Introduction • QB • RB • WR • TE
Deep sleeper WRs
Read the introduction to this series
if you haven't yet.
- Baldwin has looked like a freak in camp and then completely disappeared in preseason games. Dwayne Bowe
coming back will be a huge help as it will get Baldwin away from the other team's #1 corner. He makes spectacular plays on deep balls and runs good routes.
- Every player being drafted this low has reasons as to why he's not more enticing. When sorting through the "warts" these players have, a 6'4" and 230 pound receiver with a questionable quarterback situation is more appealing than an undersized, under-utilized player on an above average offense. Basically, the thought in picking sleepers is that the cream of the crop ability-wise will rise to the top. Players with Baldwin's size-skill combination can overcome what might seem like a shaky offensive situation.
- Jonathan Baldwin was a first round pick last year, but most of the headlines involving him revolved around his fracas with Thomas Jones
. He made 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.
- A successful beginning of the preseason (seven catches for 97 yards on eight targets) and reports that he may see the second-most snaps of any Chicago receiver has Jeffery's outlook going in the right direction. Jeffery has great size and strength, and his team invested a high draft pick in him. He's already a much more polished receiver than Devin Hester
, who is currently second on the depth chart. Draft Jeffery late, hold on to him as he matures throughout the season, reap the rewards in the second half.
- Jeffery is a very talented rookie wide receiver for the Bears that gets the opportunity to play opposite Brandon Marshall
. Jeffery's low ADP is based on perceptions that he can be lazy. My perspective is that he grew frustrated by the quarterback play at South Carolina. Regardless, he now has a great opportunity as Jay Cutler
's second option. Recent wide receiver performances by fellow Southeastern Conference rookies Julio Jones
and A.J. Green
bolster my confidence in Jeffery's chances to be productive immediately with the Bears.
- Rookie receivers are generally worth avoiding. I don't expect Jeffery to put up the kind of numbers we saw from A.J. Green
and Julio Jones
last year, but I have been impressed with the way he's dominated training camp. He doesn't LOOK like a rookie. He seems to have grasped the playbook, he's a willing blocker, and hasn't shied away from pressure of being measured against Brandon Marshall
. As long as Jay Cutler
stays healthy, I think the Bears are going to throw downfield to the outside receivers much more than most realize. Jeffery is a great backup fantasy option, who might evolve into a fantasy starter toward the end of the season -- just when your fantasy playoffs get underway.
- Jones might not have consistent value to begin the season, but he is a solid talent in a potent passing game, with the proven ability to be a fantasy WR3/flex in good matchups for the Packers, and WR2 upside if Greg Jennings
or Jordy Nelson
miss time. Jennings two-week long concussion recovery raises the specter of him missing even more time if he gets his bell rung during the regular season. You'll want to be holding Jones if that happens.
- 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.
- You'll have to sit on Simpson for three weeks to get production, but after he serves out his suspension, he could be a breakout player. Simpson has been wowing the Vikings since joining the team, and Percy Harvin
should help open things up deep for the acrobatic wideout. Christian Ponder
isn't afraid to take chances downfield and that should give Simpson a chance for success.
- With the Vikings in desperate need of a playmaker to take the pressure off Adrian Peterson
and Percy Harvin
, Jerome Simpsons steps up as most likely. He will serve a suspension to start the year, but has been very impressive in preseason to date. Stash him away and look to use him when he returns.
- 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.
- Smith has created a ton of buzz as the surprise of Rams' camp, among reports that he appears to be having a summer of "rebirth". He is in line to start and could easily become the primary option for Sam Bradford
. He was a PPR wonder during his first incarnation with the Giants, so he should be a late-round target in any leagues that start three wide receivers and a flex.
- The Rams drafted two wide receivers that are not ready for the NFL. They are both talented and have long-term potential to develop into starters, but don't count on them this year. Steve Smith
is one of the most reliable pass catchers and route runners in the NFL. However, he was still recovering from microfracture surgery in 2011 and was nothing but a supporting player for the Eagles. Smith wowed the Rams during his tryout and the word from minicamp to training camp is that he looks like his old Pro Bowl self and his beginning to play like it. Smith will be the most productive receiver on this team because he is the only receiver on the team with the combination of speed, toughness, and consistency to make the plays in tight coverage that Sam Bradford
- I just can't quit Steve Smith
. I drafted him in tons of leagues the year he broke out with New York, and his 107 catches for 1,220 yards that year helped me to many league championships. I was all aboard the following season, but injuries set him back. Last year was largely a season of rehabilitation, as he occupied a backup spot on the Eagles roster. This year -- he's BACK. While everyone else is chasing Danny "9 yards is a big gain" Amendola, or raw rookies Brian Quick
and Chris Givens
, Smith has been having the most consistent training camp. If he breaks camp as a starter -- which he will -- I think he's an AMAZING value, particularly in PPR leagues.
- Two years ago, before an elbow injury derailed him in 2011, Amendola led the Rams with 24 red zone targets. He has shown good chemistry with quarterback Sam Bradford
and remains the Rams expected WR1 this season. Bradford is a good short-intermediate ranged passer, which fits right into Amendola's strength as a receiver. Not only is 50+ receptions a possibility, but 5-6 TDs is not out of the question.
- Amendola was an effective receiver for the Rams during Sam Bradford
's rookie season and the two were very productive together. Amendola was the team leader in targets and also caught a team leading 85 passes. His yardage was underwhelming as he averaged only 8.1 ypr, but the connection between the two should not be ignored. Early pre-season reports are indicating that Amendola is again playing well after missing almost all of last season.
- Last year LaFell combined with Legedu Naanee
to total 80 receptions in the Panthers offense. Naanee is now with Miami, thus leaving LaFell as the primary WR2 behind Steve Smith
. Also gone from the equation is Jeremy Shockey
. Not only does LaFell have some inherited targets from Naanee, but also from Shockey. I expect LaFell to be a big contributor on an improving offense, possibly reaching 60 receptions this year.
- LaFell fits the profile of the kind of player who "comes out of nowhere" and dominates. He's entering his third year, but hasn't done enough to get onto fantasy owners radars yet. He split time in both seasons, making some question whether the coaches believe in him. Yet, he's got the physical tools (6'2", 208 lbs.) to dominate, has become a more disciplined route runner, and the light switch appears to have gone off this preseason. Whereas he had to split time a year ago, there's little question he will start opposite Steve Smith
in Week One. Add to that the increased chemistry with Cam Newton
, not to mention Newton's own maturation as a passer, and LaFell could easily "surprise" this year with a huge season. He's the very definition of low risk, high reward.
- Roberts is entering his third year with the Cardinals and he improved from 24 receptions in his rookie season to 51 last year. He is currently listed as the starter ahead of rookie Michael Floyd
. The other factor when evaluating Roberts is the potential for improved quarterback play this year, giving all Cardinal wide receivers more opportunities.
- Roberts had a strong stretch run in 2011 and Kevin Kolb
made it clear after learning about the acquisition of rookie Michael Floyd
that Roberts had a chance to be a special player. Although Kolb might not be the No.1 quarterback on the depth chart, Roberts is the starter opposite Larry Fitzgerald
. The Cardinals will need to throw the ball often in 2012 and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect starter production from the third-year receiver, who isn't getting drafted in many leagues.
- 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
and Isaac Redman
are both hurting. 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.
- If Mike Wallace
pulls up lame after a failed attempt to earn a bigger contract from the Steelers, Sanders will take Wallace's play and perform well enough to become a fantasy starter. He's not lightning fast like Wallace, but he has deep threat speed, skill at adjusting to the football, and is a surprisingly physical ball carrier for his size. He was also a better route runner out of college than Antonio Brown
. If Sanders were on a different team, he might have been a starter already.
- Beasley fits into the Wes Welker
mold, due to his size, but he also shares a few other characteristics, namely his ability to get open, make catches on the run, on the sidelines, over the middle. He comes across as someone who can make plays and have a high reception percentage. Dallas has no true WR3. Beasley in the slot role has been a good hot read in the preseason, that could extend into the regular season. If he makes the starting lineup, he could be a surprise WR this year.
- With Miami surprisingly removing Brandon Marshall
from their receiving corps and the recent release of Chad Johnson
, Bess is firmly entrenched as the most established and talented receiver on the team. Ryan Tannehill
has earned the starting job, and despite being a rookie, he has a big arm and has shown poise against the rush in the preseason. Bess has always been an undervalued PPR asset. He's being drafted as WR59, but he certainly represents good week-to-week flex value at the very least.
- Though Titus Young
is pushing for a starting job, Nate Burleson hasn't missed a rep in training camp and is reportedly the picture of perfect health entering regular season. On this passing attack, Burleson could be an extreme value for your fantasy team if he holds off Young and retains the #2 WR slot for 2012.
- Jacoby Ford was a popular darling of the sleeper crowd last year following his dynamic rookie season. Injuries curtailed that potential in 2011, but if he can ever get over the injury bug this year he'll be productive. With speed options Darrius Heyward-Bey
, Denarious Moore and Darren McFadden
all likely to see the best of opposing defences, Ford could build on that rookie season at incredible value. Taking 2 of the 3 dynamic Raider receivers, iIncluding Ford could be a plan for those with deeper rosters.
- Brian Hartline is atop the Dolphins' depth chart at wide receiver. While rookie starting QB Ryan Tannehill
don't make fantasy owners pant with lust, he does know the offense here from his college days. If the Dolphins get a respectable pass game going this year, Hartline would be one of the guys to benefit from an improving situation.
- The Saints are a very proficient passing game with Drew Brees
, who never seems to miss a beat even when he loses a receiver or tight end. Henderson has a shot now to see much more playing time with Robert Meachem
leaving via free agency for San Diego. Henderson has great big play ability and can post 75 yards and a touchdown any given week.
- Plaxico Burress
is gone, Santonio Holmes
is a ticking time bomb, and Stephen Hill has a great opportunity staring him the face. The only way he could fail is if he drops the ball, literally and figuratively. 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.
- 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. He's been hot in preseason, too, with 4/42/1 receiving in the second preseason game.
- The Texans have utilized rookie Keshawn Martin in the slot role quite extensively this preseason and he has risen to the occasion. He has picked up the offense quickly and has shown he can an outlet to quarterback Matt Schaub
. The Texans have been looking for a complimentary receiver to Andre Johnson
for a long time. If Martin continues to progress, he could a fair share of targets this year.
- Moss lost 15 pounds and regained quickness this offseason in his effort to keep a roster spot in Washington. Moss is a similar, albeit inferior player to Steve Smith
of Carolina, whose career was revived last year by the addition of a mobile rookie quarterback who is a better passer than advertised. Moss is only lining up in the slot right now, but if he plays like he did before last year, Griffin will start to look his way frequently.
- The big Jaguars off season signing has been overshadowed by the arrival of Justin Blackmon
and the Maurice Jones-Drew
holdout story. As a consequence Laurent Robinson is falling in drafts. Blaine Gabbert
hasn't looked bad in preseason and there is certainly room for Robinson to be a productive fantasy receiver. This late he is worth the risk.
- Eddie Royal exploded in the NFL as a rookie in 2008. He caught 91 passes for 980 yards and added another 109 yards rushing. Since that time, he has caught only 115 passes over three seasons. He gets a new opportunity this year with the Chargers. This should be his best opportunity for production since his rookie season since he has Philip Rivers
at quarterback and the team does not have a "go-to" wide receiver. With Vincent Brown
already injured, the door is opened a little more for Royal.
- 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.
- I'm not a huge Golden Tate fan, but he has steadily improved during his three years in the NFL and his athleticism is not in question. Although I don't always like how he runs routes and catches the football, he consistently gets the job done despite lackluster technique. He's the starting wide receiver in a Seahawks offense that will be better than many expect. He's going off boards like he's the No.4 receiver on his own team's depth chart. Great value.