Continuing our look at Fantasy Football Sleepers, tonight we turn to the WR position, which is one that seems to be getting deeper every season with more guys putting up quality numbers as the NFL continues to become more pass happy. This year it’s no different as I find myself taking guys at the end of drafts and thinking this guy has a chance to be a Top 20 guy, and I look at the available guys at the end of drafts and can find at least 10 that I think could really help teams during the season. That said, I still think it’s an important position to draft early, especially with so many leagues now starting 3 WRs, and with so many flex leagues growing in popularity. Even if you invest high draft picks on WRs there is still plenty of talent to be found late and we’ll give you some of our favorites today, including 4 “Long Shots” from myself at the end of the article.
Shane P. Hallam:
Anquan Boldin, WR – San Francisco 49ers:
How is it that everyone has forgotten about Anquan Boldin again? Even with some playoff struggles, Boldin’s excellent regular season proves that he had a rapport with Colin Kaepernick and has the physical ability to make some big catches and plays. He is going so late in drafts, you can grab him as a WR4 or 5 and negate a lot of the risk that comes with it. With Michael Crabtree already nursing some injuries in camp, there is a strong possibility of Boldin being the #1 Kaepernick target to start the season yet again. At 33 years old, many want to write off veterans and ignore the potential production, much to their redraft detriment. 80+ receptions seems like a real possibility once again.
Andre Holmes, WR – Oakland Raiders:
Oakland has been a fantasy wasteland for a few years now, but this could be the year to jump back in. With a veteran QB in Matt Schaub and a strong offensive line, there should be some pass catchers who emerge. James Jones and Rod Streater both are fine sleepers in their own right to own on your team, but Andre Holmes is the upside play on your bench. Holmes has always been a talented WR but needed development coming out of Hillsdale. He seemed to finally hit that late last year with 4 straight games of at least 9 fantasy points. He should have the opportunity to be the WR3 in Oakland with some starting potential during the course of the season. If he flashes more physical talent than the aforementioned WRs, Holmes is a big break out candidate and a good lottery ticket for your bench.
Roddy White, Marques Colston and Rueben Randle
Victor Cruz, WR – New York Giants
I don’t know if I can really call Cruz a sleeper since he’s going as the WR14 over at FantasyFootballCalculator.com, but I do like Cruz this season in New York. I said in the QB Sleepers article, that I am curious to see the Giants this pre-season with their new hurry up offense, and it’s a good thing they have an extra game because it didn’t seem to gel in the Hall of Fame game. Cruz is going ahead of some big names like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Roddy White, and I actually don’t have a problem with that. In your average league with Joe Public, I actually think that Cruz will slip a little bit. ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo, all have Cruz ranked outside the Top 15, and I would expect in most drafts with average players, Cruz will slip in drafts. I love the upside of Cruz, and the fact he didn’t have a TD after Week 4 last season will change in 2014.
Looking at last season, Cruz was the 30th best WR in PPR leagues with 194.8 Fantasy Points. He missed the final two games of the season, and was averaging 12.2 PPG. Add that extra 24.4 points to his final total and he would have been the 20th best WR with 219.2 Fantasy Points. I’ve already talked about why I like Eli this season in the new offense, and I expect a bounce-back from Cruz. He could easily be a Top 10 option this season, so he’s a light sleeper coming off the board outside the Top 15. He’s more of a guy I like to target this season, especially in auction leagues as my WR2 with upside.
DeSean Jackson, WR – Washington Redskins
DeSean Jackson in now in Washington with the Redskins, and is currently the 22nd WR off the board at FantasyFootballCalculator. I really like this value on Jackson for a couple of reasons. First, Jackson can stretch the field with the best of them, and a healthy RGIII can sling it with the best of them, match made in heaven right? For some reason it seems that Jackson is perceived as a one trick pony who has huge weeks followed by horrible weeks that kill you. In PPR leagues last season, Jackson had 5 games with less than 50 yards and still finished as the 12th best WR in fantasy. I know some people are concerned with Garcon in Washington and the high number of targets he has received, but I’m not. Jackson is coming there to do one thing and that is get deep and catch TDs. As the 22nd WR off the board he represents a lot of value as a low end WR2, and he often performed as a high end WR1 in PPR leagues last season. He had 9 games in 2013 with 14 fantasy points or more, six with more than 20, and four with over 25. I agree he won’t put up huge games every week, but which WR does? Calvin Johnson had 5 games with 52 yards or less, and had five games with over 25 fantasy points, remember Jackson had four.
Mike Wallace, WR – Miami Dolphins
Mike Wallace is coming off the board as the 29th fantasy WR after finishing 2013 as the 27th best fantasy WR in PPR leagues. Wallace had two big problems last season, he didn’t score TDs and he had games where he seemed to disappear. Wallace had six games with fewer than 30 receiving yards, and he only scored in one of those games. There were five games where Wallace absolutely killed fantasy owners. Wallace seemed to do better down the stretch scoring four of his five total TDs in his final six games, as well as topping 100 yards twice in that same six game stretch. Wallace was pedestrian and average for most of the season, and there is a strong chance that the owners who drafted Wallace last season, will be avoiding him in 2014. I like Wallace this season because I still believe in the talent, I expect Tannehill to progress a little more this season, and I like the addition of Bill Lazor coming over from Philadelphia last season. I’ll be paying close attention to how the Dolphins line up and use Mike Wallace in the pre-season because I expect Wallace to have more opportunities this season in Miami, in more creative ways. Wallace has been a Top 10 fantasy guy in the past, and I like him to have a bounce back effort in 2014. His draft day price is fair, and there will guys during the pre-season who sneak past him, and I expect his stock to actually drop by the time most drafts take place. Anytime I can get a guy outside the Top 30 who stays healthy and has been a Top 10 talent before, I’ll generally take a shot on a player like that, and Wallace fits that bill.
Steve Smith, WR – Baltimore Ravens
I am not the world’s biggest Steve Smith fan at all, but as the 53rd WR off the board, I like him early in the season, and I like taking a flier in the late rounds. I’m not sure if Smith will be a guy you play most weeks, or if you even keep him on your roster all season, but I’m targeting him for a few reasons. First, we all have seen players change teams and become rejuvenated in a new city in a new scheme. Second, Smith is a very smart, savvy player and will immediately help Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Third, he plays his former team the Carolina Panthers in Baltimore in Week 4. Everyone should expect Smith to have a big game that day, perhaps his biggest of the season. I mention this because there are some big name WRs on Bye that week like A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald and others. Smith is a great guy that you can get extremely late for this revenge start when one of your stud WR1s is on a Bye. There is also a good chance that in PPR leagues, Smith works out as a solid WR4 option in deeper leagues. The cost of taking Smith is very low, and while I don’t expect Smith to be a Top 25 WR this season, Top 40 is very realistic and if it doesn’t work out, you can cut him early on.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR – Carolina Panthers:
I recently said that Kelvin Benjamin could “accidentally score 8 TDs this season”, and I firmly believe that. Someone is going to have to emerge in Carolina, and my bet in on Benjamin. The Panthers will be able to move the ball on offense with their two RBs and Cam Newton. Greg Olsen has taken to Twitter to defend himself while every fantasy and NFL analyst continues to claim that Newton has “no one to throw the ball to in Carolina”. Benjamin is a tall guy, listed at 6’ 5”, if used properly, he should be a great redzone threat for Cam Newton in Carolina. I want to get a closer look at him during the pre-season, but camp reports are glowing over his ability and he should see plenty of playing time in this offense. He’s probably not going to be a guy that you can trust every week, but I love adding him in best-ball leagues, and I’ll have a close eye on his Redzone targets in the pre-season.
Markus Wheaton, WR – Pittsburgh Steelers:
Markus Wheaton was a guy I seem to remember a lot of scouts and fantasy analysts getting excited about when he went to Pittsburgh last season. Wheaton saw very little playing time in 2013, but that should change in 2014 with the losses of Emmanuel Sanders to Denver, and Jerricho Cotchery to the Panthers. Wheaton should be able to win the starting job opposite Antonio Brown, and could be in line for a good amount of opportunities in 2014. As the 56th WR off the board right now, you may not even have to draft Wheaton in deeper leagues, but keep an eye on him because Emmanuel Sanders saw 112 targets in 2013, 26th most in the NFL. If Wheaton is as talented as some say, seeing that many targets will translate into almost definitely outperforming his current draft slot.
Kenny Britt, WR – St. Louis Rams:
Yes, that Kenny Britt. He’s back, he’s back with Jeff Fischer, and the camp reports are glowing. He seems to have found a nice connection with Sam Bradford, and believe it or not, Bradford played very well last season before his injury. Britt is a draft day afterthought right now as the 63rd WR off the board, but if the camp reports continue, and Britt plays well this pre-season, the secret will be out. Kenny Britt is shockingly only 25 years old, even though it feels like he’s been around forever. The asking day price for Britt is a late round flier, and I’m happy to pay it right now. The Rams are desperate for WR help after drafting several guys lately who just haven’t seemed to pay off. There was no Rams WR to have more than 83 targets last season, and if Britt can emerge as the go-to threat for Bradford, he should easily outperform his late draft slot.
Marqise Lee, WR – Jacksonville Jaguars:
Marqise Lee might have been a Top 10 pick in the draft had he come out of college one year ago. Now he goes to Jacksonville, and while people still love the talent, they hate the situation. Despite what you might have heard, the Jaguars might not be that bad of a spot for Lee to get some serious playing time for a team that is almost guaranteed to be trailing in a lot of games. The Jaguars have thrown the ball 592 and 586 times the last two seasons. Justin Blackmon isn’t coming back anytime soon, Cecil Shorts is nursing a hamstring injury, and Ace Sanders has temporarily left the team. Lee is already at the top of the depth chart, and should have the opportunity to make some noise playing for a team that should be behind in nearly all of their games. The talent is there, the opportunity is there, I’ll take 2 out of 3, even if 3 might be the most important, a quality QB. The asking price is extremely cheap right now with Lee as the 70th WR off the board in 14 team leagues, so most likely undrafted in standard 10 or even 12 team leagues right now. Keep an eye on Lee in Jacksonville.