The invites have been sent, entry fees allocated and draft orders finalized. Fantasy football season is truly amongst us. Whether you have the first pick or the last, you’re likely buried in fantasy football rankings trying to mock draft your way to future success. But the real games are won in the margins and finding that perfect diamond hidden in the late-round rough can make or break your fantasy chances.
Here are 5 surefire sleepers to target in your upcoming fantasy draft.
JK Dobbins, Ravens, RB 21 (average draft position for position)
Dobbins ended his rookie season on fire, gaining 527 all-purpose yards and notching seven touchdowns in his final six games. A preseason knee injury last year halted what should have been a top-10 season. His health is something to monitor as he could be limited during the start of the Ravens’ run, but if he can return to form he could easily finish as an RB1. Pretty nice for a guy available at the top of round 5.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks, RB 33
Speaking of late season heroics, Penny ended 2021 with 671 rushing yards and six touchdowns over his last five games at a remarkable 7.3 yards per carry. The reason Penny is being drafted so low has nothing to do with him and everything to do with his reported replacement. The Seahawks drafted Kenneth Walker III in the second round of the 2022 draft, and Penny’s stock plummeted. But a camp injury to the rookie has Penny looking at first-string touches with no competition. Arguably the most valuable a penny has ever been.
Late Round Flyers
Alec Pierce, Colts, WR 72
In the second round of the 2021 draft the Colts selected this standout senior from Cincinnati and he has impressed his new brass ever since. While Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman will likely hog the bulk of touches in this Indy offense, Matt Ryan has been known to spread the love around. Pierce could easily surpass his draft position as the WR2 of Frank Reich’s offense.
Evan Engram, Jaguars, TE 20
I know, I know, everyone reading this right now has had Engram on their fantasy team at some point during his disappointing career. Sometimes a new coat of paint can do wonders for an old car, and the shiny teal of Jacksonville could be just what the doctor ordered for the former 23rd overall selection. Trevor Lawrence could have a magical season in Doug Pederson’s new offense and not long ago were the days of Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz both being productive fantasy tight ends under Pederson’s short regime. Don’t call it a comeback (cuz he’s never really been there).
Marcus Mariota, Falcons, QB 32
Ok, stop laughing, I’m serious. Mariota has his struggles as an NFL QB and Atlanta will certainly struggle in year two of Arthur Smith’s reign. As a backup QB on your fantasy bench though, Mariota could surprise you. He has more than one weapon that can turn a short screen pass into a 70-yard touchdown, and his ability to scramble out of the pocket could net you some easy rushing touchdowns.
Plus, with Atlanta likely being behind in most of the games they play, the garbage fantasy stats could pile up fast. We’re not saying Mariota will finish top 10, but if he stays the starter he could absolutely factor into some fantasy-winning weeks.