The term “sleeper” is much like the term “sandwich” in my mind. Both terms mean a certain thing, but that certain thing can be several things. Clear?
With that in mind, I’ve got three sleeper quarterbacks for 2021 fantasy football, all taking a different meaning to the word.
Seriously Overlooked Contender for No. 1 QB Overall
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is the QB7 by ADP, and that seems to line up pretty well with what we’re seeing in early drafts. Wilson was the seventh QB off the board in our recent NerdBall and Friends mock. He was the eighth QB selected in my Scott Fish Bowl 11 satellite. The NerdBall staff has him ranked seventh overall despite a No. 2 rank from me! The point is, he is seventh-ish.
I’ve written about the Jekyll and Hyde season Wilson had in 2020, and if we get first-half-of-2020 Russell Wilson in 2021, we’re getting a week-to-week difference maker from our QB spot.
The additions the Seahawks have made this offseason, improving the O-line, signing and apparently planning to use Gerald Everett, plus the hiring of Shane Waldron as the new offensive coordinator are all great little confirmation bias boosters that make Wilson one of my top, top-end targets this year.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers, QB8
I’m Waiting on QB, But I’m Not Waiting Forever
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Stafford is the QB11-ish by ADP etc, etc. The obvious argument here, and one I clearly support with my rank of Stafford, is… obvious. Stafford has been a gem languishing in Detroit, and now he’ll play with a supporting cast who propelled Jared Goff to the overall QB6 in 2018.
Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and dare-I-let-myself-get-excited-in-vain-again DeSean Jackson have the makings of a pretty good receiver corps, and all have proven they can carry the team at times. Sean McVay now has a QB who can be an asset rather than a QB he has to try to hide. Stafford is about to boom!
Taking My Guy After Most People Get Their Backup
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Darnold was drafted as the QB31 in our NerdBall Friends mock. He was taken 17th in my SFB11 Satellite (both formats are Superflex). By the time we’re in the throws of draft season, I’d bet Darnold is going undrafted in at least a third of your 12-team, single QB leagues.
The argument for Sam Darnold isn’t complicated. Sam Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick by the New York Jets in 2018. In his rookie season, Darnold played for defensive minded head coach Todd Bowles, with Jeremy Bates as his offensive coordinator. Isaiah Crowell led the Jets in rushing in 2018 with 685 yards and 6 touchdowns. Third-year undrafted free agent Robby Anderson led the Jets in receiving that year with 752 yards and 6 TD in 14 games.
After three bad years with a defensive coach, the Jets front office hired Adam Gase to mold the Jets and Sam Darnold into a winner. Gase made more than a few odd moves after securing most of the power in the Jets organization. During those two years, a couple of notable players, mainly Ryan Tannehill and Kenyan Drake who’d looked like busts under Gase, had breakout campaigns with their new coaches.
The post-Gase breakout narrative is waiting for its next juicy chapter, and we can take a chance on that narrative for free.
In Carolina, Sam Darnold will be playing under offensive coordinator Joe Brady and head coach Matt Rhule. Darnold will be surrounded by talent with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson out wide, and of course Christian McCaffrey lined up all over the place. After seeing what Brady was able to do with Teddy Bridgewater sans McCaffrey in 2020, I’ll be taking a lot of late-round flyers on Darnold this year.