I love this time of year! Preseason football is over, and we have gotten some good looks at the players we have been speculating over for the past few months. Leagues are drafting soon, and the start of the regular season is only a week away. There isn’t a science to finding deep sleepers to draft on draft day, but there are two types of sleepers to look for.
The first type of sleeper is the starter that everyone is low on for one reason or the other. Typically these guys are coming off a bad injury, and it makes team owners nervous. The second group is the guys buried on the depth chart, but for one reason or the other has enough upside to have a breakout year. Realistically, once the season begins such sleepers will not see much playing time. However, in years past injuries and other unforeseen circumstances have catapulted undrafted players into fantasy stardom.
If you are savvy enough to pick either of these types of sleepers up in the final rounds of the draft, then you will feel like a fantasy genius when things pan out. If they end up doing absolutely nothing you haven’t lost much in the grand scheme of things. That’s the name of the deep sleeper game, low risk, and high reward. Here’s a list of my deepest sleepers at each position.
WR- Tyler Lockett (203)- Seattle Seahawks
I have done a lot of mock drafts over the past few months. In fact these days when I find myself getting bored I do a couple of mock drafts. Tyler Lockett, the third round pick out of Kansas State, has not been on anyone’s radar.
Tyler Lockett has been making a splash around Seattle this preseason. During his preseason debut, Lockett totaled 186 yards on four returns. The most impressive of his returns came on a 103-yard race to the end zone. During his second preseason matchup, Lockett was paired up in three receiver sets with the 1st team offense, and he led the team with 47 receiving yards. Finally, in his most recent preseason game he returned another kick for a score.
Doug Baldwin described Lockett as a "weapon," and said, "we (Seahawks) truly don’t know his full potential." If your fantasy league awards points for kick returns, then I can tell you what his full potential will look like for your team. Lockett played for Kansas State last season, and I took the time to add up his total fantasy points including points for return yardage (1pt-10yds). If Lockett had been playing on the Seahawks roster last season, and more importantly your fantasy team. He would have produced a total of 320.2 fantasy points on the season assuming your league scoring included return yardage. Even if you league didn’t include points for returns, he still would have accumulated 231.5 points on the year. Now, I understand that there is a big difference between college and the pros, but it seems that Lockett’s talent and speed will not be subject to much of a learning curve. Look at this catch by Lockett during the preseason match up against the Chiefs.
Great throw and catch from R.J. Archer to Tyler Lockett http://t.co/AHnfgMZFvs— Who is Jose Rivera? (@whoisjoserivera) August 22, 2015
The throw is good the catch is good, but the thing that stands out to me is the move that Lockett puts on at the line of scrimmage. A quick stutter step and fake to the left get’s his defender off his feet enabling Lockett to use his speed to beat him down the middle of the field. Lockett will mostly be used as a kick/punt returner, and he is listed as the WR3 on the Seahawks depth chart. You might not want to grab Lockett until the final round, but if you are looking for deep sleeping excellence to pick up in later rounds of this years draft. Tyler Lockett just might be your man.
RB- Ronnie Hillman (167)- Denver Broncos
Deep sleepers are never a sure thing. That’s why you can pick them up for next to nothing on draft day. However, there is a term for a deep sleeper that instantly gets thrust into fantasy relevance. That term is what I like to call "Waiver Wire Gold," and when these players become the waiver wire flavor of the week, everyone in your league will be after them.
Ronnie Hillman’s talent level is such that he will most likely get a chance to prove what he’s worth this season. During the first two-preseason games, Hillman logged 120 yards on just 16 carries. That’s 7.5 yards per attempt. That was enough for Hillman to pass Monte Ball for the number two spot on the Broncos depth chart, and Broncos beat reporter Mike Klis referred to Hillman as the "1b" running back behind CJ Anderson.
Anderson is being drafted in the first round in fantasy drafts this year, and Hillman’s production warrants a "handcuff" pick up for those who take Anderson. If you are in the wee hours of your drafts and Ronnie Hillman is still on the board it makes sense for you to grab him. It's already a possibility that Hillman will eat into Anderson’s carries, and if Anderson goes down Hillman is a lock for a lead role in Gary Kubiak’s offense.
QB – Carson Palmer (123) – Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer was on track to have a monster year last season, but then he hit the turf with his careers second torn ACL. Before the injury, Carson logged six games with 1,626-yards and 11 touchdowns with a 62% completion percentage. The injury is the reason you see Palmers draft stock plummet because the guy can still compete. To be fair, I am basing that assessment off of the 2012 and 2013 seasons in which he consecutively threw for over 4,000 yards in each. The Cardinals added some good depth at running back this offseason and strengthened an already strong offensive line. The receiving core was never really a problem even though Larry Fitzgerald is no spring chicken. If Palmer stays healthy, he will produce far better numbers than his current ADP suggests. To me if you have already picked up a solid starting quarterback in your draft this season, and you are looking for QB2 with boom or bust potential I would say that Palmer is your man. If he booms you got some great trade material, and if he busts you lost a late round flyer on a proven vet. No big deal.
TE- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (135) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When I wrote my sleeper and bust article, I wrote that I would include Jenkins in a deep sleeper piece. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jenkins play in college. The 6’5" tight end is a huge target for Tampa Bay’s new quarterback Jameis Winston. He is an excellent route runner and is a dangerous red zone threat. Jenkins used to play basketball in college, and in my opinion there is nothing better than a big former basketball player turned tight end. Basketball players know how to use their bodies to box out defenders, and if they can transfer that to the red zone on the football field, then the results are magical.
Last season, the tight end was plagued with injuries and ended up missing seven games. This season he is on track to take a larger role in an offense that loves big targets. The Buc’s also drafted Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in this years drafts. I don’t expect Winston to have a massive learning curve this year, but the first year for rookie quarterbacks is always a learning experience. The tight end is usually targeted frequently by rookie signal callers while they learn the offense and acclimates to the speed at the pro level. Look for Jenkins to assume the role he was expected to have last season in 2015. The great part about Jenkins this season is you can get him at a bargain, so there is no chance you will over pay for the second year tight end.