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 Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known as a team that scouts, drafts, and grooms high-end wide receivers, and they just added a new prospect to their upcoming arsenal.
George Pickens could wind up being one of the best values of the 2022 draft class, and very well could be a sleeper value for the 2022 season in dynasty fantasy leagues. The key question will be: who will be the quarterback for the team and how will the offense perform as they attempt to replace Ben Roethlisberger? (Yes, the argument is there that given his last few years of production, replacing him will not be very difficult.)
We have a pretty good idea of the current values of Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson. Who knows what we will get out of Chase Claypool and Pat Freiermuth. The key question will be: can Pickens pay off as a very cheap sleeper pick in 2022?
George Pickens, WR PIT
Statistics taken from Pro Football Reference.
Let’s not forget, at one point Pickens was projected to be THE WR1 of the 2022 draft class. He is an absolute stud when healthy.
sometimes the highlights are absolutely needed to remind you just how fucking good a player is when you haven't seen em do work in some time
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) February 6, 2022
He has a wide catch radius, high-end body control, alpha-type physicality, and can win at every level of the field. The Steelers got a steal with how far he fell in the draft, likely due to his limited production in college and returning from an ACL tear. Let’s also not forget that he returned in under eight months, well below the norm of 9.5-10 months for typical production return to prior level of function.
While he did not produce at a high level compared to some of the other elite prospects, it was fairly easy to see how Pickens wins on film. He arguably has some of the best hands and body control of the entire draft class. Will the Steelers strike gold yet again at the wide receiver position?
Pickens was picked at 52nd overall, gaining a contract of four years – roughly $6.7 million – through 2025. We can argue that he is locked in to a fairly secure spot on the depth chart given his overall draft capital status, but we have seen highly drafted players bust and fade out of a team’s favor. Time will tell on Pickens, but so far he has everything on his side for a positive fantasy outlook.
Depth Chart and Challenges
Currently, Pickens sits behind Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool for the WR3 role. He does need to battle with fellow rookie Calvin Austin as well as cheaply signed veteran Miles Boykin, so on paper he should have the WR3 role locked up. This means that he should see the field a decent amount in year one, although I could see the team splitting snaps between Pickens and Austin in attempts to utilize Austin’s blazing speed on offense.
The true challenge will be if he can, in fact, beat out Boykin and Austin, as well as if the team’s current quarterback situation can even sustain a fourth option on offense for fantasy. Most likely, barring any injuries or trading away star players, Pickens may wind up being a better best ball player than a weekly start player for 2022 fantasy teams. However, he is certainly worth stashing in deep leagues and waiting on a change in situation for him.
According to DLF ADP, Pickens is currently going as the WR50 around pick 98 overall, although for 2022 in best ball leagues, he has been going much later, around 170th overall and in the 70s for his position ADP.
As much as Steeler fans would dislike this scenario, there is the possibility that the team struggles early on with Mitchell Trubisky at the helm, turns the team over to rookie Kenny Pickett, and decides to trade star wide receiver Diontae Johnson to a contender for a very expensive haul. In this scenario, Pickens would certainly hold a ton of mid-season to end-of-season value. While most offenses do not produce at high-end capacity with a rookie quarterback at the helm, Pickens could certainly slot in as the team’s WR1 (to much dismay to all Chase Claypool stans out there… sorry, not sorry).