Rookie Super Sleepers: Deon Yelder – by Joshua Deisinger

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the ‘WhoDat’ nation had to be hoping that their New Orleans Saints would pull the trigger on one of the top rookie Tight Ends.

They were disappointed not to land a homecoming deal for Jimmy Graham, as he opted for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers and they didn’t get very far in the Eric Ebron sweepstakes as he quickly chose Indianapolis and a couple of years catching passes from Andrew Luck.  The former Seahawk, Luke Willson, wasn’t even so much as mentioned as he signed with Detroit, nor was the former Packer Richard Rodgers who signed a 1-year prove it deal with Philadelphia.

They did however bring back Benjamin Watson (who had the best year of his career with Drew Brees and the Saints, with a 74rec/825yds/6TD line). The 37-year old missed all of 2016 with a torn achilles and returned to the field in 2017 with Joe Flacco and the Ravens posting a stat line worth 61rec/522yds/4TD.

So, who did they have left aside from the addition of Watson in the TE group?  Well, Coby Fleener and Josh Hill were still in the picture but Fleener had little to no impact due to injuries and prior years that promised a show from Hill left more to be desired.  The only other options were Michael Hoomanawanui, Garret Griffin and Alex Ellis.

The draft had to be the answer, right?  Nope.  They moved into the 1st round for Marcus Davenport, a Defensive End from UTSA and the remaining 6 rounds would come and go without so much as a whimper of a TE. Shortly after the draft, the Saints quickly began to tally up their undrafted free agent signings and one of those happened to be a Tight End from Western Kentucky, Deon Yelder.  So they missed all the big name free agent TEs and brought in a reclamation project in Watson and passed on all other players available at the position in the draft.

That being said, they signed Yelder.  What did New Orleans see in him?  Well, they must’ve felt strongly enough because they followed that up with a release of Fleener the very next week.

NCAA Football: Cure Bowl-Georgia State vs Western Kentucky
Photo: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

Who is Deon Yelder?

He was a first year starting Senior for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and spent a successful 2017 catching passes from signal caller Mike White, completing a fantastic season with 52 catches, 688 yards and leading the pas catchers with 7 Touchdowns.

Deon wasn’t invited to the combine and was relegated to his pro day to display his talents.  He performed well with a 33.5-inch Vertical, a 10-foot broad jump, and was hand timed with a 4.72 second 40-yard dash. The stats and his numbers aren’t bad, but what else can he do?  He played every single snap for all the ‘Hands’ teams while at Western Kentucky.  He can block kicks, he can catch passes, he can run and pass block, all of which are portrayed in this highlight film. If the video isn’t enough evidence, how about the fact that he was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl?

What followed wasn’t an overly highlight worthy performance as Yelder didn’t catch a single pass, but he did do enough away from the ball to warrant an invite to the 2018 Senior Bowl.  He was a late addition to the field, so late that he wasn’t even able to submit a biography like the other players.  However, he had a great week of practice, showed well in drills with some of the best players in the nation, and finished garnering recognition with a beautiful touchdown reception from Kyle Lauletta.

Yelder stated he had meetings with staff from the Bengals, Chiefs, and Packers among others leading up to the draft, still he sat the entirety of the event without hearing his name called.

Shortly thereafter he was signed in New Orleans.

Deon Yelder 2
Photp Credit: Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports

Looking Ahead

Yelder is almost certainly the most well rounded of the bunch behind Benjamin Watson, with the skills and abilities to assist in all phases of the game.  The reasons that I think you should pick him up and stash him on your bench are as follows; Benjamin Watson is 37 years old, Josh Hill has never panned out,  Hoomanawanui is a journeyman who continues to be serviceable.  Garret Griffin and Alex Ellis will more than likely be left off the starting 53.

Although his chances of making the game-day roster are a little slim right now, he most certainly provides upside.  He can be had at a ‘little to nothing price tag’ and Taxi Squad eligible in most leagues but he has a clear path to relevancy. With age playing against Watson and lack of talent spread across the remaining Tight End options tied to the fact he is useful in all phases of the game – Yelder could be the guy in NOLA.

Little to no investment for purely upside in return.  In an offense led by Drew Brees, and a clear path to relevancy, leaves Deon Yelder a smart play to add to the end of your roster.

by Joshua Deisinger – @SconnieJosh



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