Very Deep Sleeper: Ryan Switzer (Fantasy Football)

Jul 12, 2018

Is Ryan Switzer on his way to becoming a fantasy asset in Oakland?

R.C. Fischer discusses deep sleeper candidate, Raiders wide receiver Ryan Switzerin Season 3 of his Very Deep Sleeper series for FantasyPros.

This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from R.C. head to Fantasy Football Metrics.

Switzer has slid into some quick roto-headlines in the recent dead period of fantasy news the past week or so because Jon Gruden praised Switzer’s activity in recent offseason practices. That news probably went in one ear and out the other for most everyone because no one cares about Ryan Switzer – the #158 ranked WR for PPR in 2018 on the FantasyPros Expert Consensus today. What’s that? Like a WR12-13? Rod Streater has a higher expert consensus ranking among PPR wide receivers for 2018, as does Aldrick Robinson and rookie Daurice Fountain. The experts don’t care about Switzer.

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If you said, “Who’s Daurice Fountain?” then it’s settled – Ryan Switzer is worthy of the “Very Deep Sleeper” nomination. You likely do not believe Switzer is to be taken seriously for fantasy either.

How’s he going to start/play/get targets on the Raiders with their WR depth chart? Switzer hardly played for the Cowboys last season. In fact, he’s so inconsequential that Dallas traded him during the draft for something called Jihad Ward.

The team that drafted him (Dallas) ditched him just one year later — and they supposedly don’t have any wide receivers to get excited about on their depth chart either. The surface arguments against Switzer are logical.

I think there are forces at play here that might get Switzer into a ‘shock’ starter’s role by Week 1, making him a possible ‘shock’ fantasy asset in 2018. I believe that when I lay out these ‘forces,’ you might change your disbelieving stance.

I bet you’re not even intrigued with this article yet. You’re only reading it so that you can confirm your original stance of not caring about Switzer and not seeing any real opportunity for him in 2018. I think I’m going to crack you…I’m good at my job.

Let me lay out a very critical piece of this puzzle right off the bat, something that has nothing to do with his skill level, anecdotal tape talk, or analytics, etc. We’ll get to his scouting, but let’s start with how he got to the Raiders a few short months ago.

Switzer was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by Dallas. A highly lauded return man with ‘Wes Welker‘ (or should I say ‘Cole Beasley‘) type WR skills as the heir apparent to Beasley in Dallas. So, why did Dallas trade him away so quickly? Is there a problem?

Switzer barely played on offense last season – six catches (on seven targets) in 16 game appearances. However, he was the primary punt and kick returner (53 combined returns and one punt return TD). He made the NFL All-Rookie team as a return man. Not a bad start to a career, and yet Dallas ditched him. Why?

Have you watched the Dallas Cowboys documentary ‘All or Nothing’ on Amazon this season? I have. It’s a look behind the scenes of the Cowboys’ 2017 season. The biggest thing I took away from watching the Amazon doc was how breathtakingly ‘bad’ the Cowboys’ coaching staff is/was. If you haven’t seen the documentary, please watch – you won’t believe what you’re seeing.

Remember when the Cowboys collapsed late last season when injuries hit, and they had no answer with shifting personnel or changing the game plan…and remember when Adrian Clayborn had 6.0 sacks in a game against Dallas and it happened because Dallas did nothing to adjust to the problem? Yeah, that’s the staff I’m referring to.

However, within this raw look by Amazon at the Cowboys organization, there was one coach that seemed like the only reasonable person among the coaching staff – the special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. A long-time football coach who has been an assistant head coach for a few NFL teams over the years. For Dallas, he was the special teams coach for the past five seasons. In 2017, one of the main players he would have worked with intimately would have been Ryan Switzer – his main return game weapon.

Why do I mention this? When Jon Gruden took the Oakland job, one of the first things he did was bring Bisaccia with him, and Bisaccia left Dallas quickly, willingly. And when the opportunity presented itself, Oakland went after Switzer. You usually do not see player-for-player speculation trades in the NFL. Usually, trade deals are for a player who is no longer wanted or is too costly to deal away in exchange for draft picks.

The Raiders went after Switzer on purpose. Jon Gruden, de facto Raiders GM, didn’t dream that deal up on his own. He would have gotten insight from a very savvy assistant coach on his staff who would have known Switzer’s skill, not only as a return man, but also in practices as a wide receiver. He’d also know his character and work ethic, etc.

The move could be seen as Oakland trading for the return skills of Switzer, and there’s truth to that – but I believe there’s a real WR prospect hiding here as well, and the recent roto headlines have been about Gruden’s pleasant surprise as to how good a receiver Switzer is.

Switzer was a four-year starter for North Carolina in college. He worked his first three seasons with a run-first offense and weak-passing quarterback. In his final season, 2016, Switzer got to work with Mitchell Trubisky as a starter. Switzer was Trubisky’s go-to guy, as evidenced by 96 catches, 1,112 yards, and six TDs in 13 games.

Switzer was a workhorse wide receiver. He registered a 16-catch, 208-yard, and one TD effort versus Pitt in 2016. He also grabbed 14 passes for 158 yards against Florida State that same season. He posted a 13-catch, 171-yard, and one TD game against rival N.C. State that final year as well. Switzer had some huge games as a college wide receiver when he got to play with a legit quarterback.

Switzer works in that Julian Edelman-like role – great punt returner, bulldog-tough underneath wide receiver — a quarterback’s-best-friend type wide receiver. Oh, and Switzer is no ordinary ‘good’ return man. Try seven punt return TDs in his college career! Try FIVE punt return TDs in one season, which was his FRESHMAN year, on just 24 returns! He also returned a punt for a TD in the NFL last season as well.

Switzer is no ordinary return man. At the 2017 NFL Combine, he ran a solid 4.51 40-time before posting an eye-catching, 4.00 shuttle time and a 6.77 three-cone, one of the best combinations of agility times in the entire draft class. Switzer is ‘shifty’ to say the least…you’d have to be to return punts for TDs at his success rate. That same shiftiness translates to something nice after the catch as well – in the mold of Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, etc.

So, Oakland wanted Switzer and we know he’s got some above-average+ NFL skills. How’s he going to matter in 2018 for the Raiders?

Who are the starting three wide receivers for Oakland on paper right now? Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant. Who’s the #4 if you looked at the group and picked one? Not Seth Roberts – he’s terrible and only mattered because Jack Del Rio was out of his mind trying to push human butterfingers. The best wide receiver talent the Raiders have not among the current starting three is Ryan Switzer.

Can Switzer crack the starting three by Week 1? What if Martavis Bryant is suspended for the first few games or all season? Rumors are abounding. Plus, Bryant is wildly overrated since his first few splash games for the Steelers years ago. He’s a soft target Switzer could take out.

What if a 33+-year-old with multiple knee injuries who is coming off a “crash and burn” 2017 season in Jordy Nelson is kinda ‘done’ and is just a shell of his old self? One day Eric Decker, Dwayne Bowe, and Andre Johnson are great and then the next they are done. It happens like a lightning bolt with little warning. Nelson is showing signs of ‘the end.’

What if Amari Cooper performs as poorly as he did last season? I mean, take away one huge Monday Night game in 2017 and Cooper wasn’t merely disappointing – he was a total disaster in 2017.

We’re not talking Cooks-Woods-Kupp gang of titillating, in their prime starting wide receiver. This is not an exciting WR trio here in Oakland in 2018 (it was in 2015). There are grave concerns with each of the Raiders’ current listed WR starters. And then there is Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings — a student of the quick-tempo, fast-decision passing game in college working with a master quick-tempo, quick-decision quarterback Derek Carr.

What if the Raiders decide they don’t want to start a bunch of one-dimensional wide receivers…and none of those dimensions are as the ‘QB’s best friend’ or being a workhorse underneath receiver like Switzer? What if one of the starters fails again and forces the Switzer door to be open. See where I’m going?

What’s the Julian Edelman of the Oakland Raiders worth for fantasy 2018? More than a WR12-13, I’d bet. In fact, my fantasy football draft guide rankings for 2018 have him much, much higher than anyone in the current expert consensus. He can be had for a rock bottom price today and has tremendous upside potential.


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Look for more of my team’s NFL Draft scouting reports, measurables, and weekly updated dynasty rookie rankings before and after the NFL Draft, right up to the beginning of the new NFL season at College Football Metrics. See our NFL/fantasy analysis all year ’round at Fantasy Football Metrics.

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