Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

 Log In  | Sign Up  |  Contact      

Five Deep Sleepers

By Bill Anderson | 8/7/23 |

If you are a hardcore fantasy manager like me, with access to the 24/7 news cycle and taking advantage of every resource available, chances are the idea of a “deep sleeper” is foreign to you. You probably know every offensive player on every roster and some sort of argument for or against that player becoming fantasy relevant. I get it, I’m with you. For the less fanatical, however, the idea of a deep sleeper still exists and is, in fact, an important part of having a successful fantasy season.

For this exercise, I have decided to pick 5 players that could make an important impact on the 2023 fantasy season. To truly make them “deep” sleepers I am going to only look at players currently being drafted after Round 12, in a 12 team half-point PPR league (pick 145 or later). I feel these players have the right amount of upside that could contribute greatly to you winning your league if their situation breaks the right way.

1. TE Sam LaPorta, Detroit; ADP: 147

I know what your first thought may be; rookie tight ends rarely make a splash in Year 1. I get it. However, LaPorta looks to have the right mix of talent and opportunity to buck the trend this season.

LaPorta was drafted with the 3rd pick in the 2nd round of this year’s draft, coming out Iowa, where he set the school record for career receptions at the position. This is saying quite a bit considering guys like George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant all attended Iowa in the past 10 years. LaPorta offers a nice mix of athleticism and production and is almost certainly going to start the season as a starter.

LaPorta has a few things going for him that should lead to early success. First, there is no solidified pass catcher behind Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jameson Williams showed nothing last year after coming back from injury, and is suspended six games, while also reportedly struggling in training camp. Marvin Jones is 33 and not much more than a situational deep threat at this stage of his career.

LaPorta will step into the role that T.J. Hockenson held last year for 10 games before being traded to the Vikings. In that 10-game span, Hockenson averaged nearly 9 targets a game as Jared Goff’s security blanket when St. Brown was covered. With the 12th most pass attempts in the NFL last year fueled by negative game scripts, there are plenty of targets to go around thanks to Detroit’s poor defense.

The final thing going in LaPorta’s favor is he may not be asked to block much, as the Lions boast one of the league’s best offensive lines and have Brock Wright who is more of a traditional blocking tight end. This leads me to believe LaPorta the main route-running tight end and even used in the slot a bit, as he has been this summer. LaPorta has reportedly had an excellent training camp and should produce numbers far exceeding his current ADP.

2. WR Nico Collins, Houston; ADP: 151

Collins has a lot going for him this year after improving in his sophomore year of 2022. Going into his third season, Collins should have improved quarterback play, after the team drafted C.J. Stroud in the first round of the NFL Draft. From multiple reports, the two have already built some chemistry this summer and Collins has come up with multiple highlight reel-type catches that should only increase Stroud’s confidence in targeting the 6’4’’ wideout downfield.

Secondly, Collins is now unquestionably the team’s number one receiver, after being behind Brandin Cooks the past two seasons. Only 31-year-old Robert Woods, and multiple undersized, slot-type receivers are competition. With one of the league’s worst defenses, the Texans should find themselves in their fair share of negative game scripts and Collins profiles as the perfect guy to take deep shots with when you’re feeling desperate. The improvement Collins made from rookie to sophomore was apparent in multiple metrics and betting on his continued ascension in his third year seems like a reasonable gamble. Currently being drafted as WR60, Collins is easily in my top 45 receivers and if Stroud can avoid too many rookie hiccups, Collins has the upside to be a very solid WR3 this season.

3. Zach Evans (RB, Los Angeles Rams) ADP: 199

Going into the 2023 NFL Draft, Evans was one of my favorite backs, as a former five-star recruit, Evans averaged nearly 7 yards per carry for his college career. Injuries and transfers knocked Evans out of the spotlight but his pedigree and performance (albeit in just 290 carries) cannot be denied. I was a bit surprised he fell to the end of the 6th round, likely due to injury concerns, but now is not exactly the best time to be a running back in the NFL.

Evans has prototypical size for an NFL power back but also has enough burst and speed to turn the corner and rip off chunk plays. If he can shake off injury concerns, I believe he can be a true difference-maker at the position for years to come. Evans may start out as the RB3 on the Rams’ depth chart but would likely be the main early-down back if starter Cam Akers were to miss time.

Speaking of Akers, as much as I like his raw talent, there are definitely red flags. Last year, Akers started the season off slow as he worked his way back from an Achilles injury, and there were even rumors he was going to be cut midway through the year.

However, Akers rebounded and finished the season strong but it remains to be seen how much Sean McCay trusts him and how much his injury will impact him long term. Akers is a free agent after this season and the Rams, likely a rebuilding team, will probably look to get their young guys more involved as the season goes on. If Akers gets hurt or shows that his previous injury has zapped his burst, Evans may find himself in a situation where he gets 12+ touches a game.

Currently going off the board as RB64, I think Evans is actually one of the better handcuffs and an easy late-round pick or waiver acquisition as a bench piece that could pay huge dividends later in the year.

Ryan Tannehill

4. QB Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee; ADP: 205

In traditional 1 quarterback leagues, I do not pay much attention to QB’s outside of the top 15 or so but I also love to wait on drafting the position this year (and most years), so Tannehill fits the bill of my favorite end-of-the-draft QB to stash.

People forget that Tannehill was a solid real-life and fantasy QB just a few short years ago, throwing 33 touchdowns, just 7 interceptions and adding 266 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground just three seasons ago, despite playing on a run-heavy offense. This season Tannehill has again slipped under the radar, as he missed most of last season due to injury and the team drafted Will Levis in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft.

Tannehill has some intriguing circumstances that lead me to believe he is a steal at current ADP. First and foremost, he will have the best weapons of his career after the team signed DeAndre Hopkins who reunites with his former Houston offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. Add to this second-year receiver Treylon Burks, a former first round pick who flashed in his rookie year after getting off to a slow start, and second-year tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo - an uber-athletic player who should take advantage of mismatches in the middle of the field. This trio of players should give Tannehill a dynamic set of options to rely on, in the event they’re forced to throw more than projected, given their weak defense and 29-year-old running back with nearly 2000 career touches.

Tannehill, who will be playing on the last year of his contract, has a lot to prove in order to earn another contract, and is setup nicely to exceed expectations on a team that should remain competitive in a weak division all year long. With plenty of motivation, great weapons, and a history of putting up solid numbers I could see Tannehill sneak into the back-end of the QB1 ranks on a weekly basis despite being currently selected as a QB3 (or undrafted) in most drafts.

5. WR Justyn Ross, Kansas City; ADP: 232

Here is a true deep sleeper who is not even guaranteed a roster spot and currently being drafted as the WR88 (or undrafted). I expect his ADP to rise as long as Ross continues to show-out at training camp, as he’s been doing the past few weeks.

Ross has had one of the more interesting paths and remains one of the more polarizing prospects of the past few years. A highly-regarded high school player, Ross turned down Alabama to attend Clemson, where he looked like a top NFL prospect after his first two seasons. Then disaster struck, as a spinal condition sidelined Ross for his junior season and while he returned the following year, he eventually went undrafted in 2022, after being considered a top-50 pick two years prior.

Signed by the Chiefs, Ross missed the entire 2022 season after foot surgery and has only reappeared recently, as training camp highlights begin to roll with multiple big plays by the former Clemson receiver. The wide receiver depth chart is wide open in Kansas City, as it is made up of the oft-injured Kadarius Toney, the limited veteran (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) and unproven youngsters Skyy Moore and Rashee Rice.

While Ross is not guaranteed anything, he has the best talent of the group and is basically free in fantasy drafts. Buying a Chiefs wide receiver is like playing the lottery - you might not hit but if you do it could be life changing. Paired with Patrick Mahomes, it is likely that one of these guys will have a big year and my money is on Ross, as he has the pedigree and seems to be making the most of his opportunity in camp. With just a tiny investment needed, Ross could prove to be a true difference maker for your fantasy team.

Draft Buddy - Fantasy Football excel draft spreadsheet