When it comes to deep veteran sleepers, the likely response from the other owners is a yawn. If you’re lucky, you might get a cautious “Interesting.” The more likely response, if any, will be a snicker or two.
But let them snicker. There’s something to be said about low-priced, deep veteran sleepers who continue to produce year after year. Rookies and many young players might be bright shiny objects. But that flash can be a flash in the pan. Meanwhile, you have an established range from seasoned veterans, thereby minimizing risk.
As I mentioned previously in the late round targets piece, it’s not just players with five or six years experience. I’ll be looking at those too old to have watched Hard Knocks in college, and might have even been born before that “other HBO football show,” First and Ten. (You millenials will have to look it up, but it was a great show!). If you want deep sleeper rookies, that piece is coming later. Upside is nice, but dependability is underrated.
Deep veteran sleepers, however, must have long established careers. Thus, there are actually a lot less of them. But knowing the handful that still exist and what their ADP is can give you an edge.
Below are a few deep veteran sleepers with their ADP in parenthesis.
Deep Veteran Sleepers
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (154)
The odds of Witten matching some of his best career years this season is slim to none. The odds of Witten matching or minimally exceeding some of his lower career years this season is extremely high. And that’s not horrible. In fact, given his current ADP, that’s an amazing opportunity. You could argue that Witten’s ADP of 154 doesn’t qualify as a “late round target.” But given that he is typically the 15th TE off the board and there are kickers with lower ADPs, I think he does.
The reason for Witten’s miserable ADP is his last two disappointing years. But suppose Witten only matches the lows of the past two sub-par seasons. That is 64 catches, 703 yards, and three TDs. That’s not too bad. But if you’ve read my stuff before, you know we are about to play with those numbers. Try to follow along…
Let’s keep Witten at three TDs (how much lower can he go? His three year average is above five. Positive regression is more likely than negative). Let’s knock his catches down another 10% to 58. His yards will be treated equally; down to 640. That leaves you with 140 points, or just short of TE1 territory last year. But we’re not done yet.
Recall that Tony Romo and Jason Witten are the all-time QB/TE combo leader in receptions and that Tony Romo was out 12 games last year. Furthermore, recall that the absence of Dez Bryant, who often commanded double teams, was also detrimental to Witten’s stats. If we give Witten that 10% back that we subtracted earlier, he now becomes a TE1. And golly gee mister, what if he does score a couple more touchdowns? Well son, given that he is typically the 15th TE off the board, you got yourself a swell chance to grab major production at the cost of a deep veteran sleeper.
Anquan Boldin, Detroit Lions (182)
With Calvin Johnson leaving Detroit, there are now 149 targets up for grabs. Originally, Eric Ebron might have been the biggest beneficiary, but now his season is in doubt too. Of course, Marvin Jones will get some of those targets, but there are plenty of reasons to like Boldin to have 50 or more catches.
First off, he’s never even had that few. Ever. Let’s not even include his Arizona and Baltimore years. These last three years in San Francisco where has was supposedly declining, he still averaged over 75 catches a year. Secondly, Boldin consistently has a catch rate near the top of the league. Even if Boldin only sees 80 targets, he should still get to 50 receptions. Third, let’s just say that Matthew Stafford is more accurate than the motley crew the 49ers had at QB last year. But it’s not just the receptions.
Boldin had his worst season last year, yardage-wise, since 2004. And he still had nearly 800 yards. Given that Boldin’s previous three year average was over 1,000 yards, I feel pretty confident in predicting a lot closer to 900 than 800 yards this year. That makes Boldin a potential low-end WR3. At worst, he’s a bye-week WR3. Last time I checked, WR3s were not going in the 15th round.
Ben Watson, Baltimore Ravens (216)
So Watson turned out to be a late bloomer, having his best season yet at age 35. I and other Fantasy experts often say, “Don’t pay for a career year.” However, given that Watson currently has an ADP of 237, I wouldn’t call that paying. That’s more like stealing given the tremendous value opportunity.
While not known for his Fantasy proficiency, I do respect Peter King’s football knowledge. He thinks Ben Watson could catch 70 balls this year: Like Witten above, let’s factor in some regression.
Perhaps Watson’s last year in Cleveland might be more what we should expect. He caught 49 balls for 501 yards and three TDs. That’s still over 115 points. Lest we forget, that was not a highly-powered offensive Cleveland team. Now add in Joe Flacco and Marc Trestman, who loves to use his TEs, and those 115 points look a lot more like the floor than the ceiling.
Part of the skepticism with Watson is the depth the Ravens have at TE. But given that they signed Watson for $8 Million, do you really think he won’t be the Ravens primary TE? Plus, at 237, what do you have to lose? Because that’s the beauty of deep veteran sleepers: you’re getting proven production at a fraction of the cost.
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