Every year, fantasy football managers are looking for sleeper players to target in the mid-to-late rounds of their drafts. It’s that time again, with many leagues holding their drafts over the next few weeks leading up to the start of the 2023 NFL regular season on Sept. 7.
Even casual managers are familiar with the NFL’s top stars, who will get selected over the first few rounds of all fantasy drafts. But more under-the-radar players who can be classified as preseason sleepers can make a huge difference on fantasy rosters.
If you successfully hit on a few sleepers, then you’ll likely go on to have a successful season.
Here’s a look at several sleeper players who are getting picked late enough in drafts that they should be considered earlier than their average draft positions.
Over the past handful of years, fantasy managers have known exactly what they can get from Tyler Lockett. He’s been a consistent presence in the Seattle Seahawks’ receiving corps, as he’s recorded at least 965 receiving yards each of the past five seasons (including 1,000 or more in each of the past four), scoring between eight and 10 touchdowns every year.
Some fantasy managers may have slept on Lockett going into 2022, yet he delivered again, finishing the season with 84 catches for 1,033 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 games. Now, many appear to be sleeping on him again heading into his age-31 season.
According to FantasyPros, Lockett is the preseason WR27 for the half-PPR format, with his ADP currently at No. 73. That means he’s lasting into the sixth round in many 12-team leagues, which seems a round or two later than he should be taken.
Although the Seahawks have other talented playmakers in their receiving corps (such as DK Metcalf and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba), Lockett has annually proven he can be trusted for solid production. Plus, it could take Smith-Njigba a bit to get adjusted to the NFL, so quarterback Geno Smith may rely on more proven targets, such as Lockett.
There’s a good chance Lockett will outperform his ADP, considering he typically ranks in the top 15-20 wide receivers and could do so again this season.
The Philadelphia Eagles run the ball a lot. In fact, not many teams did so more in 2022, when they ranked third with 544 rushing attempts over 17 games. So fantasy managers shouldn’t be overly concerned that Philadelphia may use a multi-back approach in 2023.
D’Andre Swift is typically the first Eagles running back selected in fantasy drafts this year, with an ADP of No. 62 (per FantasyPros). But managers could be sleeping on Rashaad Penny (No. 97), who could be a great fit in Philadelphia’s offense, if he’s able to stay healthy.
Penny flashed his potential at times over his first five NFL seasons in Seattle, but he’s had trouble staying on the field, playing only 18 games from 2020-22, due to injuries. However, the 27-year-old has averaged 6.2 yards per carry over the past two seasons, scoring eight touchdowns in 15 games.
There’s definite risk associated with selecting Penny in fantasy drafts, but it still seems a bit low for his ADP to be in the eighth round. But managers may also be worried about how the Eagles plan to divide up the workload in their backfield.
Don’t worry, there should be ample carries to go around. And if Penny stays healthy, a breakout season could be on the horizon.
If you’re looking for a second-year wide receiver with breakout potential, look no further than Jahan Dotson. The 23-year-old is coming off an impressive rookie showing, which occurred despite repeated quarterback troubles for the Washington Commanders.
Dotson missed some time due to injury, but he still had 35 catches for 523 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. He got into the end zone in bunches, scoring four TDs over the first four weeks and scoring one in three straight games from Weeks 13-16.
Washington could get improved QB play from Sam Howell, who will be the starter to begin his second season. He flashed his potential during a Week 18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last year, after Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke were inconsistent for 17 weeks.
With an ADP of No. 89 (per FantasyPros), Dotson is often still available deep into the seventh round. That’s a bargain for a receiver who should be a great No. 2 next to Terry McLaurin and appears poised to put up even bigger numbers than he did during his debut campaign.