Fantasy Football is rarely won in the first, second, or third rounds. The best players can spot some NFL sleepers — or diamonds in the rough — in the late rounds and turn them into gold. Here are my top five favorite sleepers to watch for in upcoming fantasy football drafts.
5. Jakobi Meyers – New England Patriots
An undrafted rookie is making waves at training camp. N.C. State’s Jakobi Meyers has put on a show for the Patriots.
In Meyers’ first preseason game, he led the team in catches (six), receiving yards (69), and receiving touchdowns (two). Earlier in Patriots training camp, head coach Bill Belichick said, per Forbes, “He’s a smart kid. He has position versatility and understands the offense.”
Meyers, who is 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, didn’t run well at the NFL Combine (4.63 40-time). However, he was productive in 2018, recording 92 receptions for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns. Luckily, speed isn’t essential to a Belichick-Josh McDaniels offense; the ability to be versatile and understand the offense is paramount.
Belichick doesn’t mind playing his rookies if they can make a day-one impact, even if they are undrafted (J.C. Jackson in 2018 is an excellent example). If they can play, they can play. Meyers can. In a fluid receiving room, he may receive a fair share of targets if he continues to play well.
4. Michael Gallup – Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys need a Z-receiver opposite Amari Cooper and alongside Randall Cobb. Following the release of Allen Hurns, it’s clear that second-year Michael Gallup is their answer.
Michael Gallup TD (drags the back foot) pic.twitter.com/lFTZwP5mpN
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 13, 2019
Gallup’s bread and butter is the big play. Though not particularly fast (4.51 40-time), the receiver makes plays in the end zone with his natural athleticism and downfield with vertical route-running prowess. In his rookie year, he tallied 33 receptions for 507 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 15.4 yards per reception.
Gallup is a starter in the Cowboys’ offense who should take advantage of Cooper’s ability to draw defenses toward him. He has the potential to be Dak Prescott’s deep-ball target. However, he’ll need to get more consistent. In 2018, Gallup caught just 48.5% of targets and didn’t record back-to-back games with at least 60 yards in each.
3. Dede Westbrook – Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ receiving room is a work in progress with new addition Marquise Lee coming off an injury, and Keelan Cole and D.J. Chark trying to take off. Anybody can ascend to the No. 1 receiver role, and my bet is Dede Westbrook.
Dede Westbrook gets behind the secondary and…
That's 6. #JAXvsNE https://t.co/rndfa2TMC6
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2017
Westbrook was the Jaguars’ starting slot receiver in 2018. He thrived. With Blake Bortles or Cody Kessler as his passers, Westbrook was targeted 101 times, and turned that into 66 catches for 717 yards and five touchdowns. He recorded three 80+ yard games and three 7+ catch games.
Though the Jaguars will be a run-heavy team in 2019, somebody has to catch passes from Nick Foles. Westbrook’s ability to play in the slot or wide is vital, and so is his vertical game, which the big-armed quarterback should take advantage of.
2. James Washington – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still looking for a No. 2 receiver, James Washington made a fine case in the team’s first preseason game. He finished his 2019 debut with four receptions for 84 yards and a score.
Washington’s first season as a pro was bumpy; quarterback Ben Roethlisberger publicly called him out, and he finished with 16 catches for 217 yards and a score. However, any animosity between the two appears to be over.
#Steelers 2nd year WR James Washington said spending three days in Georgia w/ QB Ben Roethlisberger changed everything: “He used to be the ‘Hall of Fame QB.’ Our night conversations on the patio made him seem more human, like us… I feel a lot more comfortable being around him.”
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 26, 2019
If Roethlisberger trusts Washington, that will show on the field. The Steelers used a second-round selection on him for a reason; he’s a vertical threat who can make an impact after the catch and provide highlight-reel plays. If Roethlisberger’s arm holds up, he may look for Washington downfield more often than not.
1. Jamison Crowder – New York Jets
Though Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa sit on top of the receiving totem pole in New York, that may change with the emergence of Jamison Crowder, especially considering his chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold.
“Their chemistry reminds me of the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and now-retired Doug Baldwin. It wouldn’t surprise me if Crowder creeps near or past 100 catches this season,” said The Athletic’s Connor Hughes.
Adam Gase’s offense historically favors slot receivers; he squeezed 328 receptions out of Wes Welker and Jarvis Landry in a combined four seasons.
Crowder should find a comfortable role in an offense that feeds slot receivers, considering he caught 221 passes for Washington in 56 games played. He’s one of the better, faster slots in the league, making a fit between Gase and Crowder a marriage made in football heaven.