Super-deep sleepers to watch
It's time to go deep. Super-deep.
Outside of deeper dynasty leagues, it's doubtful that any of the names I'm about to mention should be drafted. Instead, in redraft or shallow keeper leagues, these are names to file away.
Perhaps it'll take an injury to activate them. Maybe they'll become ready to assert themselves over a weak starter. But when a few of these names finally get bandied about by the mainstream public once the regular season begins, you'll remember them, and be ready to pounce.
Some will undoubtedly amount to nothing. I mean, I'm listing third- and fourth-stringers here. But if history is a guide, some of these men will turn into players, either this year or in the near future. Here's the list of all the people I've picked for this column. Many were duds, but some worked out swimmingly:
2008: Anthony Alridge, David Clowney, Will Franklin, Roy Hall, Tim Hightower, Jason Hill, Jalen Parmele, Antonio Pittman, Marcus Thomas, Mike Sims-Walker
Let's get to this year's edition of my Super-Deep Sleeper list:
Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans: The Texans shook up their backfield depth chart last week, releasing Andre Brown and Dennis Johnson and signing Ronnie Brown. Jonathan Grimes, who's gotten a cup of coffee with Houston in each of the past two seasons, looks like the leading candidate to back up Arian Foster, so at this point he's probably not a deep enough name for this list. Blue fills the bill. He was a sixth-rounder this May after failing to make a huge dent at LSU; he scored seven TDs on 78 carries as a sophomore but tore an ACL in '12 and backed up Jeremy Hill last year. At 6-foot-2 and 222 pounds, Blue isn't a burner, but he's explosive in space and shows good vision. I consider Foster a huge risk coming off back surgery. At the moment the assumption is that Grimes would be the next man in, but Blue could find himself in the mix.
Brandon Bostick, TE, Green Bay Packers: Bostick was last seen tweaking an ankle in the Pack's preseason game Aug. 16, and it's possible he won't be ready for Week 1, but the injury isn't expected to be long term. We all know Green Bay would love to find a passing-game weapon at the TE position, and of all their options -- Andrew Quarless and rookie Richard Rodgers among them -- Bostick is the freak athlete. Of course, he's also got seven career regular-season catches and is no shoo-in to start, so keep your expectations in check. But if anyone is going to step ahead of the others and become what Jermichael Finley used to be for Aaron Rodgers, I think it's Bostick.
John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Brown, a standout at Division II Pittsburg State, was a surprise third-rounder in this spring's draft. The diminutive (5-11, 179 pounds) Brown has 4.34 wheels and is a superior return man, so I assumed he'd be limited to special teams in 2014. But not so fast, my friend. Brown has reportedly lit up Cardinals camp, leading to speculation that he could eventually surpass Ted Ginn Jr. as the team's No. 3 WR. Of course, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are the current co-sheriffs in Arizona, and it would take an injury to one of them for anyone else to become a fantasy factor. But when you think of Brown, think T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson. He's potentially that explosive.
Dontrelle Inman, WR, San Diego Chargers: Bear with me here. Inman is a two-year CFL veteran with size (6-3, 205 pounds) who popped on a 70-yard TD against the Dallas Cowboys early in the preseason. Obviously, we shouldn't get excited about what happens in the third quarter of games that don't count. What I'm interested in here is the Chargers' wideout depth chart. Keenan Allen is solid, but do we really expect Malcom Floyd to stay healthy? Vincent Brown has a calf injury and hasn't done much in camp. Eddie Royal is a slot machine. It wouldn't be a shock if San Diego -- as happened last year -- finds itself in need of warm bodies out wide. Inman might not even make the roster, but if he does, maybe he becomes a factor by November.
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Jeff Janis, WR, Packers: Here's another case where a wideout will need an injury to sniff fantasy relevance. You may have heard of the lead WRs in Green Bay, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. But neither Jarrett Boykin nor Davante Adams has lit up Packers camp, while Janis -- a crazy athlete from Saginaw Valley State -- has opened eyes. His TD catch in Saturday's preseason game is just the tip of the iceberg: Janis has been a highlight machine throughout camp. No, he won't be the team's No. 3 man in Week 1. But don't sleep on the possibility that he fills in if and when someone gets hurt.
Charles Johnson, WR, Cleveland Browns: You may have heard that the Browns are looking for wideouts. The casting call in Cleveland has extended to Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson, Anthony Armstrong, Marlon Moore and Johnson, an intriguing size/speed guy whom the Packers drafted in the seventh round in '13. He was released by the Pack and signed by the Browns, who discovered that Johnson had an undetected torn ACL. Now healthy again, he doesn't have an intimidating depth-chart climb ahead, and runs a 4.38 40 at 6-2 and 215 pounds. Is he Josh Gordon? Of course not. But he's the best athlete the Browns have at the position.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Nobody is wishing harm on Adrian Peterson. Heck, I'm not even sure that McKinnon, a third-round pick this spring, is AP's handcuff. (Matt Asiata is also in the mix.) But I know this: McKinnon is a great athlete. A top combine performer in the 40, broad jump, vertical jump, bench press and the shuttle drills, McKinnon has raw skill for days. What he doesn't have, however, is any pass-blocking experience, and that could limit his usefulness in '14. But if you get word that the Vikings are thinking of giving McKinnon some run, take notice. It could be a good sign.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Yeah, it was a pretty good year to draft wideouts. Moncrief was the 14th WR taken in May, but he's the kind of kid who could someday be an NFL team's clear No. 1. Prototypically big and fast, Moncrief's hands were up and down at Ole Miss and he's no lock to figure things out in year one, but apparently he's already bypassed Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen on the Colts' depth chart. That leaves him behind T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne coming off a torn ACL and the mercurial Hakeem Nicks. It probably won't pop for Moncrief in '14, but if it does, it might pop big.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys: I was down on Randle after the '13 draft, and I'm not sold on his talent now, but his situation is intriguing. The Cowboys have one of the league's best offensive lines, and one of the league's least-durable starting backs. Randle isn't DeMarco Murray's pure handcuff, because Lance Dunbar is also in the mix. But Dunbar is four inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Randle, and has also proved fragile in his brief pro career. If Murray misses time, could Randle assume a between-the-tackles starting role? I think he could, and behind that line, that would be worth something in fantasy. Dunbar is already draftable in PPR leagues as a third-down receiving back. Randle should be undrafted, but watched, assuming he stays ahead of Ryan Williams throughout August.
Damien Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins: Williams went undrafted in May after getting booted from the Oklahoma Sooners for multiple team violations. But he's big (a thick, squat 222 pounds), fast (4.45 wheels) and showed quick feet during his two collegiate seasons. Clearly, he's an off-field risk, but on the field he's significantly more talented than many of the options on the Dolphins' cluttered depth chart. In the past I've mentioned Mike Gillislee and even the eventually released Jonas Gray as possible deep sleepers in Miami, but Williams outdoes them all. Lamar Miller is a flag player of mine, but I'm not a Knowshon Moreno believer, and it would be no shock if Daniel Thomas gets released. Remember: If Moreno's knee issues recur, Williams could be a legit thumping complement to Miller.
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