Millions of people are identifying fantasy football sleepers for the 2023 NFL season. Are you one of them? If so, here are 12 guys whose market values are comfortably below realistic expectations for the coming year, including several rookies with mammoth upside.
Fantasy Football Sleepers
While it’s still early, FantasyPros’ compilation of expert rankings (“ECR”) is a useful guide for assessing roughly when players will be drafted in fantasy leagues. The following recommendations are based on each player’s ECR on May 22, 2023. In all likelihood, many of these players’ values will increase as the offseason continues.
Jordan Love, QB
You can tell a lot about a team’s interest in its players by when they draft these guys. But you can also tell a lot based on who they don’t draft.
While some people panned the Green Bay Packers for selecting Jordan Love in the first round in 2020, it’s notable that the only QB they’ve picked since then is Sean Clifford (2023 – Round 5). Green Bay also used three of their first four picks last month on a highly touted wideout and two seemingly NFL-ready tight ends.
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In other words, the team appears committed to surrounding Love with the talent he needs to meet or even exceed 2020 expectations. They’re all in on their former prized pick, and fantasy managers should take notice.
Trey Lance, QB
These next two suggestions are designed to be hedges. If you’re drafting in 2QB/Superflex leagues and can snag Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, you’re almost assuredly locking in value on at least one of them. At these price points, it makes sense to roll the dice. Lance might be raw, and he might not even earn a start, but he brings electric upside in fantasy.
Brock Purdy, QB
Part two of the hedge. If Purdy is healthy, he’ll have the inside track to start Week 1. Even if he doesn’t, Purdy could take over at some point during the season, with the title-contending Niners deservedly impatient when it comes to locking down their preferred quarterback for a playoff run. Purdy’s a proven commodity at this point, despite his brief NFL tenure. If he’s named the Week 1 starter, Purdy’s ECR will skyrocket.
Tyjae Spears, RB
Will the Titans make the playoffs? I’d put the odds at below 50/50. That makes Derrick Henry (turning 30 in January) a major sell-high candidate before the trade deadline.
If Tennessee agrees, then highly touted rookie Tyjae Spears could step into the starting role by November. Spears’ three-down-back abilities could transform him into a top-30 RB overnight.
Chase Brown, RB
As Joe Mixon’s legal issues hang in the air, and as he continues to lag behind most starters when it comes to efficiency (3.8 yards per carry in his last 400 carries), there’s room for rookie Chase Brown to step into a decent Samaje Perine-like complementary role.
Or, if Mixon’s found guilty, the team might feel compelled to move forward with Brown for the rest of the season. Either way, Brown’s fantasy value will almost certainly go up.
Eric Gray, RB
An almost perfect landing spot for rookie Eric Gray, who has a shot at winning the RB2 job behind Saquon Barkley. Of course, Barkley and the New York Giants are still at odds regarding contract negotiations.
Barkley wants (and deserves) a long-term deal. The Giants want (and deserve) to take a cautious approach with their often-injured star running back. It’s not farfetched to envision Gray playing a 1B role alongside Barkley, with a chance to earn some spot starts.
Keaontay Ingram, RB
James Conner has dealt with durability concerns throughout his career and is now 28 years old. The Arizona Cardinals have one of the league’s thinnest backfields and are tied for the league’s worst odds of winning the Super Bowl.
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In other words, at some point this season, Arizona will probably be incentivized (or forced) to see what they have in former sixth-rounder Keaontay Ingram. And while Ingram might not be the next Eno Benjamin, he could be a back-end fantasy starter later this year.
Treylon Burks, WR
Why isn’t Treylon Burks ranked better? Probably because Tennessee’s QB situation remains in flux, with the possibility that rookie Will Levis could replace Ryan Tannehill at some point.
Beyond Burks, the Titans have one of the weakest WR-supporting casts in the NFL. The second-year wideout is the co-offensive centerpiece alongside Henry. Tannehill and/or Levis will do everything possible to feed their top receiver.
Gabe Davis, WR
Gabe Davis’ ranking assumes a regression after showing meaningful improvement last season. Arguably, he has better than 50/50 odds of matching his 2022 numbers or even taking another step forward. The knock on Davis is that he’s operated as more of a boom-bust fantasy option. But overall, he should easily exceed his WR42 expectations.
John Metchie III, WR
John Metchie III’s promising NFL career was put on standby after sustaining a season-ending ACL injury, followed by a leukemia diagnosis. Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans has sounded tepidly optimistic about the former Alabama star returning to the fold. When he does, Metchie could quickly ascend to the WR1 role.
Van Jefferson, WR
For the same reasons the Titans might trade Henry, the Los Angeles Rams might send Cooper Kupp to a contender. The Rams are facing the very real prospect of a massive rebuild ahead of 2024 or 2025, and Kupp is entering his age-30 season. His value won’t get higher.
If/when his time in L.A. ends, Van Jefferson could become Matthew Stafford’s No. 1 wideout. At minimum, Jefferson will be a top-three receiver in Week 1 in an offense desperate for playmakers outside of Kupp.
Sam LaPorta, TE
Jameson Williams’ suspension compounds the need to reach for rookie Sam LaPorta. The Detroit Lions drafted LaPorta to be their next T.J. Hockenson, or something close to it.
Detroit is all in on a playoff run. LaPorta should be a top-four offensive option in Week 1, and no worse than a top-five option when Williams returns in October. The rookie is a great bet to crack the top 18 at this position, with a legitimate shot at creeping into the top 14.