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 Denver Broncos hired Nathanial Hackett to be their new head coach while trading for Russell Wilson to lead the team. This is important as a new head coach (and staff) will pair with an elite quarterback with intriguing weapons. The Broncos had to trade Noah Fant to acquire Wilson and they drafted Greg Dulcich to help replace the potential gap in the depth chart.
For Denver’s sleeper, I’ve gone with…
KJ Hamler, WR
ADP: 215.00 (1QB), 227.50 (SF)
Hamler was taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Currently in a crowded wide receiver room, his 4.32 speed makes him unique. Some people expect Hamler to play the ‘Tyler Lockett role’ for Wilson. Hamler has recently spoken in regard to playing the role for Wilson in Denver. Here is Matt Waldman speaking on this in 2020:
KJ Hamler has a little Tyler Lockett to his gm pic.twitter.com/PbxmetBH3u
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 20, 2020
It seems Hamler is suffering from the “too many mouths to feed” predicament – you can read more about the topic here. The Broncos have given Sutton and Patrick paydays, which warrants the apprehension towards Hamler. His recent ACL tear may have additional influence on ADP. For the record, I am a believer in talent over situation.
Hamler is talented and undervalued.
But I also wanted to pick out another name…
Greg Dulcich, TE
ADP: 196.67 (1QB), 217.75 (SF)
Dulcich was drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This is important as the aforementioned new head coach may be looking for ‘his guys.’ Many people faded Okwuegbunam because he was being held back behind Fant. Dulcich will likely find himself in a similar position, but we’ve seen how quickly things can change.
In college, Dulcich led the UCLA Bruins in receiving yards over the last two years. Dulcich is a deep threat often finding himself making big plays – he averaged 19.9 and 17.3 yards per catch the last two seasons. Don’t forget he is a tight end.
Hackett has favored a two-tight-end system utilizing 12 personnel. Dulcich split 50/50 snaps between inline and move tight end – giving him an advantage in finding playing time as a rookie. Individual development will be a factor too. Dulcich will need work on his blocking skills. Check out my rookie profile on him.
It is simple enough; playing time and targets will be a challenge. Am I necessarily confident Hamler or Dulcich will provide fantasy relevance every week? No. But I am fairly confident they will be important pieces of the system, resulting in spike weeks for fantasy production.
The important takeaway is these are players recommended to be rostered. It should be understood they will not be in your starting lineup. The talent is there and there should be no apprehension due to a ‘crowded’ offense. These are players who have the potential to step up under the unfortunate circumstance of injuries. Here is how the offense turned out (targets) with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater:
Hamler tore his ACL in the third week of the 2021 season. In the first three games, he was still involved in the offense despite being low on the pecking order. Remember, his speed is what separates him from the other talent.
Tim Patrick is a name I wanted to mention but does not fit the above definitions. He is being drafted within the top 175 picks.
Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson will look to change the offensive dynamic. The talent is surrounding Wilson and now it is all systems go. It is not a terrible thing to have multiple options for a quarterback, but it could be frustrating as a dynasty player. However, the ball will find talented players since targets are earned. It will be important to note routes ran too – targets per route is an important stat.
To reference the above chart, the Broncos did have two quarterbacks with different strengths. Lock has a strong arm while Bridgewater is more conservative. Wide receivers also have various roles in an offense – one strength could be a quarterback’s disadvantage. In other words, Hamler’s 4.32 speed and (a small sample size) two deep targets per game would not bode well with Bridgewater’s strengths. In 2020, Hamler had .6 deep targets per game.
Dulcich has shown the ability to make big plays in college. He does not have top-end speed like a Fant or Kyle Pitts, but he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. His speed is good enough to win versus linebackers who lack the coverage skills and speed.
A new coaching staff and scheme could change many roles within this offense. The past usage does not speak on what a wide receiver can or cannot do. Situations will change but talent does not – and I like these two players.