Don’t press snooze on these fantasy football sleepers

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Don’t press snooze on these fantasy football sleepers

Charlie Ginsburg

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 After four weeks of watching players unknown to even the biggest football fans play during the preseason, the 2019-2020 NFL season officially kicked off on Thursday night with millions of football-deprived fans tuning in to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Chicago Bears 10-3. However, not all of these fans were crazed cheeseheads or die-hard fans of “Da Bears.” Instead, many were fantasy football players, eager to watch their players rack up points across the field.

Every year, individuals across the nation load up their computers and assemble a virtual team of NFL players to compete against their friends, families and co-workers. In many cases, people even compete for cash prizes. But regardless of these monetary incentives, many players strive to win bragging rights or league trophies. In Fantasy Football, like in the real NFL, there are stars, starters and sometimes busts (players who do not live up to their potential). But most importantly, there are sleepers. 

Sleepers win leagues. They are the players who fly under the radar and perform at a level that no one predicted they would. In many cases, having that one underrated player who upsets the mainstream picks can increase your team’s success tenfold. With that in mind, here are some players who have the potential to exceed their expectations and earn you the heralded title of, “Fantasy Football Champion.”

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson is an entertaining player to watch. He plays the quarterback position but is essentially a glorified running back. Last season, Jackson ran the ball more than any other quarterback with 697 yards. Keep in mind, he did this while only starting seven out of sixteen regular-season games, according to Pro-Football-Reference. When asked about Jackson’s potential for running the ball this year, coach John Harbough said he would bet on Jackson breaking the record for most rushing attempts from a quarterback in a single season (a record previously set by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in 2017 with 139 attempts.) Aside from being an impressive runner, Jackson is also a more than a capable thrower. He can move the offense down the field consistently with his arm if need be, and isn’t entirely reliant on his legs. Because of the versatility in Jackson’s playstyle, he is able to run the ball and move a team down the field, and he will provide excellent value to any fantasy owner. Jackson is being valued very low by many owners and is a free agent in 20.3% of ESPN leagues. Jackson could be a slam dunk pickup barring any injuries.

Latavius Murray, RB, New Orleans Saints

This past offseason, the extremely explosive power back, Latavius Murray, signed with the New Orleans Saints. He joins an offense led by former Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Drew Brees and speedster running back Alvin Kamara. While Murray will receive fewer carries than Kamara, he will still play an extremely valuable role. All-Pro running back Mark Ingram put up 645 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns last season in only 12 games after carving out a sizable role in the Saints juggernaut offense. After losing Ingram to free agency, head coach Sean Payton has said that he does not want to give Kamara any more than a small uptick in rushes. This means that Murray will most likely assume the role left by Ingram, and in turn, give him high fantasy football value. Given his relatively low expectations, Murray won’t be a top valued at top price, making him a worthy trade target or free-agent pickup.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Christian Kirk is a very interesting player with a lot of potential. He is coming off of a very strong rookie season before getting injured, and now fully healthy, is looking to build off of his impressive start. Last year Kirk snagged 43 receptions for 590 yards and three touchdowns in only 12 games, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Adding on to Kirk’s appeal, this year the Cardinals have a new quarterback at the helm; first overall pick, Kyler Murray. Along with the heisman-winning Murray, the Cardinals also brought in a new coach, Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury is known as a coach who loves to attack defenses through the air. With the regression of 36 year-old receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Kirk will most likely become Murray’s number one target in an offense that will pass the ball substantially more than they did last year.

Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Vance McDonald is a great tight end to hold onto, despite coming off of a relatively quiet statistical season last year. However, with the departure of both Antonio Brown and Jesse James, there are more than 200 targets up for grabs in the Steelers’ offense. This means that while a lot of the targets will go to All-Pro receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, there should be enough for McDonald to produce big numbers this year. McDonald’s only deficiency is that he tends to get injured frequently, making him one of the more riskier players to add to your roster.