When it comes to finding value in your fantasy football drafts, targeting post-hype sleepers is a great way to do it. A post-hype sleeper is a player whose Average Draft Position is much lower this year than the year prior, but they aren’t someone fantasy managers should be overlooking. Our team at Fantrax is here to give you our best post-hype sleepers for the 2023 fantasy football season. While others may be down on these players, we think you should target them when your drafts roll around.
Target These Post-Hype Sleepers for the 2023 Season
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Fantrax Writer: Nick Skrip, @P2Wfantasy
Diontae Johnson absolutely balled out in 2021, finishing as the WR8 with 17.2 fantasy points per game. Johnson earned 169 targets from Ben Roethlisberger, caught 107 of them for 1,161 yards, and scored eight touchdowns. Nobody was projecting Johnson to be targeted the second-most prior to the 2021 season, even after earning 144 targets in 2020. Johnson ran the most routes for the position and was the sixth-best receiver after the catch. This led to a WR16 ADP heading into the 2022 season.
2022 was simply a disappointment for Diontae Johnson. The 147 targets were healthy, but production did not follow as he finished with 882 receiving yards, zero touchdowns, and averaged 10.6 Fantasy PPG (#39). There was a mix of Mitch Trubisky (five starts) and a rookie Kenny Pickett (12 starts) at quarterback. The team only produced 12 receiving touchdowns. Johnson did not provide much after the catch. He was simply a bust. Heading into 2023, Johnson’s ADP sits at WR33.
The bounce-back will happen in 2023. Diontae Johnson will be a major value as one of the biggest fantasy football post-hype sleepers. You should target him at cost (ADP). Good players earn targets, and Johnson has earned 147, 169, and 144 over the last three seasons. Although he had the goose egg for the touchdown category, he will still be top-10 in red zone targets with 18.
As long as Kenny Pickett takes steps forward in year two, then Diontae Johnson should trend closer to that 2021 season vs. what happened in 2022. I expect Johnson to command a high target share in this Steelers offense, score some touchdowns and be a candidate for 1,000+ receiving yards.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
Fantrax Writer: Colin McTamany, @Colin_McT
In the 2020 NFL Draft, Ron Rivera’s first draft as Washington’s head coach, his regime spent a third-round pick on Antonio Gibson. Rivera initially compared Gibson to Christian McCaffrey, whom he coached during his tenure as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach. After being dubbed “D.C. CMC”, Gibson now finds himself on a list of post-hype sleepers for the 2023 fantasy football season.
Just two seasons ago, Gibson logged 300 touches. He then followed that up with just 195 touches and career-low rushing numbers across the board last season. With former Kansas City Chiefs, Eric Bieniemy, as Gibson’s 2023 offensive coordinator, he could assume a “Jerick McKinnon-type” role in the Commanders’ offense. Gibson actually played wide receiver in college.
In 19 games over two seasons at Memphis, he hauled in 44 receptions for 834 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has receiving upside in addition to the ability to play as a bell cow back.
Gibson’s ADP is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season. The Commanders’ opponents have a 0.535 winning percentage from last year. That’s the eighth-highest in the league. If this team is often stuck playing from behind, Gibson could have a career season as a pass catcher.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Fantrax Writer: Bradlee Kilgore, @SirBradleeK
Travis Kelce. Mark Andrews. George Kittle. That’s it. Year in, and year out, there are only three tight ends that you can consistently count on to be elite fantasy options. If you don’t have one of those players, you’re building the rest of your roster out trying to find steals and values in those other available slots.
Enter Kyle Pitts.
The 4th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s insane to draft a TE that high in the draft, so he has to be the fourth TE to add to the “automatic elite” fantasy list….right? WRONG! The hype was the bane of many fantasy rosters for the last couple of years.
In 2021, his rookie season, he played 17 games and caught 68 passes on 110 targets for 1026 yards and one touchdown. Not bad numbers, but not what you’re expecting out of a top-five draft pick. He finished that season averaging 10.4 fantasy points per game. A few outlier performances raised that average. He followed his rookie season with 10 games played, 28 catches on 59 targets, 359 yards receiving, and 2 scores. Yikes. Talk about a sophomore slump.
But every year is a new year. There are three reasons you can expect Kyle Pitts to break out this year. First, elite athleticism always keeps underperforming players getting reps. See Evan Engram’s breakout year last year. Kyle Pitts is an athletic marvel. It’s the primary reason he was a top-five pick.
At 6’6”, Pitts runs a 4.49 40-yard dash (98th percentile for his draft class), with a catch radius in the 85th percentile. There aren’t many linebackers in the NFL that run 4.5 40s, and the corners that run 4.5s or better, are too small to match up with Pitts. He’s a constant mismatch. A constant mismatch is bound to have a massive target share.
Speaking of mismatches, that brings me to my second reason for Pitts’ to be one of the biggest post-hype sleepers in 2023. The Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson with their first-round pick this year. The reason that matters is that Robinson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is second to none in his draft class. There have already been reports of him lining up at WR in practice. That means you won’t be able to double Kyle Pitts and blitz the QB, hoping you can get to the QB before he reads the defense. With Drake London, Robinson, and Pitts as their core, the passing game has to be respected. Pitts remains the biggest mismatch on the field.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the Falcons need to know if they have their QB of the future. Desmond Ridder is going to get his shot to start the season as the QB1. No more ground-and-pound, read-option offense. They’ll still rely on their defense and their running game, However, if they’re going to give Ridder the big bucks, they’ll need to see him air it out. For all intents and purposes, Ridder is basically still a rookie. A rookie QBs best friend is a big/fast TE.
I fully expect Pitts to be Ridder’s safety blanket and number one target. Expect Pitts’ targets to look far more like his rookie year than his 2nd year. If he adds 5+ TDs to those rookie year numbers, we’re looking at another TE you can count on in fantasy football. Better late than never…
Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos
Fantrax Writer: Ray Kuhn, @ray_kuhn_28
If you have been living under a rock, there happens to be some controversy in Denver. To say that last year was a mess for the Broncos would be an understatement. One of the biggest culprits in their struggles, and also the face of Denver’s disappointment, is quarterback, Russell Wilson.
After spending his whole career in Seattle, Wilson’s arrival in Denver was filled with pomp and circumstance. Instead, it was a disaster. It resulted in head coach Nathanial Hackett’s dismissal before the season’s end and Wilson damaging every fantasy team that drafted him.
Quite simply, nothing worked for Wilson last year. With just 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns, that piece of his game failed to offer much value. Wilson only broke the 300-yard mark once in 2022. He finished with just 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while throwing for only 3,524 yards.
It seemed that Wilson had carte blanche to do what he wanted in Denver’s offense, but things did not go according to plan. Wilson just looked lost out of the field as he was missing passes and failing to generate much of a rhythm on offense.
With Sean Payton now on the sideline for Denver and an improved offensive line, things are looking a lot better for Wilson and the Broncos heading into this season. The fact that he appears to be in better shape also works to the veteran’s advantage.
Wilson did not forget how to play quarterback and we know that fantasy managers are going to over-adjust after watching last year’s struggles. Capitalize on the depressed price and enjoy the rebound from one of the biggest post-hype sleepers at the quarterback position.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Fantrax Writer: Cliff Williams, @CliffWilliams_
Najee Harris had an amazing rooking year. For fantasy purposes, he was the fifth-best running back on a points-per-game basis. So, it was understandable there were high hopes for him going into 2022. He was drafted with an ADP of RB6 and it looked like he would be a great choice to be the RB1 on your team. He ended the year as RB14. Since he didn’t live up to expectations, his 2023 ADP is around where he ended up last year.
Looking at last year, there were a couple of factors for the drop-off. A Lisfranc foot injury slowed him down at the start of the season. Maybe because of that, or because of switching to a rooking QB, the Steelers were passing more to begin the season, and less after Kenny Pickett took over. By the end, they were feeding Harris the ball much more. In the first eight games, Harris had a 10.9 points per game average in PPR formatting. In the last nine games that rose to 15.1 per game which was much closer to his 2021 season.
To put this into perspective, let’s look at the projections for rookie running back, Bijan Robinson. The can-do-everything back is immediately being designated as a first-round fantasy pick. He is projected to have nearly 1,200 rushing yards, and over 300 receiving yards, and end the year around 250.0 PPR points. In Najee Harris’ rookie season, he had 1,200 rushing yards, 467 receiving yards, and fell just shy of 300 points.
If Najee Harris can just average what he did his last nine games he will log around 256.0 PPR points. That will be more than what Robinson is projected to get. With a much better offensive line and drafting a huge blocking TE he could even be better than that. While everyone else is target bigger names, like Bijan, at running back, you can feel confident drafting Najee as one of your post-hype sleepers in a bounce-back season.
Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, TEs, New England Patriots
Fantrax Writer: Reese Jones, @PotPharma
The anticipation was palpable at the start of last year. Everyone was excited about the Patriots’ combination of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. However, the reality fell short of expectations as the Patriots’ tight end group accounted for a mere 509 yards and two scores throughout the season. With Henry playing in the final season of his three-year deal, he has extra motivation to bounce back and make a significant impact this year.
In the past, Henry and Mac Jones have showcased great chemistry, connecting for nine touchdowns in their first season together. Now, with training camp underway, the Patriots have emphasized scoring by starting their drills in the red zone.
The newcomer to the Patriots’ tight end group, of course, is Mike Gesicki. He was signed in free agency following five seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Gesicki has proven to be a red zone monster, with an impressive 17 of his 19 career touchdowns scored inside the 20-yard line.
The connection between Mac Jones and Gesicki is already underway. They have been spotted throwing together during special team portions of practice. Additionally, the Patriots have been incorporating a lot of 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs) formations in camp, a clear indication of their intention to dominate in the red zone.
The frequent on-field presence of both Gesicki and Henry hints at the potential for a formidable tight end duo. Their dynamic playmaking abilities and strong presence in the red zone could elevate the Patriots’ offense to new heights this season.
With the Patriots looking to revive their tight end production reminiscent of the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez era, both Henry and Gesicki have a chance to emerge as a post-hype sleepers. As the Patriots focus on scoring and aim to reclaim their dominance, keep a close eye on Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki as they seek to turn heads and redefine the tight end position in Foxborough.
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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