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Updated Deep Sleepers: Wide Receivers

The Footballguys staff digs for deep sleepers at wide receiver

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 150 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 7 Votes

Jeremy Kerley, NYJ

Sigmund Bloom: Someone has to catch the ball in New York, right? Kerley caught 56 balls for 826 yards in his second year last season, and he should only be better this year. While he is unlikely to be a WR1 or WR2 for fantasy in that offense, Kerley should still be a good emergency PPR play, with the potential to be a solid WR3/flex.

Adam Harstad: On a terrible Jets squad, Jeremy Kerley very quietly put up more than twice as much receiving yardage as the Jets' second-leading receiver. Stephen Hill was perhaps the rawest rookie in the league, but he's been drawing rave reviews for his improvement this offseason. One of these two receivers will be the leading receiver for the New York Jets, and whichever one it is will be very much worth owning in PPR leagues.

Andy Hicks: 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, Braylon Edwards is probably at his final stop and that leavesKerleyas 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.

Steve Holloway: Kerley recorded 56 receptions for 827 yards (14.8 ypc) a year ago for the mostly inept Jet offense. He has a good chance to lead the team again in 2013 and can be drafted very late. Kerley is not an effective red zone target, but will be more valuable in ppr leagues as he will be frequently targeted on shorter routes for the Jets.

Kyle Wachtel: The young receiver managed to rack up 56 catches for 827 yards last season with less than stellar quarterback play. Geno Smith is expected to win the starting job and should be no worse than Mark Sanchez and possesses a higher ceiling. Santonio Holmes is currently entrenched in a questionable injury situation and does not seem motivated to play. Kerley is much farther along than Stephen Hill as a receiver and may end up as the default top-option in the Jets passing game.

Matt Waldman: Kerley is a fine receiver capable of playing outside or in the slot who should accumulate 70+ receptions regardless of the turnstile that could be the Jets' quarterback situation. How on earth he's not even listed in range of a roster spot in the average fantasy league with 3-4 receivers in a lineup is ludicrous.

Jason Wood: Kerley doesn’t have compelling upside, which is why he’s not a priority target on draft day. But if your rosters are deep enough, Kerley is a smart addition in PPR formats because he’s quite likely to lead the Jets in receptions working both in the slot and on the outside. Kerley has developed into a good route runner and has soft hands. He’s also not afraid to work the middle of the field, unlike many receivers his size (5’10”, 189 lbs.).

Players with 5 Votes

Brandon LaFell, Car

Mike Brown: LaFell didn't break out as many expected last season, but there are reasons to think he can this time around. For one thing, Steve Smith is another year older. LaFell isn't a threat to take over the number one spot any time soon, but even a slight decrease for Smith should mean at least that much of an increase for LaFell. More importantly, the team looks to be going to more of a traditional passing game approach this season. That means less schoolyard pitch and catch between QB Cam Newton and Smith, and more designed plays for the speedster LaFell. He already has two solid seasons under his belt and is just entering his fourth season - even a small uptick would help him exceed his ADP.

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.

David Dodds: He is the clear WR2 on the Panthers. He posted career highs in catches, yards, TDs and yards per catch. He is a player on the rise having bettered his stats each of his first three years in the league. Additionally, starter Steve Smith, at age 34 is nearing the end of his career.

Aaron Rudnicki: The Panthers have one of the league’s best young QBs in Cam Newton and an aging #1 WR so this looks like a great situation for LaFell. Although he’s been disappointing at times, if he can continue to show steady improvement as he’s done during his first 3 years in the league, he will have no trouble outperforming his current ADP and becoming one of the best WR values this year.

Kyle Wachtel: LaFell’s receiving yards and touchdowns have increased in each of his three seasons and reached 677 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2012. The Panthers’ head coach, Ron Rivera, said he believes the "arrow's still up" in regards to LaFell and his starting spot seems very secure. If he is able to make another jump forward, you would receive a nice return on his draft day price tag.

Markus Wheaton, Pit

Will Grant: Wheaton has been having a great camp so far, and could really surprise a lot of people this season. He’s still a rookie so his ceiling is probably lower than you’d like to see, but given where he’s being drafted, he could very easily develop into a guy that you can count on for a couple of weeks this season. Keep an eye on him the rest of this preseason.

Jeff Haseley: The Steelers lost their deep threat Mike Wallace in the offseason and also lost Plaxico Burress (shoulder) to IR. This opens the door for Markus Wheaton to earn the WR3 role ahead of Jerricho Cotchery. Wheaton can be the Steelers deep threat as well as a weapon underneath. He could turn into this year's version of T.Y. Hilton.

Andy Hicks: 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.

Aaron Rudnicki: The Steelers lost their big play WR to free agency when Mike Wallace signed in Miami, but Wheaton could be the player that helps soften the blow. He’s a very polished receiver who runs precise routes and has enough speed to get deep. He’ll probably start out as the team’s slot receiver but could work his way into a bigger role as the year goes on.

Players with 4 Votes

Stephen Hill, NYJ

David Dodds: Someone has to catch passes in New York. Santonio Holmes looks to be milking his time his roster spot before he injury settles with the team. No one is questioning the physical tools Hill came into the league with. He has them in spades. He underwhelmed as a rookie, but is getting good reviews in training camp. Late in drafts, these are the guys you target.

Will Grant: The New York passing game looks like a joke this season, and the smart play may be to avoid everyone from this team. Yet someone is going to catch the ball and by the end of the season, I think Stephen Hill is going to be the guy who finished with the top stats. That probably means his season totals won’t justify a starting role unless you have a big league or start 4 WRS. But Hill should post several games, and could be a nice bye filler for your team. He could even turn into a solid option of the Jets pass on Mark Sanchez and go with Geno Smith at QB.

Adam Harstad: On a terrible Jets squad, Jeremy Kerley very quietly put up more than twice as much receiving yardage as the Jets' second-leading receiver. Stephen Hill was perhaps the rawest rookie in the league, but he's been drawing rave reviews for his improvement this offseason. One of these two receivers will be the leading receiver for the New York Jets, and whichever one it is will be very much worth owning in PPR leagues.

Jeff Pasquino: The New York Jets need help in the passing game, especially from potential playmakers. Second year wideout Stephen Hill should compete for a starting role, and the Jets will have to get a good look at him this year to see if he can be a starter for their team for the long run. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are not the long term answers, so the Jets must look at both Hill and Geno Smith to see if the team can build around them for the future. Hill has big upside potential - exactly would you want from a late round fantasy WR.

Kenbrell Thompkins, NE

Sigmund Bloom: The undrafted free agent rookie has been running with the starters on and off all offseason, and he certainly looks the part. Right now, he should be considered the favorite to start at wide receiver opposite Danny Amendola. Getting a starting wide receiver that Tom Brady throws to when others are taking kickers and defenses is a no brainer.

Jeff Pasquino: Kenbrell Thompkins is a name that you had better learn and remember. Thompkins is an undrafted free agent signee by the Patriots, who snapped up the athletic wide receiver from the University of Cincinnati back in April, and now he is the odds-on favorite to start as the second wide receiver for Tom Brady this season. Thompkins is my pick to be the Marques Colston for 2013 – the wide receiver rookie who comes out of nowhere and is a fantasy stud this year.

Matt Waldman: I’ve been talking about Thompkinssince February. The Patriots UDFA has established a strong rapport with Tom Brady, rarely drops the ball, runs excellent routes, and makes plays in tight coverage all over the field. NFL Network analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah was among several known media analysts who were impressed. ESPN beat reporter Field Yates said after one practice that, “Thompkins looked like the best player on the field.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompkins is one of the four-most productive options in the Patriots passing game in 2013 because routes and reliable hands trump size and speed.

Jason Wood: Fantasy success is the combination of ability and opportunity. Thompkins appears to have both in spite of being completely off our radar just two months ago. The Patriots lost 75% of last year’s receiving stats and are essentially rebuilding from the ground up. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are ready to go with youth – as Aaron Dobson, TE Zach Sudfeld and Thompkins have been the stars of camp. Thompkins has played physically and demonstrated an ability to run the entire route tree. Although nothing is official, he appears to have an edge for a starting outside role opposite fellow rookie Aaron Dobson. If he wins the job, he has great upside with Tom Brady under center.

Players with 3 Votes

Dexter McCluster, KC

Sigmund Bloom: Jamaal Charles’ foot injury might be nothing, but it might be something. Either way, McCluster seems to fit well in a pass-happy offense that lacks an established #2 receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe. McCluster has reportedly been lining up all over the formation and Andy Reid had said earlier that he had big plans for McCluster. The upside in PPR leagues is too good to ignore late in your draft.

Mike Brown: The Chiefs will throw the ball this season. A lot. Andy Reid will be sure of that, much like he did during his Eagles tenure, when he sometimes drove fans mad with his willingness to throw the football. In Kansas City, there is something to be said for McCluster, who doesn't really need to fight off a lot of other players to see a large share of those expected additional passing targets. The team hasn't been able to develop a reliable number two receiver, and they seem to be making it a point to find out what they've got in McCluster. You can find him in the last round in many leagues, and he's a lottery ticket at that point.

Jeff Haseley: Someone will have to step up in the Chiefs receiving game besides Dwayne Bowe. McCluster has Percy Harvin-like abilities that may finally be unleashed in Andy Reid's style of offense. The risk is very minimal considering his ADP is lower than WR91. In most cases, he is not being drafted.

Andre Roberts, Ari

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 WR 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.

Mohamed Sanu, Cin

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: Bengal 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.

Jason Wood: Mohamed Sanu only caught 16 receptions as a rookie, but the former Scarlet Knight made his limited resume work with four touchdowns before a stress fracture ended his season. Sanu (6’2”, 211 lbs.) is massive and should be an impact red zone threat this year. While many are counting on Tyler Eifert breaking out, I don’t trust rookie tight ends. Sanu is the guy I can see benefitting if Andy Dalton starts working deeper into his progressions.

Rod Streater, Oak

Mike Brown: Denarius Moore is being looked upon by many as the team's number one receiver, but the reality is that QB Matt Flynn isn't exactly rocket-armed. Moore makes his way by hooking up on deep passes, but Flynn may prefer quantity over quality and look underneath more often than not. With very few reliable options in the passing game, that could leave Streater as the most heavily-targeted Raider. Sure, that's a little bit like being the tallest midget, but he should at least exceed his ADP.

Andy Hicks: 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.

Jason Wood: The Raiders roster is full of question marks and too many fantasy owners are lazily assuming Denarius Moore is the top option in Oakland now that Darrius Heyward-Bey is gone. Yet Moore has been unimpressive throughout training camp and Rod Streater has been the polar opposite. The 6’3”, 200 lbs. speedster provided the Raiders with a dynamic deep threat last year and has shown an evolved sense of timing and route precision this preseason. If you’re going to roll the dice on a breakout in Oakland, Streater is the guy to target.

Nick Toon, NO

Jeff Haseley: The Saints have several candidates who could earn the WR3 role. Nick Toon, Kenny Stills, Steve Breaston and even Preston Parker. One of those four has a good opportunity to be fantasy relevant as a flex option in the Saints offense. In my opinion, Nick Toon has the best mixture of talent, ability and speed. If I had to put a wager on who wins this role, it's Toon.

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.

Mark Wimer: Nick Toon has been getting positive reviews in New Orleans during training camp, and he led the Saints in receiving in the first preseason game (five targets for 4/66/0 receiving). Meanwhile, Kenny Stills, one of the other guys in contention for the #3 job now that Joe Morgan is on IR, played a horrid first game with a dropped pass, a fumble, and an offensive interference call on the way to three targets for 1/22/0 receiving. I'm drafting Toon as a lottery ticket type player - he also is the #1 backup to Marques Colston, who has been on PUP to start training camp due to a foot problem. Toon's NFL opportunity may be just around the corner.

Players with 1 Vote

Keenan Allen, SD

Ryan Hester: With the season-ending injury to Danario Alexander, Allen’s ADP is sure to rise quickly. He’s still a deep sleeper, though, as the term is outlined in this feature (sub-150 ADP). Allen is a rookie who had injury issues late in his college career at Cal. He’s very polished and versatile for a young player. Allen has the size (6’2” and 206 pounds) to play outside and the “wiggle” to play in the slot as well. His offense will be limited by a poor offensive line, but he should accumulate enough targets as the season wears on to become a fantasy-relevant player in 12-team PPR leagues.

Donnie Avery, KC

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.

LaVon Brazill, Ind

Mark Wimer: LaVon Brazill is being overlooked due to a four-game suspension to start off 2013. However, I'm not a big believer in Darrius Heyward-Bey and I think Brazill could claim the #3 spot on the Colts' wide receiver stable once his suspension is done. With a respectable 16.9 yards per reception last year, Brazill is a guy worth stashing on your bench while he serves his suspension.

Michael Crabtree, SF

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. The team has announced that he’ll begin the season on the PUP list (costing him the first six games), but they won’t place him in the one “Injured Reserve – Designated to Return” slot allotted to each team. This is an indication that the team is liking his progress in his recovery and plans to use him near the end of the season. If you have a deep bench league, he’s worth a stash.

Harry Douglas, Atl

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.

Julian Edelman, NE

Sigmund Bloom: Danny Amendola should get a ton of targets, but he could also miss a ton of time if the past is any indication. You’ll want to know who will take his place, and if Edelman can stay healthy through August (which is a big if), he’ll probably the answer. Handcuffs at wide receiver are rare, but Edelman might be worth one for Amendola drafters.

Marvin Jones, Cin

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.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Min

Ryan Hester: As one of the team’s first-round draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, Patterson should get a chance to get on the field and prove what he can do. The only players above him on Minnesota’s depth chart are veteran Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. Jennings will likely keep the job as long as he’s healthy, but that’s been an unsure bet in recent years. Simpson, however, is exactly the type of player (average skills but not a no-brainer starter) who could be leapfrogged by a promising rookie talent when the team decides they need to see what their first-round investment can do. Patterson is 6’2” and 216 pounds and possesses great speed (he ran a 4.42 at the NFL Combine). The only limiting factor for him is the play of his quarterbacks. Between Christian Ponder and Matt Cassell, Minnesota doesn’t have an elite passer who can maximize Patterson’s skill. That immense skill, though, makes Patterson worth a flyer pick well before his current ADP. He has a much higher ceiling than his ADP would indicate.

Quinton Patton, SF

Andy Hicks: Patton has the chance of a lifetime to win a prominent role in the 49ers offense in his rookie year. With Mario Manningham rehabilitating, Michael Crabtree injured and A.J. Jenkins likely to be closer to the roster bubble than the starting job, then Patton has an excellent chance to be a prominent target early and often if he rehabilitates quickly from a broken finger.

Brian Quick, StL

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.


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