Summer Sleeper: New England Patriots


We continue our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series where DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

  • Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
  • Deep Sleepers – An end of the roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
  • Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top-175 or so.

Because we aren’t going give you the likes of mainstream sleepers like Allen Robinson or C.J. Anderson, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next Alfred Morris is going to spring up.  Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

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Travaris Cadet, RB New England Patriots

The New England Patriots offense is in an unusual position. With Tom Brady suspended, the team will be operating with Jimmy Garroppolo at the helm for at least a few games. Regardless of the quarterback, the offense will feature a lot of Rob Gronkowski. Receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell will be involved as well, but the team will also be looking to replace the 77 targets that Shane Vereen had in 2014. No one expects that to come from LaGarrette Blount, the bruising back who should see plenty of carries but little involvement in the passing game. The team has two potential receiving options out of the backfield – James White and Travaris Cadet.

New England has been unafraid to target one receiving back and make them an integral part of the passing game. Over the last two years, Vereen has garnered 146 targets (sixth among RBs), averaging 6.1 targets per game (second to Matt Forte among those with 100 targets). This timeframe coincides with Aaron Hernandez’s departure from the team, who averaged 98 targets the two years prior (8.2 targets per game), and also saw Danny Woodhead lead the team in running back targets both years with a cumulative total of just 86. With no viable replacement, I suspect the team will again look to a running back as an underneath option.

Travaris Cadet comes over from the New Orleans Saints, who know a few things about involving a running back in the pass game. Last year, they led the league in running back pass targets (166) with Cadet catching 38 of 51 targets for a 75% catch rate on just over 200 snaps. Prior to 2014, Cadet totaled eight touches in his two seasons, primarily serving as a kick returner as he tried to climb the depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Khiry Robinson among others.

Going back further, Cadet was a high school quarterback who initially signed with Toledo. Eventually, he landed at Appalachian State where he began as a quarterback, wide receiver, and returner for the team. By his senior season, Cadet moved to running back and totaled nearly 900 yards from scrimmage despite starting only half the season. His college career shows a versatile background with big play ability and an understanding of the game, something that is evident in Cadet’s NFL career thus far.

The Patriots signed Cadet to a two year deal despite having White, Blount, and Brandon Bolden on the roster. While none of those names inspire much confidence, seeing that Cadet was the only addition is a sign that the team was not satisfied with the potential replacements for Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Now, aligned with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Cadet has good chance of exceeding the targets he had with the Saints in 2014. Below is a look at the top receiving running back (by target count) for Josh McDaniels as an offensive coordinator or head coach.


The overall average is promising but looking at McDaniels’ time in New England, the top five targeted running backs took place there, with three of the top four in his latter tour of duty. Part of that may have to do with Brady’s diminishing arm strength (just 17 completions on 60 attempts of 20+ yards in 2014), causing McDaniels to become more conservative in his playcalling.

Cadet has an opportunity to seize a role that has contributed multiple RB2 seasons. His return experience should guarantee him a roster spot over fringe backs like Dion Lewis and Tyler Gaffney. No running back on the roster had more than five passing targets in 2014 so there is not an established threat. His main competition, as mentioned earlier, is James White; an unproven running back who saw just 31 snaps last year.

Rumors already have Cadet with a “leg up” on the remaining running backs to assume the passing down work. Right now, Cadet is the 82nd running back taken in the June DLF startup mock drafts. For the record, James White is the 66th running back or the second New England back off the board. Cadet meanwhile is being selected fifth in his own backfield. Now is the time to snatch him off waiver wires, in startups, or via trade for a later draft choice. The price is only likely to go up.