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 Jay Ajayi or Isaiah Crowell, 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 thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.
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Cameron Brate, TE
To be honest, when I signed up to write about a sleeper or two for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few months ago, I thought I had easy pickings with the relatively unheralded Cameron Brate, whom I was projecting to be the team’s starting tight end by the end of 2016. Instead of lying around in super deep sleeper territory, the summer has seen Brate fly up the depth chart surpassing Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ). Now he’s still a sleeper because he is going at 206 in August ADP, but I was hoping to provide you with someone that wasn’t well known. Since the cat is out of the bag on him, I’ll explain why I’ve been high on him.
In 2015, Brate came off the bench in relief of the injured ASJ. While he didn’t set the world on fire, he did reel in 23 of his 30 targets to the tune of 288 yards and three touchdowns. Not too shabby for a backup with limited opportunities with the first team offense. While he isn’t the most athletically gifted tight end, he does appear to have a knack for producing anyway as evidenced by his college dominator rating. Add in that Jenkins is seemingly always injured and is apparently openly a knucklehead, and you have a recipe for continued opportunities. The drawback for Brate, obviously, is that Seferian-Jenkins could turn it around and take back his starting duties, potentially permanently.
As for other factors going in Brate’s favor, quarterback Jameis Winston had a propensity for throwing the football to his tight end Nick O’Leary despite his relative lack of athleticism. O’Leary caught 81 balls for 1175 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last two years at Florida State with Winston. Finally, coach Dirk Koetter has a history of producing tight end-friendly offenses. We shouldn’t expect that to suddenly stop now.
With another year of experience with Winston, including a full off-season, and his new position at the top of the Bucs depth chart, grab Brate as your late round TE of choice and reap the benefits.
Kenny Bell, WR
I’m surprised to see that Bell’s August ADP is still in Sleeper territory. After reports in early August, I was anticipating to see him fall more sharply than he has. Things can change quickly when you’re digging this deeply in ADP, and I do expect to see him fall for September ADP to where he could be considered a Deep Sleeper. I suspect his ADP is inflated due to dynasty owners like myself that fell in love with his combination of good tape (at least to my untrained eye) and athleticism.
Kenny Bell is a player that I personally just can’t quit on. I fell in love with his tape and metrics leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, and was ecstatic to see him go to my favorite young quarterback in Jameis. I immediately got stars in my eyes and envisioned him as the long term starter opposite Mike Evans after Vincent Jackson eventually moved along. From that day forward, Bell has seemingly been in a perpetual free fall from a future value perspective. First, he suffered a hamstring injury in training camp then spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Fast forward to 2016 and we got a glimpse of good news in February when Koetter said Bell was a big part of the team’s future plans. Training camp rolls around and word is that Bell is struggling to fight for a roster spot and is playing behind Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye. I’ll forgive you if you weren’t familiar with those names; I wasn’t either until recently. Bell capped off the string of bad news with a disastrous preseason Week 1 game, lowlighted by a kickoff return fumble, two catchless targets, and an offensive pass interference penalty.
As of right now, things have not improved. Bell might not even make the Bucs final roster. However, if he does get his head on straight and begins showing up for practices and games, making the plays he is physically capable of, he has an immense ceiling compared to every receiver on the roster not named Mike Evans or Vincent Jackson. Keep a close eye on the camp battle between Bell and Dye for the 5th receiver spot. I firmly believe that if Bell makes the roster, he will improve throughout the season in practice and earn the right to some playing time later in the year. If he can pull that off, the sky could be the limit.