Before I provide you with my favorite deep sleepers for the 2021 fantasy football season, I guess we need to define what a "deep sleeper" is.
First off, let’s use the term sleeper loosely as a player who most fantasy owners are ignoring and should outperform his current ADP. And by "deep," we will say those that won’t even go drafted in a standard 12-team, 20-round draft. However, I’ll give you an early peek and tell you that most of the players I selected are much closer to an ADP of 300 and beyond.
I was also very tempted to suggest Donovan Peoples-Jones, but he was just barely over the line, and I like him more as a dynasty pick than as a standard deep redraft pick. But if we are going so deep, why should you even bother to read this?
Because I’m the guy who suggested during the preseason last year that you take a gamble on James Robinson. How many league winners do you think he was on last year?
Here are my favorite deep sleepers for the 2021 fantasy football season at each of the four skill positions
Extremely Deep QB Sleeper
Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos (ADP: 317)
Maybe this one is cheating because Bridgewater was recently named the starter and his ADP should rise quickly. However, it’s currently at 317. How high is it actually going to go?
I’m not suggesting that Bridgewater is suddenly going to be a regular QB1. However, he is a perfect bye-week replacement. He was solid last year in 15 games for Carolina, completing 69.1 percent of his attempts for 3,733 passing yards. He also had a 15:11 TD-to-INT ratio. And just for good measure, he added five rushing touchdowns and 279 yards on the ground. Tell me another QB who accounted for at least 20 TDs and over 4,000 yards you can get after the 25th round of a 12-team draft?
And if Bridgewater can hold off Drew Lock, I think 20 TDs is his floor. With all the weapons that Bridgewater has at his disposal in Denver, he is definitely one of my favorite QB sleepers.
Related: QB Tiers for 2021
Extremely Deep RB Sleeper
Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 289)
I know, McKinnon has continually teased us with the thoughts of what could be. Probably even more than that red-headed vixen Amanda in my freshman biology class. And just like Amanda, I can’t seem to let go of the possibilities that McKinnon brings. At least at an ADP of 289, it won’t cost me too much to hold onto that fantasy.
Because the reality is that upon entering the draft, McKinnon had a SPARQ-x score of 155.7 (that’s the 100th percentile for those not familiar with SPARQ). He was compared to LaDanian Tomlinson, who last time I checked was pretty good. However, he has always seemed to have a more proven back ahead of him, preventing him from providing much fantasy value.
That brings us to this year. McKinnon finds himself behind second-year RB Clyde Edwards Helaire. But CEH hasn’t impressed me. He averaged less than 4.5 yards per carry last year. He had four rushing TDs and one receiving TD. To put that into context, Jared Goff and Benny Snell Jr. each had four rushing TDs last year too. And now CEH has a "slight ankle sprain."
Even if McKinnon does not get starter reps, when was the last time that Kansas City head coach Andy Reid leaned heavily on just one running back in every game? The answer is never. McKinnon should get plenty of snaps as a third-down back. And given the explosiveness of the Chiefs offense, don’t be surprised if McKinnon scores more than half a dozen TDs in 2021.
But wait, we are not done with Chiefs just yet.
Related: RB Tiers for 2021
Extremely Deep WR Sleeper
Byron Pringle, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 297)
I got sucked into the Mecole Hardman Jr. hype for years. His supporters are saying "this is the year." But this is the third year doing so. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. Burn me a third time, I belong in Arkham Asylum! Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I will point out that Hardman’s TDs and YPC both went down last season from 2019. As long as Tyreke Hill is there, I just don’t see Hardman doing too much.
Enter Byron Pringle and his 297 ADP. Hardman is basically the same type of receiver as Hill, but Pringle is a much more physical receiver who uses his hands and body to make the catch, rather than trying to just run by the defensive back. With the departure of Sammy Watkins, there are 50+ targets available this year, and I think Pringle gets most of those.
Pringle should be drafted in any 16-team league and should be on the immediate radar for 12-team leaguers.
Related: WR Tiers for 2021
Extremely Deep TE Sleeper
Donald Parham Jr., Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 362)
We are going "Land of the Lost" deep with this pick. The good news about Parham is that unless your league-mates are also frequent readers of mine, I guarantee you that you will be able to get him with one of your last picks. Well, at least you should be able to get him given his ADP of 362. But don’t be surprised if he’s suddenly one of the league’s hottest waiver-wire finds before we even get to Columbus Day.
Parham’s biggest block to fantasy production last year was Hunter Henry, who has now taken his talents to New England. The Chargers did sign 34-year-old Jared Cook this offseason, but Cook is now playing for his sixth team. He is coming off a season of just 37 catches, his lowest in five years.
Parham, for those familiar with his work from his XFL days, has an absolute nose for the end zone.
I’ll call my shot and say Parham finishes in the top 10 for TE touchdowns. That’s not bad for a guy going 362nd.
That makes Parham just one of many deep sleepers I love this year. Reach out to me on Twitter (@MarkStrausberg) if you want more.
Related: TE Tiers for 2021