Introduction • QB • RB • WR • TE
Deep sleeper WRs
Read the introduction to this series
if you haven't yet.
- Randall Cobb is too good of a player for him to be a forgotten receiver on a team loaded with receivers. I would not be surprised to see him take a big step forward this year. He can play all over the field, but his strength may be in the slot position, which has been a very popular and productive position for the Packers, especially with Aaron Rodgers
at quarterback. Cobb may not begin the year as a key contributor on offense, but he has could see his role increase as the year goes on.
- Cobb should be emerging into the Donald Driver
role as the underneath, slot receiver in one of the league's most potent passing attacks. He's electric with his speed and quickness and should have nice value if he can perform in camp and earn the opportunity.
- There is little doubt that the Green Bay offense is explosive and mostly led by the passing game. Aaron Rodgers
and Matt Flynn
combined for over 50 passing touchdowns last year against just seven touchdowns on the ground (four of which came from the quarterbacks). The top two receivers for Green Bay should be Greg Gennings and Jordy Nelson
, but the Packers use 3- and 4-wide looks more often that most any other franchise. With Donald Driver
very close to the end of his career, a young wide receiver like Cobb could see a big leap in targets and has huge upside if either Gennings or Nelson suffer an injury.
- If fantasy drafts were based solely on talent, Cobb might be a top 15 pick. He's that good. Unfortunately for Cobb he happens to play for the league's deepest roster. While it's hard to imagine Cobb displacing Jordy Nelson
or Greg Jennings
this year, Cobb is already a better player than James Jones
and Donald Driver
. Cobb is one of those players who may go undrafted, but if an injury forces him into the Packers lineup, he should be that week's number one waiver claim. He could be a top 10 fantasy receiver the moment he gets a starting position.
- People are forgetting about Doug Baldwin in Seattle. Sidney Rice
should have a grasp on the WR1, but Baldwin could very easily earn the WR2 role and finish with similar numbers to Rice, but at a much better value. Last year as a rookie, Baldwin went 51-788-4. If Matt Flynn
pans out, those numbers won't be that difficult to duplicate and may even increase.
- The Seahawks will be starting Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice
this year, two guys who should see increased value with new starting quarterback Matt Flynn
in the mix. Baldwin's consistency should improve with Flynn under center, as should his target totals. Baldwin is a nice sleeper NFL WR2 to grab late in drafts as he offers good upside.
- Doug Baldwin is a forgotten man, and that's a great thing for savvy fantasy players. As an undrafted rookie Baldwin led the Seahawks in receptions, yards and touchdowns. That was all without an NFL offseason or above average quarterbacking. This year Baldwin will have training camp, a much better quarterback in Matt Flynn
, and a (hopefully) healthy Sidney Rice
to keep opposing team's #1 corners busy. Baldwin could easily deliver Top 30 numbers but is being drafted as an end of roster backup. Big mistake.
- We were given a "sleeper" cutoff of ADP170, so at ADP176 Baldwin squeaks in as a qualifier. Baldwin only had 21 catches in his rookie season and had his infamous locker room fight with Thomas Jones
where he hurt his thumb, but he was also a first round pick last year and has the potential to be a big producer. He's 6'5" 230 and showed at the University of Pittsburgh the ability to use his big body to his advantage. With a year under his belt he should be a strong red zone target and solid complement to Dwayne Bowe
- Jonathan Baldwin was a first round pick last year, but most of the headlines involving him revolved around his fracas with Thomas Jones
. He showed a lot of rookie errors in his debut season, but also flashed enough ability to show he could be a productive player in the NFL. Given a full off season and QBs not named Tyler Palko
under center and Baldwin could easily be on fantasy radars sooner rather than later.
- Baldwin is a 2nd year wide receiver that was drafted in the 1st round last year by the Chiefs after a successful college campaign at Pittsburgh. In his three years at Pittsburgh, he caught 127 passes for 2,306 yards, averaging 18.2 ypc. His strengths of size at 6'-4"and 228-lbs., combined with deceptive speed and excellent hands could pay dividends for him if the Chiefs' quarterback play improves this season.
- With the departure of Brandon Marshall
the receiver situation in Miami is despairing for Dolphin fans. Of all the guys on the roster, Hartline looks the most likely to fill that role. I wouldn't expect high end production, especially given the terrible QB situation, but Hartline could be a nice option should things go his way and he could end up as a bye week replacement or an emergency WR3.
- The Dolphins grew tired of the shenanigans of top receiver Brandon Marshall
and sent him packing. Maybe this makes the team stronger going forward without the frustration of dealing him Marshall but the fact is the Dolphins appear to be incredibly weak at the receiver position. However sometimes having a gaping hole in a position and help a player elevate to a fantasy star and without question Hartline is in a situation here where he could emerge with a 1000-yard receiving season. The problem is he has shown to be just a role player in his first few seasons but he is entering his fourth season and perhaps can find lightning in a bottle.
- Brian Hartline is atop the Dolphins' depth chart at wide receiver. While Matt Moore
, David Garrard
and rookie Ryan Tannehill
don't make fantasy owners pant with lust, one of them could claim the top job in Miami with solid play. If the Dolphins get a respectable pass game going this year, Hartline would be one of the guys to benefit from an improving situation.
- Plaxico Burress
is gone, Santonio Holmes
is a ticking time bomb, and Stephen Hill is getting nothing but rave reviews from his work in OTAs. The quarterback situation is iffy in New York, but Hill is the type of big, strong receiver that can win the jump balls Sanchez and Tebow may be throwing up. This is another player that I think will be more valuable the second half of the season, but with his ADP you can afford to stash him on the bench early and wait for him to break out.
- Early reports out of spring OTAs indicate that Stephen Hill is doing very well. While most people expected Hill to struggle with the New York offense, he appears to be picking it up without a problem. Look for him to move into the #2 spot on the team and start opposite Santonio Holmes
when the season begins.
- The early feeling is that Stephen Hill could be the Jets WR2 opposite Santonio Holmes
. He brings size and speed to the Jets and has already impressed the coaching staff with his ability in OTAs. If he continues to excel in training camp and the preseason, he could have a good rookie year with 30-40 receptions, but most importantly, upwards of 4 touchdowns thanks to his deep threat and red zone ability.
- Sanu has a chance to earn the team's starting job across from A.J. Green
before or during training camp. But even if he does not, his talents will be put to use in this offense. His frame and skills remind many of former Bengal T. J. Houshmandzadeh -- who once caught 112 passes for this team in the 2007 season. Sanu's ability to work the short-to-intermediate routes and use his size to keep defenders away from incoming passes should compliment Green's big play ability. He's a nice "lottery ticket" to take with the hopes that he gets the starting role and gets 6-8 targets per game.
- Sanu was the feature wide receiver at Rutgers and he put up solid numbers despite minimal quarterback play. Now he lands in Cincinnati as the top contender to start opposite of A.J. Green
. The Bengals need another receiver to take pressure and double coverage off of Green, and Sanu should have the inside track on the job for this year. He has great hands and leaping ability and should secure the WR2 spot for the Bengals.
- The Cincinnati Bengals have a big hole in their second starting receiver slot behind superstar A. J. Green. I believe rookie Sanu has the best chance to emerge from the pack. He is a nice complement to Green in that he is a big body that is quicker than he is fast. He has great strength for an NFL receiver and will be able to run the underneath pass routes as the defenses stay deep to contain the explosive Green. He has good ball skills and makes his living in the middle of the field with his fearless play.
- Danny Amendola has declared himself 100% recovered from his elbow/triceps injury and is expected to be the slot receiver for the Rams where he thrived in 2010 catching 85 passes. He has earned Sam Bradford
's trust and could wind up as the team's leader in targets and receptions once again. With rookies Brian Quick
and Chris Givens
giving him the biggest threat for competition, Amendola could be a big contributor this year.
- Danny Amendola will be the slot receiver for the Saint Louis Rams this season after the team tendered him at the second-round level. He will likely be the only experienced receiver for the Rams with rookies Brian Quick
and Chris Givens
manning the outside receiver positions. Amendola is very quick in space and can get open in the middle of the field. He could approach 75 receptions this year if the rookies are slow to develop. Saint Louis has no other options and will need to rely on the shifty slot receiver for clutch receptions.
- I expect Pierre Garcon
and Fred Davis
will be the team's leading receivers, but Hankerson won't be that far behind, especially if he beats out Santana Moss
and Josh Morgan
for the WR2 role. Hankerson was starting to warm up last year, before he injured his hip and was lost for the season. He is a physical receiver who has the ability to be a good red zone target for Robert Griffin. I envision at least 40 receptions with the possibility of scoring 4-5 touchdowns.
- Hankerson is a binary sleeper. If his hip surgery goes well and Hankerson practices without any setbacks, he's a receiver that must be targeted in drafts. Robert Griffin III
is going to dramatically improve the passing game, and he will need to rely on more than Pierre Garcon
(who is really an overpaid deep threat). Hankerson is a big, physical receiver that should be able to come down with jump balls; but he's also a sound route runner. If healthy, Hankerson could be a productive receiver and viable fantasy WR3 or bye week option.
- The Packers offense is way too good for Jones to be rated this low. Everyone loves Randall Cobb
's potential, but last year that was about all he showed. Aaron Rodgers
likes to spread it around, and the aging Donald Driver
is the only thing standing between Jones and the third receiver spot in this explosive offense.
- James Jones has some great receivers in front of him in Green Bay, but the injury bug can bite any team and Jones would be an explosive value if he were to wind up in the starting lineup for the Packers. He's worth a late-round flyer this season.
- Jerome Simpson was signed by the Vikings on a one-year "prove it" deal. The free agency marketplace for his services dwindled due to the September arrest for marijuana delivered to his house. Simpson's speed has impressed already in camp and he is slated to start for Minnesota. The Vikings love his ability to get behind the defense. He is still just 26 years of age, entering the prime of his career. Simpson was the WR2 for Cincinnati last year with rookie Andy Dalton
under center. He still was able to amass 50 receptions for 725 yards and four scoring grabs. If Christian Ponder
can improve with a full offseason, Simpson could break into the Top 25 fantasy players at his position.
- Let's be clear -- Simpson isn't going to be consistent. This isn't a guy that vaults into stardom, but he is someone worth rostering. Last year he caught 50 receptions for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns in Cincinnati, but takes his services to the receiver-starved Vikings in 2012. Simpson will miss a few games because of a drug related legal matter, but once he's on the field he will start opposite Percy Harvin
and be the recipient of plenty of targets. Simpson has been a highlight reel in early OTAs, and will have a smattering of big games during the season. You can do worse than draft Simpson as one of your backup receivers.
- There are a few receivers ahead of Avant in the pecking order, but Avant has improved in targets, receptions and receiving yards in every one of his 6 seasons to date. If anything should happen to DeSean Jackson
, Jeremy Maclin
or Brent Celek
then Avant could take that improvement streak to 7 years and therefore become a fantasy option.
- The Browns apparently think their fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft can start immediately. I can see why. Benjamin has good vertical speed, great skill after the catch, and runs better routes than most realize. His best fit is as a slot receiver, but I think he has enough athleticism to produce outside in a pinch. There were a lot of plays left on the field at the University of Miami that involved Benjamin and a lot of them weren't the fault of the receivers, despite the reputation among fans of not always playing smart football. Keep an eye on the Browns rookie because his speed and after the catch skill paired with a strong-armed quarterback in fellow rookie Brandon Weeden
could produce some big plays both deep and on short passes.
- Benn has become the forgotten man in Tampa Bay with the addition of Vincent Jackson
but he is a young, talented player with good size and in three-receiver sets he may find himself in single coverage against the fourth or fifth best cover guy on the defense. I would not be surprised to see him emerge with 6 touchdowns in 2012.
- Davone Bess is not listed among the ADP Top-200, yet he will likely be the Dolphins' best PPR fantasy producer and could exceed 80 catches. Brandon Marshall
has moved on to Chicago leaving a void of 80-90 catches to fill, and Bess is easily the most reliable of the Miami receivers. While his catches dipped to 51 last season playing second fiddle to Marshall, he had 80 catches for 817 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2010, and 76 catches in 2009. With only Brian Hartline
and a bunch of untested guys at the other receiver positions plus pedestrian Anthony Fasano
at tight end, it seems crazy to me that Bess isn't even among the ADP Top-200.
- If he returns to healthy, he's one of the best five receivers in the 2012 NFL Draft class. Tall, fast, and strong with skills after the catch and excellent hands in traffic, Childs is declaring himself the "Steal of the Draft." I'm inclined to agree if his impressive Pro Day indicates that he's finally fully back from his injury that limited him for his entire season year and a few months before the workout during college all-star season. Childs told the media that he was only at 70 percent when he played his final year at Arkansas. Scouts reported he looked like the Childs of old and if that's the case, then he could become the Jordy Nelson
to Percy Harvin
's Greg Jennings
in Minnesota as long as Christian Ponder
continues to develop. I'm talking talent not production, although the numbers will be good enough that Childs could become a flex-option this year.
- The Colts are going to throw a lot more than most people expect, partly because their ground game is not very good and partly because they believe in rookie Andrew Luck
and want him to show off right way. Austin Collie should be starting for Indianapolis opposite of Reggie Wayne
, and both players should flirt with 100+ targets this season. Collie's sure hands pushes him up the fantasy charts if Luck can get him better throws placed in a position where the speedy Collie can make things happen after the catch.
- Criner was the talk of camp for the Oakland Raiders, who always seem to have an under-the-radar receiver ready to emerge. The great news for Criner is that none of them have yet. It's a loaded wide receiver corps in Oakland, but none of the receivers are so entrenched that a great preseason from Criner would go unnoticed. He has a different skill set than most of his competition, including great hands.
- Listen to the beat writers and you find out that Tandon Doss has been impressing in OTAs and could carry this momentum forward to training camp, and even beyond that. Doss will compete for the third receiver position with incumbent Jacoby Jones
, but trusting Jones is not exactly a sure bet. His inconsistency was the reason he was never able to establish a foothold in Houston, after all. Doss is a player to watch out for in dynasty leagues especially, where right now he is but an afterthought in the Ravens offense. Ozzie Newsome knows talented football players. Before long Doss could be the Anquan Boldin
of this offense. What value he will hold this year depends on Jacoby Jones
' consistency, or lack thereof, and injuries to Boldin or Torrey Smith
- Jacoby Ford was a popular darling of the sleeper crowd last year following his dynamic rookie season. Injuries curtailed that potential in 2011, but should he be fit this season and with speed options Darrius Heyward-Bey
, Denarious Moore and Darren McFadden
all likely to see the best of opposing defenses and Ford could build on that rookie season at incredible value. Taking 2 of the 3 dynamic Raider receivers, Including Ford could be a plan for those with deeper rosters.
- Head coach of the Panthers Ron Rivera, if I am interpreting his words correctly, believes that David Gettis is the one who has to prove himself coming off his ACL tear and that Brandon LaFell
is the starter opposite Steve Smith
. LaFell improved his game last year noticeably and deserves that role -- for now. Gettis is still refining his own game, but he offers something that LaFell cannot offer in the same amount, namely deep speed. Cam Newton
has the arm to fire the football to all parts of the field, and if Gettis can show progress in camp he could turn into a Newton favourite.
- Lestar Jean was a star of the Texans 2011 training camp before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire regular season. With a thin depth chart behind Andre Johnson
, Jean has a real shot to be the #2 wide receiver for the Texans, which would be a stupendous value for fantasy owners who scoop him in the last round of their drafts this year.
- Alshon Jeffery was the first rookie that Chicago signed, and he's already working with the first team during the spring OTAs. The WR filed in Chicago has struggled over the last two years and Jeffery has a real chance to distinguish himself among the group. He may not start at the #2 overall position, but injuries have been a problem with this group and Jeffery could be a sleeper down the stretch.
- After being eased into the role last season with the more experienced Legedu Naanee
alongside of him, LaFell will begin the 2012 season as the team's #2 WR across from Steve Smith
. Head coach Ron Rivera has displayed his confidence in LaFell with various quotes to the media saying that he's ready. As opposing defenses shift their focus to Steve Smith
's side and the deep middle, LaFell will face single coverage nearly every play. He also a nice young QB who should only get better throwing the ball after perhaps the most remarkable season by any rookie in NFL history.
- The Houston Texans have a wonderful starting receiver in Andre Johnson
and a proven veteran number two in Kevin Walter
. However there is a huge hole waiting to be filled after those two players and 3rd round pick Posey has a great blend of size, speed and ability. The Texans have three young receivers (Lestar Jean
, Keshawn Martin
and Posey) and at least one of them, if not more will see significant playing time in 2012. I believe Posey has the best skill set of the three mentioned and he will emerge.
- Michael Floyd
is the headline act as the young gun in town. The Cardinals' first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft reminds me of Dwayne Bowe
in style of play and with potentially more upside, especially playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald
. However, I can't get past the curious comment that quarterback Kevin Kolb
had about third-year receiver Andre Roberts. Upon learning that the Cardinals drafted Floyd, some of Kolb's first comments were about the positive impact it would have for Roberts because the pick would move the former Citadel star to the slot where he's a more natural fit. Kolb said Roberts was a special player. I had high marks for Roberts as a senior, and if Kolb can elevate his play and the play of his receivers around him, there's a chance the slot receiver could have have the production Steve Breaston
had when Kurt Warner
led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Of course, Todd Haley is no longer the coordinator, so the comparison isn't as straightforward, but Roberts has the hands, skill after the catch, and confidence of his quarterback to surprise fantasy owners this year.
- Greg Salas was showing a versatile skill set, playing inside and outside for the Rams during 2011, before his season was cut short by a broken left fibula. He's participating in OTAs as of May 16, 2011, and should have a shot at a starting job for the rebuilding Rams if he can get back to the top of his game. He's a cheap lottery ticket at a starting NFL receiver.
- Sanders competed with Antonio Brown
to be the third wide receiver last year (Brown won), but now that Hines Ward
is gone it is clear that Sanders is that third option in the passing game. Pittsburgh will struggle in running the ball as Rashard Mendenhall
may start the year on the PUP list. TE Heath Miller
is a good receiver but he has to block too often to be a big factor. Sanders is a great sleeper wide receiver to grab late as his upside is very high.
- Shipley suffered a torn ACL in September last season, but is expected to be ready for 2012 training camp. The Bengals need a solid #2 wide receiver across from A.J. Green
, and Shipley may be the guy there if he's fully recovered by regular season.
- Like Dallas Clark
, Smith was at the top of his game three years ago, but injuries limited him for the past two. The Rams signed him this offseason after a workout and believe he showed them enough to warrant believe that he's capable of physical returning to the form he displayed as one of the best possession receivers in the NFL in 2009. If this happens, Sam Bradford
will have a ball throwing passes to the former Giant because he's a great route runner capable of tough plays against physical play over the middle. Smith could easily reach the 70-catch total if he's healthy.
- Golden Tate did not make the ADP 200 list and I think that's a mistake. He began to come on the second half of last year, is a former 2nd round pick out of Notre Dame with some good speed and ball skills, and the opportunity is there for him to make an impact this season. Starting wide receivers Sidney Rice
(concussions, twin shoulder surgeries) and Mike Williams
(broken fibula and ankle) have lingering health issues. A new and better quarterback in Matt Flynn
will help. Though Tate took the better part of two seasons to get rolling, I think he keeps it going and has a nice 2012 season.