Once upon a time, fantasy football content wasn’t produced 365 days a year and as readily available as it is now.
While that helps owners form opinions well before draft season, one can argue that the term “sleeper” no longer exists. Or if you ask 100 people, you may get 100 different responses on what the term means.
For our purposes with this post, we will define “sleeper” as a player we like—i.e., plenty of upside compared to his average draft position (ADP)—and available late in drafts—Round 10 or later.
With that said, here are 10 fantasy football sleepers for the 2019 NFL season. (And then go check out my full Top 200.)
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 162)
Yet to finish outside fantasy’s top 12 in his career, Prescott has been the QB6, QB11 and QB10 in his first three NFL seasons, respectively. Prescott has been both durable (no missed games) and consistent—six rushing scores and either 22 or 23 passing scores each season.
While he started 2018 slowly, the midseason trade for Amari Cooper was a major boost for Dak. With Cooper, Prescott scored 3.3 more fantasy points per game than he did without him. On a per-game basis, Prescott was fantasy’s QB23 without Cooper (Weeks 1 to 8) and then QB9 with him (Weeks 9 to 17).
A full season with Cooper, improvement from second-year receiver Michael Gallup, the addition of Randall Cobb and Jason Witten’s unretirement could lead to more of the same for the dual-threat quarterback—another top-12 season.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 114)
Even when he intended to play, durability has eluded Melvin Gordon. MG3 has missed multiple games in three of four seasons. As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted, “Gordon’s holdout is expected to continue into the season.”
If so, that will lead to a significant jump in workload for Jackson. While I would expect Austin Ekeler to get the larger share between the two backs, ESPN’s Eric Williams, for one, speculates that the workload could be close to a 50-50 split.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 120)
In my NFC North Fantasy Football Preview, one of my bold predictions was that Dalvin Cook would finish as a top-six fantasy running back in 2019. The Vikings transitioned to a run-heavy approach under last year’s interim (now current) offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski—seventh in run-play percentage (47.98% over final three games—and used draft capital in April to bolster their interior offensive line.
Given Cook’s durability track record (17 missed games in two seasons), it is possible that Mattison gets a chance to become very fantasy-relevant at some point during the season. In response to a question about breakout rookie running backs, The Athletic’s Jay Glazer wrote the Vikings were “raving about” Mattison when he visited their camp. “I mean, to a man, couldn’t stop preaching his gospel.”
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (ADP: 125)
Heading into the season, Sony Michel should handle early-down snaps and James White is one of the league’s best pass-catching backs. As we’ve seen before (see Gray, Jonas), however, any running back in New England’s offense that gets a sizable workload has tremendous upside.
Despite having what appeared to be a crowded running back room, Belichick & Co. still invested a Day 2 pick on Harris. Given Michel’s history of knee issues or just the unpredictable nature of the Patriots in general, the potential that Harris has a big game or two (or more) is real and makes him an intriguing option in the double-digit rounds.
Damarea Crockett, RB, Houston Texans (ADP: 211)
With Lamar Miller tearing his ACL (and D’Onta Foreman released during training camp), Duke Johnson is “going to get all the playing time he can handle.” Even so, a massive amount of opportunity exists beyond what Johnson can handle. More than likely, the Texans will sign a free agent (perhaps after roster cuts) or explore trade possibilities, but until then, Crockett appears to be the favorite for the most work after Johnson.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets (ADP: 110)
My current projections for Crowder calls for a 66/818/4 line, which puts him inside my top 45 wide receivers for 2019. But is it possible that my projections are still too conservative?
The Athletic’s Connor Hughes described the instant chemistry between Crowder and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold as being similar to that between Russell Wilson and now-retired Doug Baldwin. He went on to boldly say that it’s possible Crowder “creeps near or past 100 catches” in 2019.
While I wouldn’t go that far, I do concede that 66 may not be enough given his chemistry with Darnold, who should take a big step forward in 2019, and how much slot receivers have flourished within Adam Gase’s offense in the past.
Trey Quinn, WR, Washington Redskins (ADP: 199)
With Jamison Crowder signing with the Jets this offseason, Quinn has the “slot spot locked down” heading into 2019. A deeper sleeper, especially for those in full-PPR formats, I project Quinn to lead Washington’s receiving corps in both receptions (55) and receiving yards (621). While those numbers may not be elite, he currently sits at WR60 in half-PPR projections—well ahead of his current ADP (WR83).
D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 209)
In general, it has not been easy to get excited about Jacksonville’s passing game, but last year’s second-round pick could be a value for owners in deeper leagues. A size-speed freak (6’4” and 4.34 forty), Chark earned his first MVP (of training camp, that is). ESPN’s Mike DiRocco called Chark the “most impressive receiver” at Jacksonville’s training camp. Dede Westbrook is the clear WR1 in terms of Jacksonville’s receiving corps, but it’s wide open after that as Marqise Lee returns from (his knee) injury.
KeeSean Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 183)
The Cardinals drafted Andy Isabella (Round 2) and Hakeem Butler (Round 4) ahead of Johnson (Round 6), but it’s the sixth-round rookie that had appeared to be one of the team’s top-three receivers along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Arizona recently signed Michael Crabtree, but I still expect Johnson to be one of the team’s top three receivers this season.
The rookie had 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns for Fresno State as a senior and has generated buzz all offseason. Speaking of Johnson’s route running and hands, ESPN’s John Weinfuss recently wrote the following: “Johnson may have had the best training camp of anyone on the Cardinals' roster, veteran or rookie alike.” If he secures and maintains a top-three role, there is plenty of upside in what should be a high-volume, fast-paced passing offense.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 130)
Looking back at rookie tight ends since 2000, only six of them had more receiving yards than Andrews (552) had as a rookie, per Pro Football Reference. In fact, only three rookie tight ends over that span had more than 600 yards, so the gap between Andrews’ rookie season and the best of the bunch isn’t very wide.
Going into year two, there was no shortage of glowing offseason reports for Andrews, who despite the team's run-first approach, could be poised for a breakout. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec recently wrote that Andrews has been the team's "most dangerous and productive offensive player."
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2019 season. His fantasy rankings have placed him in the Top 20 in each of the past two seasons among all the industry experts tracked by FantasyPros.com, and he has been in the Top 25 in six of the past eight years.