How to Draft a Team Full of Sleepers that Defy the Fantasy Football Rankings

Posted on September 13, 2017

Agonizing each round of your fantasy football draft, trying to follow the fantasy football rankings and build a competitive team, can be enough to make you crazy. However, what if you did some homework and put together a team of nothing but projected sleepers and breakout players? Well, you may find your team of sleeper picks defies the fantasy football rankings and puts your competition in a deep snooze.


If you’re going to navigate your way through a draft using a total sleeper concept, you need to start with a list of quarterbacks. Don’t draft this player until the latter rounds, but know who you want ahead of time. This season many football gurus are suggesting the rankings are taking a nap on Jared Goff from the LA Rams.

Just to cover yourself, opening up the option for playing the prime game matchups, take Carson Palmer during the middle rounds. Both these players have individual week matchups where they are expected to shine. Use that strategy and you may get top-10 QB production every week. If something goes wrong with either of these possibilities, the Philadelphia Eagle’s Carson Wentz is going undrafted in nearly 90% of leagues thus far.

Running Back

Since you’re employing the idea of a sleeper team, you won’t have to agonize over getting your quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight end in early rounds. This is one position you should err on the side of caution, because poor production out of both RB spots can make uncompetitive on a weekly basis.

You can still use the sleeper strategy when drafting your running backs, plus you can use your 1st and 2nd picks to do this. One often mentioned rebound candidate, aka sleeper, is Carlos Hyde of the 49ers. If Hyde stays healthy, he has the skill set to be an RB1. Next, look at some new faces in the NFL. These rookies may not be true sleepers, but they may knock out the competition.

Kareem Hunt is the new man in Kansas City. He is going to be a 3 down back with huge upside potential. Draft him early as a sleeper who is now the starter. Dalvin Cook is also a rookie with immense potential. If you want more veteran experience on your roster, watch the progress of Bilal Powell of the Jets.

One nice aspect of employing the sleeper strategy for the whole team is there are going to be potential sleepers available through your draft. Keep an eye on Jamaal Williams of the Packers, since Green Bay doesn’t have another true running back to turn to. He may soon be the lead back for the Cheeseheads.

Wide Receiver

This is another place where you can play against the fantasy football rankings and put together a team of sleepers. Use your 3rd through 8th round selections to fill no less than 3 WR spots. The idea here is to fill your lineup with projected WR2s and WR3s that have the upside of WR1 fantasy production.

Number one on that list is Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant. He is off suspension and has the skills to put up impressive statistics. Don’t sleep on Bryant much past the 5th round, lest someone else steals your biggest potential sleeper.

There are some other veteran wide receivers who are in new, potentially productive offensive schemes. Pierre Garcon is out of DC, and now part of the new-look San Francisco offense. Remember, coach Mike Shanahan liked Garcon as a Redskin, so expect him to be a priority target with his new team.

Building a stack scenario with your quarterback and a wide receiver is also a nice way to rocket your way to a championship. If you took Jared Goff, link him with rookie Cooper Kupp. For those who manage to secure the fantasy services of Carson Palmer, tie him to John Brown. Brown is veteran looking to rekindle the fire, and Kupp is a ball magnet, perfect for the Rams ball control objectives.

You’re going to want no less than four wide receivers, leaning towards five on your roster. This will give you match up flexibility like at quarterback. Two young prospects that may follow statistical trends in recent years are Kenny Golladay in Detroit, and the Titans Corey Davis. The team that gets all 5 of these potential WR sleepers may prove an ominous fantasy foe.

Tight End

One place to automatically stray from your sleeper strategy is at TE. If, and we stress if, Rob Gronkowski has not been drafted when your 3rd pick comes around, take him. Being prone to injury makes the Gronk slightly a sleeper, but you cannot pass up the most productive tight end with a 3rd round pick no matter who’s on the board.

If Tom Brady’s favorite target is rightfully taken in the 1st or 2nd round, fall back into sleeper mode. Wait until the later rounds to pull out a tight end. Fill all the high-production spots on your roster, and then look for a sleeper tight end. One that is becoming a popular favorite is Jack Doyle in Indianapolis.

He no longer has competition for Andrew Luck red zone targets with Dwayne Allen. Doyle is currently holding an average draft position of the 12th tight end, but could easily produce top-10 numbers. Marcellus Bennett is now a Packer, and Aaron Rodgers could use a good safety net. Bennett may be that guy.

Another tight end, one who has been avoided on nearly 90% of all drafts, is the Dolphin’s Julius Thomas. Thomas has shown flashes of TE1 brilliance. He likes Adam Gase and the feeling is evidently mutual. Add to that the fact Jay Cutler frequently dumps to his tight end and Thomas has a huge potential upside in Miami.

When you use the sleeper strategy, you’re going to most likely get every single player you target. This list is a complete collection of potential sleepers. If you can master the fantasy football rankings and draft wisely, you may just play your team of sleepers into a fantasy league championship in 2017. However, if you’re in a dynasty league, you may be building one.