Now that most owners have finished the regular season, it’s time to do some self-evaluating of rosters and determining which players are expendable heading into the offseason. The final weeks of the 2017 season present an excellent opportunity to get a jump start at trying to find some 2018 breakout candidates before the offseason when other teams start to take notice and roster locks may come into effect. This strategy is even more critical for non-playoff teams. There’s no use keeping a Jacquizz Rodgers rostered for the final few weeks of the season when you can take a flier on a player who could pay big dividends heading into next year.
Holding onto sleeper picks at the quarterback position is no easy feat as during most years there’s minimal turnover and when there is, the pickings are slim. This name is pure speculation at this point, but the rumors surrounding Washington’s future quarterback have been swirling since Kirk Cousins‘ most recent franchise tag. Even with Kyle Shanahan pegging Jimmy Garoppolo as the heir in San Francisco, there are still plenty of suitors for Cousins’ skills. If Washington does indeed let him walk, Colt McCoy is the only quarterback on the roster worthy of taking snaps in 2018. While Washington would most likely bring in another name, McCoy has the advantage of playing in the system and playing relatively well when called upon.
A preseason injury has taken away the entirety of T.J. Logan’s rookie season, which robbed the speedster of showing off his talent once David Johnson went down with his injury. Overshadowed at UNC by Elijah Hood, Logan’s speed and receiving prowess made him a more attractive back at the next level. Johnson will undoubtedly regain his workhorse status in 2018, but Logan has a chance to carve out a niche role spelling the superstar and receiving some work when Johnson splits out wide. With the speed to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball, Logan could surprise next season if given offered the chance.
Brandon Wilds got some love during the 2016 draft process, but never really got a chance at the next level after going to an Atlanta team that’s fairly well set at the running back position. Picked up by Jacksonville in 2017, the former South Carolina running back has a chance to make a dent in the three deep with his new team. Leonard Fournette is firmly entrenched as the starter but has shown a penchant for nagging injuries. Should the Jaguars wish to go with a younger and cheaper backup than Chris Ivory, Wilds would be an intriguing player to watch with reasonably favorable metrics for a player his size.
Probably the biggest name on this list, if Geronimo Allison is still on the waiver wire, he should be your top priority. Allison had flashed in several games between 2016 and 2017 when injuries struck the Green Bay receiving corps. With Jordy Nelson slowing down this year and Randall Cobb, a potential cap casualty, the 6’3” Allison has the potential to step into a more prominent role when Aaron Rodgers returns to form next year. If Allison can establish himself as a competent outside threat, he could be in line for several big games in 2018.
It’s not often a 22-year-old 6’3” 220-pound wideout with 4.55 speed, and 80%+ collegiate production stats fly under the radar this long, but that’s what happens when you play college ball at Marian as Krishawn Hogan did. The former Cardinal signed with the Colts practice squad this year and was brought up to the big leagues in late September. Unfortunately, he ended up tearing his ACL during his second game and ended the season on IR. However, assuming the Alshon Jeffery lookalike makes a complete recovery he should be ready to compete for a higher spot in the pecking order in 2018. Donte Moncrief has been a bust and shouldn’t be brought back, which means Hogan’s only real competition in Indy next year behind T.Y. Hilton will be fellow UDFA Chester Rogers.
Another small school standout to consider is David Moore, who runs a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at 6’1” and 220 pounds. Currently buried on the Seattle depth chart, Moore has a chance to continue to work within the offense and work his way up to challenge for more playing time this offseason. The Seahawks may not be able to afford Paul Richardson after his breakout season, and Moore would bring some needed size to the receiving corps with that departure.
Much has been made about the Panthers failing to replace Ted Ginn Jr. as a deep threat in their offense to this point. While Carolina may elect to bring in a vertical threat this offseason, the deep threat they lack might already be on the roster. A 4.3 speedster, Damiere Byrd showed flashes during the preseason as he looked like he might emerge as that component of the offense this year before an injury derailed his chances. Curtis Samuel may eventually develop into a more permanent part of the offense, but Byrd looked to be the frontrunner during the preseason games in 2017 and might be a more immediate fixture if he can regain his form in 2018.
A bet on Stacy Coley is a bet against Laquon Treadwell. The 7th round pick would primarily be competing against the 1st round dud for a complementary role in what has become one of the more explosive offenses in the league. While Treadwell will undoubtedly receive every opportunity to play the part, he hasn’t done much of anything to note thus far in his career, so a few explosive plays in practice or the preseason may be enough to get Coley a chance. An early collegiate breakout player at Miami, Coley is a similar athlete to Stefon Diggs. If Diggs were to miss time, Coley might be able to help fill the shoes of the explosive wideout.