Warning: Swim at your own risk, as this column dives into the dangerous waters of deep sleepers.
Guys like Carson Palmer, Cody Latimer and Danny Woodhead are great sleepers. Alas, I won’t detail them here because they are Kardashian-shallow for consideration for this piece. 14-team and 16-team leaguers looking for deep sleepers, this is for you. You 10-team standard leaguers preparing for your draft might as well stop reading now. This is for those non-IDP leagues where you’re barely at the half way point when the 120th player just came off the board. We’ll be reviewing players with ADPs typically over 200 and then some.
Got your scuba gear ready? Let’s go diving for deep sleepers…
Bowe was actually the inspiration for this article because I could not believe the depth of his ADP. CBS and Yahoo did not even have him in the Top 180 picks, and ESPN didn’t even have him ranked for mock drafts. Most cumulative ADP sources have him over 200.
Yet it would be almost impossible for Bowe not to outperform his ADP and is an ideal deep sleeper.
Let’s say Bowe’s upside is what he has done before in any given season: 15 TDs and 1,162 yards. That would be a better return than Odell Beckham, Jr. provided on his ADP last year. Do I think Bowe is going to even hover near those numbers? Of course not, but it provides a benchmark compared to his floor. It is fair to say his floor is the cumulative average stats from his last three, frankly miserable, years: 59 catches (nearly four a game), 743 yards and two TDs. That’s hardly inspiring, but I believe he is much closer to the first set of numbers than the latter.
Why? The move from Alex Smith to Josh McCown is actually a great move for Bowe. While Smith is known for not throwing long (Smith’s yards per completion each of the last two years is under 11), McCown’s YPC over the last two years is over 12.1 For context, Smith’s sub-11 is worse than Andy Dalton last year, while McCown’s figure is close to Andrew Luck’s career YPC of 12.2. Even if Johnny Manzel takes over, he is more likely to throw it long than Smith. Also, Bowe is clearly the most talented WR on the Browns this year. In addition, due to its defense, Kansas City often found itself playing ball control the last couple years. I don’t foresee Cleveland protecting a lot of leads this year, do you?
I’ve admittedly seen his ADP at 165, but I’ve also seen him at 203. Regardless, he almost always seems to be the last No. 1 WR listed. Yes, Seattle should continue to run more than most teams, but Baldwin was still targeted nearly 100 times last year and finished with nearly 70 catches for over 800 yards. Grabbing this No. 1 WR for an 11th round pick in a 16-team league or a 17th-round pick in a 10-team league? Better make sure there are no cops in your league, or they’ll lock you up for larceny.
With maybe half the teams in the NFL having a clear handcuff situation, no clear-cut handcuff should last beyond 200. Yet that is what is happening. And consider what Starks can do: In last year’s playoffs, Starks had 10 carries for 60 yards. Looking at the last time Starks had 20 or more carries, he had a banner day of 132 yards and a TD. That is absolutely a handcuff risk I am willing to take after pick 200.
If Starks having an ADP over the 200-threshold makes little sense, Jones’ ADP is insanity. Roy Helu is gone. Jones therefore finds himself second on the depth chart. Should Alfred Morris goes down, Jones becomes Washington’s starter. Management has already compared him to Marshawn Lynch (GM Scot McCloughan should know—he was there when Seattle traded for Lynch in 2010). However, even if Morris remains healthy, expect Jones to see a lot of action as the third down back.
Ask yourself, “Do you believe Gore can do it again”? Every year, the “experts” predict end of the road for Gore, but he proves them wrong. Sooner or later, Father Time is going to beat Gore, who is coming off his lowest TD total in four years and lowest 16-game TD output ever. Is this the year? If so, Boom Herron has proven he’s not the answer; enter Josh Robinson.
Huff might be the deepest of the deep sleepers mentioned so far, with an ADP around 237 and not a pick for the faint of heart. However, we know one thing: Chip Kelly likes “his guys.” Huff played for Kelly in Oregon and now has his redshirt NFL year out of the way. Do you really think Riley Cooper is going to be a featured WR? One of the things I look for when choosing players this deep is guys with a high YAC (yards after a catch) and Huff, who had an insane 82 percent of his yards after the catch, is always a threat to do so, like he did against Dallas in Week 15 last year. But there are wide receivers you can get even later than Huff that I would grab like…
Remember how Odell Beckham, Jr. started the year injured last year? There are whispers that Wilson could open up on the PUP list too. You got an IR position you can draft to in your league? Wilson should be that pick. And suppose he doesn’t start on the PUP? Kevin White is out indefinitely. I’m a non-believer of Eddie Royal, who has never had a 1,000-yard season and the last time he caught more than just 62 passes was 2011. The 6’4″ Wilson is one of my favorite deep sleeper picks this year.
Your leaguemates are going to gouge each other’s eyes out as they fight to draft popular rookie picks like Nelson Algohor, Breshard Perriman and of course, Amari Cooper. At least one of them will put up worthy numbers, but at their current ADPs, they’ll have to. Why not take a low risk gamble on one of these deep sleeper rookie receivers?
Hardy is one of many stellar picks by Dimitroff and company this past draft. Roddy White already needs to have his knees drained. Devin Hester is a 33-year old receiver whose role OC Kyle Shahanan has referred to as “up in the air.” Hardy’s floor is admittedly low, but that is already factored into his high ADP (I’ve seen him at 264 for example, and his ADP is dwindling) and why he is a deep sleeper. Still, at that point you’re looking for upside and given the high power potential of the Atlanta offense this season, the number of collegiate records Hardy owns, along with being a Burlsworth Trophy winner (awarded annually to the most outstanding player who began his college career as a walk-on), Hardy eminates upside.
If your league gives points for return yardage, he should already be on your radar. Unfortunately, cutting through the huge log jam ahead of him might be tough, but maybe “branch jam” is more appropriate. Kendall Wright has never had more than half a dozen TDs. Justin Hunter: been there done that. Dorial Green Beckham is a rookie, and has had what we’ll call discipline challenges. Harry Douglas: happy trails. Hakeem Nicks: ditto. Jacoby Ford: he’s still playing? I told you we are diving deep, but McBride is the perfect lottery pick as you approach the 300s.
I’ve discussed TE options earlier this preseason, but few are talking about how truly deep the position is this season. Typically, the position might go only 15 deep before those with half a dozen TDs or five-catches-a-week potential disappear.
This year however, you can wait on a TE until the double-digit rounds of a standard league and grab a Charles Clay, Tyler Eifert or even Eric Ebron. I’m even happy to wait until shortly after the 200th pick and take Austin Seferian-Jenkins (few things are more comforting to a rookie QB than his TE) or Maxx Williams (a gimpy Dennis Pitta or Crockett Gillmore are not the answer in Trestman’s high percentage offense). Or why not really wait and take a gamble on Richard Rodgers? Packer TEs had six TDs last year, and remember a few seasons back when Jermichael Finley caught eight TDs and had over 750 receiving yards? Unlike last year when Rodgers played less than 50 percent of the snaps, he now finds himself at the top of the depth chart, meaning he could pay huge dividends given his ADP over 230.
Finally, you’ll notice that I did not list any quarterbacks, but that’s because anyone worth the gamble almost always goes in the Top 200 or near it. However, what about those of you looking for a QB to draft in the 300s or say those of you looking for a nugget in a 20-team leagues? I give you Tim Tebow. I know. I don’t like him any more than you. But before you dismiss him, let’s not forget that the NFL changed their point-after rules, which means you might have more teams going for two more often. Can you name a better two point conversion player than Tim Tebow? And would it surprise you to see mad scientist Chip Kelly to use him in that capacity throughout the season?
Maybe the oxygen tank is running too low, but that’s what happens when you go diving for a deep sleeper…
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