We've arrived! The 2021 fantasy football season is here and we're looking to provide difference-makers, breakouts, stars and more.
So what is a fantasy football sleeper? In this case, it doesn't mean a player you've never heard of before. A sleeper is a player who is being undervalued on draft day and will exceed the value of the average draft position (ADP).
With that in mind, here are seven of my fantasy football sleepers for the 2021 NFL season.
QB Cam Newton, New England Patriots
As the calendar turns to August, Newton remains a low-tier option while drawing the 32nd ranking in 12-team high-stakes market. The most prominent echoes from New England fans and fantasy owners in 2020 were his low total in passing touchdowns (8) and memories of many balls thrown in the dirt.
He continues to create an edge with his legs (137/592/12), and the Patriots upgraded his receiving corps significantly this season. Newton should open the year as the starting quarterback over Mac Jones, but he needs to win games to hold off the incoming rookie.
Over the first seven weeks, the Patriots play five games at home (MIA, NO, TB, DAL, and NYJ) while also have two favorable matchups (NYJ and HOU) on the road.
In 2020, the 12th ranked quarterback in four-point passing touchdown leagues averaged 22.93 fantasy points per game. For Newton to approach this success, he needs to gain 240 combined yards (200 passing and 40 rushing) with two scores per game. Newton averaged 217 yards (177/40) last year, requiring only a 10 percent bump in passing yards to hit on half of his equation.
I expect him to be a popular waiver-wire pickup after Week 1 while offering matchup value out of the gate. However, Newton is only viable for a fantasy owner looking to cheat the quarterback position while creating a deep roster at running back, wide receiver, and tight end on draft day. He falls into the catch and release program.
RB Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
Singletary won’t be a sleeper by name this draft season, but he will be based on his early ADP (125) in PPR leagues as the 46th running back drafted. He enters 2021 in a split role with Zack Moss while offering minimal upside in scoring due to Josh Allen running the ball well at the goal line. Singletary has a reasonable floor in the passing game (29/194/2 and 38/269). The Bills gave him over 150 rushes on early downs in each of his first two seasons in the league, leading to the 33rd and 31st ranking in running back scoring. Buffalo will rotate in two backs again this year, but Singletary continues to be an afterthought on draft day. A fantasy owner should think of him as RB3 with bye week or injury cover value. If Moss has an injury, his ceiling will push to RB2 status in PPR leagues.
RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles drafted Gainwell in the fifth round in the 2021 NFL Draft after an exceptional 2019 season at Memphis (2,069 combined yards with 16 touchdowns and 51 catches). He enters 2021 third on Philly’s depth chart while having the foundation skill set to push Boston Scott for the backup role. His attraction later in drafts comes from his pass-catching upside in PPR leagues. Gainwell ranks 51st at running back with an ADP of 152. Ideally, a fantasy owner needs him to be part of the Eagles’ game plan to offer filler value. If Miles Sanders had an injury, Gainwell would see a significant increase in chances.
WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
For anyone investing in Justin Herbert this year, they need to keep an open mind on the potential breakthrough season by Williams. Over his four years with the Chargers, he has never caught more than 50 passes in a season while flashing scoring ability in 2018 (10 touchdowns). Los Angeles has a rising quarterback, and their WR2 should be an essential part of the game plan. His ADP (105) prices Williams as the 46th wideout off the table. My early projections came to 65 catches for 941 yards and eight touches, which fits a backend WR3 or flex play in PPR leagues.
The sportsbooks placed an over/under of 900.5 yards and 5.5 receiving touchdowns on Williams in late July. So my bet here would be on the over in touchdowns.
WR Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
Based on early ADP (198), not many fantasy owners will fight for Meyers on draft day. He is the clear WR1 for the Patriots heading into 2021 after shining over the final 11 games (58/722) last year. New England added talent to the tight end position in the offseason, plus upgraded their depth at wide receiver. This creates a cloudier outlook for opportunities & targets. Meyers fits the chain mover role while being on a path for a growth season. He projects to be a viable starter at the flex position in PPR leagues, but he does need to improve his scoring ability to offer more explosiveness.
WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have talent at wide receiver, but they must find a way to get Moore the ball in the offensive. His quickness and explosiveness set him apart from most players in the NFL despite being undersized (5’7” and 180 lbs.). He comes off the board as a backend WR5 (ADP of 166) in PPR leagues as the 62nd ranked wide receiver. Moore should be the key player for Kyler Murray to add more length to his overall pass attempts. Out of the gate, he may have a tough time with A.J. Green needing to reinvent his career and Christian Kirk still looking to put it all together.
TE Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints
The injury to Michael Thomas creates an uptick in targets for someone in the Saints’ offense. Unfortunately, their depth at wide receiver is lacking, which pushes me toward Trautman as the player to be rewarded in 2021. He had a minimal role in his rookie season (15/171/1) after getting drafted in the third role. In his final year at Dayton, Trautman showcased a high floor in the passing game (70/916/14). He ranks 17th at tight end in late July with an ADP of 151.
More Fantasy Football:
- 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings & Stat Projections
- TE Sleeper: Gerald Everett Will Cook With Russell Wilson
- Case Against Brandon Aiyuk: Target Share Reset
Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. A inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!