As fantasy football drafts begin, we start our endless research trying to find the next best late round sleeper, undrafted rookie or hidden gem. Last year we were given a 5’9” running back out of Illinois State, James Robinson. He came in as an undersized running back, replacing Leonard Fournette as a true work horse for the Jaguars. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and had 10 total touchdowns, which was good enough for the 7th overall running back in 2020. This article will provide you my top four players, who could, I repeat, could, be this years hidden gem.
Undrafted Rookie Sleepers
Below are four of my undrafted rookies who could truly help in any fantasy format. The criteria for these four leading the pack are off of the following criteria:
- Chance of making 53-man roster
- Chance of playing time (outside of special teams)
- Projected roster outlook (IE: How good is the offensive line if the player is a running back)
Reminder – These are ALL undrafted rookie treasures.
1. Javian Hawkins – RB – Atlanta Falcons
Javian is the beneficiary of the Falcons having such a poor running back room. Right now, Mike Davis is slated to be the lead back, with Cordarrelle Patterson and Qadree Ollison as the other backs behind him. Patterson will most likely be used as a hybrid RB/WR as he has with previous teams, while Ollison only has 23 career attempts, with only 1 of those being last year. In 2019, Javian ran for 1525 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns, and then before opting out of 2020 he ran for 822 yard on only 133 carries.
In my opinion, Javian brings a dynamic, big play option to an Atlanta team who is going to want to score. The moment Mike Davis starts to struggle, do not be surprised if Javian gets the first crack off the bench. Keep an eye on him during preseason to see his use, that should help predict his role.
2. Pooka Williams – RB – Cincinnati Bengals
Two big reasons as to why I have Pooka as the second player on this list. 1) No Gio Bernard and 2) Joe Mixon cannot do it all. If it weren’t for some off the field issues, and being severely undersized, Pooka would have been drafted in the later rounds. He ran for 2382 yards in his college career, in only 26 games (About 92 yards a game), in a very good Big12 conference. The main thing that makes me like Pooka though would be his receiving upside. He had 66 reception in those same 26 games, and think that Pooka could be used as a receiving option for the Bengals. The Bengals also have Chris James out of Michigan, but I do think Pooka has the higher chance to have fantasy value.
3. Kenny Yeboah – TE – New York Jets
In my opinion, no player comes into a team with a higher chance to make the team than Yeboah. The Jets are going to want to build around Zach Wilson, and I do not think Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin or Tyler Kroft are anything more than a filler at tight end for the Jets. For a team who is going to want to throw the ball, Yeboah is the perfect fit. I foresee him not only playing TE, but see the Jets utilize his versatility and moving him around the field in different formations. He accounted for 6 touchdowns last year, and he could be a huge asset in the redzone. Pay close attention to the Jets and their tight ends. I do not predict that all four of those tight ends will make the roster. (Prediction: Tyler Kroft gets cut)
4. JAVON MCKINLEY – WR – Detroit Lions
The Lions might have one of the weakest wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Breshad Perriman, Quintez Cephus, and Geronimo Allison are the “top” wide receivers that are currently on this roster. McKinley has a tremendous shot to make the team, and I suspect that he does without a problem. The Lions will also be playing from behind in many games, which could lead to more passing situations, and blow outs. McKinley was a four star prospect coming into college, and never truly reached his full potential. I suspect that Detroit will try building off of his 42 catches for 717 last year. McKinley also comes from a top notch program in Notre Dame, which could help his competition level coming in.
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