The next couple of months is going to lay the foundation for the upcoming fantasy football season. We have pro days and the NFL draft, and shortly after that, the fantasy season is upon us. It’s time we start looking for ways to get an edge. One of those ways is to begin targeting sleeper picks for next year. We will cover three deep sleepers for the 2021 NFL season.
The NFL draft and free agency period certainly will change the likelihood of these players hitting, but it never hurts to know what to look for this football off-season.
Please keep in mind these are deep sleepers for the 2021 NFL season. These are players that some folks have no desire to roster and in other leagues might be rostered in very competitive leagues. Regardless, these players have a lower value on the roster than the potential value they may have later. I know that doesn’t sound very clear but think of it this way, like fantasy football stocks. Buy low, sell high.
Fantasy Football: 3 Deep Sleepers
Formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, Mo Alie-Cox just finished his third year in the NFL, as he went undrafted in 2017 out of VCU. One thing to note about Alie-Cox is that he’s a complete athlete. He played basketball at VCU, and Alie-Cox is the school’s all-time leader in field goal percentage.
Alie-Cox only started six games for the Indianapolis Colts this year. In those six games, Moe compiled 186 yards on 19 catches. At first glance, that doesn’t look impressive, and it’s not. But in the first game Alie-Cox started, he had six catches for 111 yards, not bad for a tight end that went undrafted.
Mo Alie-Cox didn’t even play football in college, so any measurables we talk about with pro days or the combine we will have to view in the appropriate context. Alie-Cox didn’t get to train for those things like most players do. Mo Alie-Cox’s numbers back in 2017 weren’t electrifying for his pro day, but they were satisfactory for a player of his size and role.
Remember Logan Thomas last year? In 2014 the Arizona Cardinals selected Logan Thomas as a quarterback in the fourth round. Last year, Thomas was the overall TE3 in fantasy football leagues. The tight end position can take a little bit of time to learn all the nuisances, and Mo Alie-Cox doesn’t have Thomas’s football acumen. Thomas won’t be one of the fantasy football deep sleepers next season, but he was last year.
Alie-Cox isn’t even on a roster, and any team that signs him will most likely be able to roster Alie-Cox for minimal cost. There’s a ton of untapped potential here, and for a player that you can get for free now, it’s worth a gamble for your fantasy football team.
Eno Benjamin is another player that I feel is going mostly unnoticed. In part because the man never saw the field in 2020. What’s interesting to me about that, while Benjamin was selected in the seventh round by the Arizona Cardinals and James Robinson went undrafted. The point being, someone at Arizona felt Benjamin had a skill set they liked more than Robinson.
To be clear, every team liked other’s skillsets over James Robinson, and I have no idea why. Kenyan Drake, the lead running back in Arizona last season, is no longer under contract. The Cardinals most certainly can bring back Drake if they wanted. It doesn’t appear that is the case, though.
There are many analysts in the industry that think the Arizona backfield will belong to Chase Edmonds. I’m afraid I have to disagree with this stance. We saw Edmonds in a feature role last season, and in my view, Edmonds is not the answer if you are looking for a feature back. Especially for fantasy football.
That does not mean Benjamin is someone you are looking to use as a feature back, but of all the potential destinations, Arizona was the best landing spot for Eno. Unfortunately, we have yet to see Benjamin in the Cardinals backfield, so any thoughts on Benjamin are nothing more than a mere guess.
At 5-9 and 207 lbs, Benjamin is a little undersized to have a feature role as an NFL running back. Sadly, some of the other metrics for Benjamin have also been unimpressive. There’s no reason to get too excited about a 40-yard dash time, but for an NFL running back, 4.57 seconds is less than ideal.
The reason I suggest targeting Benjamin is less on what he is and more about betting on the situation. As of today, the Cardinals have four running backs on the roster. If Arizona adds a back during the draft, especially if it’s round 4 or earlier, Benjamin is most likely going to be a backup at best. This is why he’s a prime candidate to be a deep sleeper for fantasy football, but frankly, no one is expecting much from Benjamin.
If the Cardinals don’t sign a running back in free agency and don’t add one during the draft, I would say it’s clear that the Cardinals are counting on Edmonds and Benjamin. Eno Benjamin can be added in almost all leagues for little to nothing right now, which could provide some nice depth on your fantasy football team.
If you can acquire Benjamin for cheap, do it, take the risk, and see what happens. Even if the Cardinals add a running back, we have seen weirder things than a player like Benjamin stepping in for an injury and outperforming someone ahead of him on the depth chart.
Donald Parham is another player I am targetting based on their situation with the Los Angeles Chargers. Parham caught fame with his production for the Renegades in the XFL’s five-game season. He only started five games for the Chargers but compiled 10 catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for a guy that went undrafted in 2019 and wasn’t able to stay on an NFL roster.
Hunter Henry is a free agent now, and it doesn’t look like the Chargers are looking to bring him back. As productive as Hunter has been the last few years, that seems like a unique approach unless the Chargers feel like they have something in Parham, making him a very deep sleeper in fantasy football.
If you watched some of the XFL last year, Parham did jump off the page. He flashed as one of the best players in the league. The XFL was created with players that didn’t make it to the NFL, so we have to take the performances we saw with that understanding. Parham did look like a man among boys, but it primarily was from an athletic standpoint. Parham started five games in the NFL and no other XFL player did that. PJ Walker was the only other XFL player to start in the NFL last year. For this reason, Parham has the potential to be a good fantasy football option.
Parham could be another late bloomer. Donald is a little undersized at 237 lbs, but at 6’8″, he’s an incredible passing target. Ironically, Parham comes from a football player family, but he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. In college, the coaching staff at Stetson moved Parham from wideout to tight end. As we mentioned before, the tight end position can take some time to develop.
This means that if the Chargers let Henry walk, and it appears they will, depending on who the Chargers sign as a tight end could be boom or bust for Parham. For example, if the Chargers bring Kyle Rudolph to the team, it seems evident to me, Parham will be the passing target. If the Chargers sign Jared Cook or Jimmy Graham, I believe Parham is more of a backup.
Regardless of what the Chargers do this year, it appears to me Parham is worth a gamble. Just like the other players I have mentioned, Parham can be rostered for a cheap cost. Depending on how the situation evolves in LA, you could potentially land a huge upside receiving tight end for minimal price. He’s on the waiver wire in one of my deeper fantasy football dynasty leagues right now. Yes, I have already tried to put a claim in for him.
The bottom line, if you want an advantage in your fantasy football leagues you will have to take some risks. You also have to be willing to think and act before your league mates. Finding one or two deep sleepers for the 2021 NFL season will help you get that edge. Look at team situations to find some more potential deep fantasy football sleepers as well.
Thanks for reading my article on three deep sleepers in fantasy football in the 2021 NFL season!
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