New Orleans Saints tight end Adam Trautman
New Orleans Saints tight end Adam Trautman (82) runs the ball after the catch during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


If you’re smart with this whole fantasy football thing, you’ve made sure you waited as long as possible for your fantasy draft to begin, getting as close as possible to the season’s opening game before making your picks. My buddies and I are doing ours on Wednesday the 8th in the evening and the season begins the next night. Honestly if none of us had jobs, we’d probably do it on the afternoon of the 8th and have it finish up just as the National Anthem concluded. (The first game of the season is between Tampa Bay and Dallas and airs at 8:20 p.m. Thursday night on NBC, by the way).

Obviously, the reason it’s wise to wait as long as possible is because injuries (and, this season, Covid-related protocols and absences) can greatly affect rosters, positions and fantasy point distribution. Injuries happen every day in the NFL, and nothing is more frustrating than beginning a fantasy season with a player who gets injured right after you draft him. With that in mind, I’ve waited as long as I could for team rosters to settle in before trying to find little windows of opportunity that might have been created for players who aren’t necessarily getting a lot of run but might help you complete your team and steal your league – one player each at a different position. Remember that the definition of a sleeper is someone who will likely outperform their draft position – not someone who will necessarily finish among the leaders.

Last season Jones fumbled 18 times (!) while throwing 12 interceptions and just 11 TDs. That sounds like a player to avoid, right? Context matters here, though. The Giants lost their workhorse running back Saquon Barkley for the season last year, and even with that huge loss and Covid wreaking havoc on Jones’ transition to his second NFL season, he still increased his completion percentage. The Giants appear to have a healthy Barkley again, added Kenny Golladay as a free agent, drafted Kadarius Toney and have improved their offensive line. Remember he’s a former sixth overall draft pick who threw 24 TD passes and rushed for nearly 300 yards as a rookie and for over 400 last season.You could do a lot worse for a QB2.

He’s not getting a lot of discussion because as a rookie he stepped aside last season and opted not to play due to COVID-19. Do not forget that in 2019 he and his current Bengals teammate Joe Burrow had a very productive connection at LSU, where Chase actually out-produced teammate and future 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year wide receiver Justin Jefferson with an astonishing 84 receptions for 1,780 yards. Yes, Cincinnati boasts a couple of other good young wide receivers who are difficult to cover, but they could be playing from behind a fair bit again this season, meaning a lot of balls in the air for them to share. It also appears Chase will be given every chance to catch balls out of the slot this year, making him a mismatch against nickel and dime backs nearly every time. Stop drooling and steal him late.

The Saints’ entire offense is going to look very different this year, starting with the absence of All World quarterback Drew Brees and the continuing ankle injury saga involving star wide receiver Michael Thomas. Veteran TEs Jared Cook and Josh Hill have both left the Big Easy, so Trautman, a third round pick last year out of Dayton, will have a chance to put his considerable size and Yards-After-Catch skills to use as a primary checkdown option for new starter Jameis Winston. He was brought along slowly last year (okay…very slowly), but the training wheels are officially off and he will be given a lot of opportunities to take off this year. As a TE2 he’s a steal.

The Broncos are saying that Williams will share the running back workload with overpaid veteran Melvin Gordon Jr. 50/50, so his production may not overwhelm statistically, especially at the start of the season. Denver didn’t use an early second round pick on Williams just to have him sit on the sidelines, though. Remember, sleepers are about exceeding expectations and finding an edge in the margins and right now Williams is being drafted as around the 30th overall RB. Gordon averaged just 13.8 PPR points per game last year without Williams there to challenge him, so there is a lot of opportunity here for Williams to exceed his current draft position expectations and become the primary ball carrier in Denver. That’s exactly what you’re looking for in a potential RB3 or FLEX position player.

Last season was a near-record setting one for the Niners’ D, but not in the way they’d envisioned. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance spearheaded by a dominant defense, there was no way for them to envision the litany of injuries and Covid absences they’d face in 2020. Star players like Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Richard Sherman, Jacquiski Tartt, Dre Greenlaw and Jason Verrett all missed significant chunks of the season. Now, that vaunted defense is healthy again, boasting a staggering depth of above-average defensive lineman and some early season games that could net fantasy owners gaudy numbers (Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago and Jacksonville for example). They’re not being selected among the top five defenses in fantasy drafts this season, but last year they still finished in the top five in fewest fantasy points allowed despite their crowded Injury Infirmary. This year they seem primed to be even more productive.

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