Welcome to this weeks’ edition of the Monday Morning Sleeper. Last week I profiled a sophomore wide receiver with a huge opportunity as a New York Jet, named Robby Anderson. This week I will be profiling a second year running back playing for the Buffalo Bills, who may be given the lead back duties at some point this season, should his team’s veteran back falter or run into injury trouble.
A Fantasy Football Sleeper is a player that is in a position to play beyond their rankings or expectations, is a relative unknown, and who may provide you with some value at their draft position.
This week I will be profiling Jonathan Williams, the backup running back for the Buffalo Bills, and a back who may have a golden ticket to fantasy starter. Williams is currently ranked 200th overall and the 66th ranked running back, according to FantasyPros.com Dynasty rankings. With fellow running backs Rex Burkhead and Jalen Richard ranked higher than him, you will get excellent value if you can draft Williams as a late round sleeper.
BURIED ON DEPTH CHART
Williams was drafted in the fifth round, 156th overall, in the 2016 NFL entry draft by the Buffalo Bills. He spent much of his rookie season buried on the depth chart, sitting behind starter LeSean McCoy, and back up running back Mike Gillislee. Veteran Reggie Bush was also listed ahead of him, but he failed to make any sort of impact in 2016 himself. Unfortunately for Williams, being the third or fourth option on a team with that much depth doesn’t provide you with many opportunities to showcase your abilities. As a result, he was given 27 carries over 10 games, and finished the season with 97 yards and one touchdown. These numbers are obviously underwhelming, and if you include his two fumbles into the picture, his rookie season couldn’t have gone much worse. However, with a new season comes new opportunities, and 2017 should prove to be a much better season for Williams.
DRINKING AND DRIVING CHARGES
His 2017 season has started off with a positive for Williams already. As reported by TMZ, Williams was pulled over in July 2016, on suspicion of drunk driving, and was subsequently charged after admitting to the arresting officer that he had consumed alcohol prior to driving, however, he refused to perform a breathalyzer at the time of his arrest. Williams pleaded not guilty, and took his charges to trial. On June 8th, Williams was found not guilty, and it is apparently due to a lack of evidence. As a result of this verdict, it is unlikely that Williams will face any disciplinary action from the NFL or the Bills, and is therefore unlikely to see his playing time restricted as a result of this incident in any way.
NUMBER TWO AT LAST
Gillislee left the Bills via free agency this offseason and signed with the New England Patriots. He should have a great opportunity as their replacement for LaGarrette Blount. His departure, however, leaves a huge vacancy on the Bills roster, as he finished the season with 101 carries for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. Should Williams assume the number two role behind McCoy, as expected, he could see similar numbers by seasons end. There is also an opportunity for him to exceed those numbers. McCoy just turned 29 and has missed several games over the last two seasons due to injuries. He did play in 15 games in 2016, but was limited to 12 in 2015. Should McCoy miss any time in 2017, Williams would see an uptick in carries as he assumes the lead back duties in McCoy’s absence.
I would try to grab Williams as a late round flier, possibly in the 14th or 15th rounds. If I own McCoy, I may try to handcuff my asset with an earlier pick, possibly as early as 10th or 11th rounds. Williams is a valuable handcuff to own, and could be an extremely valuable asset for years to come in dynasty leagues, as the potential starting running back for the Bills in the future.
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