Fantasy Football Drafts: 2021 quarterback sleepers

Whenever we bust out the term "sleeper," we're basically inviting ridicule. A certain segment of our readers will become reflexively upset. It's probably safer to use "undervalued" or "under-hyped" or some such thing, but, hey ... we've got clicks to bait. Many readers are drawn to the word "sleeper" — like the Bears front office is drawn to random tight ends.

Every fantasy manager's definition of a sleeper is, of course, closely tied to their specific league's configuration and settings. If you're playing in, say, a 16-team superflex return-yardage IDP league, then perhaps it is literally not possible to give you a name that satisfies your sleeper criteria. But for the 99.9-plus percent of you who play a much-less-insane format, we've got a few sleeper-ish quarterbacks to consider who aren't receiving sufficient attention ...

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

It's early in camp, of course, but the hype surrounding Lance has been relentless. Meanwhile, the next positive note about Jimmy Garoppolo will be the first. Lance is out there making touch throws to his playmakers ...

... and he's been exactly as advertised as a rushing threat. We'll remind you that Lance is just a season removed from throwing 28 touchdown passes and zero picks for North Dakota State while also rushing for 1,100 yards and another 14 scores. Perhaps more importantly, when projecting playing time, he was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Quarterbacks with that sort of lofty draft status don't generally sit for long, especially when they dominate in camp.

Lance has been rostered in only 10 percent of Yahoo leagues to this point, which is just outrageously low. We want quarterbacks with precisely his profile. The Niners have a seemingly phenomenal schedule in Weeks 14-17, for what it's worth (at Cin, Atl, at Ten, Hou), so Lance has a shot to emerge as a legitimate league-winner.

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

With all due respect to Jameis Winston — a man who led many of us to fantasy titles in 2019 in a glorious/terrible 5,109-yard carnival ride season — fantasy managers should be rooting hard for Hill to win this particular position battle. In Hill's four QB starts in the second-half last year, he averaged 208.5 passing YPG, completed 71.3 percent of his throws, rushed for 209 yards, and accounted for eight combined TDs. He was basically a fantasy party. The Hill experience wasn't great at all times for Alvin Kamara, but those two eventually figured things out. Kamara caught seven balls on 10 targets in Hill's final start at Philly.

Obviously, the absence of Michael Thomas is a drag on the team's offense; New Orleans has a largely unproven and not-so-intimidating group of receivers with No. 13 out of the mix. But Hill, of course, isn't a guy who needs receivers to carry him to fantasy relevance. He's worth a late flier in any fantasy format in which your bench is deep enough to carry a second QB.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington FT

It's been a journey for the 38-year-old Fitzpatrick. He entered the league 16 seasons and eight teams ago as an Ivy League anomaly, then he spent a decade as a reckless, scattershot gunslinger. Over the past three years he's been ... well, surprisingly and delightfully good. Not great, mind you, but sneaky-good.

Dating back to 2018, Fitzpatrick has averaged 249.6 YPG and 7.9 Y/A, tossing 50 touchdown passes and rushing for eight scores in 32 games (27 starts). That ain't bad. Also, the man is a joy:

This year, Fitz will be throwing to Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas, big-play rookie Dyami Brown and others. It's a terrific situation. Keep him in your late-round, deep-league plans.

And speaking of quarterbacks with quality receiving corps who played for the 2020 Dolphins ...

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

If you can't imagine a scenario in which Tua rewrites the script in his second season and emerges as a difference-making QB, then you probably haven't been following the NFL for long. That outcome wouldn't come close to making a top-100 list of the wildest things to happen in the league over, say, the past 24 months. Tagovailoa was a spectacular collegiate passer — aggressive and accurate and generally turnover-free. We only saw rare flashes of that dude last season, but he's generated camp buzz despite throwing mostly to JV receivers.

It's hard not to love the enhancements Miami has made at receiver, adding Will Fuller via free agency and burner Jaylen Waddle in the draft. We can expect a serious intended-yards-per-target jump from Tua in his second season, if nothing else. He's also another year removed from his hip injury and he's had a full, normal-ish offseason to master the team's offense. He has a shot at a highly streamable 30-TD season.