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The Draft’s Fastest RB & The Next Golden Tate? 2 Detroit Lions 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:

AFC EAST

New England Patriots | New York Jets | Miami Dolphins

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans | Indianapolis Colts | Jacksonville Jaguars | Tennessee Titans

AFC NORTH

Cincinnati Bengals | Pittsburgh Steelers | Baltimore Ravens

AFC WEST

Los Angeles Chargers | Denver Broncos

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys | Philadelphia Eagles | Washington

Ty Johnson, RB

The Lions used a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to take 5-foot-11, 210-pound Johnson out of Maryland.

Johnson is something of an unknown, even among RotoViz writers, who dive deeper into the prospect pool than anyone. One thing is we know — the man has some world-class wheels.

Johnson didn’t get a combine invite, but he did show very well at Maryland’s pro day, posting speed numbers that place him near the top of the class, with an official 4.40 forty.

Unofficially, Johnson has been clocked as fast as 4.26 according to Maryland’s Twitter account.

Take it with a grain of salt, but any of those times would have been by far the fastest time among RBs running at the combine.1 Even adding a 0.05-second adjustment to his official pro day time would have tied him with Ryquell Armstead — who is 10 pounds heavier — for second-best in the class.

Johnson didn’t get a ton of volume at Maryland, but he was wildly efficient, running of 7.6 YPC over the course of his career, including a sophomore season where he averaged 9.1 YPC.

Year G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec TDs
2015 9 35 250 7.1 3 2 30 15 0
2016 13 110 1004 9.1 6 16 206 12.9 1
2017 12 137 875 6.4 5 5 60 12 1
2018 9 66 506 7.7 3 6 22 3.7 0

He also racked up 1,194 yards on special teams, which not only improves his odds of making the Lions roster but is also a boost to his chances of success in the NFL.

As expected, the Lions have decided to move on from Theo Riddick, which leaves Johnson and C.J. Anderson behind Kerryon Johnson on the depth chart.

His is a name to keep an eye on throughout the preseason. While the former Terrapin lacks polish and is unlikely to make an impact in year one, his elite speed should lead to some splash plays. He may not have the passing-game chops to take Riddick’s vacated work, but if Kerryon Johnson goes down, I do expect to see the rookie mixed into the run game with Anderson.

Brandon Powell, WR

The Lions are dangerously thin at WR behind Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. They signed free agent veteran Danny Amendola in the offseason and spent a sixth-round draft pick on Travis Fulgham, but otherwise stood pat at the position.

Enter Brandon Powell, a 22-year-old sophomore our of Florida who’s previously been dubbed “The Next Golden Tateby none other than Tate himself.

So it was something of a disappointment when, after being carried on the Lions 53-man roster all season, Powell didn’t get much of an opportunity to replace Tate after he was traded to the Eagles last year.

That is, until Week 17.

Powell made good on a 28% target market share, cracking 100 receiving yards and causing one to wonder why he didn’t play over Bruce Ellington sooner.

It was one game in the most meaningless of weeks, but Powell was still the only WR outside of Detroit’s big three to hit the century mark last year.

Powell is:

  • Small (5 feet 8 inches, 181 lbs)
  • Broke out at an older age (22)
  • And didn’t test particularly well

However, the Lions have shown they want to keep him around, and Powell has proven capable of NFL production, at least in the smallest of samples.

Should Golladay or Marvin Jones go down, the Lions lack of depth may force them into giving the sophomore another shot.

Image Credit: Steven King/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Kenny Golladay.


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  1. His official time is tied with Justice Hill for fastest in class.  (back)

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