3 Rookie Sleepers to Draft in PPR Leagues
Rookie sleepers don't always make it onto fantasy players' draft boards given their location in depth charts and their low projection of points. But every year there are numerous rookies that come out of nowhere to make huge impacts on the fantasy season. Below I've outlined three rookies with almost nonexistent ADP who could be key adds to your roster.
Sam Laporta, TE, Detroit Lions
As a general rule, you should basically never draft a rookie tight end. The learning curve is the steepest of any position on the football field, and therefore winning position battles and garnering enough fantasy-relevant snaps is highly unlikely. And even if they win the snaps, they must exist in an offense that features a tight end to even sniff the catches required to have fantasy relevance. If you want to dive deeper, Scott Rinear, our friend over at Fantasy Data, actually did the math to back up the above claims and the results are damning. No rookie tight end, of the 211 drafted since 2009, has ever finished with a top-5 PPG average. And only 3 TEs (1.4%) have finished inside the top 10.
So yeah, nice little intro for why this take will likely blow up in my face. BUT! I really believe Sam Laporta can grow that 1.4% to 2% next year. The biggest reason for that belief is the opportunity that Laporta will have in 2023. With TJ Hockenson in Minnesota, and Shane Zylstra being waived after a potential season-ending injury, Laporta only has to beat out Brock Wright for TE1 duties. Assuming he does that, which seems a certainty based on reports out of camp, he walks into an ascending offense with numerous targets available. This isn't a slam dunk of course. Ben Johnson's use of the tight end position was sporadic throughout the year, and Laporta has to show he can navigate a complicated playbook as well as blocking and receiving as a rookie. But given the barren wasteland at the tight end position, if he can seize the opportunity, he could easily creep into the TE1 conversation.
Nathaniel "Tank" Dell, WR, Houston Texans
It's tough to quantify the "it" factor when looking at prospects coming into the NFL, but one look at Tank Dell's film and you can understand why the Texans used a third-round pick and a whole lot of draft capital on a 23-year-old, undersized receiver. Dell simply makes plays. The film is backed up by stats you can actually quantify which include over 2,600 yards, a 31% target share, and a sub 4.5 forty time.
As always, opportunity is key in fantasy, and the Texans have one of the thinnest wide receiver depth charts in the league. Above Dell is 31-year-old Robert Woods, Nico Collins, and an untested John Metchie III. Equally important is the lack of talent behind Dell. This depth chart is starving for a playmaker.
Dell also already has a rapport with CJ Stroud. It was Stroud that lobbied for the Texans to take Dell, and they have been a featured connection in training camp so far.
The major question is whether a 5'8" 163-pound receiver can hold up in the NFL and make an impact as a rookie. That obviously remains to be seen, but with built-in chemistry to a potentially dynamic rookie quarterback and a clear path to targets this year, Dell looks like a boom candidate next year.
Kenny McIntosh, RB,
Your deeeeep sleeper on the list, Kenny McIntosh has raised eyebrows over the past week after some explosive camp tape made its way onto the interwebs. But as always, opportunity is king in fantasy, and McIntosh might have a clear path to playing time as early as week 1.
Seahawks RB, Kenneth Walker III is dealing with a groin injury and is considered week to week, and Zach Charbonnet picked up a shoulder injury and has been out consecutive practices as well. The injury concern should be considered real after the Seahawks signed SaRodorick Thompson this week as a precaution.
Even if Walker and Charbonnet return before the season begins, it was unlikely that McIntosh was going to be a feature back or a consistent between-the-tackle rusher at the NFL level anyway. But what he does possess is good open-field elusiveness, an ability to create mismatches when isolated in coverage, excellent hands, and above-average pass protection skills. All these attributes scream RB2 and pass down/3rd down back in the NFL. Given Seattle's offensive abilities, a role like this could yield PPR flex-worthy fantasy performances out of a player you can likely snag with the last pick in your draft. And if Charbonnet or Walker misses consistent time, look out.
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