Every year in fantasy football, the same discussions are had: who will be RB1 (the highest scoring running back)? Which kicker will provide the most value? One that always comes up is, who are the biggest sleepers? Sleepers are players who may not be getting drafted as high as they should be and are due to outpace their average draft position. It could be a rookie like Ja’Marr Chase, who went as WR26 last year but finished as WR5. Or it could be a veteran who found the right role with a team just as Leonard Fournette did, finishing as the RB5 despite being drafted as the RB32. Who are this year’s sleepers? Our experts discuss in this week’s roundtable:
Stratton Stave, Associate Sports Editor: Dameon Pierce
I could be totally wrong here with my first roundtable take of this year, but Pierce, who’s going as the RB32, could surprise a lot of people. The fourth round pick out of Florida wasn’t initially projected to do much this year, but thanks to some recent developments — namely the Houston Texans dropping Marlon Mack on Tuesday — Pierce has the entire Houston backfield to himself now. He played with the starters in the Texans’ last game of the preseason, and the only competition now is Rex Burkhead, whom he could easily overtake. If you can manage to snag Pierce in the late rounds of the draft, he could be a league-winner, especially for those using the Zero-RB strategy this year. A lot is still up in the air, but out of players going below a 90 ADP, Pierce is as good as they get.
Cole Stefan, Staff Writer: Allen Lazard
Since we’ve already selected our RB1, let me go ahead and select our WR1. I grunt a little as I write this because of my disdain toward the Green Bay Packers, but with Davante Adams and Marques Valdez-Scantling relocating to the AFC West, Lazard has to step up and be Aaron Rodgers’ main weapon in the air. Lazard, who posted 513 yards receiving in 2021, will look to join a line of elite WR1s under Rodgers spanning all the way back to the days of Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson. When not used as a slot receiver or the primary weapon, Lazard can serve as a secret agent in the end zone, finding ways to leave himself open so that he can catch the pigskin and give his team six more points. Lazard is not the guy you take in the first or second round (that is a Las Vegas Raiders-esque reach), but is someone you pick up as a bench option or a flex player. Should you pick him up, you will not regret the decision.
Evan Rodriguez, Staff Writer: A.J. Dillon
Right behind Allen Lazard as a huge fantasy steal, Dillon is a very underrated pickup for running back depth, especially in the later rounds of anyone’s fantasy draft. As a familiar face for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Dillon is certain to be utilized very much not only as a runner (242 yards on 42 carries in 2021), but also for his ability as a receiver (34 catches in 2021). While Lazard will get plenty of passes thrown to him, Dillon should also get plenty of touches, despite being behind Aaron Jones on the depth chart. When Dillon did get more touches later in 2021, the fantasy points racked up and went from RB42 to RB14 production from Week 10 onwards. If the Packers do continue to use Dillon heavily in 2022, he’s bound to be a huge steal for anyone’s fantasy draft, especially if he’s utilized like he was in the late last season.
Jon Synott, Sports Editor: Rashod Bateman
Typically, in most of my fantasy leagues I’ll draft based on pure volume. Look no further than the Ravens’ new WR1, Rashod Bateman. A second year player who showed promise after returning to the field in Week 6, Bateman played in 12 games, started four, and recorded 515 yards and a touchdown. Now, with Marquise Brown traded to the Cardinals at this year’s NFL Draft, Bateman is the clear frontrunner for targets out of the receiving group. Mark Andrews is still an elite tight end for Baltimore, but Bateman could take in a lion’s share of targets from former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens are 41-17 with Jackson, so expect plenty of competitive games. Having already formed a rapport with Bateman, alongside no other mouths to feed in the wide receiver room, the former first-round talent could be a steal in the later rounds just on target shares alone.