Training camps are in full swing, and the NFL preseason kicks off with a complete slate later this week.
That means fantasy football managers are already in the thick of draft season, as the upcoming season draws near.
Whether you’re in a dynasty league and looking for gems in this year’s rookie draft, or you’re a redraft manager hoping to land that first-year sleeper who could break out and lead you to a title, here are a few under-the-radar picks from this year’s draft class who could end up being huge bargains this season:
RB Dameon Pierce | Houston Texans
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It seems like more and more teams have committee backfields this year, and some of this year’s top rookie backs (Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III) have worthy incumbents that could heavily impact their share of the touches.
In Houston, Pierce is easily the most talented and promising back on an otherwise lackluster depth chart. He was already underrated as an overall prospect in this year’s draft class (RB2 on our board, RB7 in the draft), and he landed in a situation that should give him a wide-open opportunity to take control of the entire workload.
WR Romeo Doubs | Green Bay Packers
Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Yes, the Packers traded up to the top of the second round for Christian Watson, but it’s Doubs who has stolen the show in training camp. The fourth-round pick out of Nevada has been making big plays on a seemingly daily basis, earning praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
With Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both gone, there’s no reason why one of these rookies can’t challenge Allen Lazard to be the No. 1 target in this offense. If Doubs already has Rodgers’ confidence, it won’t be surprising if he becomes that guy sooner than later.
WR Alec Pierce | Indianapolis Colts
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Finding rookie gems is about balancing talent and opportunity, and Pierce has tons of both. A third-round pick out of Cincinnati, Pierce has an ideal blend of size, athleticism and physicality, and though I’m not a huge fan of pro comparisons for prospects, Pierce looked way too much like Chris Godwin for me to not get excited about his potential at the next level.
The Colts now have an capable veteran quarterback in Matt Ryan, and while opposing defenses will be focused on stopping Michael Pittman Jr., Pierce could easily entrench himself as Ryan’s No. 2 option in the passing game. He’s got the versatility to line up inside or outside, giving him limitless potential for an offense that could face plenty of stacked boxes thanks to Jonathan Taylor, which should open up some big plays in the play-action game.
RB Tyler Allgeier | Atlanta Falcons
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What the Falcons did last year with Cordarrelle Patterson was fun to watch, and surely won more than a few leagues for fantasy managers who stashed him for cheap at the beginning of the season. He’s 31 years old, though, and might start to break down if the offense continues to put a heavy workload on his shoulders this year.
Damien Williams replaces Mike Davis as the veteran No. 2 in the Falcons’ backfield this year, but Allgeier is an intriguing prospect with the talent to jump Williams on the depth chart. If that happens, and Patterson gets banged up at any point this season, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Allgeier show off his three-down skill set in Arthur Smith’s offense.
WR Jalen Tolbert | Dallas Cowboys
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Dak Prescott knows how to distribute the ball to his playmakers, and this offense has made fantasy stars out of their top three receivers on a regular basis in recent years. Amari Cooper is gone, and Michael Gallup is still working his way back from last year’s knee injury, leaving plenty of opportunities open for Tolbert.
A third-round pick out of South Alabama, Tolbert has the size and length to excel in contested-catch situations, and the long-striding speed to fool opposing defenders as a vertical threat. If Prescott builds some early chemistry with him, Tolbert could feast while opponents focus on CeeDee Lamb.
WR Calvin Austin III | Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Steelers spent their second-round pick in this year’s draft to steal Georgia wide receiver George Pickens, but with the (unsurprising) training camp he’s having, he’s not likely to be much of a sleeper in fantasy drafts.
Austin, on the other hand, could end up flying under the radar just enough, despite his elite speed and big-play ability. When all else fails, speed still kills in today’s NFL. While the quarterback situation isn’t great in Pittsburgh, Austin is too explosive for the Steelers not to find creative ways to get him the ball in space.