In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, 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 Adam Thielen 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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Jakeem Grant, WR
Category: Super Deep Sleeper
A surprising pick in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Grant is not a player on many fantasy footballer’s radars. He does not have the prototypical size for an NFL player at any position, let alone a wide receiver. Grant is slight of build, standing only 5-foot-7 and 169 pounds, however, he is much stronger than one might expect, reaching 15 reps at 225 pounds at his pro day. His strength shows on the field in gritty play, willing blocks, and never taking a play off. Grant plays at full speed all the time and only shies away from contact when it is likely to benefit his team’s game. He often puts his body on the line blocking for his teammates, all the while juking defenders out of their cleats when he has the ball in his hands. However, as with any late-round pick, not everything he does is perfect.
Grant is not the most sure-handed player I’ve ever seen. In the four games I watched from his redshirt senior season at Texas Tech, I counted at least five dropped passes. His route running is limited to screen plays, quick outs, digs, and nine routes. He is a player with some exceptional measurables, but his shortcomings caused him to be a player I expected to go undrafted.
After being a surprise draft pick, he astonishingly made the roster in 2016 and showed some of his abilities as a return man, which is where he projects best in the NFL. The trio of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker kept him relegated to special teams in his first year, but he has been getting high praise from head coach Adam Gase in training camp this season. With the unfortunate injury to rookie seventh round pick Isaiah Ford, Grant may again sneak onto the roster. Fellow second year receiver Leonte Carroo will likely keep Grant from finding his way onto the field as the team’s fourth option at receiver, but Grant’s improvement as an outside presence could get him a few looks. The rest of the preseason is going to tell the story for Grant.
With the bleak outlook for Grant actually getting on the field outside of special teams, what is there to like about him outside of his grit and tenacity? He has elite speed and excellent agility. While not invited to the 2015 combine, his pro day 4.38 forty yard dash time was good for 14th overall in the last two drafts, and fourth among wide receivers. His 4.06 short shuttle time would have placed him fifth among receivers over the last two drafts. When he gets a step on a defender, that’s all it takes. He’s gone.
When watching Grant’s tape, his skill set is best used off the line of scrimmage, mainly in screens. In the gif above, the defensive back had no chance of containing him. I saw this often when watching his college tape. Unfortunately, the wide receiver screen game for slight players doesn’t convert as well to the NFL game. Big bodied receivers are often better used, and Grant is far from big.
Aside from improving his work as an outside receiver, Grant’s usage could be effective as a player in motion pre-snap. This was another area where he excelled as Patrick Mahomes’ number one receiving option at Texas Tech. In the times where Grant was used as an outside down field threat, he often used his quickness and adequate footwork to get defenders off balance and run by them. If he gets outside opportunities at this level he will need to become more physical at the line of scrimmage. NFL calibre defensive backs won’t be as easy to shake as those in the Big 12.
So, what will it take for Grant to see the field? In order for it to happen this season, there are going to have to be some injuries to the Dolphins receiving corps. Landry, Stills, and Parker have the top three spots locked down, and Carroo is likely to secure the fourth true receiver position on the depth chart. Outside of injury, Grant could have an opportunity in 2018. To date, Landry has not signed a contract extension and could end up leaving in free agency after this season. At that point, we could see Grant used as a moving piece if the Dolphins don’t address the position in another way.
Overall, Grant is a huge work in progress, but he should be on your radar, especially in leagues where return yardage is rewarded. If the Dolphins wide receiver corps gets hit like the 2016 Bears, Grant could see the field quite a bit. Don’t pick him up in anything but the deepest of leagues, but do keep an eye on him throughout the preseason and first few regular season weeks.