These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about than we had room for in the dynasty capsules for each team. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.
We’ll just never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” that includes such names as Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Mathews or even someone like Stevan Ridley. You’re all too good for that.
While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, we figure there’s value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and even re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league. You may even consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this Summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.
Juron Criner, WR
Age: 22 (12/12/1989)
At 6’3″ and 221 pounds, Oakland’s Juron Criner has the physical size and tools that makes for an intriguing rookie prospect. If not for a slower than expected (4.68) forty time, and some concerns regarding durability, Criner’s draft prospects would have been much higher.
Coming out Arizona as a four year starter, Criner amassed 209 receptions for 2,860 yards and 32 touchdowns. If not for two missed games in 2011, he would have approached his 2010 season totals of 83 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. As it stands, Criner still tallied 11 touchdowns in both 2010 and 2011.
In watching tape, it’s easy to see NFL ball skill potential. Criner leaps fluidly and is able to snatch the ball at a high point, while having terrific body control that allows him to catch most anything near his frame. He has a very wide catch radius and strong hands. Criner uses his bigger body well to shield defenders and uses his leverage advantage consistently. With the ball in his hands, he shows ability in the open field and the strength to gain yards after contact.
Given his size and strength, he does seem to struggle at the line of scrimmage, whether in blocking assignments or against tough press coverage. He’s undisciplined in the mechanics to create separation early in his routes or in his point of attack near the line of scrimmage. At the top of his routes, Criner does a much better job of creating separation and displays some natural ability for finding the soft spots in zone coverage. His receiver IQ appears to be relatively high. The most nagging concern facing Criner is his ability to be consistently productive as it does appear that he tends to lose focus against physical corners, often times being taken out of a game almost entirely.
Since being a fifth round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Criner has done nothing but draw praise from coaches and fellow players. His level of ability has been on display during camp and was even a factor in leading the Raiders to trade away fellow receiver Louis Murphy, leading to speculation that Criner may already be in the process of securing the WR3 role. With Carson Palmer now fully comfortable within the Raiders’ offense, and with upside-receivers Denarius More and Darrius Heyward-Bey along side, Oakland may now have a young receiving trio that garners some level of excitement. With a healthy Darren McFadden back in the fold and a balanced offensive attack with the experienced Palmer at the helm, the days of fantasy irrelevance from the receivers may now be in the rear-view mirror.
Early in our draft analysis, we singled out Criner on more than one occasion as a potential sleeper candidate. It now appears as though he’s every bit of just that.
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