Do you play in a 16-team league? Or maybe you’re in a league with 10+ bench spots? Every league is different, but some formats require you to scrape the bottom of the barrel. If you play in one of these formats, I’ve compiled a list of 12 very deep sleepers to help you sort through the trash heap and find a few gems. For this article, only players who are currently ranked outside of the Top-250 consensus PPR rankings are eligible to be “very deep sleepers.” Most of the players on this list shouldn’t be drafted in conventional leagues, but all of them have a decent shot at fantasy relevance, and each is available at a bargain basement price. Let’s dive in:
James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 258)
Averaging 19.8 yards per reception at Oklahoma State, Washington has been one of college football’s elite deep threats over the last four years. The second-round rookie pairs decent speed with excellent ball tracking, and his willingness to fight for contested balls often resulted in big gains. Now he finds himself on a team that loves to throw deep, and there is opportunity available since the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the unquestioned starters in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers also used three-receiver sets 70.6 percent of the time in 2017 (the sixth-highest rate in the league). Washington’s ability to stretch the field and his experience both in the slot and outside make him the ideal candidate to be the team’s No. 3 wideout. His route running and footwork still need some development, but his downfield prowess should make him an immediate contributor. If he can string together some chunk plays, he could be a boom-or-bust WR3.
Jake Butt, TE, Denver Broncos (ADP: 260)
If Butt hadn’t torn his ACL in December 2016, he probably would’ve been drafted in the second round four months later. Instead, he was drafted in the fifth round and missed his entire rookie season. Fortunately, he appeared healthy at minicamp and now seems poised to be Denver’s top tight end. That role hasn’t been very productive since Peyton Manning retired, but Butt’s newfound health and Case Keenum’s arrival could change that narrative. At 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, Butt is a huge target with strong hands, and his feel for zone coverage and toughness in traffic should be an asset to the Broncos. Keenum, who ranked second in completion percentage but only 24th in yards per completion in 2017, was simply much better when he threw the ball short. If Butt continues to progress, he could be a valuable chain-mover and red-zone weapon for Keenum, who threw a third of his touchdown passes to TE Kyle Rudolph last year. Don’t expect massive numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Butt quietly sneaks into the top 15 this season.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 263)
After catching only 16 passes in his rookie campaign last year, Taylor is primed to take over Eric Decker’s role in the slot. With excellent burst and quickness, he should have no problem chewing up yards in the middle of the field, and his breakaway speed should also earn him some work on the outside. However, the biggest reason to be excited is the arrival of OC Matt LaFleur, whose work with the Rams (2017) and Falcons (2015-2016) contributed to two of the best offenses in recent memory. Cooper Kupp got plenty of work in the slot under LaFleur last season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor is featured heavily this year. He still needs to get better at catching contested balls, but his ability in the open field makes him a constant big-play threat. With Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, and Delanie Walker sucking up targets, Taylor probably won’t be relevant in traditional formats, but he has WR4/5 potential that could make him useful in deeper leagues.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 302)
Andrews easily paced all college tight ends with 958 receiving yards in 2017, and now the third-round pick finds himself in a pretty good situation. Since Joe Flacco entered the league in 2008, he has thrown the fourth-most passes to tight ends. Since 2010, five different Ravens tight ends have eclipsed 500 yards and four touchdowns in a season, and none of them are on the current roster. As a former wideout, Andrews has the skills to assume the mantle as Flacco’s safety blanket, and his 6-foot-5, 256-pound frame could make him a legitimate red-zone weapon. His ability to catch the ball in tight windows and his feel for the soft spots of zone coverage make him a natural receiver, and his complex route tree at Oklahoma should prepare him well for the NFL. There are concerns that Oklahoma’s offense inflated his stats, and his poor blocking could cause him to lose snaps to Baltimore’s other tight ends (especially first-round pick Hayden Hurst). However, Andrews looks like a lock to play in obvious passing situations, and he could see heavy usage if he proves himself early. He should at least be on the TE2 radar.