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Fantasy Football 2021: IDP Sleepers to target late or after rookie drafts

Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Quincy Roche (48) practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during rookie minicamp, Friday, May 14, 2021 in Pittsburgh, PA. Mandatory Credit: Caitlyn Epes/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Rookie drafts are the sole focus of many fantasy football dynasty leagues at the moment, and now that there is enough data to pull from, we can finally start to identify the first-year players who are falling under the radar.

To help you prepare for the 2021 fantasy football season, here are some names that you can target late or pick up on the waiver wire after your draft to help round out your roster with some always-coveted “upside.”

Every player on this list is typically being selected at the end of Round 3 or later, and each one enters a situation where the depth chart or current competition puts them in a position to play a significant role.

Editor's Note: Dive into PFF's 2021 Best Ball Draftkit for everything you need to win it all at the end of the year! 


One of the earlier-drafted players on this list, Jones has been a name people have become aware of but is also still going pretty late in rookie drafts. He is usually available around the fourth or fifth round, depending on the league.

The biggest advantage that Jones has going for him right now is the competition he faces at his position. The Rams entered this offseason with arguably the weakest linebacker corps in the NFL, with the likes of Troy Reeder, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young leading the charge for snaps this coming season.

South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Ernest Jones (53) reacts after a stop in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The value is decent at this spot, but Jones still has a fair amount of work to do before becoming a reliable NFL starter, especially in coverage. He tends to teeter on the slower side when it comes to reacting in zone coverage, often watching the quarterback for too long, which is one reason why he allowed the second-most yards per pass attempt into his coverage (14.7) among all college linebackers with at least 15 targets last season. While he may very well end up winning the job in the short term, he’ll need to improve in coverage if he is going to be a long-term NFL linebacker.

Jones’ strengths include his range and ability to make plays against the run, and he finished his final college campaign as one of the better tackling linebackers in the 2021 draft class. A season ago, he put up an 83.0 tackling grade (eighth among draft-eligible linebackers) and just a 9% missed tackle rate (13th).

You won’t want to reach too high on a player who is by no means a finished product, but he at least comes with some redeeming qualities and a draft pedigree that should increase his odds to start in this Rams defense. He is more than worth a flier late in those fourth and fifth rounds.

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