In this Fantasy Football Sleepers 2019 article, we’re trying to help owners find value. Sure, you might disagree on the exact order of drafting big stars, but for the most part, the top 5 players at every position are shared by most experts.
Thus, it becomes important for fantasy football owners to take a deeper dive and understand which players might elevate their game above expectations. We’ve taken an early look at identifying these undervalued “sleepers” so you can start thinking about your draft early.
Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s a make-or-break season for Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay.
Marred by off the field issues in the past year, we saw Ryan Fitzpatrick, otherwise known as “Fitzmagic” take his starting job in 2018. He won the hearts of many across social media due to his in-game heroics and miraculous plays. But, after the magic died down after a few weeks, we saw Jameis take back his starting job, and subsequently lose it once again.
This has been the story of his career to this point. Inconsistent play with more memorable moments in his personal life than on the field. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now out of the picture, the time is now for Jameis to live up to the hype as the #1 overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft.
More reason for optimism in Tampa Bay is the new coach Bruce Arians. He’s had a history of turning around Quarterbacks who the media had written off. When Arians became the Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, the team traded for Carson Palmer.
Palmer had been with the Raiders, and things had been going south in Oakland and people around the league were wondering if they had seen the last of Palmer. Palmer once in the desert, had an explosive year throwing for over 4,200 yards and leading the Cardinals to a 10-6 record.
Jameis will have a lot of weapons at his disposal, such as Mike Evans, OJ Howard, and Adam Humphries. If there’s one person that can be a great coach for Jameis Winston and turn his career around, it just might be Arians, and the time is now.
Check out our Fantasy Football Hot Takes on Winston for 2019.
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
$89 million dollars in cap space.
That’s what the Jets have their focus on this offseason to rebuild their offense and surround second-year quarterback Sam Darnold with plenty of weapons.
Year 1 for Sam Darnold in New York was very up and down. In 13 games played he threw for 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. At times he looked erratic and overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL game. There were many other times however where it looked like the Jets found their franchise quarterback for the next 10+ years.
Look for more consistency out of Sam Darnold in year 2 of his career and year 1 under the new system with new offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase. With an offensive-minded coach in Gase, look for him to spread the field open and throw the ball downfield. If they can add one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league in Le’veon Bell to their roster via free agency, look for Darnold’s passer rating and fantasy points due to check-downs to skyrocket.
Sam Darnold has all of the tools to be a great quarterback in this league. With Adam Gase and $89 million dollars in cap space, look for Sam Darnold to have a huge jump.
Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings came into 2018 fully expecting to compete for a Super Bowl.
By spending $84 million guaranteed over 3 years to Kirk Cousins, they handicapped themselves on the offensive line and their Super Bowl chances. With debatably the worse combo of interior linemen in the NFL, Cousins hardly ever had more than enough time to throw, and it also led to the 30th ranked running attack in the league.
This offseason, although not a lot of cap room, look for the Vikings to finally sure up their offensive line through the draft and bringing in veteran offensive linemen. This will allow Cousins to have some time in the pocket and get the ball to his playmakers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on the outside and use explosive Dalvin Cook out of the backfield.
Free agents tend to have better second years with their new teams as there is a lot to adjust to in the first season with a new team. Becoming more familiar with his surroundings and having another year of experience in the system will be huge for Cousins. One thing that he must improve on is his big gameplay. Over his career, he has an abysmal 4-25 record against opponents who are above .500. If the Vikings have any chance at making a Super Bowl run, that must improve. With a new offensive line and returning weapons, look for Kirk Cousins to exercise some of those demons.
Having a new offensive coordinator and an improved line will be huge for the Vikings. Cousins may finally be able to prove that he’s worth the hefty price tag. Look for Cousins to have a huge year in 2019 and the Vikings to be a Super Bowl contender.
Jerrick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers
Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong in San Francisco last year.
McKinnon was hurt early in training camp while Jimmy Garropolo tore his ACL on a needless attempt to get a few extra yards. With both men back this year, Kyle Shanahan looks to take his offense to a new level as he did with Matt Ryan in his 2016 MVP season.
McKinnon showed a lot of explosiveness in Pat Shurmur’s offense, but he never got a chance to be the premier back in Minnesota. Now he has his chance after signing a big contract last offseason. With a vertical tight end weapon in George Kittle, look for Shanahan to try to get McKinnon the ball in space, creating the potential for big points and happy fantasy owners.
This is a huge year for the 49ers, with a lot of expectations on the players and coaching staff to start delivering wins to one of the most storied franchises in the league. Look for Jerrick McKinnon to have a big bounce-back year.
Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins
You may have forgotten about Derrius Guice, the 59th overall pick by the Redskins in the 2018 NFL Draft out of LSU, but the Redskins have high hopes for the second-year back.
Guice tore his ACL in August during a preseason game against New England, effectively ending his rookie season before it ever started. Once Guice went down with an injury, we saw Adrian Peterson have a big bounce-back year rushing for over 1,000 yards. Look for Guice to have similar or bigger numbers than that in the same offensive system under Jay Gruden.
Guice is due to be the workhorse back with Alex Smith out for the 2019 season and an unclear QB vision heading into the offseason. Washington will rely on the running game to move down the field, and Guice is a capable pass-catcher at the pro level which could garner him more points and elevate him into a potential RB1 category.
Now healthy coming into the 2019 season, Guice looks to make a name for himself in the nation’s capital.
Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers
There will be a lot of changes in Green Bay for the 2019 season.
New coach, new system, but same old incredible Aaron Rodgers, and finally with a consistent running back in Aaron Jones.
Once he won the job in the Green Bay backfield he did not look back. Over a seven-game stretch, he scored 8 of his 9 touchdowns on the season and had over 500 yards rushing and recorded 19 catches as well.
With now a full season to work, look for new head coach Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers to get the ball to Jones early and often to take the pressure off of Rodgers. Playing in the NFC North with those great pass rushers in Chicago and Minnesota, there will be times where Rodgers will need to get rid of the ball and dump it off quickly, look for Jones to thrive in those situations.
Barring an unforeseen decrease in playing time, Aaron Jones will be in the RB1 conversation come season end.
Wide Receivers – Fantasy Football Sleepers 2019
Kenny Golladay – Detroit Lions
The Lions may be looking at another last-place finish in the NFC North in 2019, but there will be a few bright spots, one of which will be wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
After trading away Golden Tate to Philadelphia last year before the trade deadline, Golladay rose to the #1 target for Matthew Stafford fairly quickly. His tall frame and big-play ability made him a great go-to target for Stafford.
After starting the season as the #3 receiver, Golladay finished with impressive stats; recording 70 catches for over 1,000 yards and 5 touchdowns. The latter a number 2019 fantasy owners hope he improves next season. Stafford has a history of loving big receivers as security blankets, remember Calvin Johnson? Golladay should strive to be that kind of game-changing receiver and he will have the opportunity to do so.
Now being the primary target in Detroit for a passing offense, look for Golladay to improve on all of his major stats from 2018 and be in the high-end WR2 category.
Courtland Sutton – Denver Broncos
Although Sutton was exciting enough of a prospect to be selected with the 40th overall pick by the Broncos in the 2018 NFL Draft, he didn’t get much of a chance to shine during his rookie campaign.
Entering the season, he was behind both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He not only had to fight for targets in games but as well in practice making him an afterthought for much of the season. Sutton did take advantage of the opportunities that he had in 2018 recording 42 catches for 700 yards and 4 scores.
Now with Thomas gone and Sanders as a free agent, look for Sutton to have many more chances to showcase his talents this upcoming season. With a new quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and breakout star Phillip Lindsay on the offense, Denver could quietly have a top 10 offense in the league next season.
He will enter the 2019 season as the #1 receiver in Denver, and he will be targeted like a game-changing option in the Rocky Mountains.
David Njoku – Cleveland Browns
Even playing with two different quarterbacks over the course of last season, David Njoku still had an impressive sophomore season.
These are not the same Cleveland Browns of years past. After Baker Mayfield took over for Tyrod Taylor, the Browns were able to put up a lot of points. Going into year 3, Njoku will have a huge role in a budding Cleveland offense. Njoku is a big and athletic target for Mayfield which has the potential to make him a deadly red zone threat.
In 13 games with Mayfield last year, Njoku developed into a security blanket for the Browns. Now with a full offseason and training camp where Mayfield comes in as the unheralded starter, Njoku will look to have a huge 2019 season and vault himself into the upper echelon of Tight Ends in the NFL.
By the end of the 2019 season, Njoku will find himself as a top 10 fantasy tight end with the potential for much more.
OJ Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OJ Howard is one of the most physically gifted Tight Ends in the NFL. He measures in at 6’ 6” and weighs 250 pounds, it’s easy to see why Tampa Bay used the 19th overall pick on him in the 2017 draft.
Before having season-ending ankle surgery last year he had 565 yards and 5 touchdowns in just 10 games. Stretching that over a full season with a consistent starting quarterback, Howard could have a huge season. With new head coach Bruce Arians as well, he will try to get OJ Howard the ball often.
Tampa Bay will have a lot of offensive firepower heading into the season. Defenses will have a hard time being able to cover all of the options they will have, and this will lead to a lot of opportunities for OJ Howard both down the field and in the red zone.
Look for OJ Howard to be in the top 5 Tight End category by seasons end.
— Anthony Jordal
Anthony, a lifetime fantasy football fan usually spends his Tuesday nights on the waiver wire. His “Look Beyond the Field” approach has served him well in his fantasy league. He is a Nebraska Huskers alum.
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