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Deep Sleepers: Wide Receivers

Footballguys staff members examine the wide receiver position for deep sleepers

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the top 160 players and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

Player with 4 Votes

Ryan Broyles, Lions

Sigmund Bloom: Two ACL tears in two years isn't usually a recipe for success, but Broyles was able to hit the field less than a year after his first injury. Broyles will resume his role as the #2 opposite Calvin Johnson when he returns, which would make him the most neglected #2 in the league - at least by opposing defenses. A late pick of Broyles in early drafts is not risky at all because you can always drop him early in the season if his recovery is not coming along.

Chad Parsons: Broyles was on the verge of having a great second half of the season before another ACL injury derailed his rookie season. Veteran Nate Burleson and rookie Corey Fuller are gaining steam as possible secondary receivers of note behind Calvin Johnson, but Broyles, if healthy, has the most upside of the bunch. Broyles has rehabbed successfully from an ACL injury already in his career and had three games of more than 50 yards during his short stint with significant playing time in 2012.

Mark Wimer: Ryan Broyles has the opportunity to play across from Calvin Johnson this year - if he can get back on the field and stay healthy. Note that Broyles suffered a torn right ACL on December 2, 2012, and underwent reconstructive knee surgery on December 7, 2012. As of May 29, 2013 the team stated that Broyles was making good progress in his rehabilitation, but the team hasn't set a return date for Broyles just yet. Broyles did participate in individual drills during the Lions late May OTAs. However, the guy currently penciled in as #2 across from Johnson, Nate Burleson, has missed 12 out of a possible 48 games since arriving in Detroit, including 10 games lost last season due to a broken leg. If Broyles can get into training camp and looks good he'll likely have a shot to crack the starting lineup at some point during the 2013 season.

Jason Wood: Broyles entered a tailor made situation last year as a rookie, for the NFL's most pass happy team yet still desperate for a consistent threat to line up opposite Calvin Johnson. Broyles was just rounding into shape, posting a 6-catch, 100-yard game against the vaunted Texans defense, when he tore his ACL. Broyles is still recovering, but barring unforeseen complications, the door remains wide open for his stepping into a major role at some point early this season.

Player with 3 Votes

Donnie Avery, Chiefs

Stephen Holloway: Donnie Avery has had reasonable success in three of his four NFL seasons. He is coming off career highs for catches with 60 and receiving yardage with 781. He is an excellent addition for the Chiefs who have Dwayne Bowe and role players. He should compete with Jon Baldwin, the team's 2011 first round pick who has caught only 41 passes in two seasons. The quarterback play will definitely be improved with Alex Smith coming off three successive seasons where he has improved his completion percentage and ypa statistics. I think that Avery's consistent play will win out over Baldwin and he will be the Smith's second favorite target in 2013.

Jeff Pasquino: Donnie Avery re-built part of his career last year in Indianapolis, where the former Ram and Titan pulled in 60 of 131 targets for 781 yards and three scores last season. Now Avery finds himself penciled in as the second starter for the Kansas City Chiefs this season for new head coach Andy Reid, where he will compliment Dwayne Bowe and be a deep threat for new quarterback Alex Smith. Avery has great upside if he can hold down this role and can get anywhere close to his 2012 numbers with the Chiefs as he is often available as one of the last wide receivers in fantasy drafts this year.

Jason Wood: Donnie Avery has never lived up to his position as the highest drafted receiver in the 2008 draft class, and has never finished higher than WR39 among fantasy ranks. Yet, he looked excellent in a defined role for a surprising Colts team in 2012 (60 receptions for 781 yards) and parlayed that into a new deal in Kansas City. New head coach Andy Reid has fielded consistently productive offenses and while Avery will initially be looked upon as a WR3, I'm not sold on Jonathan Baldwin who is his only road block to a starting role.

Jeremy Kerley, Jets

Adam Harstad: On a terrible Jets squad, Kerley very quietly put up more than twice as much receiving yardage as the Jets' second-leading receiver. If he can remain New York's top receiver going into his second season, he should get an opportunity to improve on last year's 800 yards receiving.

Jeff Haseley: I don't foresee Jeremy Kerley as someone who will win your league, but he is someone that I believe will outperform his ADP of WR 80. The Jets have Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill on the outside, but Kerley will see plenty of looks in the slot as the WR3. There are not many receivers available late in the draft that have 50+ catch expectations. Kerley is someone who can provide just that.

Andy Hicks: Jeremy Kerley is currently getting drafted among the journeyman, question mark rookies and underachievers. That is a mistake. Kerley was one of the few bright lights in the Jets offense last year and didn't really become a factor until week 5. Sure the unhappy and frequently injured Santonio Holmes is back, and the green as grass Stephen Hill will be there too, but Kerley will be the only stable receiver for whoever the Jets throw out as their QB. I wouldn't expect starting numbers just yet, but his upside is as a WR3, which is fantastic for where he is getting drafted.

Andre Roberts, Cardinals

James Brimacombe: Heading into his fourth NFL season, Roberts is often being overlooked as he has both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd ahead of him on the depth chart. Would you be shocked if I told you Roberts was the 39th overall ranked wide receiver last year? He ended the year with 64 receptions, 759 yards, and 5 touchdowns for a player that is pretty much just an afterthought.

Heath Cummings: Roberts was the #1 scoring receiver for the Cardinals last season. Let that sink in. While it's a testament to the down year that Larry Fitzgerald had, it's also illustrates how far the fourth year receiver has come. I expect a bounce back from Fitzgerald and a better second season from Michael Floyd, but that certainly doesn't mean that you should forget about Roberts, especially in PPR.

Matt Waldman: Michael Floyd is one of the “it” wide receivers this year as the popular fantasy sleeper and I agree with the take. However, it has been said for a couple of years that Roberts is capable of becoming a special slot receiver. Now that the Cardinals have the quarterback and head coach to execute at a higher level, I think Roberts will continue to out-play his PPR value. He was the No.31 WR last year and I wouldn't be surprised if this Cardinals offense supports three fantasy receivers – Fitzgerald as an elite No.1, Floyd as a low-end WR2, and Roberts as a low-end WR3 or high-end flex.

Players with 2 Votes

Stephen Hill, Jets

Jeff Tefertiller: Stephen Hill has the potential to be a fantasy WR2 this season. Santonio Holmes is still recovering from the foot injury and Hill could quickly emerge as the top receiver for the Jets. He has the upside to hit big if he can put it all together.

Jason Wood: Stephen Hill had a rookie season to forget (21 for 252 with 3 TDs) due to both circumstances in (studying the playbook, handling the pressure) and out (Mark Sanchez' quarterbacking, an inept offensive game plan) of his control. Yet, at 6'4”, 215 lbs. his physical tools continue to entice. As long as his knee swelling abates from his late season injury, Hill's fantasy fates look bright as new OC Marty Mornhinweg has proven time and again to be an effective steward of the passing game.

Greg Little, Browns

Sigmund Bloom: We associate Little with the dropsies, but he actually had a relatively error-free second half of 2012. He came on to 22 balls for 287 yards and a pair of scores in the last five games of the season, which projects out to solid WR3/flex numbers. If Brandon Weeden takes to the Norv Turner offense and Little makes the most of the additional downfield routes he and Josh Gordon are excited about, then the third-year wide receiver could have the classic breakout that we used to expect from young pass catchers at this point in their careers.

Matt Waldman: It's been easy to be hard on Little, who has great ability but underachieved in Cleveland due to suffering a two-year case of the dropsies. So far, Little looks great in camp and I think is finally at the appropriate value to feel like he's a bargain three years into his career. I'll take the chance on a receiver with his skill to generate big plays after the catch.

Joe Morgan, Saints

Sigmund Bloom: Morgan's recent DWI has put a chill on building positive buzz, but the Saints seem ready to stand by their man and give this upgrade from Devery Henderson a chance to be more than a deep threat. He proved that he can get behind the defense and make the deep circus catch last year. This year, Morgan is working on running the full route tree. The addition of more snaps and targets in the short/intermediate passing game would make Morgan at the very least a boom/bust WR3/Flex, and an injury to Marques Colston could thrust him into a prominent role in one of the best passing games in the league.

Adam Harstad: New Orleans has lacked a true game-breaking deep threat since Devery Henderson has slowed down. In limited action last season, Morgan showed himself capable of being that deep threat, averaging a mind-boggling 37.9 yards per reception on his 10 receptions. New Orleans throws the ball a lot, and anyone who can carve out a niche is potentially valuable.

Brian Quick, Rams

James Brimacombe: The Rams currently are a team filled with a lot of “What Ifs?” at the wide receiver position. With a mix of rookies and second year players in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Brian Quick, the position is wide open.  Quick could be picked as a flier at WR and might put up a season in the WR3 range.

Jeff Haseley: The small school rookie admitted to struggling out of the gate in his first year, but the sky is the limit for this kid once he does figure it out. His size and speed combination is not something to ignore and word is that he is looking very good in offseason training activities. Quick is a great late round pick with loads of potential with very little risk.

Mohammed Sanu, Bengals

Matt Waldman: After Marvin Jones got hurt Sanu got his chance and was a short-term, red zone monster before injuries derailed his rookie season. Sanu is a great runner after the catch and a physical receiver in the mode of Marques Colston and Michael Crabtree who plays well from the slot. If Jones doesn't earn the starting role, I believe it will go to Sanu. Since rookie tight ends rarely post starter fantasy production, I think it's wiser to look to the No.2 receiver in Cincinnati while others are betting on Tyler Eifert.

Mark Wimer: Mohamed Sanu had only 16 receptions last season before his campaign was cut short due to a stress fracture in his left foot (he's said to be 100% recovered from the injury as of April 2013), but he snagged four TDs among those 16 catches. He is considered to lead the pack in the race to start across from A.J. Green this year - which means that Sanu will often face single coverage if he wins the #2 job. I plan to draft Sanu in a lot of leagues this year as he could be one of those 'surprise' second-year wide receivers that explode for a lot of fantasy points.

Rod Streater, Raiders

Andy Hicks: Rod Streater may not be a WR1 in the making, but as demonstrated by his last 5 weeks performance in 2012 (18-351-1), he will be significantly undervalued heading into this year. Oakland lost Darrius Heyward-Bey and Carson Palmer, but crucially Streater remains as a probable starter on an offense likely to be playing catch up most of the season. It would not surprise to see Streater make improvement and become a borderline fantasy starter as the year unfolds and his upside is well worth taking the risk at his current ADP.

Jeff Tefertiller: Rod Streater will be the starter in Oakland across from Denarius Moore. Streater has the speed to get open deep and will see his share of pass targets. It was his rookie performance that allowed the Raiders to give Heyward-Bey his walking papers.

Markus Wheaton, Steelers

Andy Hicks: Markus Wheaton is the latest effort from the Pittsburgh scouting staff that has found Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace in recent years outside the first 2 rounds. Wallace is now gone and Sanders is hardly the most convincing WR2 in the league. Wheaton has electric speed and should get plenty of looks in the Steelers offense, more if he develops well. At his current draft slot, he can be drafted very late and has very little downside.

Jeff Pasquino: The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Mike Wallace to the Dolphins in free agency this offseason, but by drafting Markus Wheaton they could have a long term solution to that loss. Wheaton will contend immediately for the WR3 role with the Steelers and may push Emmanuel Sanders for playing time by the end of this season, especially if Sanders does not sign a contract extension. If that is the case, Pittsburgh may plan for Antonio Brown and Wheaton to be the starting duo in 2014. An increase in Wheaton's playing time toward the end of 2013 makes him a great sleeper for 2013, as he could be a fantasy monster in December. I would recommend drafting both Wheaton and Sanders if possible.

Robert Woods, Bills

Ryan Hester: While in college at USC, Woods provided a constant presence for his quarterbacks. He showed great ability to get open often and haul in passes in all parts of the field. Woods and fellow-rookie EJ Manuel could build a similar rapport, making Woods Manuel's security blanket – something that would give him better fantasy value than his current ADP would suggest.

Sigmund Bloom: Taking a rookie starting wide receiver in an offense that could potentially feature a rookie quarterback might seem ill-fated, but Woods is especially polished for a youngster, and Stevie Johnson should draw the best opposing corner every week. The Bills' new offense could be very productive for fantasy if they run the uptempo attack (including read option runs) that head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett used at Syracuse.

Players with 1 Vote

Nate Burleson, Lions

Andrew Garda: People forget this because of the broken leg, but Burleson was being frequently targeted by Matt Stafford before the injury. He won't put up huge numbers, but he can still be productive, and as the Lions have yet to add receivers to this mix, Burleson will have to step up and help Stafford and Calvin Johnson out.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers

Ryan Hester: Crabtree is obviously only this low because of his Achilles tendon injury that will cause him to miss a significant chunk of the season. Should Crabtree recover quickly like Terrell Suggs did last season after suffering the same injury, he could still play a role in many fantasy championships. If he isn't put on Injured Reserve, draft him late and stash him if you can afford to keep the roster spot locked up.

Aaron Dobson, Patriots

Stephen Holloway: Aaron Dobson was a 2nd round selection by the Patriots and although their offense typically challenges all newcomers and particularly rookies, he has an open path to getting playing time. The team has very little in the way of outside receivers and his 6'-3” 210 pound frame seems to be a good fit. He ran a 4.42 forty yard dash at his pro day so he has decent speed as well. He impressed most scouts at the Senior Bowl practices, so it really comes down to whether he can pick up the play book and make a connection with Tom Brady. His athleticism alone seems enough for him to get a shot.

Tandon Doss, Ravens

Jason Wood: Two seasons into his career, Doss has just seven receptions – so it's understandable he would be far off the fantasy radar. Yet, the 6'2”, 201 lbs. Indiana Hoosier has remained in the coaches' good graces and by all accounts has developed nicely as a practice player. With the Super Bowl champions parting ways with playoff hero Anquan Boldin, the door is wide open for Doss. Now, to be fair, it's also wide open for the other young receivers on the roster so Doss is the very definition of a last round, deep sleeper.

Harry Douglas, Falcons

Mark Wimer: Harry Douglas is worth considering as a depth fantasy pick this year. He plays on an explosive offense down in Atlanta and if either Roddy White or Julio Jones were to miss time during 2013 for whatever reason, Douglas would step into the lineup and become an instant fantasy starter at wide receiver. Injuries and suspensions being very common in the NFL, Douglas is a player worth considering late in your draft.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers

Stephen Holloway: Malcom Floyd has quietly produced for the Chargers for the past four years. Even while missing 11 games over the past three seasons, he has finished as WR36, WR32, and WR36. His 6'5” frame makes him a good red zone target and he has scored 16 TDs over those three years. His current ADP is WR57 and he should provide value above that rank. His chief competition comes from Danario Alexander, who has even more issues staying on the field and Vincent Brown, the Chargers' 3rd round pick in 2011 who caught 19 passes in his rookie campaign and missed all of last year. I expect Philip Rivers to have a nice bounce back season and it is possible that Floyd winds up as the most productive wide receiver for the team.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts

Jeff Pasquino: The Indianapolis Colts signed Darrius Heyward-Bey to a one-year, $2.5M contract in April. Heyward-Bey comes in as a likely third wide receiver for the Colts, a role that suits him well and was productive for the WR3 in Indianapolis last year (Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton both had over 100 targets each while combining for 110 catches, over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns as the second and third wide receiver in 2012). While T.Y. Hilton is the likely WR2, there are plenty of chances to go around for three wide receivers in Indianapolis to be productive.

Domenik Hixon, Panthers

Mark Wimer: Domenik Hixon has shown flashes of NFL capability during his career, and I think he's got a legitimate shot at beating out the pedestrian Brandon LaFell for the #2 wide receiver job in Charlotte. Cam Newton is still maturing as a passer - if he forms a good chemistry with Hixon during training camp, Hixon could easily attain fantasy starter status. He's worth a late-round pick just based on his potential upside this year.

Justin Hunter, Titans

Andy Hicks: Justin Hunter has a lot of obstacles if he is to become a fantasy factor this year, but most importantly he will have opportunity. Kenny Britt looks more likely to wash out than become the WR1 the Titans were hoping for and Kendall Wright is a complementary receiver at best, as evidenced by his 9.8 yards a catch. Hunter meanwhile is 6'4 with great speed. He should be fully recovered from a knee injury in 2011 and has a very high upside if things go well. Well worth taking a late risk on.

A.J. Jenkins, 49ers

Adam Harstad: With the injury to Michael Crabtree, former 1st round receiver A.J. Jenkins will get plenty of opportunity to shine. Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback on the rise, and as a potential starting WR in his offense, Jenkins' stock arrow is definitely trending up.

Marvin Jones, Bengals

Matt Waldman: The Bengals were expecting big things from Jones when he earned a starting role against Pittsburgh midseason and got hurt early in the game. Jones was never fully recovered the rest of the year. However, he's healthy now and he was the best route runner and most underrated vertical talent among the 2012 rookie class. If he can stay healthy and play to his level of talent, he could provide 800-1000 yards of production opposite A.J. Green.

Brandon LaFell, Panthers

Heath Cummings: LaFell was a breakout candidate in 2012 and really disappointed. Part of that is on him, but a larger factor was the Panthers' confused offensive approach. The team desperately needs someone to step up opposite Steve Smith and I have hopes that with a more focused plan in 2013 LaFell should be that guy.

Quinton Patton, 49ers

Jeff Pasquino: San Francisco drafted Quinton Patton in Round 4, thinking that he could be a project that would develop over time and possibly push Anquan Boldin in a year or two. Now with Michael Crabtree lost for at a minimum six months, the door opens much bigger for Patton to contend for playing time in his first season. He will compete with second-year wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and also Ricardo Lockette for the chance to line up on the other side of Boldin and start in Week 1. If Patton can translate his big numbers from Louisiana Tech (104-1,392-13 last year after 79-1,202-11 in 2011) to the NFL then he could be one of the biggest impact rookies this year.

Nick Toon, Saints

Chad Parsons: When picking late round flyers for upside plays off the waiver wire, high-powered offenses are a good place to start. The Saints and Drew Brees are a virtual assembly line for passing production. There is room for another fantasy-viable option past Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and Darren Sproles. Toon will be in the mix with Joseph Morgan and Kenny Stills for significant work. In addition to that role, Toon is the one of that trio that fits the Marques Colston-type role if injury were to strike as an added bonus.

Jarius Wright, Vikings

Andrew Garda: It might be a bit crowded in Minnesota with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson there, but Jarius Wright proved last season that he can be a potent weapon in this offense. Patterson is raw, Simpson is inconsistent and Jennings gets hurt so if QB Christian Ponder can get his act together, Wright could have a very nice season.


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