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Fantasy Football 2024: 5 Deep Sleepers Whose Stock Will Only Rise After NFL OTAs

Alex Kay

The fantasy football offseason is starting to take shape now that organized team activities are up and running around the NFL.

Managers seeking an edge should be paying close attention to the reports and highlights coming out of each team's camp over the next few weeks, as these mark the first opportunities to see how rosters are shaping up and which players have the inside track to becoming major contributors in 2024.

While many of the usual names will dominate the fantasy football landscape this season, there is still room for new faces to have an impact. These deep sleepers may not be drawing many headlines, but a strong showing in OTAs could quickly change that.

Whether they are rookies set to shine or players still early in their career finally getting a opportunity to play a much bigger role, there are several names who stick out for their chances to surge up big boards during OTAs.

With that in mind, let's take a look at these deep sleepers with an average draft position (ADP) of 125 or higher in PPR formats.

Fantasy point and draft data courtesy of FantasyPros using PPR metrics.

QB Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 240)

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The Minnesota Vikings quarterback of the future is unquestionably J.J. McCarthy.

Although the franchise traded up to land the Michigan product at No. 10 overall and will likely build around him for years to come, there's a good chance he won't see much run as a rookie.

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in April that they won't be rushing McCarthy's development, with Sam Darnold likely to bridge the gap between former starter Kirk Cousins and the future QB1.

Darnold could capitalize on his first real chance to consistently start since late in the 2022 campaign by putting up some career-best numbers.

Although he's still only 26 years old, Darnold already has six years of NFL experience under his belt. While he's generally struggled since first thrust into the starting lineup by the New York Jets in Week 1 of his 2018 rookie season, Darnold has occasionally flashed the ability to be a quality QB despite a general lack of talent around him at every stop.

After rejoining the Carolina Panthers starting lineup for the final six games of 2022, Darnold managed to lead his side to a 4-2 record while ranking as a top-20 fantasy quarterback in five of those starts. His best stretch came in Weeks 16 and 17 when he placed No. 8 and 6 at the position, respectively, while racking up nearly 600 combined passing yards and accounting for five total touchdowns

He even looked solid in his lone start for the San Francisco 49ers last year, completing 16-of-26 passes for 189 yards and a score while also rushing for 19 yards and a touchdown against a dangerous Los Angeles Rams defense in Week 18. Darnold's 17.5 fantasy points were good for the QB15 spot that week.

With a full offseason to prepare alongside arguably the best pass-catching talent he's ever been paired with, Darnold is a fantastic sleeper target in fantasy leagues. Expect the quarterback to start moving up draft boards quickly once he shows some rapport with the likes of Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson in OTAs.

RB Kimani Vidal, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 199)

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It's not often that a late-Day 3 draft pick generates much hype during OTAs, but running back Kimani Vidal could buck that trend by making waves with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The sixth-round pick will be opening his career behind a pair of proven veterans in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards—who both joined the Bolts this offseason following lengthy stints with the Baltimore Ravens—but it's going to be tough for L.A. to keep this rookie buried on the depth chart. He's too talented and dynamic, not to mention experienced, to stay off the field in 2024.

There was plenty of Vidal tape for scouts to review during the pre-draft process. No running back in the class logged more carries than the 781 he accounted for during his four-year run with Troy. He was highly effective with those totes too, amassing over 4,000 yards and scoring 33 touchdowns.

While the 5'8", 213-pounder may not profile as a true three-down back at the NFL level, he shouldn't have any troubles contributing as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He tallied 700 yards across his 92 collegiate receptions and could be in the mix right away on third-down due to his strong pass-blocking skills.

Vidal could also play a big role if veterans ahead of him end up injured or ineffective.

Dobbins may have the second-round pedigree and decent NFL numbers when healthy, but he's suited up for just nine games since the start of the 2021 campaign. Edwards averaged over five yards per carry in each of his first four professional seasons, but he only managed a meager 3.8 YPC over his last eight regular-season contests.

With the Chargers preparing to debut a new offense under head coach Jim Harbaugh and noticeably lacking depth in their receiving corps, this backfield could assume a heavy workload in 2024.

With a good performance at OTAs, Vidal will carve out a spot in the rotation with the upside to quickly ascend the depth chart.

WR Demario Douglas, New England Patriots (ADP: 179)

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The New England Patriots' receiving corps has been a collective disaster in recent years.

While it didn't help that the offensive coaching staff was a mess and quarterback Mac Jones regressed from a Pro Bowler to one of the league's worst starters in the span of three seasons, there was only one Patriots wideout worth any fantasy consideration in 2023.

That was Demario Douglas, the rookie sixth-round pick who led the team in receiving yardage and targets while trailing only running back Ezekiel Elliott in catches.

Douglas' semi-respectable stats of 49 receptions and 561 receiving yards over 14 appearances made him fantasy's WR64 last year—a lack of scores largely kept him from climbing any higher—but there's a strong chance he ranks far higher at the end of 2024.

The 23-year-old easily surpassed expectations for a virtually unknown Day 3 wideout. He was one of just three receivers—joining Rashee Rice and Deebo Samuel—to average at least seven yards after the catch per reception last year and could improve across the board now that the Patriots have a blue-chip quarterback prospect in Drake Maye under center.

There will be more competition for looks after New England selected wideouts Ja'Lynn Polk and Javon Baker this year, but Douglas' experience and versatility in the slot should keep him involved.

The Liberty product earned a 21 percent target share from Week 7 on last year and could quickly establish himself as a high-usage safety valve for Maye to lean on as he gets established in the NFL.

While OTAs should help reveal what New England's pecking order will look like in 2024, Douglas has done enough to earn a prominent spot and should see his fantasy stock boosted significantly if he displays a quick rapport with his new signal-caller.

WR Troy Franklin, Denver Broncos (ADP: 136)

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The Denver Broncos are looking to shake the disappointment of the Russell Wilson era off by deploying a new-look offense that could feature several rookies in prominent roles.

The most notable will be quarterback Bo Nix, who was selected No. 12 overall, but one of his Oregon teammates could also make waves in his first professional season.

Troy Franklin was surprisingly still available at the start of Day 3, but Denver wouldn't make the prolific pass-catcher wait long to hear his name called. It secured him with the second pick in Round 4, a move that reunited one of college football's most dynamic batteries.

Franklin enjoyed his best performances after Nix joined the Ducks ahead of the 2022 season. He burst out as a sophomore in the signal-caller's debut campaign, racking up 891 yards and nine touchdowns on 61 receptions.

The pairing took their game to new heights the following year, one in which Franklin went off for an incredible 1,383 yards and 14 scores on 81 catches.

While the 6'2", 176-pound wideout fell on draft day likely due to concerns related to his slender frame, lack of strength and inability to consistently win battles for contested balls, his elite athleticism—he ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and showcased a 39-inch vertical leap at the combine—as well as quick release, acceleration and route-running skills should easily translate to the NFL level.

Franklin is already showcasing his unique blend of talents at OTAs. His pre-established chemistry with Nix has been on display during drills and should only improve with more work together in Denver's system.

Fantasy managers selecting early shouldn't shy away from taking a flier on Franklin in the later rounds. He's only being drafted as the WR63 with an ADP of 136, making him a potential steal for shrewd sleeper-hunters.

TE Michael Mayer, Las Vegas Raiders (ADP: 188)

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Michael Mayer was one of the more well-regarded tight end prospects in last year's class, but he failed to live up to the hype as a rookie with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Despite grading out as the best player at his position and a top-five overall talent on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board, he underwhelmed with only 304 yards and two touchdowns on 27 catches over his first 14 career appearances.

The 22-year-old barely moved the needle in fantasy, ranking as the No. 35 TE on the season and posting just three weekly finishes inside the top 10, none of which were better than No. 7.

That could change in 2024, however, as the Raiders are uniquely positioned to have two young tight ends thrive together. After using the No. 13 overall pick on Brock Bowers—again the top prospect at the position on the B/R Scouting Department's board—Vegas now has a pair of big, dangerous playmakers for its quarterback to rely on.

While Bowers may be getting most of the hype right now, Mayer's experience could help him become a far more significant contributor than he was in his first season. Tight end is a notoriously difficult position to quickly pick up at the NFL level and has seen plenty of eventual stars struggle early in their careers.

Now that there is more reliable quarterback play in Sin City courtesy of free-agent pickup Gardner Minshew II, Mayer should see a sizable increase in production as he makes a second-year leap.

There's also plenty of schematic advantages that the Raiders will be able to capitalize on by moving their two versatile tight ends around the field.

Superstar wideout Davante Adams may still be the No. 1 option for Las Vegas, but Mayer and Bowers should both be in the running for a large chunk of the targets.

They should both start proving that in OTAs and training camp, but Mayer will be an especially strong fantasy value as the current TE23 with an ADP of just 188.

   

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