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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De’Anthony Thomas, WR, KC
(Super Deep Sleeper)
They say one is the loneliest number that you ever knew.
So imagine how zero must feel.
Last season the entire Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver corps, all eight players who suited up at that position, combined to total exactly none, zip, zilch, bagel, zero, nada, bupkis and goose eggs in the touchdown column. The Chiefs production was so poor (just 1,746 yards among those wide receivers) that the coaching staff has decided to move former running back De’Anthony Thomas to the receiver role.
Despite his classification, Thomas actually played more on passing downs (108 snaps), than running downs (13). Coming out of Oregon, Thomas was a more a dual-threat player, running on draws and quick-hitters, then catching swing and screen passes out of the back field.
Another reason for the switch is Thomas’ size. He checks in at just 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds, not exactly built for pounding the rock between the tackles 15-20 times each Sunday. But, his game is speed and he’s got plenty of that. His official 40-yard dash from the NFL Combine is misleading, as he registered a 4.50 that day, but at his Pro Day he turned in a 4.34 and was rumored to hit 4.29 leading up to the combine – those last two numbers are more in line with what you’ll see on game day. Shifty and speedy, Thomas will zig and zag his way down the field.
In case it isn’t obvious enough, Thomas excels in space, using his speed not only as an offensive weapon, but as the Chiefs punt returner as well.
Thomas probably isn’t in line for a heavy workload this season. Jamaal Charles is Kansas City’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3 option on offense, followed by tight end Travis Kelce and the newly signed receiver Jeremy Maclin. Last season, Thomas had 156 yards on 23 catches and 113 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Realistically, those numbers will probably hold fairly steady for 2015. However, the competition at wide receiver is pretty open and a creative mind like Andy Reid could do some interesting things with Thomas.
Rarely do I like players making a position change – I feel like it’s too steep of a learning curve at too high a level, competing against players who have been already playing that position their entire lives. In this case, I’ll make an exception. Thomas was already playing more than half his snaps on passing downs as a receiver, even dating back to his Oregon days, so the learning curve is much shorter. As for the competition, I feel it’s pretty weak. Yes, there are some that think Chris Conley and Albert Wilson can secure the other wide receiver spot, and they may be right. Conley is super-athletic, but is raw as a receiver and is only a rookie. Wilson is roughly the same size as Thomas and had similar numbers last season. I think the man known as DAT has just as good of chance to be the Week 1 starter as they do.
Thomas is probably sitting on your waiver wire right now. If he’s not, he can probably gotten for a song. You need to temper your expectation though. Even if by some chance he manages to win the starting job, his numbers will be constrained due to the focus on the top three targets. Even his ceiling would be 450-500 yards. Thomas can be seen as a sound investment as long as you are aware you won’t see explosive gains.