Finding fantasy football sleepers in the late rounds is one of the most important pieces when building fantasy rosters. The goal of this article is to find undervalued, young and talented players who have a clear path to consistent volume.
Note: All top-24 RB/WR and top-12 QB/TE by ADP on Underdog Fantasy are eligible.
1. RB Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: RB47)
Starting off with the 151st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Allgeier should be one of the best fantasy football sleepers this season.
The Falcons are entering a new era on offense following Matt Ryan‘s departure and are completely restarting on both sides of the ball. The Falcons enter this season with Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier and Qadree Ollison on the team at running back, leaving 54.7% of their carries from last season vacated, the third-highest mark in the league.
There is a clear path for Allgeier to receive consistent volume, especially considering that Patterson and Williams are both on the wrong side of 30 years old while neither has a huge contract. CPatt is owed just $2.5 million over the next two seasons while Williams is signed for $1.62 million. With Patterson locking down the receiving role, Allgeier should be able to take on early-down work. In fact, Falcons beat reporter Michael Rothstein is already reporting that “Patterson and Allgeier are expected to be the top two backs“.
The PFF Draft Guide had this about Allegeir:
-No nonsense running style that’s perfect for a bigger back.
-Vision is a plus. Always seems to be gaining ground toward the open hole.
-Outstanding pass-blocker. Finds work and eliminates threats.
-Acceleration is lacking. Needs a runway to get a head of steam.
-Runs like a power back, but at only 220- pounds, he wouldn’t qualify as one in the NFL
-Ran behind an insanely dominant BYU offensive line over the past two seasons.
Allgeier was one of the top RBs in all of college football across his career at BYU, posting an 85.5 PFF grade during his time there. He has the second-most touchdowns among RBs in the nation since 2020.
Tyler Allgeier led the FBS with 1,847 rushing yards after contact since 2020 ????pic.twitter.com/m4BGYQWSa1
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 29, 2022
One problem when building a case for Allgeier is his status as a Day 3 draft pick. Since 2010, only five running backs drafted past Round 3 have been impactful top-24 players. Of those five RBs, only one — Phillip Lindsay in 2018 — recorded fewer than 200 rushing attempts. Really, it comes down to a question of volume. If Allgeier can establish himself as a high-usage back, his path to a top-24 ranking at running back becomes clear.
Allgeier will be involved in the Falcons offense, and he provides a higher ceiling than most other RBs drafted in his range. He delivers a late round safety net as an RB4 with upside for your fantasy team.
2. RB James Cook, Buffalo Bills (ADP: RB34)
Cook was the 63rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and finds himself attached to the rocket ship that is the Bills offense. The Bills ranked third in total TDs last season and has the league’s highest-graded rushing attack.
Alongside Josh Allen, the Bills return Devin Singletary and Zack Moss while adding Duke Johnson in the offseason. Cook will have the opportunity to rise above the pack and establish himself in a committee of pretty average RBs. Second-round draft capital and Cook’s unique skill-set will allow him to thrive in one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.
The Bills attempted to add J.D. McKissic this offseason, but when that fell through, they pivoted to grab Cook instead. While their skillsets are not exactly the same, both McKissic and Cook are receiving backs who fill a role that the Bills have been struggling to fill for a few seasons now. Since LeSean McCoy left the Bills in 2019, they have not had a single starting running back receive over a 65 receiving grade. Just to add on, their highest-graded receiving back last season, Matt Breida, is on the New York Giants now. Assuming Cook can receive 50% of the backfield targets in Buffalo, he could be a RB3.
The PFF Draft Guide had this to say about Cook:
Where He Wins:
Home Runs – Cook is a mismatch in the passing game because he’s far too nimble even for NFL linebackers. Anytime Georgia schemed up on-one-one’s for Cook, they were throwing his way.
The Bills have struggled to produce a fantasy-friendly running back since 2018. Their best year was 2019, when Singletary finished as RB28, but since then, their best back has finished as RB43 and RB31 seasons in 2020 and 2021. Cook is the best running back the Bills have had in several seasons, and his skillset as a pass catcher gives him the ability to break through as a fantasy relevant Bills RB. Cook can be had at an incredibly cheap price and if nothing else, he will give fantasy managers a way to own a piece of the Bills’ passing attack.
Right now, he’s being drafted right around Melvin Gordon and Singletary — two players who I value less than Cook. He is certainly a risky pick but if the cards fall right, he can be a low-end RB2 at the end of the season (he is essentially a PPR-only RB, however). Draft him with confidence to fill out the end of your bench.
3. RB Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: RB44)
Rounding out this group of late-round rookie RBs is Spiller, who comes into the league as an elusive back who posted a career-high 83.1 PFF grade in his final season and has shown improvement every year of his college career. He forced exactly 100 missed tackles during his time in College Station, which ranked second in the SEC since 2020.
The PFF Draft Guide had this about Spiller:
-Top notch feet for a bigger back. Jump-cut ability is a big plus.
-Dropped 10 pounds after his sophomore season and became a much more elusive back.
-Easy three-down projection. Can be a plus pass-blocker and receiver.
-Long speed is lacking. Linebackers can catch him from behind.
-Costs himself yards by dancing too much. Doesn’t routinely maximize his runs.
-On the tall side for a back, and he gets chopped down easier than you’d like.
Coming into this season, The Chargers feature one of the league’s most explosive offenses and have a clear hole behind Austin Ekeler in the backfield, which lost Justin Jackson (still an FA) — who was second in attempts on the team — but retained Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree. Kelley and Rountree don’t exactly pose the biggest threat to Spiller given they were the NFL’s two lowest-graded RBs last season.
Rushing Grade 2021 (min. 10 att)
|Larry Rountree III||50.0|
He does add value as a handcuff in the Chargers backfield, as Ekeler has missed seven games over the past two years. Just last season, when Ekeler missed some time, Jackson started and put up RB1 numbers. Spiller should be in striking distance of a 100-plus carry season and can function as the team’s early-down back before he further develops his skills.
In the event Ekeler misses time, Spiller would become a high-end RB2, but outside of that, he is a low ceiling-high floor RB4/5 in fantasy football.
4. WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: WR55)
The case for Moore is pretty simple.
For the first six weeks of the season, the Cardinals are projected to be rolling out a receiver core of Marquise Brown, A.J Green and Moore. For at least that period of time, Moore should operate from the slot, which is what he was drafted to do in the first place.
Last season, Christian Kirk put up the third-most yards from the slot in the league, giving hope that Moore can get a piece of that action from the slot. Moore did put up 35.2 PPR points in his first two games operating out of the slot. After that, however, he fell down the depth chart and lost his slot role to the aforementioned Kirk. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said, “he feels like he can step into Christian’s role and play at a really high level inside there, and we do too”.
For his current WR5 price, taking a flier on Moore returns a solid flex play on the bench, and he could have some staying power as a WR2/3 once Deandre Hopkins comes back if he can maintain the slot role.
5. WR Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: WR50)
This one was so shocking that I double-checked to make sure his ADP was correct.
Claypool is entering Year 3 of his career and has, thus far, been an inconsistent, albeit occasionally elite player. He is coming off of a shaky season, as he was expected to thrive despite weak QB play and inconsistent playing time. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington are not returning this season, and legendary QB Ben Roethlisberger retired, so a lot of change is occurring in Pittsburgh.
This offseason, the Steelers added George Pickens and Calvin Austin in the draft, as well as former Chicago Bear Anthony Miller to their receiver room. The starting receivers, for now, appear to be Diontae Johnson, Claypool and Pickens. However, it would not be surprising to see Pickens lose some snaps to Miller.
Claypool posted the 68th-best grade among receivers last year, which really doesn’t create a ton of confidence that he can be something better moving forward, but there are enough vacated targets for Claypool to break through and establish himself as one of the league’s best.
Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky are both mediocre QB options, although Pickett might just give Claypool the best chance to succeed. Pickett, in his final year at Pitt, posted a 9.7-yard average depth of target (aDOT) while Trubisky topped out at 9.4 in his second season in the NFL. Obviously, comparing NFL to college statistics isn’t the best, but Pickett’s 47.6% accuracy percentage on 20-plus-yard passes ranked eighth highest in the nation (min. 25 attempts). A better deep ball passer will mesh well with Claypool’s game, which is normally based around deeper targets and big plays.
He has shown the potential to be a top-24 receiver in the past (WR14 in his rookie season) and when considering that this is a make-or-break year for him, he has upside as a late-round pick.
Draft and stash him with the hope that he can catch a few deep bombs and really get back on track to being a WR2.
6. WR Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: WR43)
Moore is a talented receiver on an insanely good offense that just lost its WR1.
The Chiefs took Moore with the 54th pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and he enters the league with Patrick Mahomes by his side during his first year without Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs have lost 53% of their targets from last season and are looking to fill that with a combination of Skyy, Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman.
Smith-Schuster has had an up-and-down career and looks to fill in as a WR2 behind Travis Kelce, who will be the Chief’s TE1 and WR1 this season. Smith-Schuster is coming off an injury-shortened season, and when he did play, he put forth one of the worst games of his career. He looks to be the de-facto No. 2 option in the passing attack and should have a solid season in his own right; however, he is on a one-year deal and, at this point, does not seem to have much more room to develop.
Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Josh Gordon, and the rest of Chiefs’ big-play, boom/bust type receivers provide some extra weapons for gadget plays, but they do not seem to be contending for consistent roles. This past offseason, the Chiefs did give Valdes-Scantling a three-year, $30 million deal, but that was prior to the draft. Hardman, in particular, has played with Mahomes for three years and while his target numbers have grown each year, he has yet to be overly successful in his role. If the Chiefs felt confident in Hardman or any of their other receivers, would they have drafted Moore, who was already tumbling down the draft boards?
Moore was one of the best receivers in college football last season, as he led the nation in broken tackles and was the highest-graded MAC receiver in PFF history. Just look at what he does to Pitt here:
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 27, 2022
Skyy was one of my favorite receivers in the draft, and he landed in the perfect spot to maximize his skill set. He will contend with Smith-Schuster to become the Chiefs’ WR1 and has the upside to be a WR2 for fantasy managers. To start the season, Moore will most likely be a WR3 who has room to grow. Draft him with confidence in the mid-to-late rounds.
7. TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos (ADP: TE17)
On a team with a variety of weapons, Okwuegbunam looks to make an immediate connection with new Broncos QB Russell Wilson. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen Wilson have great success with any TEs, but in theory, getting any piece of this potentially explosive Broncos passing attack is a smart move. Wilson’s recent lack of tight-end production is most likely due to D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett‘s emergence in Seattle in addition to the team’s lack of talent at the position in the wake of Jimmy Graham’s departure.
Okwuegbunam is a talented and super fast tight end who has proven his talent, but previously he lacked the necessary volume for fantasy successes. He boasts the third-highest yards after catch per reception among TEs and ran a 98th percentile 4.49-second 40-yard dash two years ago.
Just watch this play:
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) November 14, 2021
Noah Fant is gone, leaving Okwuegbunam as the lone starter at TE, which should enable him to gobble up all the red zone targets he could ask for. Last year, Fant received 15 looks in the red zone (ninth among TEs), a number fantasy managers should expect to raise by a solid margin.
If Okwuegbunam can convert 15-18 red-zone targets into four or five touchdowns, he will shoot up the leaderboards and have a shot to finish as a top-12 tight end. Excluding 2020 (which was a strangely high-scoring tight end year) every single TE that had five-plus TDs in a season was a top-12 TE dating back to 2015.
Overall, tight end is such a weak position that Okwuegbunam can provide top-12 value without doing too much. The Broncos did pick up Greg Dulcich in the third round of the draft, but Okwuegbunam should get a chance to establish himself in the early parts of the season. He’s a great option late in drafts.
8. TE Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: TE14)
Smith is quickly rising up draft boards because many are quickly realizing his talent and the opportunity in front of him.
Irv Smith Jr. played the last 4 games without Kyle Rudolph in 2020
He ranked 8th among TEs w/ 12.8 fantasy points per game pic.twitter.com/vOWPQ8c2ZQ
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) March 3, 2021
Finally, Kyle Rudolph is gone and the Smith breakout is here. Every time we have seen Smith as the lone TE, he produced. In Year 3, he is looking to take the next step. During games without Rudolph (2020 Weeks 14-17), Smith averaged 12.8 PPR points per game, ranked second in end zone targets, and was the overall TE4. With new head coach Kevin O’Connell mentioning that the Vikings’ old run-first approach is gone, we should expect more pass volume from Kirk Cousins, which means more opportunity for Smith to ball out.
When Tyler Higbee was in Kevin O’Connell’s offense, he tied for the lead in red zone receptions and was third in targets among TEs. If Smith receives opportunities at the same frequency, he can become a bonafide TE1.
Clearly, there will be competition for targets from Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, but with a more pass-happy offense and a small (yet proven) track record of success, Smith can be drafted in late rounds, and there is a real chance his upside hits.
9. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins (ADP: QB17)
By this point, everyone knows the arguments for drafting Tagovailoa, as the Dolphins have surrounded him with weapons, mainly Tyreek Hill, which is why he is primed to take the next step in Year 3.
Last season (min 25 dropbacks):
- 65.38 % red zone completion rate (second)
- 48.3% deep ball completion rate (second)
- 73.2% completion rate in a clean pocket (eighth)
- 66.4% completion rate (seventh)
Last season, Tagovailoa was a highly accurate QB who struggled to generate fantasy numbers on the ground, but he was successful through the air overall. His accuracy is what gives him the greatest chance of continued success this season. The Dolphins brought in Mike McDaniel, who was able to make Jimmy Garoppolo a decent QB, as head coach. The Dolphins have the weapons McDaniel needs to execute his offense, but it all comes down to whether Tua can outperform his expectations.
Alex Smith‘s 2017 season is a great comparison for what Tua’s ceiling could be with Hill in the fold. Smith put up a QB6 overall finish along with 4,042 passing yards and 26 TDs. Now, Tua will almost certainly have fewer than the 355 rushing yards that Smith recorded that year, but the framework is there for Tagovailoa to succeed.
Alongside Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and newcomer Chase Edmonds, Tua is primed for a breakout. With the weapons at his disposal, he doesn’t have to improve that much to become a fantasy-relevant QB.
The best plan would be to draft Tua to be a fantasy backup in one of the last rounds. Tagovailoa has a real chance to prove himself this year, which is why he could be a fantasy football breakout star this season.
10. QB Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints (ADP: QB19)
Winston is coming off of an ACL tear but was put together a notable season before the unfortunate injury. With essentially no weapons, he averaged 17 fantasy per game and finished as the QB14 in PPG on the year.
Jameis Winston is going to love this offense pic.twitter.com/ugUzAQJYOb
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) April 29, 2022
This year, the Saints offense is going to look a lot different, as it has completely restocked its receiving core, drafting Chris Olave in addition to Michael Thomas eventual return. On top of that, the Saints also signed Jarvis Landry, giving them one of the more promising receiving corps in the league, which has the potential to elevate Winston’s game. Those additions on top of Alvin Kamara‘s presence gives Winston one of the best offensive cores in the league.
Coming off of the lowest interception percentage of his career, a lot of the issues Winston had in Tampa Bay are disappearing, so he is worth a late-round shot. The Saints’ revitalized receiver room brings hope of increased pass-play volume, which is necessary for Winston to be a fantasy-relevant quarterback in 2022.