Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Sleepers to target late in 2024 dynasty rookie drafts

2TADNXA Hattiesburg, USA. 25th Nov, 2023. NOV 25, 2021: Troy Trojans running back Kimani Vidal (28) picks his way through the line during a college football game between the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the Troy Trojans at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Bobby McDuffie/CSM/Sipa USA (Credit Image: © Bobby Mcduffie/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

• Opportunity and a path to snaps is always the biggest key: For the running back position, specifically, some Day 3 picks could emerge.

• The Kimani Vidal hype is probably keeping him from being a sleeper for much longer: After making the pre-draft sleeper list, the Los Angeles Chargers sixth-round pick still qualifies for this list.

• Late-round wide receivers who could make an impact: Devontez Walker and Jacob Cowing become intriguing picks for their respective offenses.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The true dart throws in dynasty rookie drafts typically come after the third round in 12-team standard leagues (37th pick and beyond). While the hit rate remains low, there are still a select few who emerge every year to become fantasy stars, including Puka Nacua, who made this list last year. Each player listed below was, at best, a Day 3 pick in the NFL draft and listed as a fourth-round pick or later based on Fantasy Pros consensus ADP.

Diving into the best data available at PFF will help identify which players going later in rookie drafts are worth a shot for dynasty rosters.

RB Kimani Vidal, Los Angeles ChargersFP consensus ADP: 38th overall (RB11)

I should start this off by saying that Vidal's upside already moving him away from sleeper territory, evidenced by the sixth-round pick’s ADP moving to RB11 since the NFL draft. That being said, there’s quite a bit to like about Vidal, which is why he made the pre-draft sleeper list for me as well, so I don’t feel too bad about contributing to this hype. 

Vidal earned a lot of playing time over his college career and impressed over the past two seasons, where he posted back-to-back 90.0-plus rushing grades to go along with 2,788 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns over that span. Vidal will compete with established NFL veterans on the Chargers in Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, though with Greg Roman’s offense operating with a primarily run-heavy approach and injury concerns with Dobbins coming off an Achilles tear, there’s room for Vidal to make an impact as a rookie.

Like any Day 3 draft pick, a starting opportunity right out the gate is incredibly rare and will have to be earned over time so patience is going to be key for not just Vidal, but any sleeper mentioned here. Vidal does have the experience and pedigree to emerge as a fantasy-relevant option in this offense, evidenced by his strong metrics coming out of college, highlighted in the chart below.

Kimani Vidal’s career rushing marks and ranks:
Metric Value Rank among RB prospects since 2018
Rushing grade 94.3 90th percentile
Best single-season rushing grade 93.2 94th percentile
Rushing grade versus an eight-man box 85.5 92nd percentile
Missed tackles forced per attempt 0.29 80th percentile

RB Tyrone Tracy, New York GiantsFP consensus ADP: 42nd overall (RB13)

Tracy also made the pre-draft sleeper list and while he was never likely to land somewhere as the clear RB1 following the draft, this spot in New York was among the best available for him to emerge as a fantasy-relevant rookie. The Giants brought in a steady and reliable starter, Devin Singletary, this offseason after losing Saquon Barkley in free agency, but there isn’t a whole lot else on the Giants roster to keep a prospect like Tracy from being involved in the offense as a rookie.

One of the key areas for Tracy to contribute will come as a pass catcher out of the backfield, thanks to his experience as a wide receiver in college but also due to Singletary’s lack of production in that regard during his NFL career. Singletary has never cracked a 65.0 receiving grade despite getting decent volume as a receiver in his NFL career, as never received fewer than 45 targets (including playoffs). For Tracy and this Giants offense that relied heavily on Barkley’s receiving ability over the years, he should be able to carve himself out a role as a receiver early while he bides his time for carries to add to his workload.

Tyrone Tracy’s career marks and ranks:
Metric Value Rank among RB prospects since 2018
Rushing grade 91.2 66th percentile
Explosive run rate 23.1% 97th percentile
Missed tackles forced per attempt 0.39 98th percentile
Yards after contact per run 4.20 90th percentile
Targets per route run 0.20 85th percentile
Yards per route run 1.31 72nd percentile

RB Dylan Laube, Las Vegas RaidersFP consensus ADP: 43rd overall (RB14)

A path to snaps on thin depth charts is always going to be the key for these sleeper running backs, and Laube is no exception as he lands with the Raiders, who did little to address the position in free agency following the departure of Josh Jacobs. Zamir White has been a clear winner of this offseason so far for fantasy, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for Laube to contribute and potentially step in if White doesn’t work out. Laube’s primary competition for that handcuff role is currently Alexander Mattison, who was one of the most inefficient backs in the league last year and lost his starting job, and Ameer Abdullah, who will be 31 years old at the start of the season and more likely to contribute on passing downs.

Laube comes out of the FCS with encouraging metrics as a receiver, where he could push Abdullah for usage early in his career. Laube earned at least an 81.1 receiving grade in each of the past three seasons, culminating in a 90.5 this past season. He has nearly 200 targets for his college career to go along with 1,654 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns on 1.81 career yards per route run — a 92nd percentile mark among running back prospects since 2018.

As a runner, Laube has just an 88.1 career rushing grade, which fantasy managers would like to see higher coming out of the FCS. However, he does have a strong 0.27 missed tackles forced per attempt (71st percentile) which serves as one of the more stable metrics for backs coming out of college to the NFL. Laube has the potential to earn a role on early or late downs given his skillset and the relatively thin depth chart, which is exactly what fantasy managers should be looking for in these later rounds of rookie drafts.

WR Devontez Walker, Baltimore RavensFP consensus ADP: 41st overall (WR20)

Walker was Drake Maye’s most efficient wide receiver this past season at North Carolina, which was his first year with the team. He led the team with 2.28 yards per route run and 87.4 receiving yards per game, appearing in just eight games for the year after missing the first five weeks. 

Despite his biggest career year coming at Kent State in 2022 where he posted 921 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns, Walker’s efficiency on the field has allowed him to earn 2.52 yards per route run for his career which is tied for the eighth-best mark in this year’s wide receiver class and 72nd percentile among prospects since 2019. Walker should have an opportunity to contribute as an outside wide receiver for the Ravens after Odell Beckham Jr.‘s departure, and it’s a role that should suit him well, sharing time with Rashod Bateman.

When lined up wide, Walker earned 2.51 yards per route run for his career which is a 70th percentile mark among prospects since 2019 and posted 3.53 yards per route run versus single coverage a 62nd percentile mark over that span. While not mind-blowing numbers by any means, Walker’s speed and ability to separate downfield should help him find targets from Lamar Jackson in this offense and contribute early in his NFL career. Walker could earn a larger role down the road if he can be as efficient as he was during his college career.

WR Jacob Cowing, San Francisco 49ersFP consensus ADP: 44th overall (WR21)

Cowing was the second receiver drafted by the 49ers after the team selected Ricky Pearsall in the first round but should be an excellent fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense as a player to motion around pre-snap and utilize in those tight areas of the field like the red zone where he was particularly effective during his time at Arizona and UTEP.

During his career, Cowing earned 56 targets in the red zone, which was the second-most in this class and helped him deliver 33 touchdowns for his career. Cowing is a smaller receiver and will get a lot more usage around the line of scrimmage as a low ADoT option in Shanahan’s offense, similar to his usage in Arizona the past two years. Cowing saw 59 screen targets since 2022 which is the third-most in this class and led to an average depth of target of just 7.6 – the fourth lowest in the class. Since 2017, Shanahan’s 49ers are tied for the lowest average depth of target (7.9) in the NFL, which should play perfectly into Cowing’s skillset. With trade rumors surrounding both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel recently, Cowing’s time could come quickly, but for now, is a target to stash on dynasty taxi squads.


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