Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers: 12 breakout players to target late in 2023 drafts

With so much information and analysis available ahead of fantasy football drafts every season, the definition of a “deep sleeper” has changed. Mining for underrated players who can be late-round steals has become more difficult in 2023. Simply put, more players get more attention.

However, the most astute fantasy football owners always have intriguing players to target in the final few rounds. Based on players who currently have average draft positions (ADP) of 180 or later (15th round and later) in half-point PPR leagues, here are 12 names to consider late in your drafts.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2023 Fantasy Cheat Sheet

Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers 2023

Best QB deep sleepers 2023

Sam Howell, Commanders (ADP: 194)

Howell has played well in the preseason, securing the starting job with no push from Jacoby Brissett. He’s looked locked in with his arm and athleticism in a more dynamic passing offense under Eric Bieniemy. He also has strong weapons, led by wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. With Washington not expected to be a playoff contender, he should find himself in some high-volume situations, too. Taylor Heinicke was a legit fantasy contributor at times in the previous offense; Howell carries more all-around upside and the ability to put up consistent numbers.

QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Top 200 | S-Flex | IDP

Ryan Tannehill, Titans (ADP: 235)

Is Tannehill exciting? No, not especially with Will Levis waiting in the wings, but he still can produce viable QB2 numbers when healthy, making him a sneaky second starter in Superflex. Consider he finished as QB7 and QB13 while with Tennessee in the seasons before 2022. Between DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, and Chig Okonkwo — along with his running ability — Tannehill has a path to passable stats in relation to him being ranked as a deep QB3.

QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Top 200 | S-Flex | IDP

Best RB deep sleepers 2023

Tyjae Spears, Titans (ADP: 210)

Let’s stick with the Titans. Spears has sparked while working as the No. 2 behind Derrick Henry ahead of Hassan Haskins in training camp. The rookie from Tulane is a different type of runner at 5-10, 201 pounds, and he has natural receiving skills. Henry turns 30 in January and his high mileage. Spears should be taken as either an upside handcuff or a promising lottery ticket.

Jerome Ford, Browns (ADP: 224)

Nick Chubb can have a big all-around season behind an elite offensive line with Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson no longer in Cleveland. The reason those valuable backups were expendable is the presence of Ford. Like those guys, he can be a big-time plug-and-play in fantasy should Chubb miss more time, making him one of the best handcuffs in the NFL.

Ty Chandler, Vikings (ADP: 236)

Alexander Mattison is casting many doubts about his ability to handle a significant workload in a pass-heavy offense minus Dalvin Cook. Behind Chandler, there are some big hopes for rookie DeWayne McBride, but he can be an easy get on waivers if needed. Chandler, however, opens as the No. 2 with a chance to get on the field with more explosiveness than Mattison.

QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Each Team

Best WR deep sleepers 2023

Tank Dell, Texans (ADP: 217)

Rookies represent unknown quantities late in the drafts, and that’s why you can steal one or two of them. Houston has some options to get key targets from rookie C.J. Stroud after tight end Dalton Schultz. Some prefer the experience of Robert Woods or the big-play upside of either Nico Collins or John Metchie III.

Despite size questions, Dell can line up well in the slot and be a key target. He’s smaller than both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but Dell is a tough run-after-the-catch merchant at 5-8 and built to perform well in a 49ers-like offense.

Jayden Reed, Packers (ADP: 233)

Reed is another rookie wide receiver who should have a key role in a receiving corps in flux, operating as the best option between Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Like Dell, Reed has a strong camp with a new starting QB and can have a big return should anything happen to those second-year players.

Mecole Hardman Jr., Jets (ADP: 261)

Garrett Wilson and then who? Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have the familiarity with Aaron Rodgers, and the tight ends, led by Tyler Conklin, are decent. However, with Corey Davis retired, Hardman can rise into a key No. 3 role and show what he can do more as a regular route-runner with a top QB. It’s hard to ignore Hardman when there’s little reliability behind Wilson.

Puka Nucua, Rams (ADP: 276)

Cooper Kupp remains the man and Tyler Higbee is a venerable intermediate target, but Van Jefferson? Tutu Atwell? Ben Skowronek? Demarcus Robinson? There’s not much appeal in the passing game with any of those guys as the No. 3. Nacua has looked great absorbing Sean McVay’s offense quickly and can work to carve out a key role sooner than expected.

Michael Wilson, Cardinals (ADP: 282)

Here’s another rookie making noise in the NFC West on a limited receiving corps now without DeAndre Hopkins. Wilson has ascended up the depth chart behind Marquise Brown, standing out from Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore with impressive size (6-2, 209 pounds). It was a tough World Cup for his girlfriend Sophi Smith and the USWNT, but like teammate and fellow former Stanford Cardinal Zach Ertz, he can have an important receiving role early while Kyler Murray (knee) is on the mend.

2023 AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Overall

Best TE deep sleepers 2023

Michael Mayer, Raiders (ADP: 196)

Last season under Josh McDaniels, Darren Waller and Foster Moreau combined for 61 catches (97 targets) for 808 yards and five TDs. Now Mayer is just trying to beat out O.J. Howard and Austin Hooper for key targets. The promising Notre Dame rookie is not only playing for Gronk-loving McDaniels but also catching passes from Kittle-loving Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s also room to pick up key targets behind Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers with Hunter Renfrow likely fading minus Derek Carr.

QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/ST

Hunter Henry, Patriots (ADP: 212)

Mike Gesicki is getting more love with Bill O’Brien, perhaps because he’s the shiny newcomer who was also at Penn State. But Henry has the better camp rekindling his red-zone connection with Mac Jones, which resulted in a TE8 finish in 2021. He’s been a top-12 fantasy tight end when healthy throughout his NFL career, minus his wiped-out 2018.

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