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Draft This Backfield Dominator: 3 Bengals Deep Sleepers

Most fantasy analysis is devoted to sorting the order of players likely to have an immediate impact, but every year there are a handful of overlooked deep sleepers who emerge to fill a starting role in redraft.

Last year, it was guys like Phillip Lindsay and James Conner at running back. Deep sleepers at WR are a little harder to find, but we did tell you to watch out for Curtis Samuel, and he flirted with WR4 numbers.

Most of these guys in this deep sleeper series will be misses, but the goal is to look for the silver lining and find a handful of players that will emerge from their sleeper slumber in 2019.

Here’s a look at the rest of our deep sleeper series so far:

Trayveon Williams, RB

Our first deep sleeper should be a name familiar to RotoViz readers by now. We’ve written extensively on the former Texas A&M Aggie who was selected by the Bengals in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft.

He had a 77.8% share of his team’s RB rushing yards and 73.2% of their receiving yards, giving him the second-best Backfield Dominator Rating in the 2019 class. No. 1 in BDR last year? Phillip Lindsay.

He was dominant as a freshman, becoming the first true freshman RB in Texas A&M history to hit 1,000 rushing yards.

He’s also the just the 15th player ever to post 1,700 rushing yards, 18 TDs, and 25 receptions, leading to a pre-combing ranking in the top 10. However, a bombed combine submarined all that as he slipped all the way to the sixth round.

I’m putting more weight in the fact that he was insanely productive over an extended period at a young age. This is a player who had a 2,000-yard-season in the SEC.

It’s reminiscent of a lower-leverage Dalvin Cook arc. All Cook did was produce in college, but bad testing knocked him down to the second round. Williams isn’t at that level as a prospect, but it’s interesting to see Cook still surfaces as a comp, even when accounting for draft position.

What to Watch For in Camp

The beauty of Williams is that he has the overall skill set to step in for both Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard if need be.

But I’m wondering if he can perhaps challenge a declining Bernard this summer, a receiving back whose targets and receiving efficiency hit rock bottom last season (behind an admittedly bad offensive line).

I’ll be watching camp for any signs of Williams eating into Bernard’s role.

An injury to either guy in front of him makes him immediately relevant, and it’s possible that, like the undrafted Lindsay last year, he’s simply so good that he forces his way on to the field.

John Ross

I know, I know.

Look, Ross hasn’t shown any indication of being good at football in his two years since going ninth overall in the draft.

But look at this depth chart behind A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd: 

  • Ross
  • Cody Core
  • Alex Erickson
  • Josh Malone
  • Auden Tate
  • Hunter Sharp
  • Stanley Morgan Jr. 
  • Ventell Bryant
  • Kermit Whitfield
  • Mortiz Boehringer

The veterans in this group have 10 seasons of experience between them and have combined for 84 catches and 942 yards. The rookies are all undrafted.

If something happens to either Green or Boyd, Ross is the only one with the ability to do anything with the opportunity. And while it’s true that the second-year breakout is the new third-year breakout, the latter group still has plenty of worth.

Stranger things have happened than a former top-10 pick getting it together in year three.

Honorable Mention: Drew Sample, TE

The Bengals selection of Sample in the second round this year was universally panned, including by RotoViz TE specialist Neil Dutton.

Our TE model hated him too.

On top of that, rookie TEs are rarely useful in fantasy.

So why does Sample get an honorable mention as a deep sleeper? While you can rip the Bengals for reaching, you can’t deny the draft equity used to acquire him — it matters.

Here, without further comment, is the rookie season for every second-round TE since 2013. Just sayin’.

Dwayne Allen2012154566101.35213115.6
Zach Ertz201315365687.84694106.9
Dallas Goedert201814334269.7334490.4
Mike Gesicki201814223251202042.2
Gerald Everett201713163255.5244253.7
Hunter Henry201613365397.34828132.2
Jace Amaro201413385384.1345284.5
Coby Fleener201212264884.7281266.1
Maxx Williams201511324876.3268164.8
Vance McDonald20131081928.4119019.9
Austin Seferian-Jenkins20149213858.7221255.1
Gavin Escobar2013991527.6134234.4
Adam Shaheen20176121431.4127342.7
Troy Niklas20143334.33806.8
Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: A.J. Green.

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