REWIND – Reviewing My Very Deep Sleeper Series from 2018, Blake Jarwin
My wildly popular ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ series was brought back by FantasyPros for its fourth season. In celebration, and preparation, and review – I’m going to post last year’s series, 17 articles in all, daily with new commentary for 2019.
My concept of the VDS series was to take a look at a dozen or so players who were way off the grid (like way off the grid/very deep ADPs or not even showing in top 100-150+ positionally on FantasyPros) for the upcoming fantasy season and try and make a case for them as shocking breakouts that year. I hoped if just one panned out each year that would be pretty amazing…these are like taking half court shots in basketball.
Well, we have had that one-a-season success and then some. The VDS series gave birth to Tyrell Williams eons before most people knew who he was. Given-up-for-dead Tyler Boyd was a sweet hit from our VDS series last preseason. A number of players have emerged from the VDS series…even if it was a year or two later. My goal is to educate on the player, at a minimum, and then hope 1-2 of them really pop at some point.
Let’s look back at the 2018 season, in the order they were published…and I’ll add some commentary from ‘the now’ as I’ve re-read it.
Blake Jarwin was conjuring up a small amount of momentum/buzz in the 2018 preseason…a potential replacement starter for the departed Jason Witten. The Cowboys went with the ‘explosive’ (sarcastic air quotes) Geoff Swaim instead…as he blocked his way into Cowboys’ fans hearts, I guess.
Jarwin barely saw the field or targets through Week 12 but was starting to see more snaps as we approached Week 13…and then ‘boom’, 7 catches for 56 yards in Week 13 put Jarwin into PPR play in the desperate TE market of late 2018.
Jarwin followed that with games of 4 and 2 catches…better than he had been going, but not ‘wow’. In Week 17, he found ‘wow’ – 7 catches, 119 yards, and 3 TDs. It felt like Jarwin had full arrived. He caught a respectable 3 and 2 passes in their two playoff games. A star was not born but it was becoming clear Jarwin was the ‘Boys best tight end on the roster.
2019 felt like a possible fringe TE1 (PPR) opportunity for Jarwin, but soon into the calendar year, Jerry Jones went into his nostalgia vault and dumped $4+ million dollars on failed-TV-analyst, will-be-37.5-years-old this season, tight end Jason Witten. What? He last mattered in fantasy in 2013.
It looks lost for Jarwin now, stuck behind Witten and, I assume, Billy Joe Dupree on the depth chart. However, if the relic tight ends don’t workout/break a hip in training camp…the Jarwin story could be back on.
Here’s the case I made for Jarwin as a deep sleeper last year at this time:
I know, I know…Blake Jarwin’s name gets tossed around as a ‘Dallas really likes this guy’ roto-note, and soon after there’s a clever fantasy writer to come in and ‘discover’ Jarwin as a deep sleeper for fantasy. Jason Witten is gone, and this Jarwin guy’s getting some mentions…so, yadda-yadda, he’s a sleeper.
I think there’s a little more to consider here. Further complicating things, I wrote a very eloquent ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ report on one Rico Gathers last season – and then he promptly became a preseason star for two or three weeks and then an I.R.-for-the-season star halfway into the preseason. Gathers is back in 2018 and he’s still a monster, so how does Rico’s return help/hurt Jarwin’s deep sleeper possibilities?
Will the real ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ Dallas tight end, Gathers or Jarwin, please stand up? The Jarwin case to be made is two-fold:
(1) The Dallas depth chart opportunity.
(2) Answering the question of whether Jarwin has talent that matters anyway. How is this UDFA blocking tight end who barely produced stats at Oklahoma State a sleeper for fantasy?
1) The Dallas depth chart argument
If you watched Dallas’ first couple of preseason games in 2017, you’re way more interested in Rico Gathers than Blake Jarwin for fantasy football; and you should be. Gathers is a massive human being who flashed overpowering star moments last preseason and everyone loves the story of an ex-college hoops great turned NFL tight end project. If I had to bet my fantasy nickel, I bet it on Gathers for the upside.
Here’s the problem…the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff seems to be betting their nickel on Jarwin. They also don’t seem to want to share a nickel with Gathers.
I’ve seen, heard, or read interviews the last two months with Dallas management, in the form of Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett, and most importantly, best talent evaluator in football (for my nickel), Will McClay. Every one of their discussions has the same general theme (my plain talk interpretation) – Rico Gathers is a freak, but he doesn’t know how to play tight end well in the NFL. He’s a work in progress, and he may not make the 53-man roster. Even Gathers himself gave an interview hinting he’s showcasing his skills for Dallas or any other teams, almost resigned to the fact that he’s more ‘out’ than ‘in’ right now.
On the other hand, the Dallas trio has the same message on Jarwin – Don’t sleep on him. We’re comfortable with him in Witten’s place. He’s kinda like our Travis Kelce. The words ‘Travis’ and ‘Kelce’ were used, and that made you perk up. We’ll come back to this comparison.
All positives were spoken on Jarwin and mostly all cautious statements were on Gathers from management. The Dallas starting tight end Week 1 of 2018 will either be Jarwin, Gathers, or rookie Dalton Schultz. It won’t be the unexciting rookie, Schultz. Jarwin is running more as the 1st-team guy this spring/summer.
Unless Dallas makes some move for a tight end – Blake Jarwin is starting Week 1 this season. He makes sense because he has more football experience and he is a hell of a blocker, so he has the obvious NFL advantage to start for a run-oriented team.
Experience and blocking are not my two favorite adjectives to describe a fantasy sleeper tight end. The question is – can Jarwin put up fantasy-worthy numbers as a receiver?
2) Jarwin’s talent argument
He played for three seasons at Oklahoma State, and his best season was a very dull 19 catches, 309 yards, and two TDs – as a senior in 2016 working with Mason Rudolph. Why so bland in an excellent passing game? They mostly used Jarwin as an H-back and tight end blocker and ran an air-raid offense that was moving the ball downfield with a pretty solid WR group. Jarwin as a blocker was more important to the team because they had plenty of weapons and because he’s a really good blocker.
Jarwin’s college usage reminds me a little of George Kittle. So good at blocking that his gift held him back some from becoming explored more as a receiver. Kittle had a great NFL rookie season for a guy who had 22 catches as a season-high in college.
Back when I scouted Jarwin for the 2017 NFL Draft, I noted the blocking but also remembered he had a nice little burst racing out into pass patterns; there was a spring in his step. I felt like he had more to give in the passing game, but no one seemed to care, and it was easy for me not to give it a second thought when he went undrafted.
Is Jarwin kinda Travis Kelce-like, as is being pushed by some Dallas folks? For reference, here are their pre-draft workouts results:
6′5.1″/246, 4.73 40-yd, 1.58 10-yd, 35″ vertical, 4.39 shuttle, 7.44 three-cone = Jarwin (Pro Day 2017)
6′4.7″/255, 4.61 40-yd, 1.61 10-yd, 35″ vertical, 4.42 shuttle, 7.09 three-cone = Kelce (Pro Day 2013)
Kelce tested with a faster 40-time and with a much better three-cone than Jarwin – with a big enough gap to make an analytics scout wince at a comparison. However, as I took notes for this piece, I noticed the Jarwin 1.58 time in the 10-yard dash. That’s pretty hot for a bigger tight end. You know how hot? I searched all the 6′4″+/240+ tight end prospects in our scouting database of the past decade+ of college prospects – do you know how many 6′4″+/240+ tight end prospects put up a sub-1.60 10-yard dash time in the past five years?
Just one in my database…Blake Jarwin. “Very Deep Sleeper” Luke Willson was the previous TE prospect to do it – in 2013 with a 1.53 10-yard time (one of the best in the past decade).
Like I said, Jarwin has a little spring in his step (and the measurables seem to confirm that). He pops off the line quickly, and that helps him get open fast and to separate on short timing routes. Watching his Oklahoma State tape and seeing some Dallas mini-camp video from this offseason — Jarwin moves a little like a wide receiver on his pass routes, he looks comfortable in the passing game – he went to Oklahoma State as a walk-on hoping to play wide receiver and eventually they tried to make him an offensive lineman. I guess the natural middle ground of that was his landing spot of tight end.
How much is the ‘starting tight end’ worth on Dallas for fantasy 2018? How much more is it worth if Rico Gathers is released? How much is it worth if his team doesn’t have a true #1-2 WR established? I was surprised by how well our computer models projected Jarwin for fantasy 2018, and that it was ahead of Rico Gathers — the guy who didn’t get a lot of pass-game opportunity in college is on the verge of a golden opportunity to shine with Dak Prescott in 2018.
Blake Jarwin may have wound up at the right place/depth chart at the absolute right time (Witten gone, Gathers on thin ice) and thus stumbled his way into the “Very Deep Sleeper” zone for 2018. A possible TE2 for bye week work, or, maybe, a shocking low-end TE1 on being in the right offense at the right time and playing the majority of the snaps. The bonus is that he’s a Cowboy. If Jarwin catches three passes in the first quarter of a preseason game working as the locked-in starter with Prescott, you know people will lose their minds running with the ‘sleeper’ story – giving you value to trade into the hysteria.
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