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’ ]
We all know NFL teams have windows to win a championship. Star younger players get older and all want to get paid, but you can only keep a few of them. Then there are only so many franchise quarterbacks to go around. Contrary to what people in Indianapolis and Green Bay think, quality quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Most teams spend years if not decades looking for the next leader of their franchise once the former leader moves on from the team.
The Broncos might be the best example of a team where the championship window is very quickly closing. They are already starting to lose some of their young talent to free agency because they can’t afford to pay everyone. As a result, Julius Thomas is now in Jacksonville. Then there is the more pressing matter of all-time great Peyton Manning entering the season as a 39-year old. Manning faded down the stretch last season, making some wonder if his window has already closed. I’m not quite willing to go there, but this season might be the end of the window if it is even still open. After all, the list of quarterbacks to win a playoff game at age 40 is really, really short. Brett Favre did it, but he might be the only one.
If the Broncos are going to make one last run before Manning rides off into the sunset, they need to replace the weapons they have lost on offense. I already mentioned Julius Thomas moving on, leaving a hole at the tight end position. There is also a bit of a hole at wide receiver thanks to Wes Welker’s contract expiring. I expect Cody Latimer to step up and fill the void at the receiver position, and I think most other people do as well. He is far from a sleeper in dynasty leagues so let’s look at the tight end position.
Virgil Green, TE DEN
Prior to the 2011 NFL draft, the Broncos had identified tight end as a position of need. As a result, they spent a pair of draft picks on the position. Julius Thomas was the first of the pair, but Virgil Green was actually considered the more athletic of the two. Of course Green was much, much more raw but the Broncos loved the upside. As expected with a raw prospect, it has taken a while for Green to make the transition. With Thomas moving on to Jacksonville, 2015 might be the year for Green to step up into the spotlight and show off his speed and explosiveness as well as the improved route running he has been working on for the last few years.
Of course Green isn’t going to be handed the starting job. With this potentially being the last year of Manning, the Broncos can’t trust the unproven Green completely until he shows them what he can do in training camp. As a result, the team brought in veteran Owen Daniels. Before you get too excited by the name, take some time to really look at Daniels. He’ll turn 33 years old about half way through the 2015 season. He hasn’t played a full sixteen game season since 2008. His athletic ability is starting to decline as well. He isn’t the same threat he was years ago. His days of posting 70+ receptions for 800+ yards are behind him. Last season on a Baltimore team with very limited options in the passing game, Daniels had 48 catches for 527 yards and four scores in fifteen games. While it isn’t that far off from what Thomas posted in 2014 in terms of receptions and yardage you need to keep in mind the other talent on the team. Thomas was competing with one of the best receiver groups in the NFL while Daniels was playing with one of the worst.
The 2015 version of Daniels doesn’t have the talent to prevent defenses from double teaming the receivers. At this point in his career, I think he is much more of an insurance policy and mentor for Green. I think the Broncos realize if Daniels is their starting tight end for the entire season it isn’t going to be enough for them to be a serious Super Bowl contender – they need Green’s athletic upside to pair with their stellar wide receivers and improved running game to keep the offensive juggernaut moving right along.
Green’s size and unique physical abilities can make the loss of Thomas an afterthought if he can show what he can do on offense. To this point in his career, Green has a total of 23 receptions. Not exactly something to get too excited about, but you need to remember he’s been the primary blocker while Thomas has been out running the routes and catching passes. His experience as a blocker is actually good news because it means he could play an every down role as a complete tight end in 2014. The question is if his ability to catch passes has evolved enough.
If Green has turned into the pass catcher the Broncos need to complete their offense, he could turn into a very solid TE2 with TE1 upside if he turns into a touchdown machine like Thomas was in 2014. He isn’t without question marks though. Is he ready to take the next step as an offensive weapon? Is he going to get the opportunity to be an every down tight end? What will happen to him once Manning moves on? Even with all of these questions, because of the upside, opportunity and the offense I think Green is well worth his current price tag.