Nick Mimi @nmimi
2021 Fantasy Football Skill Position Sleepers
We are almost into August, which is re-draft/home draft season. By now a lot of us have done some sort of best-ball or Superflex drafts. This past week has been rough with injury news, and we haven’t even finished July.
With the news of Cam Akers being done for the season and Michael Thomas missing time, we have to go back to the board and adjust some rankings. Fantasy football drafts are won in the double-digit rounds. We can all draft a stud player round 1. It’s nailing the rookie season from Alvin Kamara or Justin Jefferson that will make you a fantasy champion.
Looking back on my sleeper article last July, I spotlighted Antonio Gibson and Chase Edmonds. Could one of these players live up to that billing?
Xavier Jones, Los Angeles Rams
Jones was a virtual unknown before the devastating Cam Akers injury news. Darrell Henderson slides in as the RB1, and it doesn’t seem to this point as if the Rams will be adding a veteran running back just yet.
Xavier Jones was an undrafted free agent in 2020, but holds some serious value. Henderson has not proven yet to be able to carry a full workload. Jones is 5’11 and 208 pounds and has the full potential to carry a workload. If Henderson is injured or simply outplayed, I think it will be Xavier to take the job. We haven’t seen Jones take a single NFL carry, but this pre-season and training camp will speak volumes.
Javian Hawkins, Atlanta Falcons
Hawkins is a personal favorite sleeper of mine. The undrafted rookie out of Louisville could really make a splash this season. Hawkins has around a 4.45 speed, and plays faster than that. Mike Davis is currently the starting RB for Atlanta, but I would not be surprised to see Hawkins make his way into the RB2 role for Atlanta.
Arthur Smith is bringing a run-heavy offense to Atlanta, and 28-year-old Mike Davis’ career-best season is 642 yards. In 2019, Hawkins proved he can carry a workload carrying 264 times for 1,525 yards to go with 9 touchdowns while at Louisville.
Larry Rountree, Los Angeles Chargers
Right now I believe Justin Jackson is the front runner for the RB2 role. However, Larry Rountree has a chance to crack the RB3 role, and even make a significant impact. Last season Austin Ekeler was injured, and if that were to occur again, Rountree and Jackson will both have immediate value.
Joshua Kelly is rumored to be on the bubble. They will not keep four running backs in my opinion, and I think Kelly may be the odd man out (Rountree was a sixth-round pick this NFL Draft).
With Justin Jackson’s injury history, Rountree might be jumping up the running back depth chart. In three seasons at Missouri, Rountree had 40 touchdowns and totaled 3,720 yards. He’s proven he can carry the load.
Chris Evans, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon has long been fighting injuries and seems to finally be healthy this season. With the departure of Giovanni Bernard, there is an opening for the RB2 role on the much improved Cincinnati Bengals offense. Evans was a sixth-round pick this past draft out of Michigan. He is 5’11 and 216 pounds. Evans missed 2019 with academic issues and then struggled with a COVID season.
Evans’ skillset mirrors Bernard in what they lost, and we know Bernard had value in this offense. While at Michigan, he had 9.8 yards per reception and has a 4.4 speed. Chris Evans is a mega sleeper right now who is going virtually unnoticed all over the place.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
The rookie has a chance to carve out the WR2 role in Detroit right away. I believe he starts the season off hot (I would sell him high personally). The brother of Packers receiver Equinameous St. Brown lines up on paper to be the opening day slot receiver for Detroit.
The fourth-round rookie out of USC ran a 4.51 40 and seems to be working well with Jared Goff. St. Brown told CBS sports that Goff has been teaching him the routes Cooper Kupp ran.
Breshad Perriman, Detroit Lions
Perriman has escaped the Adam Gase tenure and is in line for WR1-type targets in Detroit. The Lions have lost Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay and need someone besides TJ Hockenson to catch the balls.
Those 147 vacated targets open the door for Perriman to utilize his 4.25 speed in that offense. Between St. Brown, Perriman, and Quintez Cephus, someone has got to catch the ball. Perriman got an awful deal with the Jets and now looks to get a fresh start in Detroit with Anthony Lynn running the offense.
Elijah Moore, New York Jets
When I see Elijah Moore, I see a Deebo Samuel-type role in the Jets’ offense. With Jamison Crowder, Corey Davis, and Denzel Mims projected as the starters, Moore slots in on the bench initially. However, his skill set will rise above, and he will force his way into playing time.
I don’t think he will have an impact right away, but by midseason, he forces his way in. This is the same offense Deebo was in for San Francisco, and it’s the same Shanahan offense coming to New York.
A sharp fantasy owner will draft St. Brown, and trade him after his early success to the disappointed Moore owner and put together one solid roster slot.
Nico Collins, Houston Texans
With an uncertain quarterback situation, Nico Collins finds himself in an unusual spot. With Deshaun Watson, Collins would be on everyone’s board as a target. But the thought of Tyrod Taylor, or even fellow rookie Davis Mills, brings people to pass on the rookie third-round pick.
There is a path for the former Michigan standout Collins to lead the team in yards this season. Brandin Cooks is the WR1, but Collins can easily come in and take the WR2 spot from day one.
For this reason alone, I am grabbing him everywhere I can before his ADP takes off. Anthony Miller was just added to the Texans, but I don’t see him making any impact at all.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints
With the news of Michael Thomas being out for more than the first quarter of the season, Adam Trautman receives a giant boost. The Saints traded up to get Trautman in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. He is 6’5 and 255 pounds, and Sean Payton will try and turn him into a Jimmy Graham-type tight end with the mismatches he can create due to his size. Jameis Winston winning the QB job would be beneficial, as Winston loves his tight ends. Taysom Hill may steal goal-line touchdowns and takes away that potential one-yard touchdown pass.
Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots
Jonnu Smith is one of my favorite "Zero Tight End" strategy targets. He seems to be fully ready to go off of a hamstring injury. Bill Belichick loves his tight ends, and with Cam Newton and Mac Jones behind center, the stock is high.
Jonnu got PAID this offseason and will be used heavily in this offense. Cam Newton loved Greg Olsen and used him very often. If it is Mac Jones who wins the job, we all know rookie quarterbacks love the tight end as a safety blanket. I wouldn’t worry about the Hunter Henry factor, as Belichick has used the two tight end system to perfection in the past.
Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
Austin Hooper is a tight end that is slipping down draft boards. In his first season with the Browns, he secured only 46 catches. The year prior in Atlanta, he had 75 catches on nearly 100 targets.
Hooper has top ten potential at the position and has proven he can produce at a high level. With another year with Baker Mayfield, Hooper provides excellent low-end TE1/TE2 potential.
Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans
With the departure of Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser enters in as the TE1 in Tennessee. With the addition of Julio Jones, Firkser appears to have lost some of those touches. He should still carve out stand-alone value. Firkser is a great TE2 with a TE1 ceiling.
A hidden factor in his possible success is the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Todd Downing was the tight end coach for the Titans for the last couple of seasons and is now calling the plays. Downing was the OC for the Raiders in 2017, when we saw Jared Cook targetted 86 times. Keep that in mind when looking for a late flier at tight end.
For more sleeper options, you can reach me on Twitter @Nmimi. You can also catch me on YouTube on the Stack Attack Fantasy Podcast live every Wednesday at 9pm, or on your favorite podcasting site.