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Nick Mariano's 2022 Draft Sleepers List for Fantasy Football Drafts (Premium Content)

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Sleeper has become a mythical word that can mean 10 different things to 10 different people. We each need to define it, as a "sleeper" to a 10-team drafter will be obvious to someone prepping for a 14-teamer. I'll try to dig beyond the top-12 QB/TE choices, as well as the top-36 or so for RBs and WRs.

For me, the term sleeper means a mid-to-late round pick who could be an excellent value where they are currently being drafted. In this article, I will highlight two or three of my favorite sleepers at traditional positions. Those of you seeking kicker or defense sleepers, feel free to try me on Twitter but really you just need to take a deep breath and worry about these positions on draft day. I'd advocate you avoid drafting K or DEF and use the extra bench slots on late-round fliers, anyway. All ADP data used for this article is from FantasyPros aggregate ADP data for half-PPR drafts, except for QBs, and was updated on 08/03/2022.

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2022 Quarterback Draft Sleepers

Derek Carr (LV), QB14

Many will regret leaving Carr outside of the top-12 QB picks, but said outside slot means I can talk myself into including him here! Those in 10- and 12-team leagues may only draft one QB or simply lump all of the middle-tier signal-callers into a heap where they’ll take whichever QB falls to them in the late rounds. I am saying to proactively target Carr. We are not the same.

Perhaps the QB13 slot ties into his finishes as the No. 13 arm with 4,804 passing yards and a robust 68.4% completion rate in 2021. But you know he has limited wheels and only chipped in 108 rush yards and zero TDs, while the Raiders sputtered in the red zone and Carr only had 23 passing TDs. I will point out that Carr averaged two rush TDs between 2018-20 and will probably sneak into some paydirt in ‘22.

The addition of Davante Adams cannot be overstated in turning RZ opportunities into RZ points. PFF cited Adams with a catch rate of 96.1% on catchable targets in 2021. Put him next to a healthy Darren Waller and the reliable Hunter Renfrow and Carr’s 3.7% TD rate should rise towards 2020’s 5.2% mark (or exceed it!).

Carr’s solid 2021 campaign came with a flurry of off-field events that saw Jon Gruden resign as well as Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette released. Now, he looks for a new chapter with Josh McDaniels as head coach with a stellar cast of skill players around him.

Don’t forget that Josh Jacobs is a strong receiver and had 54 catches last year! You may not like the draft-day price for many of the Raider players but Carr is a way to buy into them all.

Daniel Jones (NYG), QB27

The 2021 New York Giants were a mess, with Jones only throwing for 10 touchdowns and 2,428 yards in 11 games as Joe Judge failed to launch a new era. Saquon Barkley wasn’t 100% and was limited to 13 games himself while Kenny Golladay only caught 37-of-76 targets for 521 yards and zero touchdowns in the first year of his big contract. Mix in some injuries with bad luck and horrible planning and you’ve got one heck of a sad season, but there’s a new sheriff in town.

The Giants brought in Brian Daboll in the hopes that some of Buffalo’s success comes with him. He has some experience with mobile QBs who need to take a leap with their passing form, I’d say.

Jones only played in two-thirds of the season yet rushed for nearly 300 yards and two scores. He can sniff a 500-yard rushing campaign but we’ll need to see Daboll and new OC Mike Kafka, who was the passing-game coordinator and QB coach for Kansas City, generate a system that elevates Jones’ arm.

There’s little reason to label Barkley as injury-prone and his presence is a game-changer. Targeting Golladay more, especially in the red zone, needs to be a priority. Kadarius Toney showed superstar potential with electric moves after the catch.

Sterling Shepard is a fantastic possession WR from the slot but Wan'Dale Robinson can emerge in that role as well. This is a make-or-break year for Jones and the team environment is the best he’s seen thus far in the NFL. Aim for the stars.

 

2022 Running Back Draft Sleepers

Isaiah Spiller (LAC), RB47

There will be some helium now that social media gushed over Spiller's working with the 1's in practice, but this was in the making for some time. Spiller was a prospect with a rushing style that can fit into both man- and zone-blocking schemes, but he lacks that "wow" factor that gives RBs a high-round draft ceiling.

He compensates for this by being a versatile player with a balanced skill set, with the size to bang in between the tackles. He won't move a pile five yards on his own, but he has healthy patience to find a spot to push.

The 2021 season saw Austin Ekeler dominate the red zone, but there wasn't anyone else on the roster that truly demanded the trust for RZ touches. Spiller can creep into this and offer Ekeler some breathing room if Spiller can limit fumbles (he had eight in his three-year collegiate career.)

Fantasy teams may hate that, though the Chargers simply want Ekeler healthy and running hard when on the field. Fantasy teams won't hate the value that comes via Spiller, who fell this summer due to subpar Pro Day and Combine showings.

Spiller is also a capable receiver, being charged with zero drops in 2021, and has graded out decently in the pass-blocking world where there's hope for passing-down usage if he protects well this preseason.

Justin Jackson was LAC's best backup RB last season but he and his 93 opportunities are gone, with neither Larry Rountree III nor Joshua Kelley demanding more work after combining for just 199 rush yards on 69 total carries. The tools may not be loud, but there's enough in the kit for Spiller to rise into a solid role for a great Chargers team.

Rachaad White (TB), RB50

Running backs still generate plenty of buzz as Twitter is alight with Breece Hall hype and AJ Dillon trucksticking minor-league baseball mascots. So why is the rookie coming into a Tom Brady-led Bucs offense being slept on?

It’s far from a 1:1 comparison, but Rachaad White has the versatile skill set to step into Leonard Fournette’s cleats shoud injury strike. All White did as a senior at Arizona State was rush for 1,000 yards on 182 carries alongside 43 catches for 456 yards.

Fournette only played 14 games last year but that was enough to tally around 1,250 total yards with 10 touchdowns. The upside as a starter in Tampa Bay’s offense is insane, especially if you’re a running back who can catch.

Fournette caught 69-of-84 targets in ‘21 while Ronald Jones II, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, and Giovani Bernard combined for another 50 targets. RoJo moved on to KC via free agency and following the third-round selection of White, there are rumors Bernard may not make the 53-man roster.

White may not have a slam-dunk avenue to success right now, but if he can earn Brady’s trust then he’ll likely be a deep-league flex play to spell Fournette. And if Lenny gets hurt at any point, which has occurred in each of his first five career NFL seasons so far, then White could step up into a top-12 weekly ranking.

No, this is not tied to any weight worries for Fournette, that was a silly wave. Looking for opportunities on great offenses is a worthy endeavor, however!

 

2022 Wide Receiver Draft Sleepers

George Pickens (PIT), WR65

Pickens was discounted thanks to injury and off-the-field concerns but the skills themselves are well-known. The Steelers have confidence in drafting and developing young wide receivers, so the big picture surrounding Pickens is as good as it gets. The rookie also enters a scenario where 25% of Pittsburgh’s 2021 targets have been vacated going into ‘22. We have a chance at great profits here, especially if he can earn more play through strong blocking.

He has size at 6’3” with a 40-yard dash under 4.5, which usually means defenders are either surrendering size or speed. Many will look at Pittsburgh’s subpar QB room and scoff but 2021 Ben Roethlisberger could barely push the ball downfield. Others won’t have the patience to let Pickens be eased in as 2022 will be his first full-time season after the knee injury.

Comps are floating parallels between his situation and that of 2014 Martavis Bryant, who didn’t play until Week 7 only to turn 48 targets into 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Let others build up Pat Freiermuth as the No. 2 next to Diontae Johnson while you scoop up Pickens.

Jalen Tolbert (DAL), WR73

If you want to stash a rookie who can pay off early and often then Tolbert’s your man. Dallas is in need of WR help as Michael Gallup recovers from his torn ACL suffered in Week 17 of 2021.

So the Cowboys ponied up in the third round for Tolbert to play across from CeeDee Lamb, unless you really believe James Washington holds the rookie off. (Well, now Washington is dealing with a Jones fracture so that's unlikely!)

Even if you do, the upside in that situation occurring is far lower than if Tolbert hits. Invest in the path that has the highest ceiling. Tolbert hit 1,000 yards in 2020 and then nearly hit 1,500 yards in 2021 on 82 catches and should get a chance to earn Dak Prescott’s in-game trust early. Playing in an established offense where he isn’t expected to be “the guy” also means Tolbert can continue his single-coverage domination.

PFF grades aren’t a perfect science, but they scored him as the second-best WR against single coverage last year with a 94.4 grade. Dallas runs an uptempo offense that airs it out and an early run from Tolbert could keep Gallup in the No. 3 WR role that he’s occupied thus far.

Kendrick Bourne (NE), WR98

Bourne was the No. 30 WR last season but has barely seen his ADP quiver in response. I understand he was hyper-efficient on his touches and we can’t simply bank on that reoccurring, but he also barely played for half of New England’s offensive snaps.

There is room for volume to offset the fact that he turned in over two PPR points per touch. Mac Jones had a laughable 138.1 QB rating when targeting Bourne in 2021, tops in the NFL last year.

Catching 55-of-70 targets for 800 yards and five touchdowns was further lifted by 125 rush yards on 12 totes. Only Deebo Samuel’s wild season topped Bourne’s versatility at wide receiver.

We’re circling the potential with an increased workload. Brandon Aiyuk’s 84 targets are the next highest amount of looks for a receiver with 800-plus yards in 2021. The Pats re-tooled their WR corps with DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thompson but Bourne is familiar and just proved himself.

Even if the Patriots keep him in this lesser-used hybrid role, he can still deliver those flex-worthy weeks after last year’s WR30 finish. And if New England rewards him with some more work then we may see a Chase Claypool-esque role (100 targets, 12-15 rushes), who is drafted around WR40. The draft-day gap is well worth a stab in the later rounds to see if Mac Jones and this offense take the next step in 2022, with Bourne near the center of it.

 

2022 Tight End Draft Sleepers

Tyler Higbee (LAR), TE26

Higbee enters his age-29 season having never shown us consistent performance, which makes him a solid dart throw late in drafts. He only played in 15 games last year but had the 13th-most targets (85) at the position, tying for the ninth-most receptions (61) thanks to his fourth consecutive year with a catch rate above 70%.

The Rams are a prolific passing offense and unless you believe Cooper Kupp is ticketed for another triple-crown season, there should be more yards and touchdowns to go around. PFF reported that Higbee ran a route on 85% of Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks, which makes him a strong target going outside of the top 20 at the position.

Mo Alie-Cox (IND), TE32

I debated putting Hayden Hurst in Cincinnati or Cade Otton in Tampa Bay here given their potential spot in a top-flight offense, but we’ll stick with MAC here. Indianapolis is no longer dividing snaps between Jack Doyle and Alie-Cox at the top, with rookie Jelani Woods fighting with 2021 fourth-rounder Kylen Granson for backup duties.

The 6’5” tight end should be a big red-zone weapon for Indianapolis, though the team ran it 58% of the time in the red zone last season thanks to Mr. Jonathan Taylor. That mark was the third-heaviest run rate in the RZ in 2021, but having a more consistent QB in Matt Ryan may change their comfort level with calling passes.

Wentz completed only 62.4% of his passes while Ryan sat at 67% in 2021. Despite Carson Wentz’s play, Doyle and Alie-Cox combined for 53 catches, 618 yards, and seven TDs last year. Neither Woods nor Granson is a surefire bet to earn a “1A/1B” split with MAC, so the latter becomes a nice value in drafts as the entire offense takes a step up.



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Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller identifies fantasy football tight end draft sleepers, values, targets, and avoids for your 2022 fantasy football drafts. He breaks down and compares the ADPs of several tight ends (TEs) to help prepare you for your fantasy football drafts. Be sure to tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM... Read More


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3 Overvalued Running Backs for Fantasy Football: Potential Busts In 2022

I don't fade players, I fade average draft positions (ADPs). For one reason or another, whether it's past performance or injury history, some guys get drafted too high or too low. In this article, we'll take a look at three overvalued fantasy football running backs that are potential busts in 2022. Now, that doesn't mean... Read More


Darren Waller - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy Football Injury Report for QBs/TEs: Preseason Updates on Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Zach Wilson, Darren Waller, Zach Ertz

Below you will find our updated fantasy football injuries report for quarterbacks and tight ends in the 2022 NFL preseason as of Wednesday August 17th. The injury statuses for various NFL QBs and TEs are up in the air during training camp, including Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Zach Wilson, Darren Waller and Zach Ertz. Being... Read More


amon-ra st. brown fantasy football rankings NFL DFS lineup picks

Competitive NFL Receiving Corps to Avoid in 2022 Fantasy Football Drafts

There is fantasy value on every NFL team. I can't name a single team where I would fade the whole team no matter what. But there are teams that are trickier than others to figure out. Maybe it's because there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe it's because those cooks aren't very good... Read More


Zach Wilson - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News

Five Fantasy Football Sleepers Who'll Stay Asleep in 2022

Every year you hear about a multitude of fantasy football sleepers. And every year a bunch of those guys go on to do virtually nothing. By Week 5, you're looking to the waiver wire. So today, we're going to be identifying five potential sleepers this season who are going to miss the mark. Guys who... Read More


saquon barkley fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

Saquon Barkley: RB1 for Fantasy Football, Or Overvalued Draft Pick?

Saquon Barkley is a player that the fantasy football industry is divided on as we head into the 2022 season. On one hand, there are those who will be completely avoiding him because of the past two seasons. However, there are some that still believe in the ability of one of the greatest running back... Read More


trey lance fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

Fantasy Football Matchups Analysis and Players To Monitor - NFL Preseason Week 2

Welcome to the NFL preseason Week 2 edition of our fantasy football matchups and Start Em, Sit Em column. We hope everyone had a great offseason and is enjoying watching preseason NFL football, the appetizer before the main course. Week 1 of the preseason is now complete and Week 2 is about to begin. I'll... Read More


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