The NFL season is officially upon us, and that means that fantasy football is back as well. So, it’s time to look at Sleepers and Busts for Week 1.
One of the most intriguing parts of fantasy football is to look at the expert rankings from top sports analysts and official websites.
Elite Fantasy Managers will pick through to find those sleepers that are being drafted or valued too low. They will also mark ‘Sell High’ players who are being ranked too high across the industry.
Most of these players are in new situations. This could be a new team or changes in the team’s roster. Such changes make them somewhat of an unknown of where they should be ranked.
In this article, we will look at every position. To evaluate if there are players who appear to be over or undervalued headed into sleepers and busts for week 1.
Determining busts for top players being drafted in the 1st few rounds in week 1 is dangerous. Often they will be sliding down drafts who could prove to be some of the top fantasy scorers at the end of the season.
Starting at the quarterback position, we have one of the deepest crops of quarterbacks in recent years. This means you can wait on drafting the position.
Often you can wait until beyond round 5. You will still draft a player who should come within a few points of the top 10 quarterback scorers.
The NFL passing game has been taking off the last few seasons as the game is changing. In the 2020 season, we saw an explosion in the passing game.
More passing makes for a plethora of good fantasy quarterbacks. Especially in most leagues where interceptions are only a negative point or two.
According to ADP, you can wait to select quarterbacks. With top 10 potential who are being drafted around pick 150 or later.
Our first QB sleeper is one quarterback who has put up massive stats and fantasy seasons in the past. He doesn’t get the recognition in the NFL or fantasy for that matter; a sleeper QB is Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston Sleeper Outlook
Winston led the league in passing yards in 2019, his last season with Tampa Bay. He also threw 33 touchdowns that year but did lead the league in interceptions that year as well.
It was still a phenomenal fantasy quarterback season that ranked him in the top 5 of fantasy quarterbacks that year.
According to ADP Winston is now being drafted as the 17th quarterback. This is Winston’s first year as the starter in New Orleans.
Jameis had a tremendous preseason where he won the job against Taysom Hill. We expect Jameis to hold on to the job the whole year as the Saints have a good team.
Look for Winston to push to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback at the end of the season.
With Winston being ranked so low, you could even find him as a free agent. get him a throw-in in a trade, or draft him as your 2nd quarterback.
Rookie QB Sleepers and Busts
While Winston looks like a breakout candidate in New Orleans, some younger quarterbacks look like they are being ranked too high in ADP.
If you’ve drafted a rookie QB they could be early-season trade chips for other interested owners.
Trey Lance or Justin Fields
In Trey Lance and Justin Fields, these two rookie quarterbacks are both being drafted around 15 or 16 but will not be the week 1 starters for their teams.
Drafting a rookie QB means instantly losing in week 1. Given it can take weeks for a rookie QB to get up to NFL level you don’t want them as your QB1.
Both of Lance and Feilds teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears, are expected to be competitive teams.
With their current starting QB’s Jimmy Garrapolo and Andy Dalton, don’t expect them to change the rookies anytime soon.
These rookies have the potential to be excellent fantasy quarterbacks with their ability to run the ball as well as throw. However, seeing the field is an unknown at this point, which makes it hard to even draft them as one of the top backup quarterbacks on your roster.
Running Back Sleepers and Busts
Running back is one of the toughest players to predict, but there seem to be some players slated to have significant years this year.
The key is to look for players who will get many carries and get targets and catches in the passing game. For example, as great a player as Nick Chubb, he’ll unlikely ever be a top 5 RB due to not being involved in the passing game.
RB’s involvement in the passing game is especially crucial for most leagues nowadays, being a half-point-ppr or even full-point-ppr.
Is Barkley a Sleeper or Bust?
One of the most slept-on players during this year’s drafts was Saquon Barkley.
People are quick to forget that Saquon Barkley, just last year, was most fantasy league’s 1st overall pick and his rookie year. Barkley led the entire league in yards from scrimmage with 15 total touchdowns.
A lot of drafts had Barkley going as the 10th to 15th running back drafted. Barkley is also an elite pass-catching running back. Barkley had 91 catches in his rookie season and 52 in his last somewhat entire season in 13 games.
This New York Giants team looks to be the best team Barkley has ever been a part of, which should help him not be keyed in on so much to get more space to produce.
Barkley should be a top 5 fantasy running back when the season is all set and done if he remains healthy. Injuries have been a struggle for Barkley after playing 13 games in his sophomore season and then going down with an early season-ending injury last year.
The biggest problem with Barkley is if the Giants will limit his workload, but if they are making a playoff run, it will be impossible to keep him off the field.
Is Miles Sanders a Sleeper or Bust?
One player who isn’t in a new situation is Miles Sanders. However, he should be in line to be the go-to running back in Philadelphia.
Sanders has been drafted at about the mid 20th ranked running back, but Sanders produced at least 818 rushing yards in each of his 1st 2 seasons, where he only received 11 starts in each of those years.
After averaging just over 13 carries per game and 5.3 yards per carry last season, Sanders could be in line for 15+ carries per game and more work in the passing game.
Sanders also has one year of 500+ yards receiving and 50 catches.
Those numbers are worthy of at least a top 15 fantasy running back, and this season it looks like he will only have more opportunities to produce than in the past.
Is Ezekiel Elliot a Sleeper or Bust?
While the NFL is becoming a passing league, some running backs that fantasy owners have relied on for years are becoming irrelevant but are still being drafted as if they are in their primes.
The 1st player here is Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot has a lot of miles for a running back in this era’s NFL coming into his 6th season as he has gotten at least 244 carries in all 5 of his seasons thus far in his career.
The production has also dropped off every year since 2018 and Elliot failed to run for 1,000 yards for the 1st time in his career last season.
Elliot also only has 1 season since his rookie year, where he has had at least 10 total touchdowns.
With the Cowboys loading up on receivers and paying Dak Prescott big money, it looks like Elliot may be an afterthought in many games this season.
Still, Elliot is being drafted in the 1st round and in many leagues within the top 5. It could be a good idea to test the trade market while it’s still early in the year for Elliot to get the most value out of him while he is still seen as worthy of a 1st round pick.
Is Nick Chubb a Sleeper or Bust?
Nick Chubb is another veteran running back who has never had an entire season as the lone starter getting the bulk of the carries each game.
Chubb is being drafted as the 10th running back overall but still can get sidelined for Kareem Hunt in Cleveland, which can turn into poor fantasy performances for him as it has in the past.
Chubb is also not a big pass-catcher which hurts his value in PPR leagues. He has never had 300 yards receiving in a season or 40 catches.
Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley, or Najee Harriss look to be better draft options around that pick or early-season trade targets for Elliot or Chubb.
Wide Receiver Sleepers and Busts
In a passing league, there are more wide receiver options than ever. So it should be easy to draft receivers late who can produce or pick up ones as free agents early in the season.
There are a lot of sleepers out there in the late part of drafts, but one guy mainly sticks out as a player who is being slept on but not necessarily a sleeper.
Chris Godwin a WR Sleeper
That player is Chris Godwin whose ADP is sliding outside of the top 20 wide receivers in the rankings.
This is disrespectful to Godwin, who is still playing with a hall of fame quarterback. Brady put up ridiculous passing numbers last season and doesn’t look like he is slowing down.
Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns last year, with 7 of those going to Godwin.
Godwin is Brady’s security blanket, but he also provides an all-around receiving game in the red zone and also as a deep threat.
The year previous, Godwin had a career-best 1,313 yards, which he still seems capable of producing.
Godwin is plagued with the same fantasy issue that great teams face: they have so many weapons and can blow teams out that sometimes they are not needed in the game.
Still, he should be considered in the top 15 of wide receivers due to the high-powered offense and his ability to do it all as a receiver.
Is Courtland Sutton a Sleeper or Bust?
A sleeper outside of the top 20 ranked wide receivers is a player going under the radar heading into the 2021 season.
A player jumping up draft boards heading into 2021 is Jerry Jeudy, who is going around the 20th ranked fantasy wide receiver, while Sutton is outside the top 30th WR’s drafted.
That player is Courtland Sutton, who suffered an unfortunate injury early last season but is now being downgraded in the fantasy rankings.
Sutton looked to have star ability when he went for 1,112 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2019. He also has the big body frame at 6′ foot 3″ and 216 to be a big go-to target for Teddy Bridgewater.
Sutton was known for his big play ability and hopefully will pick up where he left off before the injury.
With all the preseason hype going to Jeudy, Sutton could be a good sleeper pick-up. Sutton could prove to ultimately be the number 1 wideout in Denver when the season gets underway.
Which Steelers WR is a Sleeper?
An excellent young wide receiver out of Pittsburgh is being drafted inside the top 20 wide receivers while sometimes being taken as high as a top 15 wide receiver. And no, it isn’t Juju Smith Schuster or Chase Claypool. It’s Diontae Johnson.
When all 3 wideouts are healthy in Pittsburgh there are a lot of mouths to feed and Ben Roethlisberger has continued to regress.
Last season Roethlisberger didn’t look good and it was especially noticeable that he lacked arm strength.
Many expected Big Ben to retire this year after how bad he looked but he is back for this season, and it could hurt the fantasy value of his wide receivers.
Which Bengals WR is a Sleeper?
Another interesting wide receiver situation comes from the AFC North in the Cincinnati Bengals.
The ranking order of their 3 receivers has been going like this: Tee Higgins, Ja’mmarr Chase, and finally Tyler Boyd.
All 3 of these receivers should be valued higher than Smith Schuster and Claypool, with a couple arguably higher than Johnson too.
The Bengals should have a more dynamic passing attack than the Steelers with Joe Burrow behind center.
This is cause for concern with all 3 Steelers wide receivers but it seems risky to take any of them ahead of 20 other wide receivers this year.
Higgins has been going as high as the 23rd overall wide receiver, which is not a crazy overdraft but will be part of that 3 headed monster competing for targets.
The more exciting ranking is Tyler Boyd being the last drafted Bengals receiver out of the 3. Boyd was the leading receiver for the Bengals in 2019 with 1,000+ yards and then was arguably the number 1 receiver last season.
Boyd seems like the better value in this situation with his potential to still be the number 1 receiver in Cincinnati and he is being valued outside of the top 30 wide receivers.
Tight End Sleepers
Tight end is another challenging position to predict. There are probably 5 tight ends who are going to be consistent every week.
Outside of the top 5 TE’s, you are looking for one who can get the majority of the snaps and receive a good number of targets.
Tyler Higbee the TE Sleeper of 2021
One tight end who continues to be undervalued and a little slept on is Tyler Higbee. This year, Higbee seems to be one of these consistent tight ends after putting up good production in a tight end split last year.
Higbee now has the full reign of the tight end position for the Rams and a new quarterback to improve his numbers further.
Higbee is rarely being drafted as a top 10 tight end but could prove to be top 6 by the end of the year. He not only will get a lot of snaps and targets but has big-play ability similar to a George Kittle. Both Higbee and Kittle have the ability to run after the catch in a high-powered passing offense in Los Angeles.
Adam Trautman a TE Bust
A big surprise in drafts was New Orleans Saints tight end Adam Trautman. He doesn’t possess the athletic ability of top tight ends such as Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, or even Higbee.
Trautman has done pretty much nothing in his career so far but was being drafted ahead Higbee at about the 10th ranked tight end.
Trautman had 171 receiving yards in his rookie season, albeit as a backup, but expectations are high for him in the 2021 season.
Some poor preseason play from Trautman and an early injury are more reasons he should be outside of the top 20 tight ends drafted.
In Conclusion, Sleepers are hard to find
Finding these sleepers and also overrated players can make for some interesting early-season trades.
If you reached for some of these players or passed on some potential sleepers, consider offering up some of these big names while their value is high. Doing this at the beginning of the year to get some players with high potential can pay dividends.
The fantasy football season is here, and now is the time to draft high-potential players and be smart about taking some of these players in new good situations.