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.
Marcell Ateman, WR OAK
Amidst the wide array of turnover that the Raiders have experienced both in coaching and player personnel. There is one “diamond in the rough” scooped up in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marcell Ateman will get his opportunity in Oakland to prove his worth – something he failed to do at the NFL Combine.
Ateman enters the 2018 season as a bit of an unknown, but with good reason. When the receiver opposite you in college (James Washington) gets drafted in the second round, it becomes easy to understand the type of spotlight or lack thereof that has been on Ateman’s career. Nevertheless, he now has the chance to make a name for himself in the NFL and has a terrific opportunity to do so in Oakland.
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At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Ateman showed tremendous size and promise in his Junior and Senior seasons at Oklahoma State. He caught over 100 passes for more than 1,900 yards over the course of two seasons, while impressively finding the end zone 13 times. Even with Washington taking much of the target share, Ateman proved that he could capitalize on his opportunities.
Just by watching a few of these short clips, you can already see the potential that Ateman has to be a physical presence in the pass and run game.
Entering the NFL Combine, many scouts were anxious to see the skill set that Ateman possessed. Shockingly, he struggled to prove nearly any value in front of NFL scouts. He sluggishly ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, and proved to be nearly average in every other category he performed in. Both he and teammate Washington were likely to be drafted within the first four rounds of the draft, but given Ateman’s Combine numbers, things went in a different direction.
Ateman ended up falling all the way into the seventh round before being picked by the Oakland Raiders. Fortunately for him, the draft spot does not define the player. It’s what they do after the draft that makes the difference.
He will clearly need to work on his speed if he wants to be a difference maker at the next level. Given a year of development at the professional level, I think he could complete a major overhaul of his athletic ability.
As of July, Ateman currently holds an overall ADP of 240.67 (12th round) meaning that based on your league setup, he could potentially be acquired on waivers. He is listed as the 23rd-ranked receiver in our rookie rankings however, I would expect him to climb into the top 20 by the start of the season.
Here is where things start to get exciting – with the departure of Michael Crabtree to the Ravens this summer. His 14 red zone targets and five touchdowns in that range all went with him. With Derek Carr’s go-to red zone receiver leaving, there is a wide open position for a tall and physical wideout to fill the shoes of Crabtree. My belief is that Ateman can fill this role.
Both Amari Cooper and Jared Cook saw only a handful of targets when it came to the red zone, and converted on even fewer of those opportunities. While Ateman lacks the significant speed to break away from NFL defenders, the one area that he holds an advantage in is the red zone.
If you haven’t gone and traded for him at this point, do so while he is cheap. I predict we are going to see him find the end zone three times in 2018, with that number doubling in 2019. He will be a dynasty asset you will want available at your dispense.
Ateman currently sits within a crowded but unproven wide receiver corps. With Amari Cooper as the clear-cut #1 wideout and Jordy Nelson arriving from Green Bay, there is plenty of uncertainty of where the targets will go when the season begins. Seth Roberts, Ryan Switzer and Martavis Bryant (if eligble) all figure to get reps, but aside from Roberts, I can see Ateman moving up the depth chart above the rest.
If he is able to do so, his ADP should rise significantly with the opportunities he will be given in a pass-central offense. Jordy Nelson will likely have only a few seasons left in the NFL and could be a great teaching point for the young rookie to learn from.
While there are plenty of questions that scouts and reporters want answered this year, none bigger than: “what will the John Gruden offense look like in 2018?” I would expect Derek Carr to return to his 2016 form and once again lead an efficient Raiders offense which could compete in the AFC West.
Marcell Ateman is a player you certainly will want to keep your eye on heading into the preseason. If he shines, the price value for him will jump, so don’t say I never warned you. I expect some minimal production out of Ateman for the 2018 season up to this point, with a breakout coming in 2019. If you have the roster space, either pick him up, or trade a fourth round pick for him and reap the dividends.
Do you think Ateman is next Raider receiver to break out? If not, who from their depth chart are you targeting this summer? Comment below.
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