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Sleepers to target in 2021 fantasy football leagues: Trey Lance, Terrace Marshall Jr. and more

Aug 22, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) scrambles in the pocket before throwing a pass in the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

By definition, a fantasy football sleeper does not necessarily describe an unknown player going overly late in drafts. “Deep sleepers” are fun to seek out, but they're such long shots that we can't rely on too many of them. Instead, we need to focus on players who possess major upside but are flying under the radar.

The following list of such players will guide you through the double-digit rounds of your fantasy football drafts. The goal is that one or several of them beat their ADPs by a significant margin, akin to performances from Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, T.J. Hockenson, Ryan Tannehill, J.D. McKissic, James Robinson and Robby Anderson last season.

All players with an ADP outside the top 100 players on Underdog Fantasy and Fantrax are eligible.


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QB TREY LANCE, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS | ADP QB17

Only one rookie quarterback drafted in the first round since 2010 has remained on the bench for their entire first year. Jordan Love in 2020 is the lone soul, and the situation was unique in that there was never a reason for the Green Bay Packers to give him work with Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level. Love also didn’t get the benefit of a preseason.

Quarterbacks drafted inside the top three selections (like Lance) have started an average of 13.7 games as rookies since 2010. Jimmy Garoppolo will have to play at a borderline elite level to keep Lance off the field, and that doesn’t seem likely.

Garoppolo has completed six of nine passes for 41 yards (4.6 yards per attempt) and one interception so far this preseason. Meanwhile, Lance has flashed his rocket arm (9.3-yard average depth of target) and heightened the intensity of San Francisco‘s quarterback competition.

The minute he is named the team’s starter, it's checkmate for you against the rest of your leaguemates at the quarterback position. With a bazooka for an arm and elite rushing upside to boot, Lance is the perfect fantasy football quarterback in a seemingly perfect situation.

The rookie gets the benefit of a system that has aided Garoppolo (8.3) and even Nick Mullens (7.9) to finishes of first and sixth, respectively, in passing yards per attempt since 2017.

So, draft and stash Lance whenever possible — he will bring teams to the fantasy playoffs. No team has an easier strength of schedule for quarterbacks than San Francisco. 

RB JAMAAL WILLIAMS, DETROIT LIONS | ADP RB43

Lions starting running back D’Andre Swift is a value at RB16 cost, which makes Jamaal Williams’ price at RB43 an insane value. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn already named Williams his “A back,” a role that entails running between the tackles and seeing touches on all three downs.

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