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 Detroit Lions are another team in the process of rebuilding/reloading their offense, especially at the wide receiver position. Last year they added Amon-Ra St. Brown, in this past NFL Draft they selected Jameson Williams, and they also signed DJ Chark in free agency. They still need to find their quarterback of the future, as Jared Goff is simply not a franchise quarterback, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Looking at the rest of the Lions’ offense, there really aren’t (m)any inspiring choices when looking for a sleeper. I guess that’s to be expected from an attack that averaged the 11th-fewest yards per game in the NFL last year. They do have a ton of wide receivers who could fall into the sleeper category including Josh Reynolds, Quintez Cephus, and Kalif Raymond, but there’s very little to differentiate any of those players from one another so if I selected one, it would be more of a guess than anything else. And you don’t subscribe to DLF for guesses, you want well-reasoned reasoning. Instead, I’m going with an old, not very sexy, reliable sleeper…
Jamaal Williams, RB
With an ADP of RB62, Williams is firmly in sleeper range, even if his 2021 season doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. What you really hope for when stashing a running back is that they will be given an opportunity to lead a backfield at some point during the season. Williams actually had that opportunity last year, even if for just two games.
Last year, when he was given the chance at the Lions backfield without D’Andre Swift, he was less than great, and actually scored fewer fantasy points, seeing a decrease in targets and rushing touchdowns.
But when betting on a backup running back, you want one who is promised volume in place of the starter, and Williams saw volume. After averaging 13.1 opportunities (rushing attempts + targets) in the 11 games he shared the field with Swift, Williams saw that number increase to 18.5 per game in two games without Swift. And while his raw counting stats may have been lacking, his advanced efficiency stats point to perhaps the issue lying more with the Lions offense as a whole instead of Williams specifically.
Williams ranked ninth last year in Juke Rate, compared to 16th for Swift. Williams was also very good at creating yards, ranking 11th in the league with 3.41 yards created per attempt, even if Swift was better, ranking third with 4.07 yards created per attempt.
It should be noted that Williams’ 2021 season was an outlier based on his past performance. As I noted in the 2021 DLF Dynasty Draft Guide (make sure you give the guide a read if you haven’t already, there is some great evergreen content in there)…
“Depending on where you look up your stats, Williams has played between 60 and 64 career games, including the playoffs. He’s had at least ten opportunities (rushing attempts + targets) in 31 games (roughly half of his career games played) and has averaged 13.34 in those contests – not too shabby.
“Where things get really fun is when you look at what Williams does when given more of a bell cow role. He has 17 career games in which he’s had at least 15 opportunities and has averaged 17.69 points per game in those contests. It’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but 17.69 fantasy points would have been good enough to finish as the RB8 in 2020.”
If Swift were to miss any time again in 2022, as he did in 2020 and 2021, Williams is still poised to take over the starter role in Detroit, with Jemar Jefferson and Craig Reynolds as his only real competition, and they only combined for 60 rushing attempts in 2021. With the improvements made to the wide receiver room, the Lions offense should be better in 2022, and improve upon their 2.1 offensive touchdowns per game, which ranked 22nd in the league last year. Oftentimes running backs are the beneficiary of improved offenses as their chance for touchdowns will increase.
Williams 2021 season has presented a buy low (okay buy lower than usual) opportunity, In startup drafts, his ADP of RB62 is almost the worst of his entire career.
And his trade value basically screams throw-in.
When constructing a roster, you want to lean heavily towards running back at the back end. These are the players who can be drafted/acquired cheaply and could eventually provide outsized production versus their cost. Compared to wide receivers in this same range, the certainty backup running backs provide is immeasurable.
Because of the nature of the positions, you will never know when you can start a wide receiver in this range, but will always know when you can start a running back in this range (when the starter is out). Backup running backs generally absorb the full workload of the starter when the starter goes down, which isn’t true at the wide receiver position.
While there is a chance that Cephus, Raymond, or even Reynolds might throw up a 20-point week at some point during the season, they’ll likely do it while on your bench. You’ll then inevitably start them the following week and they’ll give you a donut. Williams might not be sexy, but he is the type of player who is perfect as a sleeper.
- The DLF Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag - September 8, 2022
- DLF’s Dynasty Fantasy Football Sleeper Rankings - September 4, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Stock Report: Dameon Pierce and Breece Hall - September 2, 2022