As we head into draft season, everyone loves making their sleeper list and dreaming of being in on the next Austin Ekeler. However with all the chatter on social media and the endless stream of fantasy websites, “sleepers” have almost become extinct. There is no such thing as a mid-to-late round guy that no one is excited about. All your favorite sneaky plays are also your friends’ sneaky plays. Therefore you’ll have to reach up and take one a round early, which renders the pick less valuable.
I have scoured the ADP lists for true nobodies, castaways that even the biggest researcher in your league hasn’t considered. The following list is comprised of players who are going outside the top 225 according to FantasyPros. These guys are likely undrafted even in deep 12 team leagues with 18 roster spots. They should be there for you in the last round, or a $1 bid at the end of your auction.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England
You can never have enough running back depth, so whether you are a #ZeroRB acolyte or just want an extra back for your bench, target Burkhead. A career backup, Rex has shined when given touches over his 7 year career. While I do like his talent, this isn’t as much a bet on Burkhead as it is a bet against the RB field in NE.
Sony Michel has been plagued with injuries since college and limped to a woeful 3.7 yards per carry in 2019. He followed that disappointment with off-season foot surgery, so his status is very murky at the moment. Most assume the next in line is sophomore Damien Harris, a 4 year player at Alabama who never topped 150 carries in a season and failed to meet the median career yards mark for successful RBs. His season stat line was 4-12-0 with a long run of 13 yards. You do the math. Of course, James White will retain his typical role as an excellent receiver but his volume may be less reliable with new quarterback Cam Newton.
That leaves us with journeyman Rex Burkhead who does a little of everything but nothing at an elite level. Something in his favor is that with him in the backfield the offense isn’t tipping it’s hand like when Michel or White are on the field. Since joining the Patriots, when Burkhead has seen at least 25 snaps his average stat line is 11-42 rushing, 4-29 receiving and 0.58 touchdowns per game. That comes to 14.5 PPR points per game, which is solid RB2 production.
Even more promising, is that in the 8 games he saw at least 25 snaps, one of Dion Lewis, Sony Michel, or James White was active. Burkhead doesn’t need the entire backfield to get injured, he may just need one RB to fall for him to be at least a quality FLEX in PPR leagues.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami
This pick is mostly relevant for those in 2QB or superflex leagues, but Fitzpatrick stands to offer value in any format. After floating around the league for 13 years as an on-again, off-again starter, “Fitzmagic” blew up for Tampa Bay in 2018. While splitting time with Jameis Winston, he put up QB5 numbers on a points per game basis. He was blessed with the duo of Mike Evans and an emerging Chris Godwin, so expectations fell when he moved to Miami.
Similar to 2018, he wasn’t the starter all year with the Dolphins giving weeks 2-4 to Josh Rosen. While the end of year numbers were lackluster, Fitzpatrick’s 16 game pace in the 12 games he took >90% of the snaps was 4372-25-13 and another 309-5 on the ground. That is top 10 QB production.
While the team finished strong under Fitzpatrick, Miami added their unquestioned QB of the future with the 5th pick in the NFL draft. Tua Tagovailoa is fantastic but is still rehabbing a brutal hip injury. With one of the strangest off-seasons in history, rookie readiness is likely to be at an all time low. Fitzpatrick can offer starter-worthy numbers early in the season, and may just ride it all the way out. As an added bonus he reunites with Chan Gailey the coordinator who coached him to his best full season as a pro, turning in 3905-31-5 for the New York Jets in 2015.
Jalen Hurd, WR, San Francisco
Hurd’s path to the NFL was an unusual one. He was a five star RB recruit who went to Tennessee and started immediately with over 1000 total yards in his freshman season. After an even more impressive sophomore campaign, he struggled through injury as a junior then transferred to Baylor and changed positions.
In his first season as a WR, Hurd lead the team in receiving, earning 25% of the yards. Typically this wouldn’t be that impressive for a senior but given the context, it’s astonishing. A physical specimen, he stands nearly 6’5″ and checks in at 226 lbs for a BMI of 27, a threshold shared by high scoring fantasy wideouts. Finally, he was taken in the 3rd round of the NFL draft which checks the final prospect box. Unfortunately his rookie season was lost to a stress fracture in his back.
The foot injury to Deebo Samuel really opens up opportunity in San Francisco, and Hurd is as good a bet as anyone to fall in behind George Kittle. Dante Pettis remains in the dog house, Kendrick Bourne has never stepped up even with a thin depth chart, and Trent Taylor also missed 2019 with an injury. Finally, Brandon Aiyuk is an exciting first rounder but also a rookie. At his ADP, Hurd is a unique weapon that could play a big role in Kyle Shanahan’s creative offense.
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