2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: Dallas Cowboys

Bruce Matson

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 Dallas Cowboys finished the 2021 regular season with a 12-5 record. They experienced an early exit when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 23-17. There were big changes to the wide receiver corps in the off-season. Amari Cooper was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a pack of peanuts. Cedrick Wilson, who stepped up big in a few games last season, is now with the Miami Dolphins.

Turnover at the wide receiver position is going to create some opportunities for some other players on the team. There are a few dark horses on the back-end of the roster who could surprise us during the season. However, there is one veteran wide receiver who is looking to turn things around with his career.

James Washington, WR

Category: Deep Sleeper

Let’s rewind to Washington’s collegiate profile. Even though he is a veteran in the league and what he did in college might not correlate anymore to his future production, it’s very important to get a sense of who Washington is before we look at his NFL career. We aren’t going to hype what he did five years ago but use it as a starting point.

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Courtesy of Sports Reference.

Washington posted a very decorative college career at Oklahoma State. He reeled off three straight 1,000-yard seasons before entering the NFL. The four-year standout broke out at age 18 and averaged 19.8 yards per reception in his career. He also posted 21 games of over 100 yards or more. Don’t forget he won the Biletnikoff Award and was a Consensus All-American during his senior year.

Going through the draft process, Washington was pegged as a deep threat who had an 18.4 average depth of target during his senior season. He lined up in the slot on just 7.1 percent of his snaps and did most of his damage on the outside.

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Courtesy of DLF’s Player Gamelog App.

We saw the Steelers wanting to use him in a similar light during his four-year tenure in Pittsburgh. In 60 games where he was targeted just 217 times, he had a 14.2 average depth of target. It’s safe to label him a bust at this point in his career. Since 2018 he has caught 114 passes for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns, and offered just two WR1 performances in his career.

Before we dig into how he can succeed with the Dallas Cowboys, I want to note that it’s not normal for a player to bust for four consecutive years and then randomly become a top-tier fantasy asset with their new team. This needs to be prefaced just in case you get too excited as we build the storyline for Washington’s 2022 campaign.

The Dallas Cowboys depth chart is very favorable for Washington. CeeDee Lamb will be the team’s alpha wide receiver and will see the largest share of the passing targets. Michael Gallup who is the other veteran receiver on the roster is coming back from a knee injury and is expected to have a slow start to the season. The team spent a third-round pick on Jalen Tolbert. The Cowboys are expecting big things from their rookie wide receiver from South Alabama, but who knows when he starts being a key part of the offense. With that being said, the door is wide open for Washington to earn a sizable snap share early in the season.

Last season, Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson combined for 36 targets of 20 yards or more. Cooper is now with the Cleveland Browns and Wilson is with the Miami Dolphins. Gallup has averaged a 13.2 average depth of target during his four-year career. However, we do not know when he’s ready to resume with a full workload.

During his time at Oklahoma State, Washington was one of the best deep threats in college football. Even though he wasn’t productive in Pittsburgh they tried to use him as a field-stretcher. Dallas is more than likely going to ask him to run many vertical routes when he’s on the field. This could benefit dynasty gamers because if he’s seeing a large enough snap share and is running deep routes often in games, there are going to be instances where the splash plays will come his way. His fantasy upside could be a volatile deep ball asset on many dynasty rosters. This could also make him a trendy DFS play in plus-matchup situations.

With teams like the Buccaneers, Bengals, Rams, and the Packers on the schedule, the Cowboys are going to be competing in tighter game scripts in 2022. The offense will need to rely more on the passing game and the extra volume could allow Washington to have a few good performances on the season.

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Courtesy of DLF’s ADP Over Time App.

His dynasty value makes him a deep sleeper. Nobody is spending significant draft capital to see if he can turn his career around. According to DLF’s June ADP, he is falling to the later rounds of startup drafts with a 231.50 average draft position and is being drafted as the WR105. Considering his price tag, he’s a zero-risk asset in startup drafts. Once you get to a near-free price point, the risk dissipates since there’s no sunk cost involved.

When you look through the DLF Trade Finder you catch Washington being routinely traded for fourth and fifth-round rookie picks. In most cases, he is being traded as an ancillary piece in a much larger trade. The best value would be getting him as a throw-in piece in a blockbuster deal. As the other manager if they can add him to the deal to get it done. His price is so low it could happen in some cases.

Trading in dynasty is the Salvador Dali painting in fantasy: what works for you won’t work for the other person who is trying to get the same deal. In these situations, it is best to set your limits while being creative.

Another thing that his price tag indicates is that expectations are low. There might be some people tagging him as a trendy sleeper, but nobody is drafting him with the hopes he will develop into a WR1. Washington is a late-round stash who has some potential.

What makes him a deep sleeper is his situation. He is on one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. The Cowboys averaged 24.5 seconds between plays last season. They also have the third-most 43 pass plays per game in 2021. With the schedule being more promising for explosive game scripts, we should see the offense try to push it downfield as much or more this season.

Cheap third and fourth options in the passing game on offenses who are playing in explosive and efficient offenses are players we want to look at late in drafts in both dynasty and redraft. There will be instances where these players will get the opportunity to produce in the right matchups.

Washington is probably going to be the most talked-about deep sleeper this off-season. The Cowboys’ ambiguous current wide receiver depth is going to be very enticing for fantasy gamers. There’s a chance we see a slight spike in value in the next few weeks if we receive a few favorable news blurbs from beat writers saying he’s looking good or is in line to see a large role in the offense.

I think of him as a free speculative asset. There’s no risk here considering you don’t have to pay much to get him in dynasty. The odds of him blowing up is highly unlikely, but he could be a good guy to have at the end of your bench. I like him best in best ball leagues because if he’s seeing a favorable share of the snaps, then he’s going to have a couple of big games. It’s just going to be impossible to predict which games he blows up the box score. These types of players are good to have because you can throw them in your flex as a gamble once attrition hits your team.

bruce matson
2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: Dallas Cowboys