Scott Engel is beginning his 10th season as the official Fantasy writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. Scott is a 25-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. He is a four-time FSWA award winner and 10-time nominee, including being named a finalist for the 2020 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award. You can also find more of his Fantasy analysis on RotoBaller.com, SportsLine.com, the Athletic and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Scott won two Fantasy Football dynasty league titles in 2020, including one in the prestigious Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and he previously pulled off a three-peat in a highly competitive New York City league.
"Sleeper" may be the single most exciting word to Fantasy Football players in the preseason. Identifying and targeting players who exceed expectations is a primary goal on draft day. Those who outperform preseason Average Draft Positions and expectations could be the type of significant difference-makers that can pave a path to a Fantasy championship.
Since the franchise's inception, the Seahawks have done a fine job of identifying sleepers, too. Several of the unheralded or originally underrated types that morphed into star Seahawks players also became very good Fantasy performers. In the team's very first season in 1976, they made one of the memorable trades in NFL history when they acquired Steve Largent from the Houston Oilers for an eighth round draft pick. Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round in 2012 and instantly became a top Fantasy starter.
Chris Carson, who is currently a surefire Fantasy starter who can often perform at Fantasy RB1 levels, was a seventh round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Doug Baldwin was an undrafted free agent and emerged as a must-start Fantasy wide receiver. Dave Krieg was also famously undrafted in 1980 and became a respectable Fantasy QB in the earlier days of the game. Chris Warren was a fourth round draft choice by the Seahawks in 1990 and rose from an undrafted Fantasy player to a very strong starter.
This season's list of our 12 prime Fantasy sleepers includes deep and value plays at running back, wide receiver, quarterback and running back, and features two Seahawks that are outstanding picks in the later rounds of your drafts.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: Penny is ready to take the field this season, and we cannot forget the big-play potential he has displayed in the past. In a two-game span in November of 2019, Penny rushed for 203 yards and had three TDs from scrimmage. He shined with scoring runs of 58 and 37 yards. In his rookie campaign of 2018, Penny provided another glimpse of his significant promise with a 12-carry, 108 yard performance against the Rams. Penny is the "lightning" to the "thunder" of Chris Carson, as he can be an ideal complement to Carson. Penny is dangerous on the perimeter and in open space and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. You can land him in the later rounds of many drafts, and increased touches at any time for Penny can lead to him unlocking his Fantasy upside.
Michael Carter, Jets: I have been targeting Carter in many drafts and landing him as a value selection as late as the seventh round. He is not being drafted inside the Top 30 at RB on most Fantasy platforms, including NFL.com. Carter is a potentially dynamic and versatile RB who can function as a significant and needed playmaker in the Jets offense. He should be the leading Fantasy producer from the Jets RB crew as a rookie. Carter averaged an amazing eight yards per carry in his final season at North Carolina. Carter may operate in a time share as a rookie, yet he can make the most of every touch and will at least emerge as a very promising flex option.
Phillip Lindsay, Texans: The backfield does look crowded in Houston, but we have seen Lindsay shine before and he appears to have the most possible upside of any RB on the Texans roster. This will be just his fourth season in the NFL, yet Lindsay has already rushed for 1,000 yards twice in his career. He has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his first three pro campaigns. He rushed for a combined 16 TDs in his first two seasons. Lindsay has excellent vision and can race past defenders when he sees an opening. If he stays healthy, Lindsay can eventually top the depth chart at RB for Houston and produce quality Fantasy totals when the Texans are being competitive. You can never have enough depth at the RB position in Fantasy Football and Lindsay could prove to be very useful in that regard in 2021. He also may surprise Fantasy leaguers again, much as he did as a rookie in 2018.
Trey Sermon, 49ers: Sermon is another intriguing and alluring Fantasy pick as a rookie, and one who may be underrated heading into 2021. He is not being drafted in the Top 30 at RB, and even outside of the Top 35 on many Fantasy platforms. In 2019, when the 49ers were healthier and a highly-regarded team in the NFC, they led the conference in rushing. San Francisco very much wants to return to exhibiting a strong rushing attack, and Sermon is a potential feature back type who could become a strong Fantasy option early in his NFL career. While the 49ers have often featured a true committee approach at RB in previous seasons, Sermon could indeed be the leading Fantasy producer among the group as a rookie. Sermon is very decisive and can take off quickly as a runner once he finds a hole. If Trey Lance starts at QB for the 49ers at some point, defenses may have even more difficulty defending the San Francisco running game.
Curtis Samuel, Washington: He is not being drafted as a Top 40 WR on most platforms, but Samuel is moving into the best opportunity of his career so far. He will be working as a clear starter and prime option for the most aggressive passer he has played with yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an established gunner and will work frequently to Samuel as one of his preferred options. Samuel caught a career-high 77 balls last year and should better that total this season. Playing across from Terry McLaurin, he will have a lot of room to operate and will show off his considerable playmaking skills more than ever before.
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs: Postseason hero Sammy Watkins is now in Baltimore, opening up a starting spot for Hardman as he looks to possibly break out in his third season. With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce commanding so much defensive attention, there will be many playmaking chances for Hardman if he can cash in on the opportunity to step up on the depth chart. The Chiefs have envisioned Hardman as another notable threat in the passing game and this could be the season where he delivers on the promise. Hardman has averaged 16.4 yards per catch so far and his career, so the big-play potential is certainly evident as he attempts to become a bigger part of the most potent passing game in the AFC.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago: There is much excitement surrounding the QB position in Chicago, as rookie Justin Fields is expected to be the franchise savior at the position. It is uncertain when he will start, but when he does, the offense will be sparked by his downfield passing and mobility. The Fields-Mooney connection could pay off well quickly in Fantasy Football. Mooney is a good route runner with speed who can be utilized ideally when working with a passer such as Fields. Even when paired with Andy Dalton, Mooney should be expected to make a significant leap in production this season.
Russell Gage, Atlanta: Julio Jones is now in Tennessee, and that clears a space in the Falcons' starting lineup for another wideout. Gage will get that opportunity to become a bigger part of a busy passing game. The Falcons led the NFC in passing attempts last season. Gage caught a career-high 72 passes last year and will certainly be ticketed for even more catches in 2021. He started and finished the 2020 campaign with nine-catch outings. As a regular part of the starting offense this season he can become a quality contributor in PPR formats.
Sam Darnold, Carolina: With a new beginning in a new city, Darnold can start over and take advantage of a very good supporting cast. Having the best receiving RB in the game, Christian McCaffrey, will help Darnold move the ball well, and he will also take pressure off the QB as a runner. The pass-catching crew features D.J. Moore, who has already delivered a pair of 1,100-yard seasons, former Jet Robby Anderson, who has familiarity with Darnold, and exciting rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. Tight end Dan Arnold can emerge as a good TD target. Darnold is just 24 years old and a change of address could lead to a quality campaign and make him one of the Fantasy surprises of the 2021 season.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins: It was a challenging season for most rookies in 2020 because of the pandemic, and Tagovailoa also was returning from a major hip injury. This year, with a normal preseason and an upgraded receiving crew, Tagovailoa can show why the Dolphins selected him fifth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. They added Tagovailoa's former Alabama teammate, Jaylen Waddle in this year's draft, and also picked up former Texans playmaker Will Fuller to pair with DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki. Miami is a rising team in the AFC and Tagovailoa could push them into the playoffs this year while becoming a respectable Fantasy option.
Gerald Everett, Seahawks: The former Rams tight end enters the best offensive situation of his career so far, working in a passing game engineered by Russell Wilson. Defenses already have enough to deal with when trying to contain DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and will now have to contend with Everett as a new and additional part of the Seahawks air attack. Look for Everett to gain more attention from Fantasy players as he becomes a very important target for Wilson on key passing downs. His past experience working with new Seahawks offensive coordinator is another obvious plus. Everett averaged 5.9 yards after the catch last season, which ranked third among all NFL tight ends.
Anthony Firkser, Titans: With Jonnu Smith having departed for New England, Firsker now will become the top tight end target in the Tennessee passing game. Firkser certainly has gained the trust of Ryan Tannehill, as 26 of his 39 receptions resulted in first downs last season. The Tennessee offense looks even more loaded with the addition of Julio Jones, and could be one of the best in the AFC. An expanded role in a crisp offensive attack can lead to Firsker becoming worthy of Fantasy starting consideration in 2021.
Check out more of Scott Engel's 2021 Fantasy Football analysis and his full running back rankings at RotoBaller.com. Enter promo code "seahawks" at checkout for an additional discount on the RotoBaller Fantasy Football season pass. Also try out the new Mock Draft Assistant, where you can practice quick drafting against the computer.
Seahawks Fantasy Insider Scott Engel ranks the best fantasy sleepers to target for the 2021 season.