Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers Emerging From Training Camp
You would be forgiven for losing the signal amongst all the noise in training camp while trying to find fantasy football sleepers. Le’Veon Bell and the Jets think that he can approach 500 touches, Julio Jones and the Falcons think that he can amass 3,000 receiving yards, every running back lost 10 pounds after trimming fats out of their diet and… Emmanuel Butler has been showing out for the New Orleans Saints? Buried amongst the ‘best shape of his life’ and ‘two running backs on the field at the same time’ stories, there are real fantasy football relevant actions taking place. I have, of course, been scouring through beat writer reports and new blurbs to uncover what players are starting to emerge as potentially viable players for their NFL teams that were off the radar before the start of camp.
Deep Fantasy Football Sleepers Emerging From Training Camp
Emmanuel Butler, New Orleans Saint
The New Orleans Saints have a vacuum at wide receiver other than Michael Thomas. I am still assuming that Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith have the best odds of leading the WR position in snaps but is far from assured. Emmanuel Butler is perfect wide receiver size at 6’4″, 220 pounds and posted 3,217 yards and 33 touchdowns at Northern Arizona in college. Sean Payton has started to take note of the young UDFA. Per Nola.com, Sean Payton said that Butler is “somebody we’ve noticed.” and that he was “excited” about Butler and called him “intriguing.” Payton also noted that Butler has made multiple plays each day of camp. If Butler continues to impress at training camp after taking an awkward fall at practice on Wednesday, I would anticipate him making the roster as the fifth or sixth wide receiver for the Saints.
Dontrell Hilliard, Cleveland Browns
Folks, I am not scared of Kareem Hunt. The soonest that we will see Hunt is in Week 10 and there have been enough consistent murmurings that I think there is a chance Dorsey signed him just to trade him later on. From the time that OTA’s have started, the Browns coaching staff and surrounding personnel have gotten higher on Dontrell Hilliard. In fact, one Cleveland.com writer believes that Hillard has been so good, he could make Duke Johnson expendable. Duke Johnson no longer wants to be on the Browns and if the Browns had a cheaper, in-house replacement for Johnson, it seems that it would be intelligent of them to let him go or find a replacement in a trade. Hilliard has been getting buzz for a majority of the offseason because of the uncertainty behind Nick Chubb and for good reason. Hillard ran a 4.47 40 at 202 pounds coming out of Tulane where he excelled as a pass-catcher and saw over 10% of his teams targets (the exact role the Browns would need him for). Hilliard is firmly on my radar in 14 team leagues and deeper 12 team dynasty leagues.
Qadree Ollison, Atlanta Falcons
Ollison is not a player that I paid attention to for most of the offseason. I assumed that Brian Hill and Ollison were pretty firmly behind the pecking order, following Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. It does seem, however, that Hill and Ollison are going to have a chance for regular-season snaps. Per The Falcoholic, “Qadree Ollison is Dirk Koetter’s guy. There can be little doubt that the team’s decision to draft the burly Pitt back was driven by the new offensive coordinator, especially because it was a bit of a surprising move for a team with a reportedly healthy Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and Kenjon Barner already on hand.” The Falcons do probably need a grinder back behind Freeman and Smith, who are much smaller than normal starting RB size. With a good preseason and the backing of Dirk Koetter, it seems fairly reasonable that Ollison might be the primary goalline back for the Falcons sooner rather than later. Ollison is specifically, a player to watch during the Falcons Hall of Fame game.
Cody Core/Auden Tate, Cincinnati Bengals
When a 31-year old wide receiver is going to have a surgery a month before the NFL season starts, you should basically expect that player to not be healthy again until the next season. A.J Green will either come back too early and re-injure himself or just not be ready for contact football because his ankle will not be healed. That is just the natural order of how football works. With John Ross also on the trainer’s table with a hamstring injury, both Cody Core and Josh Malone should get a chance to play on the boundary. Core is a stereotypical size/speed guy who stands 6’3″, 203 pounds and ran a 4.47. Most Bengals sources consider Core the incumbent third wide receiver with Ross and Green shelved but both Josh Malone and Auden Tate have the ability to make the team. Tate is a massive redzone target at 6’5″, 228 and per the Cincy Jungle, Tate has extra value is the ability to play Tyler Eifert’s role in the red zone. Tate will never be an inline tight end, but Eifert is used more like a match up nightmare playing a wide receiver spot. Tate could easily slide in that role in the event Eifert suffers another unfortunate injury.”
Ty Johnson, Detriot Lions
Of all the players on this list other than Hilliard, I am probably most intrigued by Ty Johnson. There is no obvious pass-catching running back on the Detriot Lions roster now that Theo Riddick has been cut. Kerryon Johnson, theoretically, can catch passes just fine but it would be bizarre for the Lions to choose to use just one running back when they have used four in a season before. Johnson has electric speed with a 4.45 40 at 210 pounds but suffered from injuries at Maryland and was eventually not even a full time starter by the time he left. Most Lions sources expect that Riddick’s release means that Johnson is the new third-down back for Detriot as C.J Anderson and Zach Zenner are not cut from that cloth. That role has proved valuable for fantasy football in the past and I presume that it will again. Johnson is going really under the radar but has close to the same fantasy value as someone like Gio Bernard at this point.
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