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.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
The Vikings have been below .500 for four of the last five years, including a pair of years with five or fewer wins. While this means they haven’t been a lot of fun to watch for their fans, it should mean the Vikings have a lot of young talent and might be poised to start being a winning team once again.
They might have the most important position covered with 2014 rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Regardless of what some people might claim, Bridgewater wasn’t great during his rookie season. In fact, I’m not even sure I would say he was good when looking at the season as a whole. What he did do was show great improvement as the season went on. He had a 68% or better completion rate over the last five games, topped 250 yards passing in three of his last four games and had multiple touchdowns in four of his last six games. While I’m not ready to anoint him as the franchise guy for the next 10 years quite yet, it does look promising.
The return of the historic Adrian Peterson and potential heir Jerick McKinnon lock up the backfield for the purple, but there are multiple questions about the pass catchers. Charles Johnson emerged as the top receiver towards the end of last year, though I feel his impact and production was a little over hyped. He only had two games with five receptions or more and a pair of games over 75 yards. He also only had a pair of touchdowns. I think his future role is going to be as a secondary receiver not the top target on an NFL team. Mike Wallace is now a Viking thanks to a trade with Miami and should immediately add the deep threat element to Norv Turner’s vertical offense. I expect Wallace to lead the team in yards and touchdowns this year even if his receptions drop off a bit. Outside of Wallace and Johnson, there aren’t many established pass catchers (and I would argue Johnson isn’t all that established himself) which means there is lots of room for young players to step up.
MyCole Pruitt, TE MIN
Category: Deep Sleeper
As I mentioned Bridgewater is trending in the right direction. If his progression is going to continue, he’s going to need some talented pass catchers running downfield to target. Currently Kyle Rudolph sits atop the tight end depth chart, but this is now Rudolph’s fifth season in the NFL. He’s played a total of 17 games over the last two seasons. He’s only played all 16 games once in his four years. In that season he posted 53 receptions for 493 yards. His fantasy value was saved by the nine touchdowns he scored, but that touchdown rate is the outlier for his pro career not the norm. We keep waiting for the Rudolph break out, but it might be time to realize he’s going to be in the training room too often to count on. If he is on the field, his upside might be around 60 catches for 600 yards and six touchdowns. While that definitely isn’t bad, it isn’t superstar level. The Vikings could tire of the injury issues and decide to save some money in the next year or two.
Even if Rudolph does manage to stay mostly healthy, the Vikings will still feature a fair number of two tight end sets due to their lack of depth at the wide receiver position, assuming a tight end emerges who is worthy of being on the field – I think Pruitt could be that guy. Norv Turner has a reputation for a lot of things, one of them is creating fantasy relevant tight ends. So when I heard he handpicked the small school prospect Pruitt as a draft target and took him in the fifth round, it got my attention. Turner knows what he wants in a tight end and Pruitt seems to be a great fit. He is a little bit shorter than your traditional tight end at only 6’2”, but he has the build and the athleticism to be a great player in a move tight end or H-back kind of role. In fact, he’s already reported to be the second tight end on the depth chart after the OTAs. Not bad for a late round rookie!
It seems like Pruitt is going to get a chance to be on the field in two tight end sets as well as being the next man up when Rudolph gets hurt. The question is what will he be able to do when he is on the field? At over 250 pounds, Pruitt managed to run a 4.58 second time in the 40 yard dash while also posting a 38” vertical jump. He also posted great times for a tight end in the shuttle runs, showing off superior acceleration. The raw athletic ability is definitely there. He was highly productive in a smaller conference in college and routinely showed up great hands. Where he struggled, like almost every other rookie tight end, was in his route running and blocking. He has the strength to turn into a solid blocker in the NFL, but it is going to take some work. The route running is also going to take a lot of time to develop, but if even half of Norv Turner’s reputation is true, he should be able to coach Pruitt along.
What made me categorize Pruitt as a deep sleeper instead of a sleeper is I think he is a longer term prospect. He isn’t going to be startable this year unless Rudolph misses time near the end of the season. Tight ends take time to develop and rookie tight ends (even starting ones) are rarely worth a starting slot on your fantasy team. He’s much more of a prospective add at this point for 2016 and beyond, especially in tight end premium leagues or larger leagues.
Just realize he’s a long term add right now.