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Deep Sleepers: Wide Receivers

The Footballguys staff digs deep for 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 and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Ted Ginn Jr Jr, New Orleans

Ryan Hester: Drew Brees can sustain multiple fantasy options and has for most of his career. Since Brees joined New Orleans in 2006, his third-best fantasy receiver has finished at an average of WR56. If you remove Jimmy Graham’s outstanding four-season stretch from 2011-2014, that third receiver average moves up to WR47. Ginn won’t be an every-week starter (he may even lose a week or two for his owners due to inconsistency), but he’s a home-run hitter with an A+ quarterback who can explode in any given week on just a couple touches. That’s worth owning in every 12-team league.

Jeff Pasquino: Ted Ginn Jr was such a classic “all or nothing” receiver the past few years with Carolina, and he lived up to that reputation where he was either going to produce 80+ yards and a long touchdown or next to nothing in a given contest. Last year was a little different for Ginn, who grew into a supporting starter role in Carolina. Ginn had eight games with four or five receptions and produced 50+ yards receiving in eight games as well. Now Ginn has moved on to New Orleans, a team known to throw a ton each and every week with Drew Brees, and the Saints just lost Brandin Cooks (New England) to free agency. Ginn may not be a direct replacement, but his upside just increased in New Orleans with Brees and his Ginn’s successes last year give reason for optimism.

Daniel Simpkins: It feels counterintuitive to select Ginn, even late. He’s 32 years old, he just posted another clunker of a fantasy season, and he’s switching teams. Then you consider the team he is joining and the role he’ll be asked to play. Of course, Ginn signed with the Saints, one of the most high octane offenses in all of football. He’ll be asked to go deep and fill the Brandin Cooks role in this offense. Brees is one of the few quarterbacks who can support multiple fantasy wideouts. Like Cooks before him, Ginn may have some weeks in which he does little, but he’ll also have some weeks in which he explodes. Selecting Ginn as a very late option to throw in on bye weeks or during an injury emergency could pay off big.

Cooper Kupp, LA Rams

Jeff Haseley: Kupp was used all over the field in the Rams first preseason game, making him a receiver the team and quarterback Jared Goff will gravitate to. Kupp has the ability to make an impact in year one due to his versatility and dexterity that his coaching staff has raved about to reporters. As a 24-year-old rookie, Kupp brings maturity and football knowledge that the team has struggled to find in years past. He can be drafted as a WR5 or WR6 and is all upside waiting to happen.

Ari Ingel: Kupp is a 6'1”, 20- pound slot receiver who runs precise routes, can beat all forms of coverage and has very reliable hands. He’s been shining in practice since OTA’s and is locked in as a starter in all three wide sets with Woods and Watkins on the outside. Beat writers have projected him to have the second most targets of the receivers in this offense behind Watkins and he has sneaky PPR upside and just might have the best rookie season of all receivers this year's wide receiver class. He’s a candidate to move up these tier rankings, I just need to watch some NFL action of him before I do so.

Matt Waldman: Bill Walsh explained that one of the significant reasons he had Jerry Rice and Bengals option Eddie Brown at the top of his pre-draft board for receivers was their speed within the first 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. This trait was far more important to him in the West Coast Offense than deep speed. Despite a slower 40-time, Kupp’s acceleration and change of direction quickness are on par with Allen Robinson, a big-time deep threat. Kupp also displayed the most extensive library of polished release moves against press that I have seen in practice sessions from a rookie. Capable of performing in the slot and outside, Kupp is also physical after the catch. One of my top receivers in this rookie class, he was the great Steve Smith’s top guy. Even with Sammy Watkin's arrival, I expect Kupp to thrive as the Jamison Crowder of this team.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Kenny Golladay, Detroit

Jeff Haseley: The Lions have a receiving threat in rookie receiver Kenny Golladay. His size (6'4, 218 pounds) and ability to make contested catches is something the Lions haven't had since Calvin Johnson. If he secures a starting role like many suggest, he'll have instant fantasy appeal. He's currently outside of the Top 150, but that should change if he continues to shine in the preseason.

Jason Wood: Golladay is a 6’4”, 218-pound powerhouse from Northern Illinois drafted by the Lions in the 3rd round. The Lions adjusted reasonably well to Calvin Johnson’s retirement, but the team is still looking for the heir apparent. Golden Tate is talented but limited as the #1 target. Marvin Jones Jr is one-dimensional and barely lived up to his free agent contract. The team’s tight ends are more promise than production. That equates to an early opportunity for Golladay as both the 3rd receiver (Detroit uses 3-WR sets the majority of snaps) and a red-zone threat.

Marqise Lee, Jacksonville

Andy Hicks: In his first two NFL seasons, Marqise Lee was a massive disappointment, but 2016 showed why the Jaguars took him higher than Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in the 2014 draft. Lee looks to have worked himself into the mix on a permanent basis and while Robinson had an extra 45 targets than Lee last year, he only recorded an extra 32 receiving yards. I would place Lee significantly higher than Hurns who had previously over achieved and they will go for roughly the same draft price. Further improvement could also come from Lee this year as well and he could push WR3 status very easily.

Stephen Holloway: Lee was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jaguars and had his most successful season by far in 2016. He played in all 16 games for the first time in his career and caught a career high 63 passes for 851 yards and 3 touchdowns. Allen Hurns, who is Lee’s main target competition, struggled with nagging injuries all season (five games missed) and has reportedly added weight this off-season to avoid hamstring issues. The added weight could turn into a negative for Hurns, who has never been a plus athlete running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash and managing only a 31” vertical. It is possible or even likely that Lee moves ahead of Hurns in 2017.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Robby Anderson, NY Jets

Jason Wood: Eric Decker, gone. Brandon Marshall, gone. Quincy Enunwa, injured reserve. The Jets receiving corps is a desolate wasteland, but someone has to be on the receiving end of the 500-600 passing attempts this year. Robby Anderson is the team’s top receiver by default. The 6’3’, 190-pound receiver turned heads at Temple but was undrafted. He signed with the Jets and made an impact in the second half of the season (27 receptions for 435 yards and two touchdowns). Anderson is running with the first team and a quick examination of the roster shows no one as a credible threat to displace his 100+ targets. Any receiver with 100+ target upside is worth drafting, and Anderson could end up a fringe WR2 if things fall right. That’s the very definition of draft day value.

Travis Benjamin, LA Chargers

Andy Hicks: Travis Benjamin was huge in the first 5 weeks of the 2016 season with 28 catches for almost 400 yards and 2 touchdowns, but went downhill after that. A partially torn PCL is being blamed for that, but the Chargers are going to be so much better at receiver with Keenan Allen returning from injury, Mike Williams drafted in the first round and Tyrell Williams coming off a 1000 yard season. This appears to leave Benjamin on the outside looking in, but with Williams looking dicey with a back issue and Keenan Allen always getting injured, the biggest surprise from the Charger receiving group could come from Travis Benjamin.

Devin Funchess, Carolina

Justin Howe: I have the same questions about his game that you do, but we need to take a deep breath and remember that he's still just 23 - younger than Lions rookie darling Kenny Golladay. Funchess has been a flawed player through two seasons, but he's produced big plays and touchdowns at a strong clip. Of his 54 NFL receptions, 13 have gone for 20+ yards and a whopping 9 have wound up in the end zone. Most importantly, the Panthers' wideout corps remains dangerously understaffed - rookie Curtis Samuel is off to a slow start, and most of Funchess' competition comes from special-teams and practice-squad types. Even if his catch rate stays shaky, Funchess is set up nicely to return big value on his ultra-low ADP. A boost to 50 receptions could yield 900 yards and 7 touchdowns - solid WR3/4 numbers.

Chris Godwin Tampa Bay

Matt Waldman: Tough, route-savvy, and versatile, Godwin will likely earn time in the starting rotation as the third or fourth receiver who can work the slot and play outside. This is what Dirk Koetter has repeatedly told the media. Almost daily, Godwin is earning cautious praise from Kotter and it’s becoming difficult for Koetter to tamp down his excitement. Godwin has better size and speed than some realize and he’s sure-handed. While some expect O.J. Howard to deliver early on as a receiver, I think Godwin has a greater chance—especially because he could be the injury replacement for Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, or Adam Humphries.

Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco

Chris Feery: The 49ers will throw the ball quite often under the tutelage of new head coach Kyle Shanahan. Whether that translates to a bounty of fantasy production remains to be seen, but Marquise Goodwin deserves serious consideration as a late round flier. He’s slated to be the WR2 in San Francisco, and he’s got the game-changing kind of wheels that can add up the fantasy points in a hurry. The knock against Goodwin has been that he’s a one-trick pony, but it sounds like he’s motivated to prove that’s not the case. A speedster in a pass-happy attack that feels he has something to prove for late-round prices? Yes, please!

Josh Gordon, Cleveland

Phil Alexander: Gordon is likely to be about as useful to your fantasy team this year as a screen door would be on a submarine. But there comes a point in every draft where the opportunity cost associated with burning a pick on Gordon is negligible. Until we hear for certain he's once again banned for the entire season, Gordon is a swing from the heels worth taking with one of your final picks. Cleveland.com recently suggested Gordon can reapply for reinstatement in September. If true, there's a chance -- albeit microscopic -- he's on the field early in the season. There isn't another wide receiver essentially going undrafted whose range of outcomes includes WR1. If we end up learning Gordon's suspension will stick, just make him the first player you drop for a waiver wire pickup.

Jeremy Kerley, San Francisco

Chad Parsons: One of my few dart throws at wide receiver this season is Jeremy Kerley. Beyond Pierre Garcon, the passing game pecking order in San Francisco is wide open. Kerley has the best profile of production of the remaining receivers, plus can play the slot. Kerley led the 49ers with 115 targets last season and while Garcon enters as the lead receiver, Kerley has 100+ target potential with significant question marks at wide receiver and tight end.

Breshad Perriman, Baltimore

Andy Hicks: It is hard to make what Breshad Perriman will offer this season. Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin offer a veteran presence but do not have the upside that Perriman has. What they do have though is consistency. Perriman looked like a rookie, after missing his first season altogether. If he has shown improvement it better be this year. He has exactly what you want in a late round draft pick though, opportunity.

Paul Richardson Jr, Seattle

Matt Waldman: I don’t care if the bandwagon is lonely; Richardson is a top talent whose injuries have slowed his development in this offense. He generated big plays for Seattle when the offensive line could keep Russell Wilson upright during the season and the eventual rapport that they developed led to a two-game run of highlight reel plays during the playoffs that featured some of the better catches you’ll ever see in a football game. Tyler Lockett will need a little more time to get healthy, which should afford Richardson more opportunities to shine. While Lockett is a notch above Richardson in the status department, I still think Richardson is the more talented option. I’ll be drafting him as long as he’s healthy.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh

Andy Hicks: JuJu Smith-Schuster becomes the highest drafted Steeler receiver since 2008 and the group drafted since then includes Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Martavis Bryant. Smith-Schuster has a reputation of being a strong receiver who is often compared to Anquan Boldin. Boldin produced one of the more memorable rookie seasons for a receiver when he registered 101 receptions for 1377 yards and 8 touchdowns. Now you would be an insane optimist if you thought Smith-Schuster could go close to this, but he looks a ready made NFL prospect who could start in year 1. If Martavis Bryant messes up again, then it becomes even more likely Smith-Schuster exceeds his draft slot significantly.

ArDarius Stewart, NY Jets

Matt Waldman: One of my favorite rookie prospects at receiver, Stewart is fast, physical, and versatile. He’s a tackle-breaker and physical blocker, but he can also win on the perimeter and make above-the-rim catches. He plays like he’s a 6’3”, 220-pound bruiser with speed, but he’s about 15 pounds lighter and not nearly this tall. Think of Stewart as a faster Hines Ward. With the Jets offense undergoing a major transition and Quincy Enunwa suffering a season-ending neck injury, Stewart could be that player who fills the void.