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.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments relative to expectations in 2017 as the team largely failed to the big step forward as many were hoping for. Players like Mike Evans and Jameis Winston didn’t meet the standards dynasty owners were looking for, but they are still valued as top dynasty positional players heading into 2018. The team has a lot of potential talent on the roster with young players like Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Ronald Jones, so there’s certainly hope for a future turnaround.
Dynasty owners see plenty of value on this roster, with five players going inside the top 150 in DLF’s July ADP. Those five players – the same aforementioned five – all have high hopes for production in 2018, but there are known risks with all of them. Evans needs to be more consistent, Godwin needs to take a bigger target share, Howard needs to overcome Cameron Brate and his new six-year contract, Winston needs to take a step forward as a true franchise quarterback, and Jones must prove he can be a three-down back and hold up in the role. All of these question marks lead to the potential for a sleeper to emerge in this offense.
There are, I believe, multiple sleepers on this team. Other worthy candidates include Justin Watson, who’s a draft metric/production marvel despite falling to the seventh round of the NFL draft, and DeSean Jackson and Brate, veterans who could outproduce their ADP this season.
However, I wanted to highlight a player I really like for 2018, and I’m here to illustrate why. That player is…
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Peyton Barber, RB
Barber took over lead responsibilities in week 13 of the 2017 season and was a very productive player for the Bucs over the rest of the season. From week 13 on, we posted the 15th-most rushing yards in the league, more than more established runners like Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram, Carlos Hyde, and Lamar Miller over that same time span (all played the same amount of games).
I’m not a fan of extrapolation, but if you are, that would translate to a 16-game stat line of 250 rushes for 1,072 yards on the season, very similar to what CJ Anderson produced this past year, who I think is Barber’s near-perfect player comparison. In terms of a profile, they match up very similarly (from MockDraftable database):
Anderson has been a productive back throughout his career and even beat out former second-round pick Montee Ball for a starting job midway through his second season (sound like a familiar situation?). While the comparison is nice, let’s get back to Barber himself as a player.
I’ve been doing work charting each running back’s carries to in order to get a better feel for how the player’s yards per carry average actually came about. For example, was it because of a couple of 70-yard runs (ala Derrick Henry) or was it from consistent positive gains? Also, how does that compare to the league average? Check out Barber’s chart below:
Peyton Barber did a fantastic job limiting runs for losses while at the same time consistently churning out large chunks of yards (between four and nine yards) on most plays. He didn’t have a plethora of long runs, but those are often fluky and unpredictable for many players. There are of course players, potentially like Jones, who have more of a chance on any given play to take a carry the distance. In this sense, Jones and Barber compliment each other. Overall, Barber’s chart was one of the most impressive I came across when charting this data. You can find all my charts at FFStatistics.
Moving onto the opportunity Barber has in 2018, it looks muddled at best at the moment. The team took a chance on an electric playmaker in Ronald Jones in the early second round of the NFL draft. I have worries about Jones from a durability and overall skillset standpoint, but there’s no denying he’s a good talent at the position. Dynasty owners as well have reacted accordingly, and Barber has had a bit of a rollercoaster in ADP over the past year.
His value has been rising lately as camp talk and videos have shown that he’s still in line for a sizeable role in 2018, but he still remains an ideal late round running back target. Currently the RB73 overall in DLF’s July ADP, I think Barber would be hard pressed to not exceed those expectations with the obvious upside for more should Ronald Jones fail to deliver or get hurt.
In a hopeful rebound year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Peyton Barber could be a player at the end of your rosters who winds up becoming a starting player for your fantasy teams if only one or two things break right. At the end of the day, opportunity is what matters at the running back position, and Barber has the potential for plenty of it in 2018.
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