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, 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.
The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2016 season with a 11-5 record while placing first in the AFC North Division. They made a strong push in the playoffs, but ultimately fell in the Conference Championship game to the New England Patriots 36-17. The offense was highly productive, finishing the season fifth in the league with 4,202 passing yards and 14th with 1,760 rushing yards.
The team made two major draft picks that could influence the offense in the near future. With their second round selection the Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster, wide receiver from USC. He was considered one of the top wide receivers in this year’s draft class and was a tremendous value at 62 overall. The Steelers made another pick that could impact fantasy leagues in the next couple years by selecting James Conner, running back from Pittsburgh in the third round. He was very productive in college, rushing for 3,733 yards and 52 touchdowns during his collegiate career. The Steelers drafted him as an insurance policy just in case Le’Veon Bell were to ever go down with an injury.
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Terrell Watson, RB
Category: Super Deep Sleeper
Watson entered the league as an undrafted free agent and signed his first contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. From there, he spent most of his NFL career bouncing from one roster to the another while trying to carve out a role with an NFL team. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed him on May 18, 2017 to a one year, $465,000 deal. The Steelers have a lot of talent at the running back position and he will have an uphill battle to fight to even make the roster.
He went to college at Azusa Pacific where he rushed for 2,212 yards and 29 yards during his senior season in 2014. He also broke all of the school’s rushing records which was previously set by Christian Okoye. Watson became the MVP of the 2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
On top of his hyper-productive output at the collegiate level, his athletic metrics are considered “freakish” compared to most NFL running backs. At 6’’2’ and 240 pounds, Watson ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at his pro day. His height-weight-speed ratio, presents the notion that he is very tough to tackle in the open field once he gets to full speed. He definitely has the size to be a three down workhorse running back in the league.
Le’Veon Bell played in 12 games last season, where he rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two touchdowns, making him one of the most prolific pass catching running backs in the league. Previous backup running back, DeAngelo Williams, proved to be a valuable asset whenever Bell is not in the game, rushing for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.
The Steelers have a pass heavy offense and they try to utilize their running basks as receiving options out of the backfield. The team ranked ninth in the league with 596 pass attempts and 20.81 percent of those attempts were targeted to the running backs. There’s plenty of opportunity in the passing game for the lead back to become fantasy relevant if Bell were to go down with an injury.
The battle to make the roster is going to be tough for Watson as he will be battling James Conner and Knile Davis, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Brandon Brown-Dukes and Trey Williams for one of the final spots on the roster. Making the team seems very doable, considering that he could easily jump Toussaint, Brown-Dukes and Williams in the pecking order if he has a good showing during training camp.
The big wild card in this scenario is Knile Davis. Like Watson, Davis is also a height-weight freak who has the athleticism to dazzle the coaching staff in training camp. He’s a threat to Watson’s existence on the Steelers’ roster. Davis’ career has been very anticlimactic, considering he has rushed for just 805 yards and 11 touchdowns during his four-year career. He has only rushed for 61 yards in the last two seasons. Davis’ stock is definitely trending downward and he could be on a short leash if he has a poor performance during training camp, which would provide opportunities for Watson or any other running back on the roster to take over the third spot on the roster at the running back position. This is in the realm of possibilities for Watson, considering his potential and the lack of talent on the back half on the roster.
Le’Veon Bell is definitely entrenched as the team’s starting running back and James Conner is the favorite and front runner to win the backup running back job. If Watson wins the third-spot on the roster, then he’s just an injury away from seeing an increased workload. He has the size and speed to make things happen if given the opportunity, making him a very intriguing prospect to own in dynasty. If given a chance, he could possibly breakout and become fantasy relevant if the stars align perfectly for him.
According to DLF’s ADP, Watson is going undrafted in most startup drafts, which should be the case since he has a long road to travel in order to receive a respectable workload within the offense. This means he’s sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues, making him virtually free to add to your roster. Unless your league has super deep rosters, he’s currently not worth the pick up off the waiver wire, because more than likely you would have to drop a more valuable asset to be able to obtain him. He needs to be on your watch list, because if he makes the team then he could potentially be worth a speculative add as an end-of-bench roster stash. If he gets the opportunity to play and breaks off a few big weeks during the middle of the season, then you will have the opportunity to sell him to a desperate league mate, who is trying to make a push for the playoffs, for a lot more compared to what you paid to acquire him.
The worst thing that can happen for Watson is that he doesn’t play to his potential during training camp and gets waived by the Steelers, making him an easy drop to create room for another end-of-bench roster stash. Due to his current price, he’s a low cost investment that generates minimal risk, allowing you to dispose of him if a trendier option comes along on the waiver wire.
Watson is like the mystery box on the Price is Right, you know there’s potential but you don’t know for sure what’s in the box. What we do know is that he does have some athletic talent and might be able to string along a few productive games if given the opportunity. Players like that deserve a long hard look and should be closely monitored during training camp and the regular season. He may never become a transcendent talent, but he is worth noting just in case he carves out a role with an NFL team.
excellent article. I have had my eye on him for a while and have him rostered in a bunch of my really deep dynasties. If he gets the opportunity with the steelers or elsewhere, i think he has the ability to make the most of it. great lottery ticket.