Posted by Matt Olson

Deep Sleeper for Each Team

July 7, 2023

You already know about Preston Williams, Jakobi Meyers, KeeSean Johnson, and Emmanuel Butler. Let’s dive deeper than that and point out some lesser known guys that are standing out at camp:

Arizona Cardinals – WR Trent Sherfield – Sherfield is currently listed with the second team on the depth chart, but he got the start in the first preseason game. He finished the game with 4 catches on 5 targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. All the talk has been about the rookie wide receivers, but watch out for this second year receiver.

Atlanta Falcons – WR Russell Gage –  Gage has been a standout player for the Atlanta Falcons throughout training camp and in the preseason. He’s a cornerback-turned-receiver and he’s in his second year. He says he feels more comfortable and it has been showing.

Baltimore Ravens – WR Michael Floyd – Everyone knows Floyd, but most people have given up on him. With the injuries to Seth Roberts and Marquise Brown, Floyd has been making highlight reel plays over the past few days. 

Buffalo Bills – RB Christian Wade – Honestly, this is a long shot, but it would be a fantastic story. Wade is a former rugby player who took his first carry to the house. If not for Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, Wade would have been the talk of the first week of preseason games.

Carolina Panthers – RB Elijah Holyfield – This was probably the hardest team to pick out a “deep sleeper”, but I’ll go with Holyfield. He had a terrible combine and fell out of favor with a lot of people. Then he fumbled on his third preseason carry. He was able to bounce back after the fumble though for a pretty strong performance. Someone has to spell CMC and Holyfield is in a competition to win the RB3 job.

Chicago Bears – WR Javon Wims – All he does is get open and make plays in practice. He’s a lock to make the team, but the depth in front of him is deep. Still, Wims has been the standout receiver in Training Camp for 2 straight years. The Bears like to spread the ball around, so he should get some chances. He’s one injury away.

Cincinnati Bengals – WR Auden Tate – For the second straight Training Camp, Tate is standing out. With injuries to AJ Green and John Ross, Tate has a chance to work his way into a significant role.

Cleveland Browns – RB Dontrell Hilliard – He’s not a super deep sleeper, but he’s still available in some shallower leagues. The Browns fully expect him to take over the Duke Johnson role.

Dallas Cowboys – WR Cedrick Wilson – This spot was reserved for Jon’Vea Johnson, but Johnson had a rough preseason game after shining all camp. He had back-to-back drops that took the offense off the field. Wilson, on the other hand, caught all 3 of his targets and did well on special teams. Wilson spent the entire 2018 season on IR, so he’s familiar with the system. 

Denver Broncos – WR Juwann Winfree –  Trying to choose the right Broncos receiver to feature here is like playing roulette. Winfree, Trinity Benson, Kelvin McKnight, and Fred Brown have all had their moments in camp. Winfree caught the game winning TD in the Hall of Fame game and he looks poised to make the Broncos roster. Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Emmanuel Sanders will start the year ahead of him.

Detroit Lions – WR Chris Lacy – He’s a 6’3, 206 lb receiver who has taken advantage of the unfortunate injury to Jermaine Kearse. With receivers Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay also missing time or being limited this spring and during training camp, Lacy has seen more of a workload.

Green Bay Packers – TE Robert Tonyan – Everyday, Tonyan is making his presence felt in practice.  He’s an injury to Jimmy Graham away from a big time role.

Houston Texans – RB Damarea Crockett – He was more of a sleeper before D’Onta Foreman got cut, but he was outplaying Foreman before that even happened. Crockett has drawn rave reviews out of camp and should get plenty of chances this preseason to show his skills.

Indianapolis Colts – TE Mo Alie-Cox – This is more of a long term play, but it could pay off in a big way. Alie-Cox is a converted basketball player that has looked like an actual NFL TE so far in training camp. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are both Unrestricted Free Agents after this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Tyre Brady – With the Jaguars receiver “depth”, he may be a long shot to make the team, but he has had a few standout practices.  Yesterday, he made the catch of the day.  He controlled his body while jumping and made an over-the-shoulder catch over rookie free-agent cornerback Tae Hayes. Brady caught the pass and continued running to turn the reception into a long touchdown. 

Kansas City Chiefs – TE Blake Bell – God forbid something happen to Travis Kelce, but… Bell, the “Belldozer”, has had a good camp and ran almost exclusively with the first team in the first preseason game. He’s battling Deon Yelder, who played deep into the fourth quarter, for the backup TE job, a position that was vacated by the departed Demetrius Harris.

Los Angeles Chargers – WR Geremy Davis – Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin have locked down their roster spots. The battle for the remaining receiver spots is heating up and Davis might be the one who is standing out the most. He’s been a key special team contributor over the last few years, but he has a chance to contribute as a receiver this year with the departure of Tyrell Williams.

Los Angeles Rams – WR Mike Thomas –  Thomas has struggled to see the field much at all during his time with the Rams due to injuries, suspensions, and simply being buried in the depth chart behind better players. He has been a different player so far this year. He’s developed a great connection with Blake Bortles, but it’ll take an injury or two for him to see significant time.

Miami Dolphins – TE Nick O’Leary – O’Leary has arguably been the best TE on the Dolphins roster during Training Camp. If the season started today, he’d probably be the starter. 

Minnesota Vikings – RB Ameer Abdullah – Don’t forget about Abdullah. I know, he’s burned you and he’s burned me, but he’s actually having a strong camp. He has Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in front of him.

New England Patriots – TE Stephen Anderson – Ben Watson is suspended the first 4 games. Matt LaCosse is hurt. There’s a giant hole at TE for the Pats and Anderson has had a strong camp, albeit with limited opportunities.

New Orleans Saints – WR Austin Carr – It’s hard listing a starting slot receiver on a potent offense as a deep sleeper, but that’s just what Carr is. He has continued to be a reliable target in Training Camp for Drew Brees. Emmanuel Butler has gotten the headlines, but keep an eye on Austin Carr.

New York Giants – WR Cody Latimer – Latimer isn’t that deep of a sleeper, but I feel the need to highlight him here. He never lived up to the hype in Denver, but he seems to have grown up with the Giants. He had a nice catch and run from Daniel Jones in the first preseason game and he’s penciled in as the starter. If he’s still available in your league, pick him up.

New York Jets – WR Greg Dortch – Dortch backed up his rave camp reviews with a strong preseason debut. He had 4 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown, as well as a strong special teams performance. The rookie out of Wake Forest will start the year as the Jets No. 1 punt returner and a backup receiver, but he could move up the depth chart before long.

Oakland Raiders – WR JJ Nelson – Nelson has probably lived on your waiver wire because he’s always just been a boom or bust receiver that never got enough opportunity. Well now he’s getting more targets and making them count. He had an amazing catch in the first preseason game. Nelson has quickly been proving that he’s more than just somebody that can run fast. He’s making the case that he should be the target of many Derek Carr passes. 

Philadelphia Eagles – WR Marken Michel – Michel, the big brother of Sony, burst onto the scene with a 75 yard TD in the Eagles first preseason game. He’s been making a name for himself in camp, but he has quite the climb to get meaningful snaps, or even to make the team, but he’s an exciting player to watch.

Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Benny Snell – Snell has gotten a load of first team snaps in camp with James Conner taking it slow. Snell has captivated fans with his personality and playing style. I know he isn’t that deep of a sleeper, but he should probably be higher on your list than he is.

San Francisco 49ers – WR Richie James – James has probably been added, dropped, added, then dropped in your league. Now you should add him again with the injury to Trent Taylor. James had a great preseason game as the main slot receiver and the 49ers receiver depth is all of a sudden wide open. James has also been impressive in camp after most saw him as an afterthought entering Training Camp, with the new receiver additions and all.

Seattle Seahawks – WR Jaron Brown – Brown is a starter. He’s making plays left and right. Doug Baldwin is gone.  What the Seahawks need is a steady hand who can make plays in the middle of the field, especially on third down. Brown is the team’s best bet and the fact he did not play in the preseason opener tells you how big of a role Seattle is expecting from him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Dare Ogunbowale – He scored 2 touchdowns in the Bucs first preseason game. He has become a force to be reckoned with in Training Camp and only has Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones in front of him.

Tennessee Titans – TE Anthony Firkser – Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith both had pretty bad injuries last year and are still working their way back. Firkser had some good games last year with Walker and Smith out, and he picked up where he left off in the first preseason game with 2 catches for 29 yards and a TD. He’s battling Mycole Pruitt for the TE3 job, which could become the TE1 job if Walker or Smith have any setbacks.

Washington Redskins – WR Darvin Kidsy – Kidsy is an elite athlete that is still learning the receiver position.  He added 10-15 pounds of muscle this offseason and is still maintaining his 4.45 speed and 41 inch vert explosion.  He had a 5 catch, 86 yard performance in the Redskins first preseason game. The Redskins listed him as their backup slot receiver to Trey Quinn on their first and second depth chart, but he can play all 3 receiver positions.

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