The term “sleeper” has different meanings for different people in the world of fantasy football. Some folks believe it’s simply a player who will outperform his draft position. Others think it’s a relatively unknown or once forgotten player who unexpectedly emerges or re-emerges into a useful fantasy option.
In my opinion, both definitions are true but with a caveat. I don’t see a player as a sleeper if he’s already been a valuable fantasy asset during his career. For example, Aaron Rodgers or D’Andre Swift aren’t “sleepers” to me. Is Rodgers coming off a down year? Yes, but that doesn’t make him a sleeper. The same goes for Swift, who has been considered a top-30 overall pick in the past.
Could these players be labeled as bargains in upcoming fantasy drafts? Absolutely. But they’re certainly not “sleepers” based on my definition. I also consider some rookies to be sleepers, as these players could outperform their draft position and have obviously never yet produced in the pros.
- Fantasy Sleepers: Quarterbacks
With that in mind, here’s five sleeper quarterbacks to target in the late rounds who could be better than we’re expecting in 2023.
Rachaad White, Buccaneers
White is in prime position to outperform his draft position, as the Buccaneers cut ties with Leonard Fournette in the offseason and didn’t replace him in the draft or free agency. Head coach Todd Bowles believes White can “become a complete, three-down back,” and it appears Tampa Bay will give him a chance to achieve that goal. He could emerge into a nice No. 2 fantasy back in 2023.
James Cook, Bills
Cook didn’t put up huge fantasy totals as a rookie, but he averaged better than five yards per carry and caught 21 passes out of the backfield. With Devin Singletary no longer on the roster, Cook should see his opportunities increase, especially as a pass catcher, in Year 2. Veteran Damien Harris could cap his ceiling a bit, but Cook still has more flex appeal in PPR formats this season.
Alexander Mattison, Vikings
Mattison’s stock is on the rise with all of the rumors of Dalvin Cook being traded or even released, but I could see him being more useful even if the Vikings keep Cook. The veteran averaged a career-low 4.4 yards per carry last season, and his average of 15.5 carries per game was his lowest in the last four years. That could open the door for Mattison to see a bigger role in the backfield.
Samaje Perine, Broncos
Perine emerged as a strong add off the waiver wire during a three-week stretch last season, scoring 30.2 points, 19.3 points and 21.5 points as the Bengals lead back. Now in Denver, he could open the season in the same role if Javonte Williams isn’t at 100% coming off ACL and LCL injuries. We could even see Perine and Williams split the workload once the latter is back on the field.
Devon Achane, Dolphins
Achane is a small but quick and elusive pass catcher who coach Mike McDaniel was thrilled to land in the draft. While the Dolphins do have a crowded backfield with both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. in the mix, the rookie could etch out his own role, much like that of Darren Sproles during his salad days. I’d look to land Achane as a No. 4 fantasy back in reception-friendly leagues.
Khalil Herbert, Bears
The top spot on the Bears backfield depth chart is wide open after the loss of David Montgomery, and I like Herbert as the favorite to become the starter. He’s shown some flashes in limited time, including a 30.9-point performance against the Texans last season. While D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson will also be involved, I see Herbert as the back to target in fantasy drafts.
Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
How is it possible for Mitchell to be considered a sleeper while on the same team as Christian McCaffrey? Well, CMC has missed a good chunk of games over the last three years due to injuries. Also, this duo did somewhat split the workload when both were healthy (in limited time) last season. Mitchell will be one of the top handcuffs, and he could etch out some flex value at times, too.
Kendre Miller, Saints
Miller was a stat sheet stuffer in his final season at TCU, rushing for 1,399 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He could see an expanded role to start his NFL career, as the Saints could be without Alvin Kamara due to a potential suspension. In that scenario, Miller would be the second backfield option behind Jamaal Williams. I’d take a flier on the rookie during the later rounds.