There is a lot of excitement surrounding this year’s NFL Draft class going into the 2021 fantasy football season. Many should make an immediate impact, such as Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Najee Harris. However, while those players are already household names, who are 14 under-the-radar dynasty sleepers that you can target in your fantasy football rookie draft?
Dynasty rookie sleepers | Wide receivers
Let’s first take a look at the wide receivers who could surprise you as contributors for your dynasty fantasy football team.
Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay Packers
Amari Rodgers concluded his career at Clemson with 181 receptions for 2,144 yards with 15 receiving touchdowns over 55 career games. He ranked sixth in school history in career receptions, 12th in receiving yards, and tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns. Rodgers has an excellent chance to prove he’s the second-most talented receiver on the Packers’ roster.
Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Tennessee Titans
Dez Fitzpatrick finished his Louisville career with 154 receptions for 2,589 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. He ranked ninth in school history in receptions and sixth in receiving yards. Fitzpatrick averaged a robust 17 yards per reception for his career. This was impressive because Louisville didn’t throw the football all that much.
The Titans signed receiver Josh Reynolds to a one-year, $1.75 million contract during free agency. They then traded for seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones. As such, Fitzpatrick is projected to open the season as the Titans’ No. 4 receiver. He’s someone to target in the later rounds of your rookie drafts.
Frank Darby, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Frank Darby could be the steal of this year’s NFL Draft. He averaged 20 yards per reception at Arizona State, recording his best collegiate career in 2019 with 616 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Darby has the play speed and athleticism to succeed at the NFL level.
He greatly benefits from the departure of Jones. Darby will be in a position to earn playing time considering how weak the Falcons’ receiver depth chart is, which is a perfect recipe for a potential rookie sleeper on your dynasty fantasy football team.
Cornell Powell, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Cornell Powell set career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (882), and receiving touchdowns (7) in his final season at Clemson. He was stuck behind current NFL receivers Tee Higgins and Hunter Renfrow early in his career. Now, Powell joins the Chiefs’ high-powered offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The opportunity is there for the taking considering Kansas City has yet to solidify the No. 2 receiver role opposite of Tyreek Hill. Powell may not have high draft capital, but he could position himself to be fantasy relevant in the immediate future.
Dazz Newsome, WR, Chicago Bears
Dazz Newsome ranks third in University of North Carolina history with 182 receptions, fifth in receiving yards with 2,435, and is tied for seventh with 18 receiving touchdowns. He broke his collarbone earlier this June, but Newsome is expected to return just in time for training camp.
The Bears’ receiver depth chart is not the strongest. Allen Robinson is on the franchise tag, and behind him are Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller, who was part of trade rumors approaching the draft. Newsome may have been selected to replace him.
Shi Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Shi Smith could be the sleeper of the Panthers’ 2021 class. He caught 174 passes for 2,204 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career at the University of South Carolina. Smith finished his collegiate career ranked fourth in receptions and eighth in receiving yards.
The Panthers don’t have a true slot receiver. This is a role that could allow Smith to see offensive snaps sooner than expected, making him a potential sleeper for your dynasty team in his rookie year.
Dynasty rookie sleepers | Running backs
Which rookie running backs could be sleepers for dynasty fantasy football rosters?
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
Michael Carter and Javonte Williams were a running back tandem at the University of North Carolina that steamrolled the competition in 2020. Carter finished second in the ACC with 151.6 all-purpose yards per game and led the nation with 18 rushing attempts of 20 or more yards.
Additionally, he concluded his storied career fourth in UNC history with 3,404 career rushing yards. The Jets have 216 unaccounted rushing attempts, and with Carter generating a lot of positive buzz in New York, he could open the regular season as the starter.
Larry Rountree, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Larry Rountree accumulated 3,720 yards and 40 touchdowns in four seasons at Missouri. He’s an explosive runner with excellent vision who could push second-year running back Joshua Kelley for snaps and touches in 2021. Starter Austin Ekeler is unlikely to be deployed as a bell cow, so Rountree is one of my favorite deep sleepers at the running back position.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots
Rhamondre Stevenson landed in a perfect landing spot with the Patriots. New England has finished in the top five of rushing yards per game two out of the last three seasons. The Patriots have also boasted one of the top offensive lines each year over the past decade.
Stevenson missed the first five games of the 2020 season due to a suspension but still led Oklahoma with 665 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns on 101 attempts. Damien Harris will continue to be a key contributor to the Patriots’ running game. Yet, the opportunity for Stevenson would be to inherit Sony Michel’s role should the Patriots decide to release Michel this summer.
Chris Evans, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Evans appeared in 42 games at Michigan with six starts, including one at wide receiver. He had three career games with 100 or more rushing yards. In fact, Evans became the third Michigan running back to surpass 100 yards in his first collegiate game.
He has the making of a late-round gem for the Bengals with his solid hands and outstanding route-running ability. Evans has a chance to fill the void left by Giovani Bernard. If he sees a reasonable number of snaps, Evans could be a fantastic sleeper for your dynasty team, even in his rookie year.
Kylin Hill, RB, Green Bay Packers
Kylin Hill was an offensive staple for the Mississippi State Bulldogs throughout his career. He accumulated 3,166 total yards with 22 touchdowns in 30 career games. Hill will be competing for the Packers’ No. 3 running back job, and it’s a battle that he can win.
It is worth noting that the Packers can opt-out of running back Aaron Jones’ contract in 2023. Hill is someone to stash for now, but down the road could form a formidable committee with A.J. Dillon.
Gerrid Doaks, RB, Miami Dolphins
Gerrid Doaks amassed 1,712 yards on 331 attempts and scored 14 touchdowns at the University of Cincinnati. Additionally, He accumulated 407 receiving yards. Doaks has the size, play strength, and speed NFL coaches want in a running back.
The Dolphins’ offseason actions show they may not be sold on running back Myles Gaskin as the starter.
Miami attempted to claim Kerryon Johnson after Detroit released him but were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the Dolphins drafted Doaks in the seventh round, and he’ll get the chance to contribute immediately and is someone to target late in rookie drafts.
Dynasty rookie sleepers | Tight ends
The 2021 TE class was not a strong one, but is there a rookie tight end that could be a sleeper for dynasty rosters?
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pat Freiermuth owns the record at Penn State for career touchdown receptions by a tight end with 16. His 92 career receptions are tied for 20th all-time in school history. Kyle Pitts is an exceptional prospect, but Freiermuth could end up being a better value in dynasty formats.
Freiermuth will compete for first-team snaps with Eric Ebron. However, the veteran tight end will be a free agent after the 2021 season. Therefore, while Freiermuth may not return great numbers in 2021, he could be a valuable sleeper in your fantasy football rookie drafts when keeping an eye on the future of your dynasty team.
Kenny Yeboah, TE, New York Jets
Kenny Yeboah had 47 receptions for 538 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in four years at Temple. He transferred to the University of Mississippi for his final season of college football. Yeboah appeared in eight games last season, finishing second on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (524).
The Jets signed Yeboah as an undrafted free agent as the tight end position continues to be an area of opportunity in New York. Chris Herndon continues to disappoint, Ryan Griffin is a cut candidate, and neither Daniel Brown nor Tyler Kroft is unlikely to climb the Jets depth chart. Yeboah has a legitimate chance to become a dynasty asset for the Jets.
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