We begin 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 Titans, they are starting to get a fair amount of attention as one of the potentially up and coming offenses. They seem to have their quarterback in Marcus Mariota who seems to be the real deal given his rookie season. They have also spent early round picks the last few years on Dorial Green-Beckham and more recently on Derrick Henry. Then when you add in recent veteran signings like DeMarco Murray joining Delanie Walker you have what should be one paper a fairly solid offense. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of some of those guys, especially Murray, but they definitely have some potential and/or past results to get people excited.
The one position I still see a lot of holes is at the receiver position. I’ve never been as high as a lot of others on DGB. There are just far too many red flags there for me from his lack of effort to his off the field issues and my belief that his level of talent was a little exaggerated at times. Let’s put that aside for now though and look at the rest of the group. You have perennial disappointments in Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright. The former is just a bust while I’m still hopeful the latter will make something of himself, though it might require a change of scenery. Harry Douglas was brought in last year as a free agent and was a major disappointment. Fifth-round rookie Tajae Sharpe has made a bit of a name for himself this offseason, but he’s still a rookie. With two to three starting receivers, who is left?
Rishard Matthews, WR TEN
The 26-year-old spent the first four years of his career in Miami. He was mostly a backup player until last season when he managed 43 receptions for 662 yards and four scores over the first 10 games of the season before going down with multiple broken ribs and missing the rest of the season. He checks in at a very solidly build 217 pounds for his six-foot tall frame. He typically plays the possession receiver role and runs a lot of short and intermediate routes before making contested catches in traffic. That’s exactly the kind of receiver every quarterback, especially a young one like Mariota, needs.
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As I mentioned above, Matthews is going to be able to check one of the two big boxes for fantasy relevance, he is going to have the opportunity. With an unestablished receiver group like the Titans have there isn’t anyone who is going to be able to keep Matthews off the field. The rest of the group is either unproven (DGB, Hunter, Sharpe), old and broken (Douglas), or has simply disappointed (Wright). Matthews took less to play for the Titans than some of the other offers he received, and the big reason was his chance to be an every down starter. He recognized the opportunity, and I think the rest of us can see it as well.
The other major box he needs to check for fantasy relevance is talent. Matthews isn’t ever going to be a WR1 on your fantasy team. He lacks the physical abilities to be that dominate receiver. However, he does have enough talent to be a starter on a team like the Titans and be a back end WR2 or high end WR3. In fact, this is exactly what he was through the portion of the season last year where he was healthy. In PPR leagues he was right on the WR2/WR3 boarder in 12 team leagues. Even if he dips a little bit in terms of production and slides into the WR3 territory, he’s currently being drafted well outside the top 50 receivers as a WR6 or WR7. Maybe it is because he missed the end of the season with injury or because he isn’t a flashy player. Regardless of the reason, the savvy owner realizes it is significantly under his value. He could provide a very nice return on your investment.
The ceiling for Matthews might not be as high as some of the other sleepers you’re going to hear about, but he’s just about to enter the prime of his career and should have a lot less risk. I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t one of the starters when the Titans open the season, and he has enough talent to be a solid player for you, especially through the bye weeks and as an injury fill in. He isn’t going to win you a game with a 40-point week, but he’s a very low cost addition to your roster who can provide some much needed quality depth to your roster. It might be worth kicking the tires on a deal for him and seeing if you can boost your receiver depth with a quality player like Matthews.