Who are the fantasy football players to watch that might be flying under the radar? Sneaky late-round draft picks, sleepers, dark horses, and potential breakout players, updated weekly.
Deshaun Watson, QB/HOU: Most intelligent fantasy football owners are well aware of the MVP pace that Watson was on last season before succumbing to injury. But as a result of owners’ fear about Watson’s ACL tear, he earns the lightest level of sleeper status.
D’Onta Foreman, RB/HOU: There are rumors coming out of Houston that the Texans could part ways with veteran Lamar Miller if Foreman shows he’s ready to shoulder the load this season. That would instantly raise Foreman’s fantasy stock.
Jordy Nelson, WR/OAK: I’m not sure anybody knows what to make of Nelson as a fantasy option without Aaron Rodgers and in a Raiders offense featuring Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant. Thus, Nelson is slipping down some draft boards and could be a nice mid-round pickup.
Cameron Brate, TE/TB: Everybody is on the O.J. Howard hype train — and for good reason. But you don’t sign a player of Cameron Brate’s caliber to a six-year, $41 million deal — as the Bucs did in March — if you don’t intend on using him as more than a blocking dummy.
Andrew Luck, QB/IND: Is this guy ever going to play? Luck’s fall from grace has been discouraging for many fantasy owners, particularly those who wasted a high draft pick on him last season. For many owners, Luck has a red flag that has removed him from their draft boards completely. I’d still use a late-round flyer on him if available, though.
Royce Freeman, RB/DEN: The rookie running back will compete for the starting job in Denver and there are strong indications that he’ll earn it. Freeman has the big-play potential to shake up the fantasy football landscape in a similar — but likely to a lesser extent — fashion as Kareem Hunt did a year ago.
Allen Hurns, WR/DAL: With Dez Bryant and Jason Witten making their exodus from Dallas, free agent acquisition Hurns is the first man up to reap the targets from Dak Prescott. Rookie Michael Gallup will eat into those numbers and the Cowboys remain a run-first team. But Hurns will provide great late-round value.
Trey Burton, TE/CHI: The Bears went out this offseason and significantly upgraded the offensive talent to give new head coach Matt Nagy some weapons with which to work. Burton — as football fans saw in this past season’s Super Bowl on a trick play, passing touchdown to Nick Foles — is a jack-of-all-trades who can be moved around and will score decent fantasy stats.
Eli Manning, QB/NYG: Eli has always been an underrated fantasy option and can be had for a late-round pick. He’ll be 37 years old this season but he has a new offensive coach in Pat Shurmur and several weapons around him in Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and rookie Saquon Barkley.
C.J. Anderson, RB/CAR: Anderson will slide in fantasy drafts because owners are high on Christian McCaffrey. And yes, while McCaffrey likely will get the lion’s share of the fantasy points, Anderson will see a good deal of work as the duo provides the Panthers with a 1-2 punch.
Jarvis Landry, WR/CLE: Landry’s fantasy football stock arguably took a big hit when he joined the Browns — because, well, they’re the Browns. But Landry’s skill set transitions nicely to any offense because he’s a shifty, underneath player who snags a lot of balls and picks up yards after the catch.
Hayden Hurst, TE/BAL: The Ravens rookie will endear himself to Joe Flacco, who has had a history of latching on to his tight ends. While the Ravens are still attempting to figure out their wide receiver depth chart, Hurst will ball out.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB/CHI: The Bears surrounded young Mitch Trubisky with a lot more offensive talent this season including Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel as well as tight end Trey Burton. And Trubisky still has the workhorse Jordan Howard in the backfield behind him with the shifty Tarik Cohen adding another dimension to the offense.
Derrius Guice, RB/WAS: There are a lot of bodies competing for touches in the Redskins’ backfield, which is why Guice will slip in many drafts. But I feel when all is said and done, Guice will take the bulk of the work when he gets comfortable in the offense.
Corey Davis, WR/TEN: As a rookie in 2017, Davis missed some time with a hamstring problem. That, paired with the fact that the Titans failed to live up to expectations on offense, caused Davis’ stock to take a bit of a hit. But let’s not forget how good this guy actually is. His ability to go up and get the football will make him a target hound in 2018.
George Kittle, TE/SF: Kittle is not yet a household name, but I predict he will be sometime before the upcoming season is over. Kittle was one of the top rookie tight ends in the league last year behind the Giants’ Evan Engram. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will find ways to get him the football and the two will make for an interesting duo.
Tyrod Taylor, QB/CLE: The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in April’s draft, but I’d wager dollars to donuts that the veteran Taylor is the Day 1 starter. That is, unless the Browns “Browns it up.” I wouldn’t count on Taylor as anything more than a late-round flyer, but if he starts, the new-look Cleveland offense could pad Taylor’s fantasy stats.
Sony Michel, RB/NE: I’ve given up trying to figure out Bill Belichick when it comes to fantasy running backs, but the rookie could be the man in New England. If you have to count on him as one of your main cogs, your fantasy team has some problems. But he has good value later on in the draft.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR/NYJ: Pryor was a colossal bust as a free agent acquisition with the Redskins last season. One year later, he finds his way onto the woeful New York Jets where he suddenly becomes a part of a clustered receiving corps. But Pryor has the opportunity to emerge as one of, if not the top target and that still provides value deep into a draft.
Gerald Everett, TE/LAR: Everett might be one of the most athletically gifted young tight ends out there. But his problem is that he’s in a logjam with so many other weapons in the Rams’ offense — not to mention fighting Tyler Higbee for playing time at tight end. But I’d much rather spend a late pick on Everett’s potential in an explosive offense than on a veteran with a low ceiling on a worse team.