Editor’s Note: This article is written by a new writer for DLF – Adam Tzikas. We’re excited to have Adam and look forward to seeing his work here in the future!
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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Arizona is an offense that came to the start of 2014 with the highest of hopes and with it, the promise of fantasy success. Larry Fitzgerald was meant to be on his way out, giving way to Michael Floyd and then rookie John Brown. The run game was ready to be explosive with the ascension of Andre Ellington to full bore hype train status. Carson Palmer was a bit of a sleeper quarterback, opening up the west coast style offense predicated by one of the highest touted offensive minds in Coach Bruce Arians. Everything was going almost exactly as planned.
Then Carson Palmer was injured.
Palmer was hurt right at the start of the season and only ended the year playing in only six games, all of which were wins for the Cardinals. While they still managed to make the playoffs, there weren’t many fantasy points to be had in 2014 from the Cardinals. This year, Palmer will return and all the eyes will rest on him to see if the offense can fire on all cylinders. Arizona also beefed up their offensive line by adding former 49’er Mike Iupati in free agency and taking D.J. Humphries out of UF in the first round. We all know the NFC West has some of the toughest run defences in the league – this screams to me that they needed a back who would make it through the entire season after being punished by the likes of St. Louis’ Robert Quinn or Seattle’s Legion of Boom and David Johnson (the rookie out of Northern Iowa) can be that back. While not the deepest of sleepers, Johnson is one of the lesser known players from this 2015 rookie class.
David Johnson, RB ARI
Andre Ellington is not a good NFL running back. There, it’s been said out loud, now scream it from the mountain tops. In the 12 games he started, he only managed to put up a 3.3 yards per carry average and a measly three touchdowns rushing. He did manage to haul in 46 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns, though. However, his Pro Football Focus grade came in at a second to last -8.6 for rushing alone. For some really fun comparison, Trent Richardson eked out a -4.8 rating, so Ellington was almost twice as bad. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t have a starting caliber quarterback all year, well good thing we have stats for those games. In the six games Palmer and Ellington played together, he rushed 118 times for 397 yards or 3.3 yards per carry. His yearly average and his average with Palmer under center are the same, this indicates that having a good quarterback in there changed nothing.
As was evident last year with an injury plagued season (he only started 12 games), the 5-10, 200 lbs. Ellington is not built to last down the stretch. Coming in at 6-1, 224 lbs., David Johnson is literally a bigger Andre Ellington. He performed well at the combine with a 4.50 second 40, a very nice 41.5 vertical and for his size, an excellent three cone drill coming in at 6.82 seconds. He was a monster in college at the University of Northern Iowa, racking up three back to back 1,000 yard rushing seasons and putting up ten or more touchdowns in every season there – those stats put him at an average of 5.4 yards per rush. Another aspect of his game that needs to be highlighted is that he was excellent as a dual threat back. He caught over 30 balls in each of his college seasons and racked up fourteen more touchdowns through the air during that span. It definitely helps he played receiver before he got to college.
Johnson continues to look really great as a receiver on tape. He is willing to block and release into the flat like a pro style running back. He shows excellent awareness to catch the ball and quickly turn up field. He is a matchup nightmare for linebackers due to his size and can easily take dumps for ten or more yards. In an age where running backs are asked to be receivers almost more than pure rushers, this is a major win for Johnson. He also has no issue blocking defenders and won’t shy away from squaring a blitzer up in the backfield, something rare among rookies. However, he is not without flaws; he does run a bit stiff and with a higher pad level than you want typically. He seems like he is running as a much smaller back, stuck in a larger player’s body.
All that being said, what I I love most about Johnson is his chance to become something better than he is. If he can lower his pad level a bit and run better suited for someone of his size, he can pair that with his catching prowess to be a stud NFL back at the next level. Ellington is very clearly not the strongest pure runner and Johnson is a better receiver by leaps and bounds. He is a running back that does all the things that Ellington can do, he just does them all much better. The Cardinals clearly agree by selecting Johnson in the middle of the third round as the seventh back off the board. Snagging him in the early second round of your rookie draft is a complete win, especially in PPR leagues.
Jaron Brown, WR ARI
Status: Super Deep Sleeper
No, that’s not a typo for John Brown, and yes this is going to get confusing. Brown (Jaron!) came onto the team in 2013 and was really well received by fans and coaches. While being undrafted, Brown excited during the 2013 offseason by turning heads in training camp. When 2013 was all said and done, Brown, while playing in all 16 games, started none. 2014 wasn’t much of an improvement for him especially with the other Brown coming to town. While touted as a WR3 on the team in 2014, he was supplanted by the talented John Brown and isn’t more than a NFL WR4 right now. I do think he showed some talent this past year in getting contested catches and taking routes over the middle, even into big hits. I will be keeping an eye on him in super deep leagues.
With a full season of real quarterback play, he could impress. A change of venue might be all he needs to succeed at the NFL level and that’s something to always look forward to in dynasty. Not a player you really want to roster on a normal 12 team league squad, but deeper league could be a great speculative add as a WR5 with some upside, due to the high power of the offense alone.
Latest posts by Adam Tzikas (see all)
- 2018 Summer Sleeper: Miami Dolphins - July 26, 2018
- NFL Draft Aftermath: IDP Winners and Losers from the NFC East - June 13, 2018
- NFL Draft Aftermath: IDP Winners and Losers from the AFC West - August 5, 2017