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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Chris Polk, RB Houston Texans
When targeting backup running backs, there are two factors to consider: (1) the likelihood that the player sees the field and (2) the upside he has once he does. At first glance, both of these factors weigh against Chris Polk. He’s not even listed as the primary backup on most Texans’ depth chart. Rotoworld has him fourth behind Arian Foster, Alfred Blue, and Jonathan Grimes, while Ourlads has him third behind Foster and Blue. Even if he works his way onto the field, he has no draft pedigree, and after three unremarkable seasons with the Eagles, he’s well on his way to “NFL journeyman” status.
But if you take a second glance, you’ll see an opportunity ripe for exploitation and a pretty good running back with RB1 upside in PPR leagues.
First, the opportunity. Everyone knows Foster is a soft-tissue injury waiting to happen: hamstring, hamstring, groin, hamstring, hamstring. I tend to think people overvalue the cost of these injuries, making Foster a bargain compared to his peers (See point #2 in this article). But since Foster became a starter in 2010, he’s missed at lest three games in three out of five seasons. In short, the Texans’ backup running back is likely to see some action. And it’s a productive role. In the three games Foster missed in 2014, Blue averaged 23 touches and more than 100 yards from scrimmage.
But Polk isn’t even the Texans’ backup now, is he?
Well, not yet. The Texans pounced on Polk less than a week after the Eagles rescinded his restricted free agent tender, indicating that he is more than a camp body. Plus, Blue hasn’t earned a tight grip on the backup job. Pro Football Focus graded him -6.2 overall and -4.2 as a runner in 2014. That’s actually a difficult feat to achieve on just 341 snaps. Only five runners had a lower overall score on fewer snaps: Ben Tate, Ronnie Hillman, Maurice Jones-Drew, Toby Gerhart and Knile Davis. Ouch.
OK, so the opportunity is there. Can Polk seize it?
Yes. I’ve had a soft spot for Polk since before the 2012 draft. In college, Polk was a productive runner (and outstanding receiver) behind a miserable Washington offensive line. He was therefore considered a top-five running back prospect heading into the draft. To draftniks’ surprise, he fell completely out of the draft. Rumors at the time suggested teams were concerned with a potentially degenerative shoulder condition.
Polk ultimately signed with the Eagles, and the plan was for him to compete for touches with rookie Bryce Brown. But when LeSean McCoy’s injury created an opportunity for a featured role, Polk was already down with a toe injury. Brown ran wild for a few weeks but then fumbled away his opportunity. McCoy played 16 games in both 2013 and 2014, so Polk never saw meaningful snaps (though he did make an impact as a kick returner).
Polk is pretty big and pretty fast, but he’s basically a replacement-level NFL runner. The reason to be excited is his prowess in the passing game. A wide receiver in high school, he is probably among the top 5% of route runners among NFL running backs. And he’s a natural hands catcher. If Foster misses time, I expect Polk to haul in three catches per game, and I expect he’ll make the most of them. Seven points in the receiving game is a nice floor in PPR leagues; add in 10-15 carries for 50-60 rushing yards, and Polk would be a low-end RB1 in a featured role.
Polk wasn’t drafted in any of the July DLF mocks, but I’d take him over more than a half-dozen backup running backs who were, including current backfield-mate Blue and former backfield-mate (and current Bills third-stringer) Brown. Though Brown may be the more explosive runner and Blue may be listed higher on the Texans’ depth chart, Polk’s receiving skills give him a higher PPR upside than either of these backs.
- Dynasty Capsule: Miami Dolphins - January 26, 2019
- Dynasty Capsule: Buffalo Bills - January 21, 2019
- Dynasty Capsule: Carolina Panthers - January 21, 2018