Fantasy football: Cam Newton, Baker Mayfield can provide sleeper-like value

Everyone loves the cheap fantasy find deep in a draft who turns out to be a productive contributor. This discovery has long been known as a “sleeper,” though that term is a bit outdated.

There aren’t really sleepers anymore. The fantasy industry has been so robust with so many different voices that virtually any player of in a position to potentially get playing time is touted by a pundit somewhere. If everyone is a sleeper, no one is a sleeper.

What we like to look for are those who are undervalued. Such targets are hard to find at the quarterback position, which as a whole is undervalued in traditional one-QB fantasy roster formats. So when finding QB “sleepers,” we have to go deeper than even late-round options like Matthew Stafford or Ben Roethlisberger – either of whom we would feel comfortable as our primary starter as long as we have a backup/platoon option on our roster.

We have to look at some of those who go in the final few rounds or possibly undrafted. And note, these undervalued picks aren’t QBs we would mindlessly plug into our starting position. But in a COVID-19 season – when the risk of injury is compounded by a risk of a positive test – we want depth at all positions, including QB. Hence, these options would be for our backup QB spot – waiting to plug in if our starter misses time while holding out hope a breakout season by our “sleeper” could elevate him to platoon status.

Of those normally available late, we would prefer to gamble on Cam Newton, who has the highest upside and has had time to recover from recent injuries. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is notoriously savvy crafting schemes to fit his talent, so we expect the offense to transition over the course of the season to fit with Newton’s skills.

If that is too much of a risk, our next best target is Baker Mayfield. We’ve seen him excel over a short period in his rookie season before taking a large step back last year. Without the massive expectations that burdened the Browns last year, with new leadership, and a year under their belts with the trio of Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., we expect the offense to rebound from a highly disappointing 2019 season.

If you miss on both of those options, our next upside target is Sam Darnold. When healthy, he has not been bad, and actually had an impressive second half last season (over the final eight games he had 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions, nearly 2,000 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns). If he can carry over that success into this season, he should outperform other late-round targets like Daniel Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock or Kirk Cousins. And we are adverse to rookies this season, so Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa aren’t on our radar.

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