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Fantasy football rankings: Top 10 sleepers to draft in 2021

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Jonnu Smith Fantasy Football Sleepers 2021

The fantasy football community is smart. Every year, it gets harder to identify true "sleepers" as managers do their homework on skill players who previously went overlooked.

That means it's more important than ever to have sleeper options at every position entering your draft.

What is a sleeper, you ask? Definitions vary, but our focus is on guys who we believe should be taken higher in drafts based on their expected performance. So, we don't necessarily think Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be a top-five fantasy QB. But we do think that if 15 QBs have been selected and he's still on the board, he's worth scooping up.

Fantasy football draft kit 2021: Rankings, cheat sheets and more

Identifying value is essential to fantasy success, so keep an eye on these 10 fantasy football sleepers as you enter the later rounds of your draft.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are all-in on Tua after drafting Jaylen Waddle and signing Will Fuller V in free agency. He’s barely a top-20 quarterback in most rankings after an underwhelming rookie season, but there’s a world in which he breaks out in Year 2 to become a legitimate QB1.

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

It seems counterintuitive to label a No. 1 overall pick entering his second season a "sleeper," but Burrow is being drafted as a QB2 as he returns from ACL surgery. If the Bengals' offensive line can keep him upright, he has weapons at his disposal in Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase and should be throwing plenty. There's top-10 QB upside here.

Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos

Najee Harris will get most of the rookie RB hype, especially since Williams is backing up two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon. But the Broncos traded up for Williams and clearly plan on using the UNC product. While he may not give you production right out of the gate, Williams is a high-upside pick as Gordon enters the final year of his contract.

 

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions

Yes, Williams will split touches with talented back D’Andre Swift. But new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn loves getting the ball to his running backs – three Chargers backs saw north of 100 touches last season – so don’t be surprised if the former Packer sees a steady workload in both the running and passing games.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

James White caught 72 passes from Tom Brady in 2019. The Bucs reportedly had their sights on White this offseason before landing Bernard to serve in White’s pass-catching role. He probably won’t catch 72 passes from Brady, but Bernard is absolutely worth a late-round flier in PPR leagues.

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars 

Shenault managed 58 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie with Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton throwing him the ball. Now Trevor Lawrence is his QB, and the Jaguars should have to throw plenty in 2021. Shenault could emerge as a solid WR3.

Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets 

You’ve been trained to avoid Jets skill players like the plague, and Davis was a boom-or-bust guy in Tennessee. But he’s now the No. 1 wide receiver on a Jets team with a promising rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson. Considering he should be available as late as the 10th round, Davis is worth the risk.

Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons

It’s simple math, folks. With target monster Julio Jones now in Tennessee, Gage should get more looks from Matt Ryan as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Calvin Ridley. Even if Gage is third fiddle behind Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, he deserves to be taken higher than his average draft position in the 200s.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders 

Ruggs was fourth in the Raiders’ pecking order behind Darren Waller, Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow as a rookie, but don’t forget he was the top wideout taken in the 2020 NFL Draft. There are more targets to go around after Agholor’s departure, and the opportunity is there for Ruggs to emerge as Derek Carr’s WR1.

Jonnu Smith, TE, New England Patriots

Hunter Henry’s presence and Mac Jones' lack of experience may scare fantasy managers away. But the Patriots aren’t paying Smith $12.5 million per year to use him sparingly. Smith is the more dynamic pass-catcher of the duo and has upside in a Patriots offense that could funnel the ball to its tight ends without a true No. 1 wide receiver. Cam Newton's release and Jones being named the starter only increases Smith's upside.

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