Fantasy football owners love trying to unearth the top sleepers every year. It’s in our blood. Highlighting potential breakouts and undervalued players in consensus rankings on your cheat sheet allows you to find these value gems all throughout your draft. As always, we’re here to help, and we’re happy to present our All-Sleeper Team for 2021. No, this team should not be your Week 1 starting lineup, but these potential steals are worth considering as you roll into the middle and late rounds.
The best thing about these sleepers — they don’t cost a ton of draft capital. If they bust, it’s OK. You weren’t counting on them to break out as key pieces of your roster.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet
Below, we’ll drive into our 2021 All-Sleeper Team and present other possible options in the honorable mention sections at each position.
2021 Fantasy Football All-Sleeper Team: Top potential breakouts
Fantasy Sleeper: Quarterback
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
Tua has been the subject of much criticism since his 2020 rookie campaign. Yes, he didn’t look as spectacular as we would’ve liked, but he was coming off a hip injury and never looked to settle into the offense. Also, can you really blame a guy whose second-best wide receiver was Jakeem Grant or Preston Williams? There were some positives in his rookie season that can’t be ignored. Via Playerprofiler.com, Tua ranked second among quarterbacks in accuracy rating and third among quarterbacks in catchable pass rate. He might have struggled at throwing guys open, but he thrives in hitting the open man. His passing style isn’t meant for contested-catch WRs; it’s meant for guys who thrive in getting separation — like new Dolphins Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller. If anyone is used to hitting world-class speed with the ball in stride, it’s Tagovailoa. Waddle’s and Fuller’s speed won’t surprise him, and his history shows he will get it to them right in the basket. Put simply, Tua wasn’t set up for success in 2020. This year, he’s much more equipped to hit his stride with a full offseason, a healthy hip, and improved weaponry.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Jones, Giants; Taysom Hill/Jameis Winston, Saints; Trey Lance, 49ers.
Fantasy Sleepers: Running Backs
AJ Dillon, Packers
We’ve seen Jamaal Williams remain somewhat fantasy relevant as a backup to Aaron Jones. Last year, he saw 119 carries and finished as RB38 in just 14 games. Dillon has an impressive rushing profile, averaging 1,460 rushing yards per season at Boston College. He’s no Derrick Henry, but what if he was close? His 6-0, 247-pound frame screams goal-line carries and broken tackles — and lot’s of them — in one of the premier offenses in the league. In his one game as the lead back in Green Bay, he posted a 21-124-2 line on Sunday Night Football against Tennessee. He has the talent to demand carries, and if Aaron Jones were to miss time, Dillon has RB1 upside. Still, he possesses stand-alone value. At worst, he’ll reach paydirt close to a half-dozen times and post around 700 total yards. For this reason, he’s especially valuable in best ball formats.
Michael Carter: Jets
Carter averaged 8.0 yards/carry in his final season at North Carolina. He only received one less touch than teammate Javonte Williams. If Williams was talented enough to go in the early second round, what does it say about Carter that he commanded just as many touches? Yes, a fourth-round running back doesn’t always see success in his rookie year (or ever), but when you look at Carter’s competition for carries, he should have every opportunity to take on a lead role. Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine — do any of those names scare you off of Carter? Yeah, didn’t think so. He arguably has an easier path to a ton of work than Trey Sermon or Williams in their rookie seasons, and at his current ADP of 83.0 (RB34) in standard leagues, he’s a relatively cheap running back. Even if he just plays a significant role in a running back committee, he could outperform that draft spot.
Honorable Mention: Tony Pollard, Cowboys; Jamaal Williams, Lions; Ty’Son Williams, Ravens (updated from Gus Edwards after JK Dobbins’ season-ending knee injury)
Fantasy Sleepers: Wide Receivers
Gabriel Davis, Bills
Davis is in the running for WR2 in a top-three offense, but Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley will have something to say about that. The good news is Josh Allen trusted Davis in 2020. He caught 35 balls on 52 targets for 599 yards and seven touchdowns acting as the Bills’ primary deep threat as a rookie. A simple equation for Davis — rocket-armed QB plus aggressive deep-ball field-stretcher equals fantasy success. The opportunity will be there, and he could really break out this year. Of course, with all the mouths to feed in Buffalo, he could also be a total boom-or-bust play most weeks. Either way, he’s worth a late middle-round pick. The upside could smash that draft capital.
Laviska Shenault, Jaguars
Shenault flashed his yards-after-contact skills as a rookie. Jacksonville should be bad, and bad teams normally have to throw a lot. Expect the Jags to be among the league leaders in passing attempts with their new franchise QB, Trevor Lawrence. Shenault is set up to potentially surpass DJ Chark as the No. 1 option in Jacksonville. In fact, he already finished ahead of Chark in total fantasy points in 2020. If he jells with Lawrence early, he has the A.J. Brown-like YAC acumen to make noise in fantasy football. He also saw just over one carry and 6.5 rushing yards per game last year. That obviously isn’t much, but given his abilities, the potential for much more is clearly there. His 110.0 ADP suggests he’s very undervalued. At such a cheap cost, it’s worth taking a piece of Lawrence’s passing attack.
Marquez Callaway, Saints
Callaway feels like the biggest winner with the news of the Michael Thomas offseason drama and right ankle injury that will keep him out indefinitely. Yes, Tre’Quan Smith has been in New Orleans longer, but isn’t it worrisome he hasn’t done more with any of the opportunities he’s received? Callaway steps into the X receiver role Thomas leaves behind — the classic alpha WR spot in the Saints offense. The coaching staff is surely impressed with Callaway. After all, he made the roster as an undrafted free agent and commanded targets last year when he was on the field. In 2020, Callaway played one game without Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders being active. In that Week 7 game, he saw a 28.6-percent target share, posting eight receptions for 75 yards. Would any of us be surprised if he outscored Smith? He’s coming off the board in standard leagues at WR73 (207 overall), meaning he probably won’t even cost you draft capital. Especially in deep leagues, he’s one of the best values in the last round of your fantasy drafts.
Honorable Mention: Jakobi Meyers, Patriots; Tyrell Williams; Lions, Jalen Reagor, Eagles.
Fantasy Sleeper: Tight End
Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
Jarwin has the potential to destroy his APD (TE26) in a high-powered Cowboys offense. It may sound contradictory with all the mouths to feed in Dallas, but there will be plenty of targets and scoring opportunities to go around in a high-volume passing attack. Just last year, Jarwin’s backup, Dalton Schultz, ranking ninth among TEs in targets (89) while filling in for an injured Jarwin (ACL). Dak Prescott’s return to the Cowboys’ offense is good for everyone involved. The only concern is Schultz eats into Jarwin’s playing time after last year’s solid showing.
Honorable Mention: Cole Kmet, Bears; Adam Trautman, Saints; Anthony Firkser, Titans.
Fantasy Sleeper: Defense/Special Teams
The Broncos’ defense feels like the steal of the draft (D/ST12), albeit at a dying spot in fantasy football. Last year, it ranked eighth in sacks/game (2.6) despite losing Von Miller (ankle/foot) for the entire season before Week 1. The Broncos ranked 24th in scoring defense and 29th in takeaways, which is surprising for a Vic Fangio defense. That will surely improve with Miller’s return and a bolstered secondary with the additions of Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller, and first-round rookie, Patrick Surtain II. They’re a sneaky candidate to possess one of the elite defenses in football.
Fantasy Sleeper: Kicker
Josh Lambo, Jaguars
Yes, kickers can be sleepers, too. Not just because they’re boring, but there are a number of them that actually make a difference for your team from time to time. Lambo finished sixth at the position in 2019 and is on a team with an emerging offense. He was injured much of last season, but he did kick a career-long 59-yard bullet through the uprights. He has the range to score extra fantasy points on long kicks, and maybe, just maybe, will see an increased number of PAT attempts. He’s currently being undrafted and is worth monitoring for your kicker situation. Unless you possess an elite option like Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker, you’ll opt to stream kickers week to week. However, Lambo has ‘set it and forget it’ upside.