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Training Camp Lowdown

Daigle's Deep Sleepers

by John Daigle
Updated On: August 29, 2020, 1:48 pm ET

The term ‘sleeper’ has been progressively misconstrued the past few seasons, being chewed up and spat out to represent players that were already being coveted over the summer. In that time the definition has not only taken on a life of its own but become watered down. Notating sleepers as players that should be selected in the last few rounds of drafts is preferred.

Normally this piece highlights just that: 32 players, one per team, with an easier path to usage than perceived. But keeping starters glued to the field has unsurprisingly taken precedence at training camps (given fewer contact sessions), limiting the reps multiple fliers -- Harrison Bryant, Devin Duvernay, Gabriel Davis -- could otherwise use to potentially leverage a role. Fortunately, all rules are destroyed and re-thought in a pandemic, allowing this column to pivot for this season only. I’ll instead touch on players, regardless of team, that should be rostered despite flying off draft boards beyond the 16th round (or, in some cases, going undrafted). The ideal format for drafting said player is included.


Andy Isabella, WR, Cardinals

No team utilized more 10 personnel (31%, 310 plays) or outright passed the ball from four-wide sets at a higher rate (39%) than the Cardinals last year. That didn’t favor Isabella as a rookie since he was pigeon-holed to the boundary behind KeeSean Johnson and Trent Sherfield, but coach Kliff Kingsbury has since taken the blame for slowing the 4.31 speedster’s development. And without Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd, the Cardinals’ offense — the fourth-fastest attack in neutral game script — enters the season short a fourth receiver. The 23-year-old is just one season removed from leading the nation in Yards Per Route Run (4.15) and 10 months removed from shedding the sexiest 88-yard touchdown to grace this Earth.


Recommendation: Should be rostered in any format


Darrel Williams, RB, Chiefs

DeAndre Washington was Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s perceived handcuff once Damien Williams opted out but that notion has since been squashed during camp. Williams, currently being undervalued a full five rounds after Washington (11.2 to 16.9), not only has “the inside track” to running behind CEH but has already proven he can produce in that role with two top-14 finishes in place of Damien last year. Fantasy players should lock-button Darrel as a premier late-round option until his Average Draft Position rightfully swaps with Washington’s.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in any format

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Mike Davis, RB, Panthers

Reggie Bonnafon is being treated as Christian McCaffrey’s handcuff despite being drafted by an entirely different regime and netting far less money ($825,000) in 2020 than Davis ($3 million). If McCaffrey were injured, odds are neither would handle a bulk of the work, making Davis more valuable for his league-approved receiving chops with the Seahawks (34 catches in ‘18) before wasting away in Chicago. Davis’ 70 career receptions and 10.8 yards per catch in the SEC also give him the superior profile for that role over Bonnafon, who totaled 44 career catches against ACC competition. In short, Davis remains valuable as the undrafted option between the two.

Recommendation: Should be rostered if stacking your bench with handcuffs


Brian Hill, RB, Falcons

Hill has essentially solidified himself as Atlanta’s No. 2 runner behind Todd Gurley, working ahead of Ito Smith over the last week of camp. At 6’1/219, Hill is also the favorite to handle any goal line work over Smith (5’9/200) if Gurley were injured. Smith would derive his value from the receiving game (rather than threatening Hill’s role) after averaging 17.8 routes per game in the five full contests he played alongside Devonta Freeman last year.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in deep re-draft leagues


Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears

The longer Nick Foles and Trubisky pillow fight in a neck and neck competition, the more likely it is that Trubisky is given one final nod before inevitably having his leash rubbed against coach Matt Nagy’s knuckles. It’s admittedly not for the faint of heart, but tacking on Trubisky in the final round of SuperFlex leagues lends a potential Week 1 starter indoors against Detroit’s renovated secondary in an up-tempo affair. Having averaged 5.5 scrambles per game in his last six starts, Trubisky’s rushing juice as a one-week flier in the final round allows fantasy players to continue stacking other positions with premium picks.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in SuperFlex leagues if you can stomach it


Trayveon Williams, RB, Bengals

It’s like Matthew Berry said: The Bengals remain high on Williams, who was the odd man out behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard last year. The difference this year is Mixon’s migraines and hold out concerns, which are suddenly cracking open the door further for Williams to come bursting through. Note that Jim Turner, Williams’ offensive line coach while he rushed for a career 600/3,615/34 (6.0 YPC) across three seasons at Texas A&M, is also currently Cincinnati’s O-line coach.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in any format


Danny Amendola, WR, Lions

Geronimo Allison’s opt-out leaves fifth-round rookie Quintez Cephus as negligent competition for Amendola since the former only ran 17.4% of his routes at Wisconsin from the slot. Reminder Amendola saw 97 targets (40th-overall) in '19, recording eight-plus in 7-of-15 appearances and 6.3 per game with Matthew Stafford.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in PPR re-draft leagues

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Chris Thompson, RB, Jaguars

Whether it’s Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, or Devine Ozigbo taking handoffs, Thompson is fully expected to handle Jacksonville’s come-from-behind role out the gates. It only helps that he reunites with OC Jay Gruden, who previously leaned on the 29-year-old’s reliable hands for 39/510/4 receiving and an overall RB28 finish with the Washington Football Team in 2017. Early look ahead lines project Jacksonville as favorites in only 1-of-16 games, getting more than a field goal as underdogs in 14 contests — terrific news for Thompson.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in zero-RB builds for PPR re-draft leagues


Corey Clement, RB, Eagles

Miles Sanders’ and Boston Scott’s lower body injuries have reportedly pushed Clement into first-string reps at practice. Relegated to special teams behind Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles last year, Clement is only one season removed from corralling 90 touches under coach Doug Pederson as an entrusted committee back. Scott, who Clement would seemingly be replacing if the former’s week-to-week injury lingers, saw six targets in all three games behind Sanders in Weeks 14-16, additionally handling nine touches on 28% of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps in its Wild Card deficit to Seattle.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in PPR re-draft leagues


Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots

The Patriots fed Damien Harris in camp while both Sony Michel (foot) and Lamar Miller (PUP) were shelved, leading some insiders to suggest Harris opening as “the lead back.” No matter who is championed as New England's two-down grinder, Burkhead’s role — a sprinkling of touches and goal line work — remains safe after the Patriots restructured his deal to ensure he returns in 2020. N’Keal Harry’s ongoing struggles in practice have quietly forced the Patriots to bring Burkhead on the field in heavier personnel rather than simply replacing the second-year wideout with another receiver in an apples-to-apples exchange.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in any format


Kendrick Bourne, WR, 49ers

There’s no need to piddle around with Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis in the final round; Jalen Hurd (torn ACL), Deebo Samuel (toe), Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring), and J.J. Nelson (knee) attempting to return in Week 1 clear the way for Bourne to open the year as San Francisco’s healthiest (and starting) slot wideout. The Niners’ season opener against Arizona is one that projects to fly over its 46.5-point total after Jimmy Garoppolo totaled 741 yards and eight touchdowns against Kliff Kingsbury’s defense last year.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in any format


DeeJay Dallas, RB, Seahawks

Whether it’s Chris Carson (hip) or Carlos Hyde running directly into Seattle’s center, the fact is neither offer the skillset Dallas brings to the table as a former wide receiver at Miami. Dallas is admittedly too thin of an option to be rostered everywhere since the Seahawks targeted their backs at the league’s eighth-lowest rate (17%), but Rashaad Penny’s (torn ACL) and Carson’s ongoing absences leave meat on the bone if digging deep for a potential Week 1 FLEX. He can easily be shed during the first waivers run if Carson shows up healthy.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in deep leagues


Scotty Miller, WR, Buccaneers

The Bucs' plan to lean on 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) is bad news for 81st-percentile SPARQ specimen Justin Watson, who only played more than 10 snaps once Miller was removed from the picture with a soft tissue injury. When Tampa Bay pivots to three-wide sets, the tertiary role Watson is fighting for would fall to Miller since Chris Godwin ran 63.4% of his routes from the slot last year. Bruce Arians recently suggested as much:

‘‘He’s not Edelman, because he’s real fast,” Arians said of Miller. “He plays in the slot some, but he plays outside more. Julian is pretty much a slot guy. ... Chris Godwin normally plays in there and we’re not taking those catches away from him.”

Miller, who Tom Brady called a "great, consistent, dependable, and trustworthy" player, has the leg up if only for his favoritism and developing rapport with 12.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in deep PPR re-draft leagues


Kalif Raymond, WR, Titans

Rashard Davis has received all the camp hype, but it’s Raymond who offers an ability to separate the likes of which Corey Davis has failed to show in his entire NFL career. Last season alone Raymond spiked gains of 52, 40, and 23 yards, gaining 10-plus on 7 of his 10 receptions and most recently burning Baltimore’s secondary for a 45-yard touchdown following a 4th-and-1 turnover on downs. He’s Tennessee’s ideal complement across from A.J. Brown in OC Arthur Smith’s run-and-dunk blueprint, logically fitting as a boom-or-bust FLEX option a la Devery Henderson or prime Ted Ginn. The Titans declined Davis’ fifth-year option in May.

Recommendation: Should be rostered in deep leagues


Logan Thomas, TE, Washington

The lack of any cemented target tree behind Terry McLaurin gives Thomas (6’6/248) a fair shot to emerge as Washington’s No. 2 receiver as early as the season opener against Philly. The 29-year-old’s competition for opportunity includes Steven Sims, who failed to separate himself from incumbent slot WR Trey Quinn until Week 14, small school fourth-rounder Antonio Gandy-Golden, and hybrid chess piece Antonio Gibson. Thomas’ burst (4.61 40-time) and 89th-percent arm length are salivating, but it’s his red carpet stroll to the top of the depth chart that makes him a viable stash if opting for multiple late-round tight ends.

Recommendation: Should be rostered if streaming tight ends

John Daigle

John Daigle is an Emmy and FSWA award winner who has been covering the NFL and fantasy football for over a decade, working with NBC Sports EDGE for almost four years. He enjoys watching golf and Jon Moxley, not necessarily in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @notJDaigle.