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Best Ball

3 Late Round Leverage + Fantasy Football Sleepers Plays to Dominate Your Fantasy Football League

Kyle Dvorchak

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Looking for some leverage plays for your drafts? Kyle Dvorchak has you covered with three late-round breakouts & fantasy football sleepers.

Spotting the next big breakout is great. Finding a breakout that benefits you at the expense of your league mates is even better. There are a handful of players going in the later rounds of fantasy drafts that hurt the players around them if they breakout. That makes these fantasy options great selection in large tournaments like the FFPC Main Event or Underdog Best Ball Championship. Here are five players that can flip the script on your opponents and give you a massive edge. Let’s get into some leverage plays and fantasy football sleepers for 2020.


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Leverage Plays & Fantasy Football Sleepers for 2020

3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington Football Team

Why He’s a Leverage Play

The Tyreek Hill dilemma last year created an interesting wrinkle. It appeared as though he was going to miss much of the season if not get cut outright during the summer. That led to teams getting him in the double-digit rounds. Once his non-suspension was announced, teams taking him in the first round were competing with other teams that got him and a first-round pick. The other option was to fade Hill and bank on an injury or poor performance. Hill wound up getting injured so the 10th-round Hill drafters didn’t crush everyone in their path. If he hadn’t, the Best Ball season could have been over before it started.

The same scenario is playing out on a smaller scale with Antonio Gibson set to be a featured player after Washington waived Derrius Guice. Drafting him now is fighting an uphill battle versus teams who got him as a deep flier. The only difference is that, this time, there’s a third choice. Pivot to Peterson and make money.

How it Happens

Peterson’s ADP has taken a leap since the Guice news broke, but it is nowhere near what Gibson’s has shot up to. Guice is being taken at pick 91 in the past 10 days and Peterson is going over 60 spots behind him. This is in spite of the fact that Peterson has played really well during his two seasons in Washington. Peterson has topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage in both seasons as well as maintaining a mark of 4.2 yards per carry while playing on weak offenses.

When Guice hasn’t been on the field, Peterson has seen a massive workload. His 16.5 touches per game would be top 20 in the league based on last year’s numbers.

breakout

Adrian Peterson Splits without Derrius Guice, Courtesy of RotoViz

Peterson has experience with the team, while Gibson hardly has experience at the running back position at all. He played two seasons of football at Memphis and logged just 370 total snaps, most of which came at running back. In a truncated offseason, don’t sleep on Peterson stifling yet another young back’s breakout.

2. James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Why He’s a Leverage Play

Pittsburgh’s offense is going to have a number of names competing for targets in 2020 and it’s unlikely that all of them surpass their respective ADPs. Awesemo’s rankings have zoomed out and recognized JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s greatness. His 2,343 yards by the age of 22 are the second most in NFL history. Even after a disappointing age-23 season, Smith-Schuster is still top eight all-time for his age.

That leaves Diontae Johnson and Washington fighting for the No. 2 job in Pittsburgh, and both will be getting their looks on the boundaries because Smith-Schuster primarily plays in the slot. On the back of a breakout rookie campaign, Johnson’s ADP has been strapped to the back of a rocket this summer while Washington is largely written off as a late-round flier. If the public gets this situation wrong, the Washington drafters will bury Johnson’s.

How it Happens

While fantasy players have seemingly made up their minds on the issue, last year’s stats indicate that Washington could be the better player. He bested Johnson in yards per target (9.3), yards per route run (2.1), and graded out as a better receiver according to Pro Football Focus (69.3 grade). That’s on top of leading Pittsburgh in raw yardage (735) as well.

The upgrade from Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph is going to be a boon for all weapons in Pittsburgh, but it could work out best for Washington. His 15.8 average depth of target was fifth highest in the league. He was running routes that require an incredible amount of strength, precision, and timing to hit. None of those words describe the quarterback play Pittsburgh saw last year. Johnson, on the other hand, only posted a 9.2 aDOT, making his routes much more forgiving for terrible quarterbacks. Washington could easily be the biggest beneficiary of Ben Roethlisberger‘s return. The overconfidence in Johnson beating Washington has gotten out of hand when he arguably didn’t even manage that feat last year.


More Fantasy Football Sleepers


1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Why He’s a Leverage Play

Watkins will have value if something happens to Hill or even Travis Kelce. However, he doesn’t offer any leverage over these players in any scenario other than an injury or suspension. The player he does stand to benefit from if they fail is Mecole Hardman. One of the two is going to be a starting receiver for a Patrick Mahomes-led offense, while the other is relegated to a rotational role. Last year, Hardman was used exclusively as the latter. If that holds true again, Watkins will be set for a handful of big weeks while Hardman watches from the bench.

How it Happens

With Hill injured, Hardman played on over half of the Chiefs’ snaps in every game through six weeks. Watkins played on over 90% of snaps for four weeks before getting hurt as well. He returned in Week 8 and averaged a 78% snap share through the end of the regular season. Hardman saw the opposite arc play out. He had one good week after Watkins returned, playing 76% of snaps versus the Chargers in Week 11. Outside of that game, he never crossed the 50% threshold again.

The Chiefs chose to stick with Watkins as their No. 2 even in the playoffs. He stayed above an 80% snap share for all three games while Hardman topped out at 40%. Hardman is likely to more dynamic play maker out of the two, but breakout won’t happen if he’s treated like a backup again this year.

Watkins infamously did little after Week 1, when he went for 198 yards and three scores. His best game throughout the rest of the regular season was a scoreless, seven-catch, 63-yard outing. He did come alive again in the playoffs, though, converting his playing time into 14 receptions for 288 yards and a touchdown, plus 14 yards on the ground. His strong finish and entire season being used ahead of Hardman could spell doom for the second-year receiver. Instead of reaching on Hardman, wait a few rounds and get the true second receiver in Kansas City with Watkins as a fantasy football sleeper.


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If you like fantasy football and care about data, there's a 50/50 chance I've written for your favorite site. In a few short years I've covered, season-long, dynasty, best ball, and DFS for football. I used to be watching games and pretend to know what I was talking about but now I just spew numbers that forecast outcomes better than any scout. Come for the numbers, stay for the bad jokes and Zach Zenner references. RIP XFL.

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