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2019 Sleeper Wide Receivers: Top Surprises from the Combine Explorer and Box Score Scout

After using the Combine Explorer to evaluate the 20 closest athletic comps for top Freak Score receivers and the Box Score Scout to find the best overall comparisons for the top-five WRs according to the RotoViz Scouting Index, it’s time to switch gears to everyone’s favorite topic. Sleepers.

Every season has a number of compelling sleepers, and we’re going to start with a couple of my personal favorites. I have to admit to a little bias on the two players I’m covering today, as I’ve owned both of them in devy leagues. Both players finished 2019 with mildly disappointing numbers, and neither generated the kind of combine buzz we’ve seen from some of the big names. But a closer look uncovers a couple of plus athletes with stronger production resumes than most of the receivers found in the 10 to 15 range of the latest RSI.  

David Sills

Sills combine 2
Despite a pedestrian forty, Sills exited the combine with an above-average Freak Score due to his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame, but he really excelled in the vertical leap (37.5). Sills also posted an impressive three-cone for a player of his size. As we mentioned in discussing the red flags for some of the combine standouts, a three-cone below 7.0 has been a strong indicator of NFL success for big receivers.
Sills combine 3Sills’ top athletic comp is Brandon LaFell, a low-end NFL starter who’s managed a nine-year career without ever hitting 1,000 yards receiving. Only slightly further down, we find superstar Michael Thomas, a big, quick, and explosive player with an identical forty. Scroll a few more names and we land on Davante Adams, another star with a good explosion/agility profile.

Let’s bring in the Box Score Scout and add career and final season receiving numbers to the mix.

SimScore Player DraftPos CarRecYdsMS CarRecTDMS FinalRecYdsMS FinalRecTD/G Forty Weight
100 David Sills V 120 0.22 0.41 0.23 1.3 4.57 211
98 Chad Hansen 141 0.23 0.20 0.34 1.1 4.53 202
96 TreQuan Smith 91 0.30 0.34 0.27 1.0 4.49 203
94 JuJu Smith-Schuster 62 0.28 0.25 0.25 0.8 4.54 215
90 Jordan Lasley 162 0.26 0.33 0.36 1.0 4.5 203
88 Josh Reynolds 117 0.27 0.35 0.31 0.9 4.52 194
86 DeAndre Hopkins 27 0.29 0.31 0.34 1.4 4.57 214
84 Cody Latimer 56 0.22 0.25 0.30 0.8 4.52 215
82 Laquon Treadwell 23 0.23 0.27 0.26 0.8 4.52 221
80 James Washington 60 0.26 0.33 0.31 1.0 4.54 213

I’ve estimated Sills’ draft position at 120, because I can’t imagine a player with his size, athleticism, and TD-scoring acumen to fall much beyond that level.1

We see a couple of distinct trends within the comp group. The players who were younger, drafted earlier, and posted higher career yardage numbers often went on to fantastic careers. This doesn’t necessarily benefit Sills. Even in West Virginia’s prolific offense, Sills couldn’t quite reach 1,000 yards receiving as he shared receptions with Gary Jennings.

Sills separates himself in the TD department where he found the end zone 33 times in his final 24 games. His career TD market share bests even serious NFL red-zone threats like JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeAndre Hopkins.

The West Virginia product becomes even more interesting when we consider his circuitous route to the receiver position. A former phenom at quarterback, it was not until Sills returned for his second stint with the Mountaineers that he fully embraced the receiver position. Jordan Hoover chronicles Sills’ path and what it means in Overshadowed at the Combine, Stills is Still a Receiver to Target

How to Play It: Sills shouldn’t be expected to perform like the stars from his comp lists, but these names hint at significantly more upside than other names bandied about in the projected third- to fifth-round range. A likely priority target late in rookie drafts, we’ll update after the reality draft.

Cody Thompson

Cody Thompson combine
Thompson didn’t stand out at the combine with a 4.57 in the forty, but he impressed with a 38.5-inch vertical and 10.9 agility score (more than 0.4 faster than the 50th percentile time of 11.32). This type of explosion and agility with Thompson’s 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame gives him a lot of potential versatility as an NFL weapon.
C Thompson comps
Much as we saw for the Freak Score standouts, Thompson’s physical comps offer a mixed bag. Mohamed Sanu has emerged as an all-purpose NFL player without being fantasy viable, while Trey Quinn will try to take over the underneath role in Washington. Davante Adams shows up as one of the closest comps and would obviously be the home run outcome. Adams posted nearly identical results in the forty, vertical, and three-cone.

SimScore Player DraftPos CarRecYdsMS CarRecTDMS FinalRecYdsMS FinalRecTD/G Forty Weight
100 Cody Thompson 150 0.25 0.25 0.23 0.8 4.57 205
98 Chris Moore 107 0.18 0.29 0.21 0.6 4.53 206
96 Josh Huff 86 0.22 0.22 0.30 0.9 4.51 206
94 Devin Street 146 0.27 0.25 0.35 0.7 4.55 198
92 Robert Herron 185 0.21 0.26 0.28 0.8 4.48 193
90 Justin Hardy 107 0.30 0.31 0.31 0.8 4.56 192
88 Tony Lippett 156 0.24 0.22 0.35 0.8 4.61 192
86 James Washington 60 0.26 0.33 0.31 1.0 4.54 213
84 Marcell Ateman 228 0.17 0.13 0.23 0.6 4.62 216
82 Jordan Payton 154 0.21 0.16 0.29 0.4 4.47 207
80 Stacy Coley 219 0.18 0.24 0.21 0.7 4.45 195

Thompson may go later than 150, but with that estimate his comps include a host of impressive college players who have struggled to stay on NFL rosters. James Washington is the most exciting name, but his inclusion may also explain his underwhelming rookie season.2

Despite a production resume that places Thompson more in the practice squad range, he’s interesting for a couple of reasons. Between 2015 and 2016, Thompson gained more than 2,000 yards and averaged more than 20 yards per reception. This puts him in a fairly unique group.3 Instead of declaring for the draft, Thompson returned to Toledo in 2017 and was off to an electric start when a broken leg derailed his season. During that five-game run, he posted a Dominator Rating north of 34 percent.

Unfortunately, the 2018 campaign was his worst since his rookie year. Competing with Jon’Vea Johnson and Diontae Johnson in a Toledo offense that struggled after Logan Woodside’s graduation, he gained only 647 yards but did reach double-digits in TDs for the second time.

How to Play It: Thompson is a Watch List player unless he’s drafted earlier than expected and into a good situation, but his combination of athleticism, on-field explosiveness, and multi-season production makes him a candidate to outperform his BSS comps.

  1. Of course, it happened for Allen Lazard just last year.  (back)
  2. Washington was drafted much earlier than the rest and perhaps shouldn’t have been.  (back)
  3. I always like it when Jordan Hoover and I are on the same player.  (back)

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