Summer Sleeper: Detroit Lions

Brian Malone


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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Joseph Fauria, TE Detroit Lions
(Super Deep Sleeper)

Joseph Fauria was Josh Hill before Josh Hill was Josh Hill. Translation – like Hill in 2014, Fauria in 2013 was a raw, undrafted tight end used mainly as a sneaky red zone threat. The difference is the Saints jettisoned the unmovable force at the top of their tight end depth chart, while the Lions spend a top-10 rookie pick to put Eric Ebron atop theirs.

With the Lions’ selection of Ebron, Fauria faded away into Bolivian. Actually, Bolivian might have been better than wherever Ebron went. First, he sprained his ankle chasing a puppy to keep it from peeing in the house. Then … well … this happened. And then he sprained his ankle again, landing himself on injured reserve. In all, Fauria saw just 12 targets in 2014, third among Lions tight ends (behind Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew). And he converted just one of those targets into a touchdown (and ensuing ill-advised touchdown dance).

After falling to third on the depth chart and making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Fauria hasn’t been drafted in any DLF mock this off-season. I don’t suggest you buck the trend and roster him in any but the deepest of deep leagues. However, Fauria is still just 25 years old and heading into his third NFL season. Plus, climbing the Lions tight end depth chart may not be as daunting a task as it appeared just 12 months ago. Ebron, as Karl Safchick likes to remind us, was historically bad in 2014. And the 30-year-old Pettigrew is on the downslope of his career.

If Fauria can get and stay healthy, he’ll have a chance to earn some red zone looks, and he has already shown that he can convert them. At 6’7”, 255 pounds, and with decent explosion, Fauria is a difficult matchup in close quarters.

Lastly, Fauria is a restricted free agent after the 2015 season. If Ebron blossoms, the Lions may consider Fauria expendable (especially with Pettigrew signed through 2017).

Theo Riddick, RB Detroit Lions

Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning – Theo Riddick is not a good runner by NFL standards. Compared to other NFL running backs, he’s small, slow, and not particularly agile or explosive. And, for what it’s worth (which may not be as much as you think), he has averaged 2.6 yards per rush attempt in his two-year career. Are you sold yet?

Riddick’s value as a fantasy asset stems from his role as a pass catcher with running back eligibility. In the eight games where he received at least one target in 2014, he averaged just over 11.5 points-per-game in PPR scoring. Those aren’t Arian Foster numbers, but they are Alfred Morris (11.7 points-per-game in 2015) numbers. That’s something.

There is the small matter of Ameer Abdullah, whom the Lions drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft. But Riddick coexisted reasonably well with the now-departed Reggie Bush for part of 2014, and 2014 workhorse Joique Bell turns 29 in August and has been nursing injuries this off-season. So it’s tough to predict how the Lions backfield will shake out and Riddick may be able to carve out a niche as a pass catcher.

Riddick is worth the gamble in PPR leagues. Based on DLF’s June ADP, 207 players are being drafted before him. And even that may overestimate his price in trades. I saw Riddick traded straight up for Trent Richardson this off-season – and that was before the Lions drafted Abdullah. In other words, you can likely acquire Riddick for nothing, either via waivers or as a throw-in piece to help balance roster spots in a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 trade. At that price, I’m willing to hold Riddick into the early part of the season to see if he will see enough targets to be part of my RB2 platoon.


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