I firmly believe it is the dream of every dynasty fantasy owner to have a handful of sleepers on their roster that lead to the following thoughts:
“Yeah, I took a flyer on him in the 7th round, I’m awesome.”
“I KNEW he would be legit, I can’t believe I snagged him so late.”
“Hahahahaha, I’m awesome. I won the lottery with that pick.”
You get the point. There is a lot of self-gratification in the dynasty world, and I’m one of the biggest victims of self-promotion in my leagues. Every year I like to remind my league-mates of all my glorious sleeper picks (like Mike Wallace with the #62 pick in 2009, Jordy Nelson at #58 in 2011 and Josh Gordon at #58 in 2012). Of course, they remind me of every Mike Hart, Johnny White and Ramses Barden whiffs I’ve made, but that’s the beauty of late round lottery tickets. The sting of failure is a roster cut and a shoulder shrug. The value of hitting it big however, probably can’t be quantified. All three of my ‘hits’ are no longer on my roster. I immediately traded for max value after their value soared. Anytime I can trade a 5th-7th round pick for stable talent and future picks, I would move furniture to accept that offer.
Before I get started on my late round sleepers, I need to make one thing clear. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every team. If you are in the rebuilding phase, you need to grab players that are going to contribute immediately. If you have Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas & Roddy White as your top 3 wide receivers, you can probably afford to swing for a homerun late that will need a year or two to develop.
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Also, I am an analytic nut. I have used Football Outsiders Speed Score (weight x 200 / 40 time ^ 4), developed my own Agility Score (combines weight plus 10yd-split time, 3-Cone & Shuttle times), and combined them with a Catch Radius Score (height, 40, 3-Cone, Shuttle, Vertical, Broad, Arm Length and Hand size) to get my ‘RB Score’ and ‘WR Score’. This isn’t a dissertation on advanced analytics in the NFL but you need a quick understanding of my scores to make sense of my reasoning below on certain players.
The following list is players drafted after the first 125 picks in the NFL, or signed as an undrafted free agent.
1. Lorenzo Taliaferro – Coastal Carolina – Baltimore Ravens #138
Lorenzo is a 6’0” 230 lbs. back who doesn’t show fantastic straight line speed by barely cracking 4.60 with his 40 time. His speed score is still a very respectable 104.09. Quickness is where Taliaferro shines. For being 230 lbs., he posted the best Agility Score among running backs, 282.62. He’s my 7th rated back and landed in what could be a very friendly environment depending on the Ray Rice legal issues. Rice could also be at the beginning of the horizon on his career.
2. Tyler Gaffney – Stanford – Carolina Panthers #204
Gaffney tops my RB Score with 233.41. He isn’t outstanding in any one metric, but had solid contributions from all the measurable attributes. I honestly couldn’t believe he fell to the 6th round. He’s a one-cut runner who is shifty enough to get outside, but won’t make anyone miss in the second level. It’s truly unfortunate he landed in running back purgatory known as the Carolina Panthers. The DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart contracts are so ridiculous it’s not even fun to bash on the Panthers any more. Gaffney is the perfect example of someone who will have to wait, and probably wait some more before given a decent chance to succeed.
3. Stephen Houston – Indiana – New England Patriots UDFA
The later your draft, the harder and harder it will be to not have to reach for Houston. He has been questioned about his heart and desire and lacking some ‘oomph’ on his runs (https://draftbreakdown.com/video/stephen-houston-vs-bowling-green-2013/). Watch the cuts of his game vs. Bowling Green. There are multiple goal-line stuffs and casually running out of bounds instead of lowering his pads and fighting for extra yards. However, I think Belichick revels in ‘fixing’ talented players. I also think he’s better than NE’s 4th round pick, James White.
4. David Fluellen – Toledo – Philadelphia Eagles UDFA
I think landing spot here is more important than anything. Fluellen scores a 225.94 in my rankings which cracked the top 10. The depth chart will be a big hill to climb. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles alone won’t be beat out for a roster spot. The Eagles also kept two late round/UDFA from last year in Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker. I think the latter two could be interchanged with Fluellen no problem. My favorite piece of Fluellen knowledge is his ability to catch out of the backfield. He totaled 59 receptions in his Junior and Senior years. Those numbers are awesome and I think he’ll compete well for that 3rd spot on the depth chart.
Honorable Mentions: Lache Seastrunk – Washington Redskins #186; James Wilder Jr. – Cincinnati Bengals UDFA; Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns UDFA; Senorise Perry – Chicago Bears UDFA; Damien Williams – Miami Dolphins UDFA
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
1. Jeff Janis WR – Saginaw Valley – Green Bay Packers #236
Janis is a favorite ‘sleeper’ of a lot of experts, including me. He’s number one in my WR Score, and number one in my ‘Weapon Score’. He is an analyst’s dream. Here are his ranks in 40 Time, 10 Split, 3 Cone, Shuttle, Arms, Vert, Broad, Hand Size: 12, 2, 3, 6, 23, 15, 19 and…..51. He ranks among the best in every category minus his hand size, which is 9 inches. He shows huge explosion with his 1.47 10-yard split time and 123” broad jump distance. Hand size and lower competition at Saginaw Valley are going to be his biggest hurdles. All the other numbers say massive ceiling. He’s another guy who could start racing up draft boards as we get closer to the season.
2. Quincy Enunwa WR – Nebraska – New York Jets #209
Stephen Hill. That’s who Enunwa is going to get a lot of comparisons to in the coming months. The Jets badly need WR help and Enunwa could be the guy. New York selected two wide receivers in front of him; Jalen Saunders from Oklahoma with #104 and Shaq Evans from UCLA #115 overall. I think Saunders was a bit of a reach and Evans just missed my cutoff, or he could have been on this list. The competition is wide open and Quincy could surprise a lot of people with his physical skills.
3. Bennie Fowler WR – Michigan St. – Denver Broncos UDFA
Fowler scored the highest Speed Score among wide receivers. He ran a 4.35 40 at 217 lbs. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker are both free agents after the 2015 season. Cody Latimer was a 2nd round pick and Emmanuel Sanders just signed through 2017. Fowler is truly a stash and see pick. Sanders rarely stays healthy enough to play every game and even two years as the 5th receiver for a Peyton Manning team is better than, well, just about every other QB in the league. Even if Fowler spends 2014 on the practice squad and 2015 as roster depth, he could become a popular ‘3rd year WR’ breakout conversation topic. Or, he could stay with Denver and be the next Rod Smith?
4. Blake Annen TE – Cincinnati – Philadelphia Eagles UDFA
No, I’m not an Eagles fan. But, I am a fan of their sneaky undrafted rookie signings. Annen can flat out move. He’s a 6’4”, 247 lb. monster who ran a 4.41 40. Read that again. He’s faster than A LOT of wide receivers who were drafted. He’s not a great blocker and will need to figure out the route tree to succeed. As far as lottery tickets go, this is a very low-risk, high-reward signing.
5. Robert Herron WR – Wyoming – Tampa Bay Buccaneers #185
If Annen can move, Herron can flat out fly. He may not even be a ‘stash’ player. Projected as a slot receiver, he’ll probably have to contribute on special teams to solidify a roster spot. He’ll also need to bulk up a little to avoid the ‘small’ and ‘durability concern’ tags. He could be a slot nightmare for Tampa opponents worrying about Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the outside. I’m getting excited just thinking about that last sentence. Oh yeah, here’s his competition for WR3: Skye Dawson, Russell Shepard, Eric Page, Louis Murphy, Tommy Streeter and Lavelle Hawkins. Run. Robert. Run.
Honorable Mentions: Arthur Lynch TE – Miami Dolphins #155; Michael Campanaro – Baltimore Ravens #218; Geraldo Boldwijn – Atlanta Falcons UDFA; Colt Lyeria – Green Bay Packers UDFA; Torrence Allen – San Diego Chargers UDFA
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