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 here in the Premium Content section.
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 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.
I am not sure which member of top brass I irked to be stuck with the Minnesota Vikings for the Summer Sleeper series. With an established roster seemingly devoid of major opportunity, it seems unlikely a breakout star emerges at US Bank Stadium. They do not pay me the big bucks to lament my fate, however, so I’ll at least entertain the notion of a sleeper below.
Dalvin Cook has played 15 quarters in the NFL. Granted, they were 15 excellent quarters, but he enters 2018 with ample question marks following season-ending surgery in 2017. Latavius Murray may have been responsible for ushering in the term ‘JAG’, and gone of course is fantasy darling Jerick McKinnon. There is a need for backfield depth.
All of this is to say there is more opportunity than meets the eye in this backfield. Even if Dalvin Cook becomes the all-purpose dynamo the Vikings hoped he would be when they traded up in the 2017 Draft, there is opportunity for another back to emerge. Who could this be?
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MIKE BOONE, RB
Category: Super Deep Sleeper
I’d be spinning a yarn if I said I knew much about Mike Boone prior to him signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. After a nondescript collegiate career, there was little reason to pay much mind to the Florida native. Before we delve much deeper, a glance at his college numbers, courtesy of sports-reference.com:
There is not much to grab onto here. A promising start to his career was quickly negated by a sluggish finish. Perhaps most concerning is he was upstaged by both sophomore Gerrid Doaks and true freshman Michael Warren during the 2017 season. While situational usage has to be taken into account, both of the aforementioned names were far more efficient with their touches.
The most encouraging stat seen above is the receiving output. Boone was active in the passing game during his final three seasons and contributing in the passing game is essential if he is to earn any sort of opportunity.
The most intriguing aspect of Boone’s profile is his athleticism. He crushed his Pro Day, most notably jumping 42 inches and posting an 11-7 broad jump. Those are numbers which speak to high-end athleticism. The Vikings had success molding the aforementioned McKinnon. He went from a premier athlete with limited experience at running back to productive pro in little time. While draft pedigree and opportunity were far more favorable to McKinnon, the hope is Boone can at least provide a bit of the same spark.
New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was effective in utilizing multiple backs during his stay in Philadelphia, including UDFA Corey Clement. Clement was a far more accomplished collegian and the Eagles have quickly become one of the NFL’s model franchises, but there is at least some evidence the Vikings head man on offense is unafraid to work with unheralded assets who can carve out their own niche.
Clement surprisingly thrived as a receiver despite limited exposure at Wisconsin. We have a background of receiving production from Boone and he was recruited by many programs as a wide receiver; if he can master the nuances of DeFilippo’s scheme, he’s a far better fit for third downs than Latavius Murray. Only fellow UDFA Roc Thomas and veteran Mack Brown stand in the way of Boone making this roster.
The fantasy graveyard is littered with elite athletes who just could not cut it at the NFL level for a myriad of reasons. When you’re scrolling to the last page of your rankings, however, you want something to catch your eye, and Boone’s athleticism does so. His jump numbers are a testament to his explosion, though he fails to translate this to the football field all too often. The key for his potential ascent will be refining his running skills. A lack of aggressiveness and vision can make him appear sluggish in-between the tackles.
There are far more reasons Boone will not succeed than will. He is the fringiest of fringe NFL players and could very well be sent home for good on the second day of camp. But you did not come here to read about the wares of Stefon Diggs. This is about identifying players to monitor throughout camp to see if they can turn a minimal investment into something of value. When perusing the Vikings roster, few fit the bill as well as Boone.
Track the backfield situation through camp. If Boone earns a roster spot, odds are he’s found a way to better utilize his athletic traits on the football field. In a league where Rob Kelley and Orleans Darkwa can have temporary value, as Kevin Garnett would say, anything is possible.