Summer Sleeper: Cleveland Browns

Andrew Lightner

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 Tyler Lockett or Carlos Hyde, 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 Willie Snead 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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The Cleveland Browns have long been one of the laughing stock franchises in the NFL. Between poor luck, poor decisions, and poor play, the Browns fans haven’t exactly had much to root for.  In an attempt to change the fortunes of Cleveland, the Browns hired Hue Jackson as their new head coach. Perhaps Hue can change the culture of the Browns, and awaken a team that has been a ‘sleeper’ in their own right. However, the only sleepers we care about as dynasty players are ones that could emerge to be fantasy contributors. Let’s look at one such player hiding in the city of Cleveland:

Terrell Watson, RB CLE

Category: Deep Sleeper

I’ve recently become quite a fan of Terrell Watson.  A small school star, he has quite a life story.  If you get a chance, I’d suggest doing a google search and looking up Terrell Watson, as there are a couple very good articles outlining his story growing up and his background. Simply put, Watson is the type of person that is hard not to root for. However, as dynasty owners we don’t own players on our rosters based upon the type of person they are; but rather we care about what they can possibly do to help us win games. With that being said, allow me to dig in and explain why Terrell Watson is a player worthy of an end-of-roster stash.

First, let me give you an idea of just how good he was in college. Watson played at Azusa Pacific University. If you don’t know where this Division II school is located, don’t feel bad; I had to look it up myself! In 2013, Watson rushed for 1,869 yards and 23 touchdowns. In 2014, he rushed for 2,212 yards and 29 touchdowns. Overall, the back had 79 touchdowns in his college career. Watson holds 21 school records, as well as several conference and Division II rushing records as well. One that I found particularly astonishing was the D-II record he set for most rushing yards in a half with 259 yards. Yes, that was in one half of football. Needless to say, Watson was not just an integral part of Azusa Pacific’s offense, but was the offense.  Oh, and the school records he broke happened to previously belong to Christian Okoye. If you don’t happen to know who that is, take a moment away from this article. Go dust off your old NES system, insert Tecmo Super Bowl, and play a game as the Kansas City Chiefs. Then come back and tell me how fun it was running over countless (and helpless) defenders with the Chiefs starting running back. Yes, that is Christian Okoye; also known as the Nigerian Nightmare. I think it is fair to say that, small school or not, Terrell Watson had a pretty impressive college football career.

In 2015, the 6’1 242lb. running back was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent. In last year’s preseason, Watson had 25 carries for 130 yards, averaging 5.2ypc. Ultimately, he found himself placed on the Bengals practice squad. Fast forward to this offseason, where Hue Jackson (formerly the Bengals’ offensive coordinator) got hired as the Cleveland Browns new head coach.  One of the first moves Jackson made after becoming the new head coach in Cleveland? Signing Terrell Watson off of his previous team’s practice squad. If such a move isn’t considered a vote of confidence for Watson, I don’t know what is. Clearly, Hue must’ve been impressed by something from Watson; enough that he chose to go out of his way to pry Watson off of the Bengals practice squad.

Obviously, we don’t have much to go off of in terms of proof on the NFL level that Watson can be a successful professional running back. But we have enough information that at least points to a possibility that Watson could have what it takes to be an NFL running back. He has an incredible college resume (small school or not), showed well in the 2015 NFL preseason, and a head coach that went out of his way to bring him into the fold. From an athletic standpoint, Watson has remarkable speed for his size. Per, Terrell Watson’s speed score is in the 91st percentile. He has a very low mark for agility, but that simply isn’t the type of running back Watson is. His forte is being a physical bruiser, not a back that is going to juke a defender out of his jockstrap. If we compare Watson’s speed to another running back similar size, Derrick Henry, it’s very close. Watson is clocked at running a 4.56 40 yard dash, while Henry is listed as running a 4.54 40. It’s also interesting to note that Henry has a very low agility score too, and many regarded Henry as one of the biggest athletic freaks of this past combine. I think it is safe to say that Terrell Watson has NFL level athleticism.

Finally, what makes Watson a nice sleeper is the possibility of opportunity. The only other running backs of note the Cleveland Browns have are Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. While Duke Johnson has been a hot name in dynasty and is certain to have a large role in the Browns offense, many people have doubts that Duke can carry a full workload as an every down back. Johnson may be better suited as passing down back capable of splitting carries with a larger backfield mate, rather than carry the entire rushing duties on his own. The Browns have had such approach in the past, utilizing Crowell as the early down back. However, Crowell hasn’t exactly been anything special to date in the NFL. In fact, Isaiah Crowell only managed to average 3.8ypc in 2015.  I think it is suffice to say that Crowell’s performance the past couple seasons isn’t that of a running back incapable of being supplanted. That is where Watson’s opportunity lies. If Terrell Watson can show well in training camp and preseason, one would think that he’d have the inside track of claiming the third running back spot on Cleveland’s depth chart. And if Crowell continues the uninspiring play we’ve seen from him the past couple seasons, there could be a chance Watson pushes for some playing time to see what he can do.

Recently while listening to sports radio at work, they just so happened to have on the Browns running backs coach, Kirby Wilson. While he didn’t discuss any of the running backs in particular, Wilson talked about how the biggest emphasis for the Browns team is to become a more physical football team at all positions. Terrell Watson fits the physical profile perfectly.  Is this simply another form of ‘coachspeak’? Possibly. Either way, I think there is enough intrigue about Terrell Watson to warrant consideration of a roster spot on your dynasty squad.


andrew lightner
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