Introducing the 6 best fantasy football sleepers that you should be taking a chance on ahead of the 2023/24 NFL season.
A good fantasy football sleepers pick can make or break your fantasy season.
Let’s face it, based on where you’re drafting (1st? 3rd? 9th?), you likely have a good idea who you’ll get in the first round or two.
If you’ve got the first pick, you can take whoever you see as the best fantasy football player.
If your pick isn’t until No. 9 or No. 10, you can wave goodbye to players like Justin Jefferson and Christian McCaffrey.
But the middle and late rounds are often where drafts are won. Every year, players emerge, break out, or bounce back from poor performances to outperform their draft slot as MVP candidates, pushing the lucky selector to the top of their fantasy leagues.
Those are the guys we’re looking for today as we name our Top 6 Sleeper Picks for the 2023 NFL Fantasy Football season.
QB: DeShaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
Might as well get controversial right away with our first fantasy football sleepers pick!
Watson may not be the most likable player out there, but you’re not holding a popularity contest. The former first-round pick was a top-five fantasy quarterback from 2018 through 2020 and is in his first full season with a team that invested a record-breaking contract in him.
He’s only 27 years old, he’s got everything to prove, he’s a threat with his arm and legs, and he’s got a positive injury history (only missed one game since 2017 due to injury).
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Watson’s floor should be average-to-decent QB1 production. The cheerier scenario sees you being able to wait as others invest high picks on top QBs like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert while you wait until the seventh or eighth round, draft Watson – and he outperforms all those QBs.
DeShaun Watson is a strong bet for a top-10 QB, with potential for a top-five or even top-three performance. And the biggest risk is a few wisecracks from your league mates when you select the Cleveland QB!
RB: Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles
Let’s get the biggest concern out of the way – at this point, his name should be legally changed to Rashaad “If He Stays Healthy” Penny.
Penny has missed almost half his team’s games in his career (40 out of a possible 82 contests). For this reason, it’s another high-risk, high-reward NFL fantasy football sleepers pick.
But when he’s healthy, here are some numbers that may surprise you:
- Penny averages 18.1 fantasy points per game when he touches the ball 10 or more times
- Penny leads the NFL in yards after contact per carry over the past two seasons
- At 5.7 yards per carry, Penny is 2nd in the NFL for RBs with 200 or more carries since his career started
The injuries are a concern, no doubt. But Penny is someone you can draft in the 10th round or later in some leagues. It’s worth the risk for the humongous upside.
RB: Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
Which team led the league in rushing last season?
Which team has the quarterback most experts are naming their 2023 breakout star?
And which team lost their starting running back to a division rival and needs to replace his 200+ carries?
The answer to all three questions? The Chicago Bears. One of the major fantasy football sleepers for 2023.
Meet Khalil Herbert. The 2021 sixth-round pick has carried the ball 100+ times in each of his first two seasons and averaged five yards per carry. He’s also flashed tantalizing ability as a receiver, catching 82.1% of his targets over his first two seasons.
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Now Herbert’s set to double his workload. Moreover, the Bears likely don’t want to make a habit of having QB Justin Fields carry the ball 160 times as he did in 2022.
Add it all up, and it equals the potential for 250-300 touches for Herbert in 2023. Not bad for the RB who’s currently going 34th at the position (9th-10th round) in fantasy drafts.
WR: Nico Collins, Houston Texans
The word to describe Nico Collins’ career to this point? Underutilized.
Back in his days at the University of Michigan, the 6-foot-5 leaper averaged a modest number of targets as the Wolverines preferred to run the ball between the tackles and only look to Collins on deep shots down the field.
Nonetheless, he did enough for the Texans to grab him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Collins has 70 receptions in his first two NFL seasons but has seemingly developed a rapport with rookie QB C.J. Stroud this training camp.
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Collins saw his target share (percentage of team’s pass attempts thrown to Collins) jump from 13% to 20% last season, and now Houston is replacing the team’s top two (and four of their top five) pass catchers from last season (WRs Brandin Cooks and Chris Moore, TE Jordan Akins, and RB Rex Burkhead).
The last man standing? Nico Collins. All he needs is a chance. As the 53rd WR off the board in the average fantasy football draft, Collins could make a strong WR3 or Flex play on your squad. Definitely consider him one of the best fantasy football sleepers available in 2023.
Fantasy Football Sleepers WR: Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Drafting Calvin Ridley is a gamble worth taking. He’s a sure bet for a strong season in 2023.
OK, now that the easy jokes are out of the way… Ridley’s explosive 2020 breakout season (1.374 yards, nine TDs) was followed by an injury-plagued 2021 and a season-long suspension for wagering on NFL games in 2022.
It meant the end to his days in Atlanta, but that’s our favorite thing about the wide receiver going 23rd at the position (on average) in fantasy drafts this summer.
Ridley landed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, an offense booming with potential led by 2021 first overall draft pick QB Trevor Lawrence.
Ridley offers everything Lawrence needs – a chain mover, a big-play threat, a reliable target – all in one player. Combined with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, Ridley gives Jacksonville an envious WR depth chart for the first time since the days of Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith.
The last time he played a full season, Ridley was the No. 5 WR in football. Even a modest drop-off from that performance will offer solid value as a WR2/WR3 or Flex player in 2023.
TE: Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos
It’s time for the last of our 2023 NFL fantasy football sleepers – Greg Dulcich.
The 2022 Denver Broncos were one of the largest-scale disasters in recent NFL history.
From Russell Wilson’s disappointing debut in Mile High to the failed Nathaniel Hackett era, it was a season to forget.
Even promising rookie tight end Greg Dulcich missed seven games for the Broncos with hamstring injuries. But lost among the train wreck was a diamond in the rough – Dulcich’s 33 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns were enough to make him a top-10 TE (projecting those stats over a full season).
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Now he’s going outside the top 10 (14th on average) in fantasy football drafts this summer, despite thriving in a rookie season where everything went wrong.
It would be great to get a Travis Kelce or TJ Hockenson to anchor your roster at tight end. But if you’re looking for starter-level production out of someone you can draft in the late rounds, Greg Dulcich is your guy.
More Fantasy Football Sleepers?
These rookies didn’t make our cut for the best fantasy football sleepers that 2023 has to offer, but they’re certainly worth keeping an eye on in the late round of your fantasy draft as immediate contributors.
These are first-year players NOT going in the top 30 at their respective positions, or outside of the Top 20 in the case of quarterbacks:
|Bryce Young||QB||Carolina Panthers|
|Zach Charbonnet||RB||Seattle Seahawks|
|Kendre Miller||RB||New Orleans Saints|
|Jordan Addison||WR||Minnesota Vikings|
|Zay Flowers||WR||Baltimore Ravens|
|Sam LaPorta||TE||Detroit Lions|
Sleepers emerge out of nowhere every season. After all, if we could identify all of them, they wouldn’t be sleepers.
But these six NFL veterans and six rookies are our best bets to outperform their draft positions and turn into potential game changers in winning your 2023 fantasy football championship.