Fantasy: Early sleeper candidate for every AFC team
Al Bello / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With free agency and the draft still ahead, NFL rosters will undergo seismic changes over the next few months.

Before the shuffling begins, let's take an early look at some of the potential sleepers heading into the 2019 season.

More from this series

Baltimore Ravens

Mark Andrews, TE - Rookie tight ends rarely make a fantasy impact, especially when they're on a team that employs a run-first approach. Even with Lamar Jackson averaging just 22 pass attempts per game down the stretch, Andrews finished 10th among tight ends over the final six games of the fantasy season. He was one of the only pass-catchers who continued to produce with Jackson under center, despite seeing the field on fewer than 40 percent of the team's snaps. With a year of experience and more playing time, Andrews is on the radar as a late-round target with plenty of upside.

Buffalo Bills

Isaiah McKenzie, WR - After being waived by the Denver Broncos midseason, McKenzie was scooped up by the Bills, who desperately needed playmakers on offense. The 23-year-old helped bring speed to Buffalo's attack, resulting in three notable stat lines over the final month of 4-46, 4-47, and 6-53 while also scoring two rushing touchdowns during that span. His role was more as a gadget player, but we've seen other receivers become fantasy relevant on limited touches in recent years, and with a full offseason, McKenzie could earn more touches.

Cincinnati Bengals

Mark Walton, RB - The Bengals are a team lacking sleeper candidates, so we're forced to look at Walton, who's been arrested twice this offseason and could face a suspension. As a fourth-round pick and third-string running back behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, Walton's roster spot is far from secure. If he sticks in Cincy, Walton is capable of taking on a bigger workload if injuries strike the depth chart. He also has the skill set to eventually replace Bernard when the latter becomes a free agent in 2020.

Cleveland Browns

Antonio Callaway, WR - Callaway had a steep learning curve as a rookie after missing his final year of college due to a suspension, and it showed with repetitive early-season errors. When the Browns fired Hue Jackson in October, interim offensive coordinator and eventual head coach Freddie Kitchens was able to get more out of his young wideout, as Callaway topped 50 yards and/or scored a touchdown six times over the team's final nine games. The 22-year-old has the talent to be an impact fantasy star catching passes from Baker Mayfield.

Denver Broncos

Joe Amon / Denver Post / Getty

Jake Butt, TE - Butt, who is coming off his third ACL tear, has appeared in just three games - all starts - as a pro. Prior to the latest injury suffered in September, the 23-year-old saw 10 targets over the Broncos' first two games in 2018, hauling in six passes for 77 yards. With Jeff Heuerman set to become a free agent, Butt projects to be the Broncos' starter once again. If healthy, he'll have an opportunity to catch passes from Joe Flacco, who was acquired from a tight-end friendly offense in Baltimore.

Houston Texans

Jordan Thomas, TE - The 6-foot-5, 277-pound tight end saw 27 targets as a rookie while splitting time with Ryan Griffin and Jordan Akins. Thomas caught 20 balls for 215 yards and four touchdowns last season, and if the Texans get away from their tight end by committee, he has the best chance to emerge from that group. An eventual breakout is far from guaranteed, but his red-zone presence, combined with the high-scoring nature of the Texans' offense, is enough to warrant a spot on your watch list entering the offseason.

Indianapolis Colts

Nyheim Hines, RB - Even with reduced usage in the playoffs, Hines is a compelling piece of the Colts' backfield. The rookie was tied for seventh in running back targets, coming away with 63 receptions, 739 yards from scrimmage, and four total touchdowns. Hines provides a nice pass-catching complement to starter Marlon Mack and has James White-like upside if Mack were to miss time.

Jacksonville Jaguars

D.J. Chark, WR - The SPARQ freak who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at last year's combine wasn't able to bring it all together in his first NFL campaign. Hopefully, Jacksonville can find a better answer at quarterback this offseason, with recent reports suggesting a run at Nick Foles is possible. Any sort of improvement under center will benefit the Jaguars' passing game, where their young receivers have struggled to find consistency. Chark fell into that mix as a rookie, though a quad injury cost him five games late in the year, right when his snaps were on the rise.

Kansas City Chiefs

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Demarcus Robinson, WR - Robinson has flashed his potential at various points over the last two years, including scoring touchdowns in three straight weeks to close out the 2018 regular season. Yet, he remains a minor contributor in the Chiefs' offense. Chris Conley (32-334-5) struggled to make a steady difference when given more volume, while Robinson (22-288-4) nearly matched his totals despite receiving half as many snaps. If injuries sideline Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins, it's Robinson who deserves to be thrust into the starting lineup over Conley.

Los Angeles Chargers

Travis Benjamin, WR - Mike Williams will soak up a lot of the 65 targets left behind if Tyrell Williams departs in free agency, but he's not the only one who would see a bump. Benjamin has been underutilized with the Chargers, but he's just three seasons removed from a 966-yard campaign in Cleveland. After returning from injury in the second half of the 2018 campaign, he played 40 percent of the team's snaps just three times, averaging 49 yards per contest and scoring his lone touchdown on the year.

Miami Dolphins

Albert Wilson, WR - Wilson was a top-25 fantasy receiver with 26 catches, 391 yards, and four touchdowns through seven games. Unfortunately, a hip injury brought a premature end to a potential breakout season. Wilson did a lot of his damage on big plays, something that will be hard to replicate, especially with a new coaching staff. He's still well worth taking a flier on in the later rounds to see if he can recapture that magic.

New England Patriots

Rex Burkhead, RB - A neck injury prevented Burkhead from mounting any real competition for the Patriots' starting job last season. Now New England's backfield belongs to Sony Michel, who we discussed among our AFC breakout candidates. For Burkhead to pay off, either Michel or White would have to be sidelined, a rare situation that showcases Burkhead's versatility and handcuff appeal. Burkhead continues to be effective in whatever role he's deployed, most recently racking up a total of 122 yards and two touchdowns during the AFC championship and Super Bowl.

New York Jets

Al Bello / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Chris Herndon, TE - Herndon was a surprise fantasy starter as a rookie, putting up 50 yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his 10 outings from Week 6 to Week 16. It was enough to make him a top-seven fantasy tight end over that stretch. The only blemish on his outlook for 2019 is a DWI from last summer, which could lead to a short suspension.

Oakland Raiders

Marcell Ateman, WR - The Raiders' wide receiver corps is a massive question mark heading into the offseason. Soon-to-be 34-year-old Jordy Nelson appears likely to return, but there is very little in the way of bankable assets behind him. As a rookie, Ateman wasn't promoted to the active roster until October and his contributions were limited, though he appeared to be developing chemistry with Derek Carr. Ateman still has much to prove in order to maintain the playing time that was gifted to him after the Amari Cooper trade, so his progress will need to be monitored throughout OTAs and training camp.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jaylen Samuels, RB - The Steelers have placed a significant workload on their starting running back over the last few seasons, setting James Conner up for fantasy success in 2019. However, Samuels' performance late in the year might force them to rethink that approach. Samuels is an excellent pass-catcher who could give the offense another weapon in the receiving game - something they may need if Antonio Brown is dealt. Even though his tight end eligibility is sure to be removed in fantasy, Samuels will be one of the few backup runners that offers league-winning fantasy upside if his starter goes down.

Tennessee Titans

Taywan Taylor, WR - Taylor offers speed and big-play ability, which Tennessee's offense desperately needs. When his snaps increased in December, Taylor responded with three solid performances, including stat lines of 3-104, 6-59, and 3-64. Another coordinator change brings uncertainty for an offense that's failed to find consistency through the air with Marcus Mariota at the helm. Whether Taylor reaches his upside will depend greatly on whether the Titans can finally establish their passing attack.

More from this series

Fantasy: Early sleeper candidate for every AFC team
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox