Sport Searching for next year's league winners with early sleepers

02:20  06 april  2022
02:20  06 april  2022 Source:   cbssports.com

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Everytime we talk about sleepers in Fantasy sports these days, I tend to preface it with some kind of overarching discussion about what the term even means these days. It's like the opposite of that old "If a tree falls in a forest …" thing – if every possible sleeper gets written about a thousand times over the course of an offseason, can the term "sleeper" actually have any value?

Of course it does! It just doesn't mean what it might have a decade ago. There aren't any players who are truly overlooked in Fantasy; you're not going to find any obvious Week 1 stars going outside of the top-100 in ADP. There are too many sharp people talking about Fantasy Football for that to happen.

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But sleepers still exist, obviously. Players get downgraded for unfair or unfounded reasons, or because their upside isn't given enough credence; you could make a convincing argument that Cooper Kupp could have qualified for the term a year ago, even though he was established and going in the first five rounds in most drafts. Clearly, we collectively overlooked him.

So, let's begin our search for this year's class of overlooked stars. On the Fantasy Football Today podcast Monday, we talked about some of our early sleepers for the 2022 season, and that's what today's newsletter is going to be all about. We'll also be going through our early breakouts and busts later in the week, and I'll have picks from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings right here in your inbox, and if you want to send us your picks – or tell us why you don't agree with ours – shoot us an email at FantasyFootball@CBSi.com and we'll read some of them on the air in future episodes.

Capitals fans salute Nicklas Backstrom's 1,000th career point by showering the ice with apples

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There's still plenty of offseason left, and the draft, OTAs, minicamps, and the rest are going to change how we view a bunch of these players, so don't hold us to these picks just yet. Today's sleeper, after all, can turn into tomorrow's bust if the context around them changes. But, as things stand, these are the players at every position we think could provide a huge return on your investment this season:

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QB Sleepers

My pick:Mitchell Trubisky, Steelers

We've seen stretches from Trubisky where he looked like a viable starting Fantasy option, but they were few and far between as the Bears mostly refused to take advantage of his athleticism. It remains to be seen if the Steelers will do so, mostly because they never asked Ben Roethlisberger to run and he had no interest in doing so in recent years. Given that the Bears were unwilling to make the most of Justin Fields' rushing ability for much of his rookie season, I'm willing to chalk that one up to a Matt Nagy issue, and I'm hoping that means the Steelers will be a bit more flexible. This isn't a bad landing spot for Trubisky otherwise, with solid pass-catchers at pretty much every level of the offense, so if he can just be decent as a passer while making a few plays every week with his legs, he could be a very solid QB2. I'm not sure the upside is much higher than that – I don't buy the idea that spending one season behind Josh Allen working with Brian Daboll changed Trubisky's career trajectory in any meaningful way. But if Trubisky can emerge as a viable weekly streamer, that's not a bad outcome.

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  • Jamey's pick:Derek Carr, Raiders – "Carr is another quarterback to wait for on Draft Day now that he has Davante Adams on his side. The Raiders receiving corps has the potential to be elite with Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, and Carr should benefit with new coach Josh McDaniels designing plays as well …"
  • Dave's pick:Kirk Cousins, Vikings – "I already see the writing on the wall: Fantasy managers will pass up whatever reliability Cousins offers and chase the second-year quarterbacks. And honestly, I'm probably going to do the same thing. But once the top-12 passers and second-year guys are gone, Cousins will be worth a scoop ..."
  • Heath's pick: Tua Tagovailoa – "The Dolphins have done everything they can to give Tagovailoa a chance in 2022. They added an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel, signed the best offensive lineman in free agency in Terron Armstead,  made a blockbuster deal for Tyreek Hill, and added a solid pass-catching back in Chase Edmonds. This coaching staff combined with this set of weapons, and Tagovailoa's top-five pedigree make him an excellent choice as this year's league-winning quarterback from the double-digit rounds ..."
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RB Sleepers

My pick:Travis Etienne, Jaguars

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I'm not sure if Etienne is going to count as a sleeper by the time draft season rolls around, but I'll include him here because I'm not sure people are as excited about him as they should be. He went 62nd in our 0.5 PPR mock back in January, and that just isn't high enough for someone who will likely be the clear No. 1 RB for his team next season. Sure, James Robinson is still around, however coming back from a ruptured Achilles, I don't know if you can expect much from him; Etienne's Lisfranc injury in his left foot last preseason shouldn't be as much of an obstacle. Obviously, we've never seen Etienne in the NFL, but he was a dynamic all-around playmaker in college who should be used as both a pass-catcher and a rusher, and that skill set means his Fantasy upside is significant. The Jaguars offense needs to take a step forward for him to realize all of that potential, but it's not out of the question he could have a similar role to D'Andre Swift in Detroit. That gives him top-10 RB upside, which isn't currently factored into his price nearly enough.

  • Jamey's pick: Raheem Mostert, Dolphins – "The Dolphins will have a revamped backfield this season with Mostert and Chase Edmonds, and Mostert could win the starting job given his history with coach Mike McDaniel from their time in San Francisco. It will likely be a committee for Mostert and Edmonds, but Mostert will know McDaniel's offense, which should give him an early advantage in what could be an explosive rushing attack …"
  • Dave's pick:Trey Sermon, 49ers – "Sermon never got going in the 49ers offense last year, getting passed on the depth chart by pretty much everybody. I'm hoping the reset button gets pushed this spring and Sermon gets another shot to contribute. Helping his case is half of the 49ers running back depth chart hitting free agency this offseason …"
  • Heath's pick: Ronald Jones, Chiefs – "Jones is still just 25 years old and he's averaged 4.5 yards per carry over 488 career carries. While he's not going to give you much in the way of the passing game, he could absolutely be the lead rusher in Kansas City. I would expect Clyde Edwards-Healire to handle most of the passing downs, but Jones could be in line for 200+ carries and short-yardage work on one of the best offenses in football …"
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WR Sleepers

My pick:Rondale Moore, Cardinals

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Moore's rookie season was a disappointment, overall, but there were still signs of how he can be a difference maker in this offense. His role in the offense served largely as an extension of the running game, either directly – 18 carries – or indirectly – 1.4 yard average depth of target. The Cardinals tried to get the ball in Moore's hands with blockers in front of him, and he showed the ability to make plays at times. The next step is to increase his snap share – he was usually fourth among wide receivers on the team – and find more ways to get him involved down the field. Moore doesn't have the size or strength of a Deebo Samuel, but you're hoping he follows a similar path, combining his excellent YAC skills with a larger overall role that helps his numbers take off.

  • Jamey's pick: Rondale Moore, Cardinals – "I asked Kliff Kingsbury at the NFL owners meeting about his expectations for Moore in Year 2, and Kingsbury said Moore will play a big role opposite DeAndre Hopkins. "Last year, he kind of got lost in the shuffle more than he should have," Kingsbury said. "He's a dynamic playmaker. With Christian leaving particularly, we expect him to fill that role and really live up to it. " I also asked Kingsbury about using Moore in the backfield, and Kingsbury referenced how the 49ers used Deebo Samuel as something Moore could do for the Cardinals …"
  • Dave's pick:Will Fuller, Free Agent – "When Will Fuller was trending as a top-70 pick, I flinched. I didn't want him, and he went on to have his best season because he stayed healthy and he had a strong-armed quarterback who loved throwing to him. Fast forward to now. We know nothing about where Fuller will play or who his quarterback will be …"
  • Heath's pick:Corey Davis, Jets –  "When Davis and Zach Wilson were both healthy in 2021, Davis was a boom/bust No. 2 wide receiver, who averaged 13.8 PPR FPPG in his first six outings. Injuries derailed his season and Elijah Moore had a nice run of his own, but their current expert rankings don't reflect that reality at all. Moore is currently WR24 in the rankings while Davis sits at 56. I actually had Davis ahead of Moore in my initial projections …"

TE Sleepers

My pick:Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos

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We haven't seen a ton of Okwuegbunam in the NFL, both because he's dealt with some injuries and because he's been stuck behind Noah Fant for a couple of seasons. However, there's a ton to like in his profile, starting with his size and athleticism – he's 6-foot-6, 258 pounds and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash coming into the league. He scored 23 touchdowns in 27 games at Missouri, including 11 as a true freshman, and he's been effective in his opportunities in the NFL, averaging 8.2 yards per target with a 5.5% touchdown rate in a mediocre (at best) Broncos offense. With Russell Wilson at QB and Fant out of the picture, this is Okwuegbunam's first chance to show what he can do. He should be one of the first 12 tight ends drafted in all formats, and there's top-five upside in a best-case scenario.

  • Jamey's pick: Irv Smith, Vikings – "Smith is coming off a knee injury that cost him the entire 2021 season, but hopefully he'll be ready for Week 1. "We're going to be smart with Irv," O'Connell said at the NFL's owners meeting. "There's no reason why he can't hit the ground running from a mental perspective this spring. ... He's so excited to get going." In 2020, Smith closed the season with at least 16 PPR points in two of his final four games, and I'm looking forward to him being the No. 3 option in the passing game behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen"
  • Heath's pick: Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos – "The 23-year-old Bronco went from a backup option catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock to the No. 1 tight end for a future Hall of Famer. He has an outstanding size/speed combination when he's healthy and has caught 80% of his targets despite spotty quarterback play. He immediately vaulted ahead of Fant in my tight end projections"

Canucks' Nils Hoglander, Tucker Poolman could be out for season .
Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau spoke to reporters Tuesday, saying that he believes forward Nils Hoglander and defenseman Tucker Poolman could be done for the 2021-22 season.Hoglander, 21, last played on March 15 against the New Jersey Devils. He was listed as day-to-day with a groin injury two days later, and his status was downgraded to week-to-week on March 30.

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