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This Sleeper Might Step Up If The Browns Trade Duke Johnson

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:


New England Patriots | New York Jets | Miami Dolphins


Houston Texans | Indianapolis Colts | Jacksonville Jaguars | Tennessee Titans


Cincinnati Bengals | Pittsburgh Steelers | Baltimore Ravens


Los Angeles Chargers | Denver Broncos | Kansas City

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys | Washington

Dontrell Hilliard

Neil Dutton already highlighted that Dontrell Hilliard should be the primary beneficiary if a Duke Johnson trade were to occur. However, it sounds like the Freddie Kitchens is adamant that Johnson will have a role in Browns’ offense. Last season, Johnson was deployed as the primary receiving back for the Browns and saw most of his work when the team trailed by seven or more points.

Hilliard didn’t see much playing time last season, but he played in 11 games and posted nine catches for 105 yards. More importantly, Hilliard is a member of the Browns’ special teams unit and he returned 11 kickoffs for 264 yards. If the Browns opt to move Johnson, it’s quite likely that Hilliard would be deployed as the primary change-of-pace RB behind Nick Chubb.

Year Games Ru Att Ru Yards Ru Avg Ru TDs Recs Rec Yards Rec Avg Rec TDs
2014 12 97 452 4.66 3 30 244 8.13 1
2015 12 115 646 5.62 6 23 267 11.61 1
2016 11 135 759 5.62 9 9 114 12.67 0
2017 12 210 1091 5.2 12 8 115 14.38 2

Although Hilliard saw his receiving production wane over the course of his final two seasons, it should be noted that the Tulane passing game was a mess in 2016 and 2017.1

What to watch for in camp

Given that Hilliard’s already impressed coaches with his pass-catching chops in OTA’s and in camp while Johnson nurses a sore hamstring it’s quite likely that he beats out D’Ernest Johnson, A.J. Ouellette, and Trayone Gray to make the 53-man roster. Keep scouring the news for information regarding how Hilliard is faring as Johnson’s backup, but be sure to stash him speculatively in the event that Johnson eventually gets traded.

Damion Ratley

Damion Ratley played his freshman year at Blinn College, before transferring to Texas A&M. As a freshman at Blinn in 2014, he caught 45 passes for 1,197 yards and 20 touchdowns and earned first-team all-conference honors. Ratley wasn’t particularly productive at Texas A&M. He caught 47 passes for 920 yards and eight touchdowns before declaring for the NFL Draft. Ratley didn’t earn an invite to the NFL combine, but showed out at his pro day. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound WR posted a 4.39-forty, a 38-inch vertical, and a 10-4 broad jump. If we plug in Ratley’s height and forty-yard dash speed into the Freak Score Calculator, his 59 Freak Score would’ve been 14th best among all WRs last season.2 Note that his Freak Score is superior to that of third-round teammate Antonio Callaway (54).

Last season, Rashard Higgins was the most efficient Cleveland auxiliary WR on a per-target basis. Although Callaway was more efficient than Ratley, the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. dampens the outlook of a potential Year 2 breakout for either sophomore WR. Currently, Ratley is dealing with a hamstring injury and his timeline for return is currently hazy. If you’re looking for a stash in the deepest of dynasty leagues, Ratley makes for a reasonable end-of-bench stash option.

Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Duke Johnson.

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  1. Tulane QBs combined to complete 109 passes in 2016 and 136 passes in 2017.  (back)
  2. In line with Tre’Quan Smith’s Freak Score.  (back)

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