Sleeper and breakout columns are common topics at this point of the summer in the lead-up to fantasy football season, yet it seems that the same names are recycled on every site. This season, common favorites include Ty Montgomery (who has seen his ADP skyrocket from the 10th to 5th round since January) and Tevin Coleman. This article will attempt to pick deep sleepers who are garnering far less attention this summer but could have a similar impact on fantasy teams with much less of an investment required on draft day.
DeAndre Washington: Raiders – 59th RB 13.11 ADP
DeAndre Washington didn’t have a large role in the Raiders’ offense last season thanks to Latavius Murray’s dominant workload. Of course, Murray moved onto the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, but he has been replaced by Marshawn Lynch who enters the picture as the assumed number one running back. However, how long or how much of that role he actually assumes and maintains throughout the season is up for debate.
As nearly everyone is aware, Lynch retired after the 2015 season which makes expectations that he remains on the field with a full workload optimistic at best. In fact, the decline in Lynch’s workload had already begun in years leading up to his retirement. For example, in 2013, Lynch averaged 18.8 carries per game. That number dipped to 17.5 in 2014, and down to 15.85 in 2015. Give his year hiatus combined with this previous drop in workload and it’s difficult to imagine that he will average more than 12 to 13 carries per game. Furthermore, while Lynch emerged somewhat as a receiver in his last few seasons with the Seahawks, it is unlikely that he will take on a large role in that regard this season given the other options in the Raiders’ backfield.
Thus, even if Lynch does manage to stay healthy and remain the Raiders’ starter for the entire season, it seems likely that another Raider running back will have a chance to emerge with a relatively significant workload. In this regard, the Raiders have two options that include Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, both of whom are entering their second year in the league.
While Richard may have been slightly more efficient last season, the long-term outlook favors Washington. Workout metrics remain relevant for the pair due to their youth. Washington is the clear winner as his metrics compare favorably to Devonta Freeman according to playerprofiler.com, while Jalen Richard fails to impress with any of his metrics. While all indications suggest there is still a competition between Richard and Washington, I’m willing to bet on Washington thanks to his success last season and his promising metrics when he entered the league.
Devontae Booker: Broncos – 62nd RB 14.01 ADP
Devontae Booker led the Broncos in rushing attempts last season, but failed to live up to the hype that he attracted throughout the season. In fact, he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and only found the end zone four times in his 174 carries. However, he is likely to continue to receive a significant workload again this season, as C.J. Anderson has consistently proven he is unable to be the workhorse back for the Broncos (whether due to skill or injury) based on the fact that his career-high for carries in a season is just 179. While the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles in the offseason, he has also struggled with injury and is clearly in the downturn of his career.
On the other hand, Booker showed in a limited sample that he is capable of carrying his rookie season, as in a stretch (October 24 to December 4) Booker carried the ball 15 or more times in five of six games. Additionally, Booker took on a large role in the Broncos’ passing attack as he garnered 46 targets, converting 31 into receptions. The offseason addition of Charles does make Booker’s role in this regard somewhat murky, however, as Charles’ role on the team is still quite unclear. Given Booker’s limited draft day cost, I am willing to risk that Charles does not regains his old form – doing so would likely render Booker useless for fantasy purposes.
Returning to the issue of efficiency, an inefficient rookie running back isn’t necessarily a reason to panic. For example, some of the top picks at the position this season showed poor efficiency early on in their career, as Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, and Jay Ajayi all failed to average over 3.8 yards per carry in their rookie campaign.
With that said, two running backs with questionable health or performance track records stand between Booker and a major role in the Broncos offense. Lack of efficiency with talented backs has proven to be correctable after a rookie campaign. Given that, there is a high chance that Booker’s volume and efficiency intersect at a perfect point to allow him to provide far more value than his current draft slot. That makes him a nice dart throw at the end of drafts, especially if his price remains in the 14th round.