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.
When it comes to the Washington Redskins, they are an offense on the rise. Most importantly, they appear to have found their franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who had a good 2015 season. With DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder back at receiver, the Redskins added wideout Josh Doctson in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, making for a crowded receiver group. That’s to say nothing of tight end Jordan Reed, one of last year’s breakout players, who figures to see a large target share in 2016 if he can stay healthy.
Washington appears to have plenty of weapons in the passing game, but it’s the running game where things are a little more uncertain. The Redskins are handing the starting role to second-year back Matt Jones, who was woefully ineffective as a rookie. On 144 attempts, Jones averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2015, the worst mark in the NFL. That doesn’t bode well for his future, although Jones could certainly improve.
Washington was expected to add a running back in the draft. They did, but they waited until very late to do it, taking Keith Marshall in the seventh round. Marshall is a speedster with game-breaking ability, but he hasn’t received steady work since his freshman year at Georgia.
The Redskins seemed like a possible landing spot for Arian Foster, but he ended up with the Miami Dolphins. Washington didn’t bring in any other notable backs in the off-season, so it looks like they are rolling with what they’ve got.
Either Washington thinks Jones is going to be the man, or the Redskins are really high on Marshall. Regardless, I think there’s enough uncertainty in the backfield to take a deeper look at the depth chart and see what else is there. For an owner like me, who is scared to death to invest heavily at the running back position, backfields like this are a gold mine, because there may be an opportunity to acquire a high-volume back for cheap.
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Chris Thompson, RB WAS (Sleeper)
Considering how well Chris Thompson played in his pass-game role last year and the current situation in Washington’s backfield, it’s hard to believe Thompson’s ADP is what it is. In our July staff mock drafts, he’s the 216th player off the board. Heck, he’s the fourth Chris.
Keep in mind, Thompson’s role was fairly minimal last year with Alfred Morris also a part of the backfield. He did well with his limited chances, though.
In 2015, his third season, Thompson served as a part-time pass-game specialist for Washington. He hauled in 35 of 48 targets for 240 yards and two scores. Thompson was a big factor in the team’s playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, catching all eight of his targets for 89 yards — although game script definitely went his way in that one and Jones didn’t play.
It’s a small sample, but Thompson showed well as a runner, too. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 35 attempts.
Washington re-signed Thompson as an exclusive rights free agent this off-season. He is coming off shoulder surgery, but he is supposed to be ready for the start of the season.
Unless Jones is a three-down animal or Marshall is ready to contribute immediately, Thompson figures to at least have a role and should be Jones’ backup. He’s currently listed second on the team’s depth chart, per Rotoworld. At a minimum, he’s someone you could stash on the bench and plug into the lineup in games where Washington is the underdog, banking on him seeing decent volume in the passing game.
At 5-foot-8, 193 pounds, Thompson probably isn’t built to be a three-down player, but if Jones gets hurt or continues his ineffective play, Thompson may be forced into more touches.
Rob Kelley, RB WAS (Super Deep Sleeper)
Admittedly, this one is a longshot. As an undrafted free agent Rob Kelley, is going to need to have a great camp and good preseason to make the roster. With that said, as we saw last year, sometimes undrafted longshots defy the odds. If Kelley can make the team, he’s a name to know.
Kelley — who played his college ball at Tulane — doesn’t really stand out in any meaningful way, at least to me. One thing Kelley does have going for him, though, is the fact he’s a big, powerful back (6-foot, 220 pounds).
Thompson and Marshall are likely firmly ahead of Kelley on the depth chart. However, both fare better outside of the tackles, and neither profiles as an early-down runner. Fourth-stringer Mack Brown (5-foot-11, 214 pounds) has the same running style as Kelley, but outside of Brown, there really isn’t a ton of competition for the Redskins’ early-down gig if Jones doesn’t work out.
Kelley’s tape isn’t all that bad, but he doesn’t really jump off the screen, either. He runs with nice pad level and is a tough guy to bring down. He doesn’t have noteworthy wheels, but his initial burst is good enough.
What makes him such a big question mark is the fact he was never really a big part of Tulane’s offense. Kelley never received more than 100 carries in a season. For his career, he ran the rock 318 times for 1,270 yards (4.0 YPC) and six scores. He had an impressive 46 catches as a sophomore in 2012, which is the only stat which really stands out.
If this were a typical NFL running back depth chart, Kelley wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Maybe he’s not anyway, but this backfield is one of the weaker and thinner groups in the league, so I think it’s worth exhausting all options. If Kelley makes the team out of camp, there is a shot he sees some snaps this season.
- Dynasty Capsule: Indianapolis Colts - January 17, 2019
- 2018 Summer Sleeper: Los Angeles Chargers - July 31, 2018
- Four Receivers to Sell this Off-Season - April 24, 2018