Winning a fantasy football championship is no easy feat. A lot of times, it comes down to winning at the margins. The final few rounds of a fantasy draft can feel inconsequential in the moment, but if you select a player who goes on to enjoy a breakout season, that can be the difference between fielding a good team and masterfully assembling a title team.
With that in mind, I wanted to identify a few players who could be available in the final stretches of your draft -- perhaps even when it's time to make your last skill-position pick. Here are five of my favorite late-round sleepers.
The competition is over, as the Commanders have officially handed the quarterbacking reins to Howell, the second-year pro who was selected with the 144th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now, don't let his fifth-round pedigree fool you. Howell, who beat out veteran Jacoby Brissett for the starting gig, is a talented player with a strong arm and above-average athleticism. Since 2017, just four FBS quarterbacks have recorded 3,000-plus passing yards and 800-plus rushing yards in a single season: Lamar Jackson (2017 at Louisville), Kyler Murray (2018 at Oklahoma), Jalen Hurts (2019 at Oklahoma) ... and Howell (2021 at North Carolina). Those first three guys have certainly enjoyed some success on the fantasy front. In Howell's one and only start as a rookie, he put up 18.3 fantasy points (standard scoring) against the Cowboys' defense in Week 18, which was good enough to rank as the QB7 that week. If you don't take him late in your draft, you might have to fight for him on waivers after he blows up against the Cardinals' suspect secondary in Week 1.
Despite the departure of Pro Bowl RB Miles Sanders in free agency, Gainwell became an afterthought in fantasy managers' minds when the Eagles added two veteran running backs to their backfield this offseason (Rashaad Penny and D'Andre Swift). But based on training camp reports and preseason usage, it seems like Gainwell could sit atop Philadelphia's RB depth chart. Yes, I'm saying there is a possibility that you can grab the starting running back for one of the NFL's best rushing offenses with one of your final picks. That is a league-winning type of move.
Who is going to be the Packers' WR1 in 2023? I don't know ... and you don't know. With such great uncertainty, I will be taking a shot on Doubs, who is typically going way later than fellow second-year pro Christian Watson. As a rookie in 2022, Doubs had the second-most targets per game on the Packers, behind only Allen Lazard, who relocated to New York this offseason with Aaron Rodgers. New starting QB Jordan Love has displayed a strong connection with Doubs through the first two weeks of the preseason, with the wideout snagging four of Love's 12 completions, 73 of his 130 passing yards and one of his two passing touchdowns.
Did the Texans steal a first-round talent in Round 3? It's early, but the initial returns are quite promising. Last season at the University of Houston, Dell led the FBS in receiving yards (1,398) and receiving touchdowns (17). He was the only FBS wideout with 1,300-plus receiving yards in each of the past two years. But his small stature (5-foot-8 3/8 and 165 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine) seemingly prevented him from coming off the draft board until Pick No. 69. Well, so far in training camp and the preseason, Dell has been balling out, providing reassurance to fantasy mangers that his diminutive frame will not hold him back from producing in the NFL. The rookie also landed in a prime spot to shine early on in his career, as the Texans lost five of their top six target leaders from last season, leaving a huge opportunity for one of their young skill players to take over as the go-to guy in the offense.
As we get closer to the start of the regular season, there are more and more positive reports coming out of Cowboys practice about this second-year tight end. It seems Ferguson has the best chance in Dallas' TE room to take over the Dalton Schultz role, a job that has been very fantasy friendly over the last couple of years. In fact, Dak Prescott has consistently leaned on his featured tight end throughout his career, allowing Dallas to field a top-12 fantasy TE in six of the past seven seasons. Ferguson has a realistic chance to break out in Year 2 at a thin position in the fantasy world.
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