A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the Top 150 and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.
Player Receiving 7 Votes
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville
Sigmund Bloom: The cat is out of the bag after Bortles had a strong open to the preseason, but that shouldn’t increase his ADP too much due to the depth at quarterback. Bortles helped win leagues in good matchups during December last year, and he opens with the Jaguars, Patriots, Titans, and Jets this year, with Tennessee, Washington, and Miami on the slate in the fantasy playoffs. Bortles has five dangerous receivers and the best receiving tight end of his career to date on the roster. He’ll continue to have usefulness in fantasy leagues.
James Brimacombe: If you wanted to wait and wait and maybe wait a little longer to draft a quarterback this year it would be Blake Bortles. I view him as a QB1 that you can draft as the 20+ player at his position off the board. Bortles is set up for a huge year in Jacksonville as the team has been built around him at running back, wide receiver and tight end. Bortles has finished the last three seasons as quarterback 13, 9, and 4. Another key to Bortles this season is his rushing ability as he has never been below 310 rushing yards a season through his four-year career and has seven rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons.
Clayton Gray: It is the Blake Bortles way to not be pretty when producing solid stats, but he gets it done. Almost for free, your team can get a good backup fantasy quarterback. He has a really easy schedule this season and could even be a spot starter if needed. This one seems too easy.
Jeff Haseley: This is not your older brother's Jaguars team. Jacksonville has improved on both sides of the ball over the last few years, including everyone's favorite fantasy punching bag, Blake Bortles. Since Week 10 last season, Bortles ranked 7th among fantasy quarterbacks. Yes, the Jaguars lost Allen Robinson to free agency, but they didn't have him last year either. Bortles is virtually going undrafted and has proven that he is at least worth a backup spot on your roster as a bye or injury replacement.
Ryan Hester: If there were a book that detailed the many differences between real football and fantasy football, Bortles would be the leading candidate to grace its cover. He’s not a top-10 quarterback in the league. In fact, telling someone he’s in the top half might start an argument. But he’s a consistent fantasy producer capable of a couple huge games each season. And as long as Jacksonville is a quality real-life team, he’ll have plenty of comfortable situations and scoring opportunities while his running game is keeping him ahead of the chains and maintaining drives.
Dan Hindery: Over the last three years, Blake Bortles has finished QB4, QB9, and QB13. Yet, he is being drafted outside of the top 20 at the position. One of the reasons Bortles flies a bit under the fantasy radar is that his athleticism is underrated. He has rushed for at least 310 yards and 2 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Bortles has arguably his deepest and most well-rounded group of pass catchers in 2018. Three of the top four receivers are back from last year’s team (Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook). Plus, Jacksonville has added Donte Moncrief, D.J. Chark Jr, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins to the mix. Bortles should again finish as a top-15 fantasy quarterback and has the proven ability to finish even higher.
Jason Wood: Blake Bortles was the 13th-ranked fantasy quarterback last year, yet he’s being treated like an also-ran. While it’s a stretch to expect Bortles to morph into a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback, it’s even less likely he’ll finish the season as low as his current average draft position (ADP). Bortles threw 35 touchdowns in 2015, with a less talented supporting cast. Yet he’s being drafted behind a handful of quarterbacks that have one good year (2017) and a history of abysmal play before that. With a receiving corps that runs four deep, an athletic tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and a dominant offensive line, Bortles has a much higher floor than he’s being given credit for. The 300+ rushing yards is an underappreciated bonus, to boot.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Eli Manning, NY Giants
Sigmund Bloom: This Giants offense should be a lot better than last year with Ben McAdoo gone, Pat Shurmur at the top of the coaching staff, a healthy Odell Beckham Jr, and Saquon Barkley in the backfield. They also have a legitimate left tackle now in Nate Solder. The team didn’t do anything to upgrade at quarterback in the offseason, so it’s Manning’s show. Don’t play him Week 1 vs. Jacksonville, but know that Manning is worth rostering as part of a streaming approach at quarterback, and he gets Indianapolis in the fantasy Super Bowl Week 16.
Andy Hicks: Eli Manning has always been a patchy fantasy option, finishing as a fantasy starter in seven seasons and outside the Top 12 in the other seven. In three of the last five years, he has finished outside the Top 20, which is not only a concern, it should write him off moving forward. It doesn't, however, because the Giants have surrounded him with premium talent in Odell Beckham Jr, Jr., Saquon Barkley, and Evan Engram. With a how-could-it-not-be-improved offensive line, if Manning can't get on fantasy radars this year, then the Giants have to and will move on. If he can, at age 37, show he still has something left, he will be a great fantasy reserve option.
Devin Knotts: Eli Manning had a season to forget in 2017, but a lot of this was due to the injuries to Odell Beckham Jr, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard as the receiving options seemingly were out or limited every week last year. Heading into 2018, the Giants have the best receiving group in the NFL from top to bottom with the addition of Saquon Barkley this is an offense that is going to throw the ball at a high volume. This is a situation that while the talent of Manning may be declining, the skill players surrounding him should propel him into exceeding his draft position and provide a solid backup fantasy quarterback option.
Chad Parsons: The Giants were poor across the board as a passing offense in 2018, finishing in the Bottom 5 of passing expected points, overall offense expected points, and overall success rate. Evan Engram was a rookie bright spot with his historic season, but Sterling Shepard missed five games, Brandon Marshall was a shell of his former self before missing the final three months of the season, and Odell Beckham Jr played only four games. In short, Eli Manning had his full complement of weapons for a month or less of 2018. Manning, like Philip Rivers and a few other quarterbacks, gets little recognition for his longevity of production and seasonal upside. Manning has finished as a top-8 fantasy quarterback in 4-of-8 recent seasons and his with-Odell Beckham Jr splits since Beckham entered the NFL in 2014 show a 36% boost in fantasy production than when Beckham is not in the lineup. A healthy Beckham, a rising Engram, and add a dynamic Saquon Barkley in the backfield and Manning is back on the QB1 track for 2018.
Jason Wood: After a disastrous stint with Ben McAdoo at the helm, there is renewed hope in New York. New head coach Pat Shurmur hopes to parlay what he learned in Philadelphia and Minnesota and create a balanced, dynamic offensive attack. New general manager Dave Gettleman focused on improving the offensive line and added Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the draft. Better line play and even modest improvement in the run game should work wonders for Manning, who can still step into throws within a well-protected pocket. Armed with a talented trio of pass catchers in Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, Manning can easily return to high-end QB2 value this year.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
Phil Alexander: Dalton has never finished lower than QB18 in his eight-year career, yet he routinely goes undrafted in 12-team leagues. Last year was a disaster for the Bengals offense, but Dalton was under constant pressure, which left his receivers little time to get open downfield and prevented him from delivering the ball accurately. Cincinnati solidified their offensive line by adding above-average left tackle Cordy Glenn via trade and spending a first-round pick on center Billy Price. While it may have been only one preseason game, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s plan to restore a vertical element to the Bengals offense looks like it worked. Dalton had four completions of more than 20 yards on only eight attempts in the team’s first exhibition contest. Given his solid supporting cast, would it shock anyone if Dalton finished in the QB12 range? He’s done it plenty of time before and as recently as 2016.
Sigmund Bloom: Dalton’s 2017 was a disaster because the 2017 Cincinnati offense was a disaster. The offensive line was a disaster, the running game was a disaster, the initial playcalling was a disaster, and they were one of the worst teams at maintaining possession. Fast forward to 2018 and the line has added two quality starters, John Ross has been so impressive that the Bengals released Brandon LaFell in training camp, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor - who was installed in Week 3 to clean up the mess last year - has had an entire offseason to make something better out of this offense. Dalton was once a QB1 in fantasy leagues, and with Indianapolis in the opener, you can afford to draft him very late as your leadoff hitter in a streaming approach.
James Brimacombe: If you need a second quarterback on your roster, look no further than Andy Dalton. He always will play a full season, has a superstar to throw the ball to in A.J. Green, has his tight end back healthy in Tyler Eifert, and has his young receiver John Ross looking to break out. Through Dalton's seven-year career he has one top three season and six other 12th-19th ranked seasons. He is viewed as more of a safe option late in the draft that can be had for pennies on the dollar.
Case Keenum, Denver
Andy Hicks: It is hard to see if Denver is fully invested in Case Keenum. He appears to be a bridge quarterback, but to whom we don't know yet. It is even foreseeable that he is only in Denver for one season, given the details of his two-year deal. All that said, Keenum is in position to easily outplay what little the fantasy community thinks of him heading into the 2018 season. In a great situation last year in Minnesota, he finished as a borderline starter and walks into a solid receiving group headed by Demaryius Thomas. When you are picking scraps off the quarterback table, grab this guy first. He is underrated by far too many people.
Ari Ingel: Keenum finally gets his shot to be a team’s starter without looking over his shoulder. Last season he threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions, with a great 67% completion percentage. He also added 160 yards and a touchdown on the ground, finishing as a top ten quarterback in seven weeks, all playing behind a bottom tier offensive line. Now on the Broncos, Keenum should have a slightly upgraded offensive line and a full off-season to prepare as a starter and time to work with the team’s starting receivers. While Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are great, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are not much of a downgrade, if at all. Additionally, the Broncos have two great rookie receivers in Courtland Sutton Daesean Hamilton to go along with a slew of capable running backs and tight end Jake Butt. While he won’t finish inside the top 10, he just may surprise as a solid weekly starter in 2 QB leagues, and as a streamable asset in regular leagues.
Jeff Pasquino: The AFC West has several teams that could be putting up plenty of points – Kansas City, Oakland and the Chargers – so Denver will need to not just play strong defense to compete. Offense – and specifically, the passing game – has been a consistent issue in Colorado, so John Elway brought in Keenum to get the ball into the hands of his best offensive players in wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Keenum excelled as a backup and then the starter in Minnesota last season, and the smart veteran can do similar things for the Broncos. Add in that the ground game cannot be counted on now that C.J. Anderson is gone, leaving Devontae Booker and rookie Royce Freeman to fill the void, and the likelihood for Keenum to throw 30-40 times a week very high. Keenum costs very little in fantasy drafts but offers QB2 value with some QB1 upside in favorable matchups.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago
Phil Alexander: New Bears head coach Matt Nagy comes from Kansas City, where the Chiefs led the league in snaps out of the shotgun on his watch as offensive coordinator in 2017. Run-pass option plays out of the gun suit Trubisky's strengths, and he stands to benefit from something he sorely lacked as a rookie -- legitimate NFL receivers, including Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and rookie Anthony Miller. We can't take a Carson Wentz or Jared Goff-type statistical leap for granted, but at least Trubisky is being put in a similar position to succeed. You can currently get him late enough that if he flops, it barely matters. But if he's good enough to capitalize on his improved surroundings (and continue to rush for 20 yards per game and a handful of touchdowns), there's a strong chance he outplays most quarterbacks being taken in the middle rounds.
Jeff Pasquino: Do not be surprised if Trubisky pushes for fantasy starter status by mid-season this year. The Bears have added talent at tight end (Trey Burton, formerly of the Eagles) and Allen Robinson at wide receiver. Chicago was a fantasy wasteland last year, and the Bears knew an overall was needed. New head coach Matt Nagy will bring in a more aggressive offense that will put Trubisky in positions to make quick reads and get the ball in the hands of the new playmakers. Of course, it will also help that the Bears are likely to be trailing in most of their games, adding to the passing stats for Trubisky. The cost to draft Trubisky late is next to nothing, but a Top 15 upside is there at a very low price.
Daniel Simpkins: Like the Titans, Chicago is another team primed to make a leap, simply because they’ve got talented pieces and have moved on from outmoded coaching and schemes. Matt Nagy, part of the innovative Andy Reid coaching tree, promises to incorporate the spread and run-pass option concepts that have begun to spring up in the league. Trubisky will be familiar with these, as they are the basis of what he ran in college. Also, Chicago went and rescued the very talented Allen Robinson from a Jaguars offense whose priority is the run. He will be a trusted target for the young passer. Trubisky is the perfect high upside backup or late-round quarterback that will give you the flexibility to draft other skill position players early. Check out this Spotlight() if you want more background on why this breakout is likely.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland
Will Grant: Everyone knows that Taylor is just keeping the seat warm for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. So it’s no surprise that Taylor isn’t being drafted in most fantasy leagues. But the reality is that Taylor’s essentially playing for his next team and will be working hard to show he still deserves to be a starter in the NFL. The Browns have made significant upgrades on offense this season and Taylor has some decent weapons around him. He’s looked good in the pre-season so far and that gives the Browns even less of an incentive to rush Mayfield onto the field. Taylor won’t throw for 4500 yards this season, but he’s certainly going to outperform a lot of guys who will be drafted this season. In a best-ball format, Taylor is a great play because even if he’s replaced by Mayfield before the end of the season, you’ll still get the benefit of any solid play he has before then.
Justin Howe: Let your draftmates skip over Taylor, expecting top pick Baker Mayfield to swoop in and steal his starting gig. But there's little reason to expect that to happen. Head coach Hue Jackson has been almost comically adamant on Taylor as his starter - he may have been shellshocked by the DeShone Kizer experiment. It's extremely likely the Browns, losers of 31 of their last 32 games, have a better chance of winning with the veteran on the field. There's plenty of risk with Taylor, of course - he's always run enough to get himself injured consistently, and Mayfield is the more talented passer and the franchise's cornerstone, anyway. But Taylor is a top-10 fantasy quarterback when on the field, and he seems likely to be just that for at least 10-12 games of the year. Drafters who've already secured the quarterback position are wise to dip into the Taylor pool in Round 16 or 17, chasing a ceiling that simply shouldn't still be on the board there.
Player Receiving 1 Vote
Sam Darnold, NY Jets
Andy Hicks: Sam Darnold probably has the toughest road to becoming a starting quarterback out of the four guys drafted in the top 10, but he will be expected to win the starting job sooner rather than later and is expected to cement himself as the long-term starter while the Jets build a team around him. The lack of explosive weapons will severely limit his upside this year, but he should play well enough to become a waiver wire consideration.