The poor man’s guide to fantasy football free agents

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In this file photo, quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) of the Baltimore Ravens after the Chiefs defeated the Ravens 27-24 in overtime to win the game at Arrowhead Stadium in December, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images/TNS)

Nico Pan

So you say you’re running back went down in week one, or you drafted Baker and are now deeply regretting such a decision. As any good fantasy football team owner, you are currently trying to scour the internet searching for answers that will lead you to the pinnacle of fan accomplishment, being crowned a fantasy football champion. With many search bars filled with questions such as “Do the Indianapolis Colts have a running back committee?” or “Is picking a quarterback in the first three rounds a smart decision?” owners may feel like they might be missing something that will effectively destroy the competition. While many leagues at this point have had their draft and are now excited to see how their players do during the first week of football, there are still many players who have gone unnoticed or even discarded by the general public in favor of more well-known talents in the NFL. These specifically chosen players (one for QB, RB and WR) are owned in less than 50% of leagues on ESPN’s fantasy football service, thus demonstrating their potential as a “sleeper,” or a productive player that flies under the radar. 

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Ok, so we have been down this path before. Some weeks Kirk Cousins looks like a legitimate top-10 quarterback in the league, while on other Sundays, it seems as if he regresses into a rookie quarterback that just cannot connect with his receivers. Last season, Cousins posted 244.42 fantasy points (average of 16.3 points per game) which put him squarely in the middle of the pack for fantasy quarterback production; obviously, this was nothing spectacular, but it was at least good enough to make him a backup in an eight-team league. This year only 21.4% of fantasy team owners are holding onto the Vikings quarterback, which I personally find insane considering that Cousins is seen as a decent quarterback by the general population. Though Cousins may have his off weeks, in general he will at least produce some decent output with two-plus touchdowns and 275-plus passing yards on any given week. While he’s maybe not your number one option at quarterback, a bench role with an occasional starting spot on high point potential weeks should be how Cousins is treated in fantasy.

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts

As many have asked before, what is the deal with the Colts’ running back situation? Is the former Wisconsin Badger standout Jonathan Taylor going to take over for last year’s starter, Marlon Mack, or will coach Frank Reich decide to disperse the carries equally? Either way, the only question the Colts have an answer for is, “which running back will be getting the most amount of passes thrown their way this year;” obviously, the answer is Nyheim Hines, a third-year running back who has already been targeted in the passing game 50-plus times in his past twp seasons in an even more limited role. Especially in PPR leagues, Hines could develop into one of the premier fantasy Flex options (similar to Patriots RB James White) for the upcoming year. Since he is only owned in 34.2% of leagues, he’s likely available in your league. I recommend at least picking up Hines for your bench right now, because if Mack or Taylor get hurt, his value will increase astronomically and he’ll become the number one waiver option, thus making it harder to get him. 

Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Now, welcome to the rotating cast of which Eagle receiver will get points this week. As a wide receiver core, they have been plagued by either injuries or inept play, especially the famous drops that nearly killed the Eagles’ postseason chances last year. To address the issue, the Eagles spent their first-round pick on the prospect from TCU, Jalen Reagor, a wide receiver with blistering speed who should help open up the offense down the field. In terms of fantasy, obviously one could worry that there won’t be enough targets to go around, especially with the other Eagles’ receivers like Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson looking to take up more of the targets. However, as said before, these receivers have a long history of dealing with nagging injuries. At their age (Jeffery aged 30, Jackson aged 33), they don’t have the same levels of production they did during their prime, making their status as fantasy options questionable at best. For this reason, picking up Reagor for the bench (only owned in 28.5% of leagues) could be a smart option; on those weeks when either Jackson and/or Jeffrey are hurt, Reagor will be one of QB Carson Wentz’s top targets in the screen game or downfield shots.