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.
In year two following the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots took one step closer towards establishing an offensive identity. In 2020, the quarterbacks barely broke 3,000 yards combined and accounted for more interceptions than aerial scores, instead relying on a ground game highlighted by Cam Newton’s 12 rushing touchdowns. In 2021, first-round rookie pick Mac Jones completed over two-thirds of his passes at a crisp 7.3 YPA, with a plus touchdown to interception ratio. Though he wasn’t truly cut loose with only the 14th most passing attempts, it was a fine acquittal for the former Crimson Tide product as New England again shifted to an offense, while still balanced, that relied more on the pass.
Given the burgeoning passing attack, it seems reasonable to select a potential recipient as the 2022 Patriot sleeper. And while he might be a familiar name, he’s unfamiliar with the current ADP, not being selected by a single mock drafter across six drafts. As such, this year’s Patriots has earned himself a classification as a Super Deep Sleeper!
Nelson Agholor, WR
Category: Super Deep Sleeper
Remember, context is important here. We’re not defining a “sleeper” by how highly someone was drafted, or how well-known they are. Were that the case, Agholor would not be the focus of this article. However, per the preamble above, Agholor isn’t being rostered by any teams participating in the DLF mock drafts, and it’s within this space I’ll argue that he at least joins a modicum of consideration. With a hat tip to my former podcast partner Karl Safchick, well-known veterans can be sleepers too (looking at you, Vernon Davis!).
When it comes to the current ADP, it’s hard to make much of a case for Agholor’s conclusion. Despite being signed to a reasonable two-year, $22 million contract prior to last season, he finished fourth on the team in targets and yards, and fifth in receptions. He also struggled for efficiency, only managing to corral 57.8% of his looks at just 7.4 YPT. While an argument can be made that it was his first year in the system, teammate Kendrick Bourne didn’t seem to have the same issues with a 78.6% catch rate at a significantly more robust 11.4 YPT (side note: Bourne makes for a decent quasi-sleeper, but with an ADP of 157 he doesn’t qualify for this space).
Additionally, New England made some significant moves in the off-season, trading for former Dolphin DeVante Parker and selecting rookie Tyquan Thornton out of Baylor in the second round of the NFL Draft. A crowded receiving corps with Agholor, Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers became even more so. So with all the seemingly negative news for Agholor, what makes him worth watching?
To start, Agholor received his handsome contract immediately after a season with the Raiders where functioned in a new role compared to his prior five years with the Eagles, as a true field stretching entity. To that point, he compiled nearly 900 yards with only 27% of his yards coming after the catch. He also had 15 20+ yards plays, which was only one fewer than star Darren Waller despite the tight end accruing 63 additional targets. Lastly, he scored the ball at a higher rate than in any other season, which once again could make rational minds wonder if he was simply miscast in the City of Brotherly Love.
Obviously this didn’t continue in 2021, but to be clear while New England threw the ball more than they did the year prior, they didn’t exactly “let Mac cook.” Discounting the combined 25 targets by N’Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski, Bourne was the only player who averaged over 13.0 YPR, but here again the devil is in the details – of Bourne’s 800 receiving yards, 385 of them (48.1%) came after the catch, asserting that he isn’t really the downfield option he may appear at first glance.
Given this notable absence of a field-stretcher, coupled with an improved Jones who has taken the off-season by storm working hard and gaining strength, it’s not too illogical a leap to suggest that 1) there could be value in this role, and 2) Agholor could be the primary beneficiary. Continuing, and while noting this is not going to be a defense of either Joe Judge or Matt Patricia, the fact is there are new eyes performing new evaluations on players like Agholor who may have been square pegs attempting to fit into round holes. While noting pad-less workouts should be taken with a glacier of salt, the duo of Jones and Agholor sure seem to be adding fuel to the fire of the potential long-ball breakout for 2022.
An argument could be made that this is the exact reason the Pats chose Thornton in the second round, given his 4.28-second 40-yard dash and 15.7 collegiate YPR. However, New England hasn’t had a rookie wide receiver eclipse 500 yards since Aaron Dobson in 2013. While it’s something of a lazy analysis to assert that the past is purely predictive of the future, it’s a notable trend nonetheless given the reasonable draft capital they’ve sunk into the position in recent years.
A more pressing hurdle to clear is the addition of Parker, who seems likely to join Bourne and Meyers in three-WR sets. Parker’s brittleness, while perhaps overstated, is nonetheless notable with only one completely healthy season in 2019, and nine missed games over the past two seasons. Like what perhaps many say about Agholor, it’s also reasonable to wonder if Parker was something of a one-year wonder, with only one year above 800 yards. Regardless of how you choose to view him, he’s not an insurmountable hurdle.
I’m a big fan of the phrase “if X then Y” when it comes to assessing the likelihood of a given event occurring. For this particular scenario with Agholor, it might be like “if A + B + C +………then Z,” but much like Lloyd Christmas I’m trying to tell you there’s a chance. With an improving offense that perhaps utilizes his skillset in what might be its best form, Agholor could surprise with some sporadic fantasy value in 2022.
- 2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: New England Patriots - July 31, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Buy, Sell and Hold: NFC North - July 20, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Buy, Sell and Hold: NFC East - July 11, 2022