Fantasy football sleepers, breakouts…whatever you want to call them are the apple of the animator’s eye. Why? Not just because they’re insane stats, but because you’re getting a potential league winner… and looking smarter than everyone else. Each year we have brand new names in the top 10 that were drafted midway through the round or even later. For this list, a player must not have finished as “One” (Top 12) in Total Fantasy Points or FPPG for their position. I wanted to make ‘bolder’ calls, so no Elijah Mitchell or Tee Higgins who were RB12 and WR12 respectively in FPPG (if you drop Kristian Wilkerson – one game – and Cyril Grayson – three games).
Top 10 Quarterback Potential
Trey Lance, SF – If you tune in the athlete pod or my all-in-football show, you know what I’m about to say. Josh Allen, 2019, with a poor 3089/20 passing line, finished as QB7 overall and QB10 in FPPG. Allen got there with a line of 109/510/9 rushing, and Lance will run more often. Lance floored 7-for-41 while replacing Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 4 and then rushed on his two starts for 16/89 and 8/31, respectively. Extrapolate that, even with a no-start, and you have 176 rushes for 914 yards. I’m not demanding that, but even a 700/6 rushing line along with 3000/20 passes would have seen Lance finish last year as a QB9 just ahead of Jalen Hurts. So, yes, Lance is destined to be in the top 10.
A probability: 10/10
Derek Carr, L.V — Carr has missed QB1 status by one spot twice, both times as QB13 (including last year). The Raiders added Davante Adams, who will help Carr improve his touchdown streak, and two more touchdowns would have put Carr in the QB12 spot last season, but he would have needed 10 more to chase Kirk Cousins as QB10 . Additionally, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson averaged at least two other FPPGs last year. Carr has a chance, but having his first QB1 season would be better than finding the top 10 on his arm alone.
A probability: 4/10
Daniel Jones, New York – Due to his rushing potential, Jones saw a rand QB1 ADP in 2020 but disappointed with 2943/11 in 14 games, even with a 423/1 rushing. Things didn’t look much better last year before Jones’ injury, but Brian Daboll arrives with some hope. The offensive line is better, Saquon Barkley is healthy, but Jones would need to improve his rookie rate (which extrapolates to 3958/31 passing) and hit at least 500/5 to reach QB1 status. Daboll is not that magical.
A probability: 1/10
Top 10 Running Back Potential
Cam Akers, LAR – Again, if you’ve listed the pods (or read the breakout article), you know the reason for the Akers love. As I always say, “Hear/watch what the teams tell us.” The Rams treated Akers as a bellcow who sustained an Achilles injury — much earlier than thought possible — with the playoffs and the Super Bowl on the way Game. Akers is a bellcow on one of the best offenses in the league, and James Conner and Leonard Fournette were top-10 running backs with 202 and 180 rushes, respectively, and neither played all season. Aside from the slight concern that Akers will never return to 100%, this is a near-lockdown.
A probability: 9/10
Travis Etienne, JAX – Recently there has been talk that James Robinson 1) will be ready for week 1 and 2) would be the main option. Color me skeptical even after seeing Akers return. Akers is the exception to the rule, and some medical professionals believe Akers will never be 100% again. Etienne is a dynamic running back and I spoke to Doug Pederson about his fit in the Breakout RB article. Even in a 50/50 split with Robinson, I want the pass catcher… not to come from an Achilles injury, and that offense should take off in Trevor Lawrence’s second year with Pederson at the helm.
A probability: 7/10
Breece Hall, NYJ — Hall is the most talented rookie running back, but the Jets have a big talent from last year’s class in Michael Carter. While Carter won’t stop Hall from being the leading option, it will at least stop Hall from being a bellcow option and put him in a similar situation to Javonte Williams’ rookie season in terms of volume. Despite this, Williams ended up as RB17 in a 50/50 split with Melvin Gordon. So if Hall has a 60/40 split advantage — or even better, if Hall matches or surpasses Carter’s work in passing — he could have a similar season to Antonio Gibson in 2021, which was RB8.
A probability: 6/10
Ronald Jones, KC – Jones consistently failed to impress in the NFL, with 2020 being his best year – and even then he was fickle and saw the Buccaneers ultimately turn to Leonard Fournette for leadership. If there’s a running back in Fournette’s 2021 preseason situation, it’s Jones, who some argued was still ahead of Fournette this time last year. If Clyde Edwards-Helaire continues to fight on his own, particularly within the 10, a Fournette-like touchdown-weighted season could ensue for Jones. Hey, nobody was asking for a top 10 fournet finish, especially with just 249 touches in 14 games.
A probability: 5/10
AJ Dillon, GB – We’ve seen Dillon get the opportunity to lead and he’s done a great job at that job, even getting 20 touches in many games with Aaron Jones active. If Jones misses the time, Dillon would shoot into RB1 territory and even push for the top five given the workload and offense. Dillon’s top-10 probability hinges on Jones missing most of the season while we don’t want Should it happen, perhaps if he finishes on top he has the best guarantee of all here.
A probability: 3/10
(Top photo: Stan Szeto – USA TODAY Sports)