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.
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 or James Robinson 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 Kansas City chiefs have provided one of the most stable fantasy rosters over the past few seasons. Since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback in 2018, he’s finished no worse than the QB6 in points per game, and Tyreek Hill finished as the WR6 or better in three of those four seasons (with his worst season being a WR11 finish in 2019) while Travis Kelce has finished as the TE1 or TE2 every year since 2016.
What has been less stable during Mahomes’ reign has been the running back production from the backfield. Since Kareem Hunt finished as the RB8 in 2018, the Chiefs have tried to fill the hole he left behind on the roster with little success. Hunt was cut, and in 2019, the Chiefs backfield was split between Damien Williams (RB24) and LeSean McCoy (RB47).
After drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the behest of Mahomes in the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft, most of the fantasy community thought the Chiefs had found the answer to the RB position long-term, but we were wrong. The fantasy community (I include myself in this statement) went all-in on ‘CEH’ and drafted him as the RB9 in June 2020.
CEH disappointed in his rookie year and finished as the RB25 in 2020. In 2021 he finished as the RB30, barely outscoring teammate Darrel Williams who finished as the RB34, by just 0.6 fantasy points per game. Though all the Williams are now gone from Kansas City, that doesn’t exactly mean that CEH doesn’t have any competition for touches.
Ronald Jones, RB
I can feel the eye rolls at the mere mention of Jones. In the above preamble, I basically called CEH just a dude, and here I go hyping up his new teammate who has never shown to be anything more than “just a dude” himself. If you ever listened to me on the Dynasty Trades HQ podcast, you know I am an unapologetic Jones fan, so I won’t pretend I don’t carry any bias into this discussion, and I blame most of Jones’s failures on Bruce Arians.
That said, I do recognize that Jones has a history of ball security, and pass protection issues, and if those continue in Kansas City he will quickly find himself riding the pine there as well. But Jones is also explosive in the open field and is a threat to break off a long run every time he touches the ball.
So why even bother touting Jones? Because he’s currently priced much cheaper than CEH. Jones has a startup draft value of RB50, being drafted in the 13th round of DLF mock drafts, compared to CEH who is coming off the board as the RB26 in the seventh round of the same mock drafts. Not only are you spending higher draft capital by selecting CEH in that range, but you’re also selecting him over players with higher upside, and potential trade value.
Instead of selecting CEH in that range, I would much rather draft any of James Cook, Christian Watson, George Pickens, or Jahan Dotson. The opportunity cost is decidedly lesser when drafting Jones and passing up on players like Zamir White, Kenny Golladay, and Hunter Henry.
Edwards-Helaire also carries a significantly higher cost in established leagues if you attempt to trade for him as well.
Whereas Jones can be acquired for minimal cost.
Considering the difference in cost, you would assume that CEH has been a much better, or at least a better running back in fantasy or the NFL. That assumption would be incorrect. CEH and Jones have fairly similar statistics during their careers.
Ronald Jones career stats:
Stats from Pro Football Reference.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire career stats:
Stats from Pro Football Reference.
Jones has averaged 4.5 yards per rushing attempt while Edwards-Helaire has averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. Edwards-Heliare has been a more efficient receiver averaging 7.7 yards per reception, compared to Jones 7.5. The differences in each of those averages are negligible, though Edwards-Helaire has been much more involved as a receiver averaging 3.34 targets per game compared to just 1.89 for Jones.
Both runners’ best fantasy seasons came in 2020, with Jones finishing as the RB21 (13.3 points per game) and Edwards-Helaire finishing as the RB20 (13.5). Jones and Edwards-Helaire were also fairly even in advanced efficiency metrics during the 2020 season. Edwards-Helaire finished 25th at the position with 2.61 yards created per attempt, with Jones finishing 30th with 2.38 per attempt. They also were comparable in breakaway rate: Edwards-Helaire finished with a 4.4% rate (19th) while Jones finished with a 4.1% breakaway rate (22nd).
Both running backs have failed to monopolize their backfields snap or work shares, and though you were likely aware that Jones was mothballed by the Bucs last year, the Chiefs didn’t show a ton of confidence in CEH (when healthy), sprinkling in heavy doses of Williams and Jerick McKinnon.
Taking Jones over Edwards-Helaire is simply a matter of comparison shopping. Both players have shown to be less than what many of us hoped. They play in the same Chiefs offense that is an offensive juggernaut. Only one of these players, though, is seeing an upgrade from their previous circumstances.
Where Edwards-Helaire was the anointed one, a first-round draft pick of the Chiefs’ current regime, Jones was drafted by a prior regime in Tampa Bay and saddled with a decidedly less innovative play-caller. If Jones and Edwards-Helaire had similar ADPs, I might, maybe, just maybe, take Edwards-Helaire over him, but considering his discounted price, Jones is a great addition to your roster as a sleeper.
- The DLF Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag - August 7, 2022
- DLF’s Dynasty Fantasy Football Sleeper Rankings - August 2, 2022
- 2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: Detroit Lions - August 1, 2022