By Christian S. Kohl
It’s late August, and that means that as the heat of summer peaks, so too does a far more joyous and forgiving time of year, fantasy draft season. For all those fantasy addicts out there, all the research, review, mock drafts and speculation culminate with the pressure cooker draft which largely determines the fate of the entire season. To that end, every fantasy owner wants to know the sleepers. Which emerging stars no one yet knows or castoffs many have completely forgotten will rise up and make the fantasy year for whichever owner is gutsy enough to take the flier? With that in mind, who will emerge as the bigger fantasy sleeper: DeAngelo Williams or Bilal Powell?
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It goes without saying, neither of these backs should be in anyone’s starting lineup come week one. They are RB3 or RB4 fliers with bye week plug upside that may also emerge to produce surprising numbers. Bilal Powell is a 24-year-old back with big numbers in the preseason, which includes a contest against Jacksonville. However, every fantasy owner knows the words “preseason” and “against Jacksonville” all but discount any stats accumulated. He will be a supplemental back at best so long as Ivory remains healthy. Given the physicality with which Ivory runs, a sustained injury for the new Jets back is not out of the question. However, as long as Ivory is able to play, Powell will see zero goal line carries, all but negating his fantasy value.
DeAngelo Williams, conversely, is 30 years old. He has an injury-riddled history, but also carries with him a history of excellence. If he is to remain healthy, Williams still has some highly productive football left in him. Also, Williams makes more sense as a sleeper because a healthy Jonathan Stewart means timeshare, rather than Williams automatically sliding to #2 on the depth chart. DeAngelo, therefore, still provides value on bye weeks and also in an emergency should one of your key backs go down.
Most importantly, the systems favor a Carolina back as opposed to a Jets back. The Jets like to run, but that’s really only because they can’t pass. This enables defenses to key in on the run, and also forces the Jets to clumsily pass for the entire 4th quarter in the likely event they find themselves behind.
Cam Newton and Steve Smith are explosive weapons which must be accounted for. Newton’s arm, as well as his legs carrying him to the outside opens more interior running lanes for Williams to bang his way through. Sanchez has virtually no weapons or playmaking ability with his arms or legs, creating congestion in the middle during obvious run plays.
DeAngelo Williams has a chance to start week 1 as the uncontested starting back for the Panthers. If he performs, he may well never relinquish that title. Powell, conversely, has an enormous uphill climb and is still very much unproven. The Jets have reasons to be optimistic about him, but they were also similarly justified in their optimism when Shonne Greene displayed enormous playmaking ability in a condensed period of time. Honestly, Bilal Powell in most leagues will still be available on the waiver wire come week 1. For your actual draft, especially in snake formats, DeAngelo Williams is the play as an RB3 or FLEX2 option with true sleeper upside. DeAngelo wins decisively this week.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.