Fantasy football rookie sleepers, busts from 2020 NFL Draft

Sporting News

The 2020 NFL Draft has brought many new exciting offensive skill prospects for fantasy football this season. But don't be fooled by how high a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end was selected in April. Although talent is the No. 1 factor in projecting production, for the latest rookie class, initial opportunity and location are vital in fantasy.

Quarterbacks don't offer much value as rookies unless they're starting and showing some dual-threat ability. Running backs need a healthy share of touches on good rushing attacks, while wideouts and tight ends need to be on teams where they can take advantage of vacated targets in trustworthy passing games.

With all that in mind — and without worrying about real draft-round status — here is a very early look at the potential rookie sleepers and busts:

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MORE: Fantasy football rookie rankings 2020

Fantasy football rookie sleepers and busts 2020

Sleeper: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals

Burrow is guaranteed the starting job in a high-upside Zac Taylor offense that should be improved at left tackle (Jonah Williams) and has good skill-position strength (Joe Mixon, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins). Even without running to help his stats, Burrow can put up pretty good ones passing after a historic season at LSU to emerge as an intriguing QB2 with consistent streaming appeal. He's simply that good.

Busts: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins and Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

Tagovailoa has to worry about his health and beating out former Bills bridge Ryan Fitzpatrick. Herbert needs to worry about his inconsistency and beating out former Bills bridge Tyrod Taylor. Miami has some receiving promise, but not enough. Los Angeles has more established support, but limited pass protection. Neither Tagovailoa nor Herbert feels like they will have much fantasy rookie value save for spot starts late.

Sleeper: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs

Damien Williams, it was fun while it lasted. Andy Reid used a first-rounder on his new Brian Westbrook, a perfect fit for the Chiefs' dynamic passing game with Patrick Mahomes. Edwards-Helaire is also underrated as a power runner and can rack up chances as a red-zone finisher. He's got a RB1 ceiling, especially in PPR leagues.

Sleeper: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens

The Ravens carry over their 2019 backfield of Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill; but Ingram showed signs of wearing down and both Edwards (speed) and Hill (power) have limitations in their games. Dobbins doesn't have any issues with his fresh legs, burst and receiving skills, and comes from a dominant college rushing offense to join the NFL's best ground game. Dobbins is too good to deny him key touches with Lamar Jackson.

Bust: De'Andre Swift, RB, Lions

Swift was the best running back in the 2020 class. Unfortunately, he went to a consistently questionable rushing offense where fellow second-round pick Kerryon Johnson still resides. The Lions are built much better to pass with Matthew Stafford than run, and Swift could lose the third-down touches to Johnson, too.

MORE: Tracking the notable UDFA signings after 2020 NFL Draft

Sleeper: Cam Akers, RB, Rams

The Rams' backfield said goodbye to Todd Gurley, leaving a lot of vacated touches. Akers is a talented back who didn't get much help from his college offense. With only Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson to beat, Akers can carve out a feature role immediately, which in that offense puts him in the RB1 conversation.

Bust: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts

Like Swift, Taylor didn't get the greatest landing spot. He can be presumed to get the majority of early-down power touches over Marlon Mack, but he still may need to share a little there. And with Nyheim Hines, the Colts don't need to force Taylor into third-down receiving duties, despite good potential there. Taylor can be productive in this run-heavy-offense; he feels like he will let down vs. Edwards-Helaire and Dobbins in their roles.

Sleeper: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, Buccaneers

The Bucs lost a lot of touches with Peyton Barber, and they don't fully trust Ronald Jones II. Vaughn is a powerful thumper who should dominate the red zone work and who also has the untapped potential to quickly emerge as an outlet receiver for Tom Brady. He doesn't have much in his way to get key carries and catches to become RB1, either. This offense should be a lot more productive overall, and Vaughn can be a big new beneficiary.

Bust: AJ Dillon, RB, Packers

Dillon was a weird draft pick, given the effectiveness of the Packers running with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams last season. He might be an option for them not re-signing Jones for 2021 in beyond, but there's nothing to see here now.

Sleeper: Zack Moss, RB, Bills

The Bills have a lot of vacated touches without Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy, and Moss' powerful rushing style — with flashes of explosive burst — are ideal complements to Devin Singletary. Singletary is bound to have the better PPR value, but Moss can cut into his work enough to be an intriguing flex/low-end RB2.

MORE: NFL Draft grades 2020

Bust: Anthony McFarland, RB, Steelers

The Steelers didn't get Dobbins, Swift or Taylor to replace James Conner. So they settled for a change-of-pace back behind Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr. There's nothing to see here, either.

Sleeper: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys

The Cowboys have a ton of vacated targets with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten gone. Amari Cooper (WR1) and Michael Gaullup (WR2) are established fantasy stars, but there's room for Lamb to get into the high-end WR3 conversation at worst with his immense talent. He will consistently face single coverage and route versatility to put up numbers that jump Gallup in the fantasy pecking order.

Bust: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos

The Broncos went nuts at wide receiver with Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the draft, despite having Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamitlon and Noah Fant. Then there's Melvin Gordon in the backfield to catch a few passes, too. Jeudy can be special, but it's hard to trust Drew Lock and there's too many receivers to feed all of a sudden.

Sleeper: Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles

The Eagles were piecing together wide receivers with all their injuries last season, so Reagor can step into a prominent role where aging Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson can't be trusted to stay healthy. Nelson Agholor is also long gone. The first-rounder from TCU could end up a speedy No. 1 for Carson Wentz, giving him some WR1 potential.

Bust: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders

Ruggs is a big play waiting to happen, and he is the essential replacement for what would have been with Antonio Brown. But he will need to fight Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs, Jason Witten and Jalen Richard for targets from Derek Carr, who is more about short-to-intermediate efficiency. HIs backup, Marcus Mariota, is even more tentative with the deep ball.

MORE: Eight best late-round steals in the 2020 NFL Draft

Sleeper: Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings

The run-heavy Vikings didn't lose as many passing targets with Stefon Diggs as you think. But Jefferson is the immediate direct replacement for Diggs as the No. 2 to Adam Thilelen, and is capable of making the same type of big plays with similar volume. Jefferson also doesn't need to worry much about a third wideout emerging. Consider Diggs was a strong WR2 last season and apply that to Jefferson.

Bust: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers

Aiyuk is a dynamic big playmake with tremendous run-after-catch home-run skills built for the 49ers' offense under Kyle Shanahan. But they didn't lose as many targets as you think with Emmanuel Sanders. Deebo Samuel should rise into strong WR2 status and George Kittle will remain a stud TE1. They also need to feed their backs in the passing game. Best-case scenario, Aiyuk can be a back-end WR3, but he likely will be overdrafted in fantasy.

Sleeper: Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts

The Colts are thin at wide receiver behind T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal, and also lost Eric Ebron as their "move" tight end. They have the seven-most vacated targets and Pittman was the only significant move made to pick them up. Pittman can be very busy as a big possession guy either outside or in the slot, with some nice touchdown upside. WR3 might end up being his floor, given Hilton's age and durability issues and Pascal's limitations.

Bust: Denzel Mims, WR, Jets

The Jets do have some significant vacated targets, too, but they signed Breshad Perriman as one outside starter in free agency to replace Robby Anderson; keep in mind Jamison Crowder, Le'Veon Bell and their tight ends will still get plenty of looks from Sam Darnold in Adam Gase's offense. Perriman proved to be more well-rounded with the Bucs last season, while Mims will be sporadic with his big plays and s. He won't be this year's DK Metcalf.

Bust: Cole Kmet, TE, Bears

The Bears really want to make two-tight end sets work for Matt Nagy in the passing game after their plans with Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen didn't happen because of injuries. They did invest more heavily than expected in Jimmy Graham and also added former Chiefs and Browns backup Demetrius Harris. They also have few vacated targets behind Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and their backs. Tight ends are better fantasy targets in Year 2 vs. rookies, anyway.

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