Every year you see a whole host of sleeper articles and people’s big tips for the next big breakout. In dynasty that dynamic is slightly different because every single “sleeper” is already owned. So I wanted to highlight some free players who could win you a title.
All of these players are currently going outside the top 200 in SF ADP over at DLF and are likely available in the majority of your dynasty leagues. I’m not trying to highlight guys that could be useful or are going to be fantasy relevant in the majority of cases. These are literally lottery tickets who will likely do nothing in the majority of their outcomes but should everything go right they could offer a huge return on investment.
The majority of Dynasty leagues are 25+ roster spots. Realistically even with 10 starting spots, you’re relying on 15 to 17 players maximum. That leaves over 8 end of the bench spots where you should be aiming for maximum upside. If one of those 8 lottery tickets hits it could recoup huge amounts of value.
Current ADP 240 QB43
It may shock people to read that I’m suggesting Ryan Fitzpatrick may not play all 17 games. However, after spending his career as a journeyman backup Fitzpatrick has suddenly been handed the keys to the Washington Football Team as they look to return to the playoffs. The likelihood is that Fitzpatrick plays all season mixing some impressive performances with some head-scratching ones. However, should Fitzpatrick disappoint as he has several times over the last few years in steps Taylor Heinicke.
Now Taylor Heinicke is unlikely to be a franchise QB anytime soon. However, in his lone playoff performance against the Superbowl champions, Heinicke was impressive. He showed flashes of competency passing the ball but also showed the rushing potential that could make him a fantasy asset. In that lone playoff game, Heinicke put up an impressive 24.84 points (again against the Superbowl champions). If Fitzpatrick turns into a pumpkin Heinicke could easily return hugely on the investment as a spot starter for a few weeks. If he impresses he could return even more!
Current ADP 270 QB45
As discussed if we’re talking purely upside it’s hard to find many players with an ADP of over 250 better than Mariota. Having only played part of one game last season Mariota showed everything that made him the number 2 overall pick back in 2015. From a fantasy perspective, he put up 26.84 points in that solo game.
Yes, Mariota is currently a backup but the guy starting ahead of him isn’t exactly entrenched long term. The player most likely to see a huge bump in value is a backup QB that becomes a starter. Mariota could easily be that. He could even potentially be a trade candidate in camp should a team suffer a serious injury at QB (think the Sam Bradford trade). Mariota is unlikely to be a long term answer at QB but as a free agent at the end of the season, Mariota could potentially also see some interest in the offseason. If Mariota becomes a starter at some point he will easily settle into the high-end QB3 range with his rushing upside. In a Superflex league that’s worth at least a future 1st round pick. How many over players in this ADP range have that in their range of outcomes.
ADP 217 RB63
Looking at the current value of the Chargers backfield it is expected that Austin Ekeler is going to be the workhorse. However, since 2018 no Chargers RB has had an opportunity share (carries + targets) greater than 62.1% (Melvin Gordon in 2018) and Ekeler’s largest was 50.9% in 2020. I strongly believe that Austin Ekeler is a stud (he’s my redraft RB5 currently). However, I also believe that this backfield will have a role for another back.
Last season that role seemed destined to be Joshua Kelleys. However, he had one of the worst rushing seasons in the entire NFL last year. Of backs with a minimum of 100 rushes, he was dead last in DVOA at -36.4% (behind Benny Snell, Frank Gore and Todd Gurley) and was 46th out of 47th in Success rate at 42%. This leads me to Justin Jackson. Whilst he has battled injuries throughout his short career having never played more than 13 games. When he has been on the field he has been impressive.
The most common scenario is that Jackson wins the 1B role in this offence behind Ekeler which will be nothing more than a flex-worthy role to cover injuries and bye weeks at best. With an ADP of 217 that has value. However, should Austin Ekeler miss time Jackson could end up being a league winner.
ADP 246 RB75
Continuing the theme of Running backs in backfields we expect to see a workhorse we move to Miami. Based on current ADP the consensus is that Myles Gaskin is going to be the only relevant back in Miami. Whilst Gaskin was very impressive last season despite being an afterthought in most fantasy circles. I’m not convinced that Miami’s backfield is his alone.
Miami decided not to address the RB position in the offseason outside of bringing in Malcolm Brown. People took that as faith in Gaskin. However, I just believe that it’s a sign of how Miami values the RB position. After all, they gained fantastic production out of a 7th round pick (Gaskin) and an undrafted free agent Ahmed. So could it be that they just don’t value spending resources at the position?
If Gaskin sees injuries or struggles in 2021 in steps Salvon Ahmed. The undrafted free agent impressed when he was given the opportunity in 2020. He had 4 games where he saw over 7 touches. In those 4 weeks, he finished as a top 24 back every week averaging 15.48 points per week. For reference, that’s better than Jonathan Taylor (15.3), Ezekiel Elliott (14.9) and Antonio Gibson (14.9).
ADP 250 WR93
Now I am a strong supporter of loading up your bench on Running Backs and Quarterbacks as they are volume reliant positions so are therefore likely to see a huge rise in value should an injury or benching occur. However, I felt I couldn’t conclude this article without mentioning a Wide Receiver or Tight End.
So if you’re taking a flyer on a Wide Receiver or Tight End in my opinion you should be shooting for the moon. How do you shoot for the moon? You target the best passing offence in the league. Find a Cheap asset that has never been tested at the NFL level. You end up with Cornell Powell.
Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Cornell Powell fan. He was 29th Percentile in my rookie receiver model. Furthermore, as a 5th round pick, he has a huge uphill battle to be fantasy relevant. However, If Powell was to somehow carve out a role as the number two receiver in the Chiefs offence he would rise astronomically in value. That is the kind of deep bench asset I want rather than a veteran receiver who is never going to be good enough to start for you but is too good to drop (otherwise known as a roster clogger).
If you’re looking for free players who can win you a league you need to be looking at cheap undervalued assets at the volume-based positions who can carve out a starting role. Whether that be due to injury or poor performance. I’ve highlighted a few that I believe could see that happen here but there are quite a few others.