts his ceiling slightly, but he is nowhere close to being valued correctly based on last season’s production. He’s a sleeper, but shouldn’t be.
You could wind up with a top-16 running back at a RB37 price. Draft him as your fourth running back every chance you get.
WR: Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears (WR50, 123rd overall)
One of my personal favorite sleepers, Mooney proved last year to be a dynamic speed threat with crisp route running who cooked some of the top cornerbacks in the league, including the above video against the Los Angeles Rams’ Jalen Ramsey. Unfortunately, he was tied to the hapless Mitchel Trubisky, who routinely missed him when he was wide open.
Sooner than later, first-round pick Justin Fields, an elite quarterback prospect, is going to take over and will maximize the abilities of Mooney and the rest of this offense. When he does, Mooney has the potential to burst onto the scene in a major way. Working opposite superstar Allen Robinson, Mooney will eat against weaper cornerbacks. In early June, Mooney had this to say about his new quarterback:
“I’ve caught one or two deep balls from [Fields],” Mooney said, according to Bears Wire. “The very first one that he threw up to me I was smiling mid-route of just seeing the ball in the air and just where it was placed. He’s very accurate with his ball and he understands exactly where he wants the ball.”
It sounds like they’re getting along just fine.
TE: Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (TE17, 129th overall)
The Patriots’ quarterback situation remains up in the air, as rookie Michael McCorkle Jones (Yeah, that’s really his name) and veteran Cam Newton battle for the starting job, but the tight end position is set. After spending big in free agency to bring in former Titans’ TE Jonnu Smith and Chargers’ TE Hunter Henry, it’s clear that head coach Bill Belichick wants to make the position a focal point in the offense.
Henry is expected to miss a couple weeks with a shoulder injury, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. As Henry continues to miss time, the uber-athletic Smith will establish himself as the lead option at the position while also cementing his status as one of the best playmakers the Patriots have. Smith is an uber-athletic tight end that could have a career year as one of the primary pass-catchers in his new offense. If you miss on one of the elite early tight ends, Smith is a great sleeper to target in the late rounds.