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 to 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.
If you read the intro at the top of this article, you know the point of naming a sleeper for every team in the NFL is to give y’all a bunch of players you can add to the end of your bench as a Hail Mary play. When I look around my leagues every July for players who fit the Summer Sleeper bill, there are a few different profiles I look for:
- Former high draft picks.
- Players who could find their way into opportunity with an injury or two.
- Guys who are easy to cheer for.
Sometimes the stars align and give me somebody who fits all three of those categories.
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Kevin White, WR
Kevin White was a lot of things: a high draft pick with a stupendous SPARQ score, elite athleticism, ideal size, and a gob of immediate opportunity in front of him. Kevin White is a lot of things: an unequivocal bust, the sufferer of multiple devastating lower-body injuries, and somebody who will have to earn his way onto the 53-man roster before he can even consider contributing in a meaningful way. But most of all, Kevin White is a guy who is easy to cheer for, which helps make him a perfect candidate to be this year’s Bears’ Summer Sleeper.
By now, we are mostly familiar with White’s career and the unfortunate circumstances that have likely robbed him of a fair chance at NFL success. But because I am nothing if not a masochist, let’s use Rotoworld’s player update blurbs to spend a moment recapping the events that have transpired the last few years.
- April 30, 2015: Coming off a 109-1,447-10 senior season at WVU, White was drafted seventh overall by the Bears.
- July 29, 2015: Battling a shin injury, White was placed on the active/PUP list.
- August 10, 2015: After being declared pain-free, White is spotted jogging off to the side at practice.
- August 14, 2015: White states he is not dealing with a stress fracture.
- August 15, 2015: The Bears declare White may be out for the season after being scheduled for surgery to repair a stress fracture.
- October 15, 2015: White resumes light jogging.
- December 15, 2015: After not being activated from the PUP by the deadline, White is out for the remainder of his rookie season.
- May-July, 2016: White is declared 100% healthy and the subject of such quotes as, “looks strong and fast,” “beast,” and “reminds me of Andre Johnson.”
- September-October 2016: Playing in his first four career games, the now-24-year-old largely disappoints, catching only 19 of 36 targets for 187 yards and no scores.
- October 2, 2016: In the midst of his fourth game, White badly injures his ankle.
- October 5, 2016: White is placed on IR with a high ankle sprain and fractured fibula.
- November 21, 2016: The Bears announce White is out for the remainder of the season.
- May 24, 2017: Reports surface White is literally re-learning how to run.
- September 10, 2017: White fractures his scapula during the first game of the season and is put on IR.
As a Bears fan, I want you to know how painful it was to relive that. As a fan of the human race in general, it was even more difficult to be reminded of how fraught White’s road has been. That fact alone is enough to get me to stick him on the end of my bench so I have more of an excuse to cheer for the kid, but none of any of this means squat when it comes to his future in the NFL.
I’d love to tell you we have reason to believe White is the same athlete now that he was when he was drafted, but there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that’s true. When I go back and watch his preseason film from last year, I see a player who lacks polish and confidence. Because of his most recent injury, we didn’t get a chance to see if he could overcome and show even a glimpse of the player the Bears took seventh overall only a few years prior. On this front, we are playing a game of speculation and nothing more.
What we can parse out is his potential to be a part of the Bears’ offense if he does manage to capitalize on his prodigious talent. At the top of the pecking order is Allen Robinson, whose role is as secure Tom Selleck’s mustache in a windstorm. After him, we have Taylor Gabriel, a deep threat and little else. Then there is tight end Trey Burton and rookie second-round wide receiver Anthony Miller, both of whom figure to work primarily out of the slot. As it concerns Miller, there is some thought he could be a dark horse challenger to Robinson for the team-lead in targets. I find such an assertion ludicrous, but it does speak to how highly the draft community thinks of Miller.
Even if White comes into camp healthy and confident, Robinson, Gabriel, and Burton all have a secure role in the offense. And when you consider the current regime didn’t draft White and declined his rookie option, while also trading up in the second round to take Miller, it seems likely White’s best case is as the team’s WR4.
None of that seems too promising, but what if White explodes in the preseason? What if Robinson gets hurt? What if Miller disappoints? What if White gets thrust into action and shows well? The whole reason these words are on this (virtual) paper is the what-if game, and few players in the league present a more potential-laden what-if scenario than White. That he is one of the easiest guys in the league to cheer for would make a post-hype breakout that much more satisfying. Wouldn’t you be happy if all this happened on your roster? I know I would, and for the low, low price of almost free, you can take the ride with me.
Jeff can be found on Twitter at @FFJeffM
Be sure to also check out Jeff's eBay video game store!
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