College Fantasy Football Sleepers 2021: Breakouts, steals, and busts

With the season just weeks away, who are some sleepers to target and busts to avoid in college fantasy football drafts for 2021?

College football is coming! Although Week 0 is less than two weeks away, college football fantasy players will eagerly have their eye on Week 1. With fantasy draft season heating up, there’s no better time to discover those college fantasy football sleepers that could help you challenge for a championship in 2021.

2021 college football fantasy QB sleepers and busts

Unless you’re picking in the top five in your college football fantasy league, you’re likely going to miss out on one of the “can’t miss” fantasy quarterbacks like Malik Willis, Spencer Rattler, or even Matt Corral. If you’re playing in a 2QB league, missing a top-rated quarterback can be a dagger to your chances of success.

However, there are plenty of high-scoring quarterback options deep into college football fantasy drafts this fall. Who are some college football fantasy sleepers at the position for the 2021 season?

Sleeper: Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan

A preseason favorite of “Draft Twitter,” Kaleb Eleby is sensationally overlooked as a starting QB in fantasy college football leagues. At present, he is rated as the QB26 according to Fantrax. The Western Michigan wonder has an ADP of 126.39. As a result, you should be able to select Eleby as late as the 10th round in a 12-team league.

If I’m so confident in him as a championship-winning option, why is he so readily available? Losing his leading wide receiver in D’Wayne Eskridge probably hasn’t helped. Furthermore, a cursory glance at his 2020 fantasy performance may offer some explanation. Eleby finished last season as the QB43, with 163.76 fantasy points. That is hardly championship-winning material; I’ll give you that.

Yet, the Western Michigan machine only played in six games last fall. In those games, he threw 18 touchdowns while adding another 4 on the ground. Additionally, he averaged over 280 passing yards per game. Although his total fantasy points appear meager, he averaged 27.29 points per game. In fact, his per-game average was significantly more than Rattler’s — the current QB3.

If you’re looking for a sleeper quarterback to help you win your college fantasy league in 2021, Eleby is your man. Other potential options include Bailey Zappe (QB20), Grant Wells (QB56), and Holton Ahlers (QB61).

Bust: Jayden de Laura, Washington State

The former three-star recruit was heavily recruited as a high school protege out of Hawaii in the 2020 recruiting class, attracting offers from the likes of Ohio State and USC before opting to commit to Washington State.

There is something very alluring about de Laura’s potential. He’s an exciting quarterback to watch. Still, a combination of off-field incidents and a lackluster start to his college career gives real cause for concern.

That hasn’t stopped college football fantasy players from adding him to their rosters, however. Currently, de Laura is QB38 with an ADP of 162.42, which seems like a relatively low-risk investment, right?

Except, it looks increasingly like de Laura might not be the starter for the Cougars this fall, never mind your fantasy team. Furthermore, quarterbacks like Levi Lewis, J.T. Daniels, and Jarret Doege make much more sense and have significantly lower ADPs than de Laura has right now.

2021 college football fantasy RB sleepers and busts

Last season, Najee Harris was the top-scoring player in the whole of college fantasy football. See, running backs do matter! This year, Iowa State’s Breece Hall is the crown jewel of fantasy running backs, with Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim and Texas sophomore Bijan Robinson closely behind. Trailing them, who are some sleepers at the RB position in college football fantasy leagues for the 2021 season?

Sleeper: Christian Beal-Smith, Wake Forest

A running back with 142 carries for 732 yards at 5.2 yards per carry might not be considered a sleeper. Nevertheless, Beal-Smith currently sits outside the top 100 running backs, with an ADP of 245.97 as the RB104, per Fantrax.

First, that is well below his finishing position from the 2020 college football season as RB63. The Wake Forest back amassed 107.4 points in nine games last season, averaging nearly 12 points per game. It’s not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s solid production nonetheless.

Yet, Beal-Smith has a genuine opportunity to comfortably outstrip those numbers in the coming season. With teammate Kenneth Walker III transferring to Michigan State, extra scoring touches will be up for grabs. While Beal-Smith had the bulk of the carries last fall, Walker found the end zone 13 times to Beal-Smith’s 5.

Sleeper: Tyler Badie, Missouri

On the subject of vacated touches, Tyler Badie is in a great position to succeed for Missouri this season. The Tigers have to replace 209 lost carries from Larry Rountree III, who racked up 972 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall. Rountree finished the 2020 campaign as the RB13 with 191.2 total fantasy points.

That is the size of the prize for Badie, and one of the reasons I believe he is a sleeper at the running back position in 2021 college football fantasy leagues. Currently, he is the RB44 with an ADP of 126.37.

In addition to his ability on the ground, Badie also caught 28 passes for 333 yards and 2 touchdowns, further adding to his value at the RB position.

Bust: Chris Rodriguez Jr., Kentucky

With a diabolically terrible passing game last season, Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez found himself the focal point of the Wildcats’ offense. He racked up 145.7 points in just nine games on the back of 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. As a result of his performances, he finished the season as the RB30.

Rodriguez is a popular college football fantasy RB, with a current ADP of 43.67 as the RB14. It’s understandable — based on his performances last fall — the expectation that he’ll once again lead the Kentucky offense.

Regardless, with the addition of Will Levis and Wan’Dale Robinson, I expect the Wildcats to be a much different proposition this season. Levis offers significant improvement in the passing game. Meanwhile Rodriguez adds little in this regard, catching just one pass last fall.

College Fantasy Football Sleepers 2021: Breakouts, steals, and busts
College Fantasy Football Sleepers 2021: Breakouts, steals, and busts

2021 college football fantasy WR sleepers and busts

This fall, David Bell, Kayshon Boutte, Calvin Austin III, and Jalen Tolbert headline the wide receiver class for college football fantasy. But what if you can’t pick up one of these productive playmakers? There are plenty of heavy hitters further down the food chain who can help you compete for a 2021 fantasy championship, including these college football sleepers.

Sleeper: Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina

Calling a WR who finished in the top 10 of college football last season a fantasy sleeper may seem ludicrous at first. Well, it’s not as ridiculous as finding out that Heiligh is only the WR19, with an ADP of 53.04.

Maybe people think that Coastal Carolina was a one-hit-wonder last fall — incidentally, they were in the first official AP Top 25 poll released this week. Perhaps, people are just that much higher on TE Isaiah Likely as the dominant offensive weapon for the Chanticleers.

Either way, it’s worth remembering that Heiligh is the second-highest scoring wide receiver returning to college football. Only Calvin Austin had more points at the position. With the exciting Coastal Carolina offensive system and one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in Grayson McCall, Heiligh is in as good a situation as anyone to succeed this year.

Sleeper: Emeka Emezie, NC State

Another player significantly sliding down college football fantasy draft boards is NC State WR Emeka Emezie. The WR44 last season, Emezie amassed 104.3 points while suffering an uncertain quarterback situation, with both Bailey Hockman and Devin Leary seeing time under center.

Although the Wolfpack will have a balanced offense with a strong ground game led by Zonovan Knight (only the RB36), Leary’s return from injury significantly boosts the passing game.

As long as Emezie returns from injury to start the season, which looks likely, he should comfortably surpass the 5 touchdowns and 738 receiving yards he accomplished last fall. With a current ADP of 212.42 as the WR103, the NC State star is a steal as a college football fantasy sleeper in 2021.

Bust: Justyn Ross, Clemson

Clemson WR Justyn Ross has been cleared to return to the field for the upcoming college football season. However, there has to be growing concern as to what his impact will be this fall.

Apparently, there isn’t as much concern amongst college football fantasy players. According to Fantrax, Ross is currently the WR22 with an ADP of 60.56. While this may represent exceptional value for a receiver who could be at the top of the class if fully fit, there are too many remaining question marks to be taking the Clemson wide receiver at that position.

TE sleepers and busts

While there may not be a Kyle Pitts at the tight end position this fall, Cole Turner, Greg Dulcich, Jalen Wydermyer, and Charlie Kolar are currently being drafted inside the first 100 picks. Want to wait and grab a tight end sleeper in your 2021 college football fantasy league? Then we have just the man for you.

Sleeper: Trae Barry, Boston College

Who? You can be forgiven for not knowing who Boston College’s latest tight end weapon is. After all, he wasn’t even eligible for fantasy football until this summer after spending most of his career at FCS Jacksonville State. Having played in the FCS spring season, Barry toyed with the idea of the NFL Draft before transferring to Boston College.

Extremely productive for Jacksonville State, Barry has an opportunity to shine on Chestnut Hill. Although the Eagles have a talented WR room that will compete for targets, their leading receiver in catches last fall was TE Hunter Long. An outstanding pass catcher who excels in the middle of the field, there’s no reason why Barry can’t take over Long’s role in the Eagles’ offense.

Currently available at an ADP of 231 as the TE24, Barry is the epitome of a college football fantasy sleeper. Get him while you can!

Bust: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M

In the interest of transparency, I hope I’m wide of the mark with this one. I absolutely love Jalen Wydermyer and what he brings to the football field. For me, he’s the TE1 of the 2022 NFL Draft class, and as an incredible pass catcher, he makes perfect sense as a fantasy football tight end.

That said, there’s uncertainty under center at Texas A&M this fall, with no clear indication at the time of writing as to who will be the starting QB. They have an insane backfield trio that they should lean on to make the most of what is arguably the strongest Aggies’ roster in years.

Wydermyer is currently the TE3 with an ADP of 94.5, which is a lofty position to fall if the Aggies struggle to get the passing game going this season.

Kicker sleepers and busts

Kickers are fantasy football targets too! If you’re lucky enough to play in a college football fantasy league in 2021 that allows kickers, then here are some potential sleepers for you outside of highly regarded guys like Cade York, Will Reichard, and Gabe Brkic.

Sleeper: Anders Carlson, Auburn

According to Fantrax, there have been 25 kickers drafted across college football fantasy leagues so far this fall. Currently, Auburn K Anders Carlson is ranked as the 21st, with an ADP of 226.29.

Carlson finished the 2020 season as the 19th-ranked kicker, so that isn’t too far wide of the mark. Still, Carlson missed just 3 total kicks last fall, hitting nearly 91% of his field goals, with just 1 missed extra point attempt. That leads all returning kickers who attempted 20+ field goals last season.

He also has a long of 50 yards, which should earn you extra points in fantasy leagues over some of his contemporaries, who are currently being drafted above him.

Bust: Hunter Duplessis, UTSA

Hunter Duplessis is currently the highest-drafted kicker with an ADP of 126.8. This despite only hitting 85% of his field goal attempts last season. Furthermore, he only ranked 14th last season with 91 points. There are significantly better options available at kicker, making Duplessis a bust candidate to be considered comparative to his ADP and ranking.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of his work here and follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.


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