Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Evans
The first sleeper in the NFC North is running back Chris Evans. Evans played four years at Michigan but was considered one of the country’s best young high school running backs. His rookie season with the Bengals was minimal, but he did produce two games of 14 plus fantasy points. He possesses the size and good NFL speed to attack defenses. It’s unclear how much playing time he will receive going into year two, but if he can beat out Samaje Perine, he’ll have a shot as the backup job. There weren’t a ton of deep sleepers in the Bengals offense. They have a brunch of star power on offense. Evans showed us a receiving threat ability, so he could now be worth a buy-low option.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Calvin Austin
Calvin Austin has been overlooked in the Steelers’ draft-day picks. Austin dominated his final two years at Memphis, putting up 2200 yards and 19 touchdowns. He went in the fourth round of 2021 to a talented and crowded receiving corp. Coming into the draft, he was considered a playmaker with below-average size, which hurt his overall stock. He plays tough with great 4.32 speed and footwork to shake off defenders. While the size hurts his value, his hard work and determination give him a lift.
He will likely be a return-man in 2022 due to the many talented receivers ahead of him. At times he will get opportunities in the passing game since they are likely to be pass-heavy due to poor team play. There is a shot he could see a more prominent role in 2022 with Diontae Johnson upset with his contract issues. Johnson could also be gone after the 2022 season, which would lead to Austin seeing a bigger role in the offense for the future.
Baltimore Ravens – James Proche
James Proche has a better shot of getting more playing time and producing this season. Proche is currently fighting for the wide receiver two job in Baltimore. He was a four-year player at SMU, where during his final two years combined for 2500 yards and 37 touchdowns. Proche hasn’t done much during his NFL career but now has a prime opportunity to step up in year three.
In the two games, Proche saw an increased snap count of 45% or more; he combined for 12 receptions for 143 yards. If he can see the starting role, it will be interesting where he lines up. He is probably better suited for the slot, but he may be up on the outside to play the Hollywood Brown role. Proche could be brought for cheap or maybe even hanging around some dynasty waiver wires.
Cleveland Browns – Anthony Schwartz
Anthony Schwartz has some opportunity to buy low, especially with the Deshaun Watson news. Schwartz was an interesting prospect during the 2021 draft as a deep threat who posted an unofficial 4.27 40 time. He was drafted in the third round of the draft. As a rookie, Schwartz got a shot early due to some injuries as he posted three receptions for 69 yards and a run for 17 yards in Week 1. Unfortunately, the rest of the season was unforgettable for fantasy.
Schwartz’s success for 2022 is still unknown because we don’t know how Watson news will play for fantasy yet. The Browns traded for Amari Cooper and drafted David Bell to the team, but the field stretching role is up for grabs. Schwartz will likely compete with Donovan Peoples-Jones for the deep threat role in the offense. We’ll know early on if Schwartz will be successful in 2022 if he wins one of the starting jobs or not. You are also buying into the future that he would be with the team in 2023 and forward with Watson at quarterback.
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