“Wide Receiver is deep.” “The league is changing – wide receiver is more important than ever.” “I always start RB-RB.” “I can’t pass up elite WRs in the second round.” “It’s a PPR – you have to start a WR at flex.”
No matter what you think about WRs, this is true for everyone: all things being equal, you’d rather have good ones. Here are a few you might be able to target early in the season at a steep discount compared to what their actual production could be. That’s the idea, right?
5. Kevin White – Chicago Bears
Kevin White has been battling injuries all pre-season and can be safely removed from this list of NFL WR Sleepers
Don’t get me wrong – he’s going to get drafted in your yearly league. But he’s a rookie, he’s already banged up, and no one trusts Jay Cutler. But here’s my take: Jay Cutler doesn’t care what you think. There is no reason whatsoever to expect a regression, unless you are lamenting the departure of Marc Trestman. But Trestman has been replaced by Adam Gase, former offensive coordinator in Denver, who spent the last two years learning under Peyton Manning. Just kidding. But not really. White is a 6’3’’ burner (4.35 40 at the combine), and just like that the Bears are back to having two elite outside weapons, with Alshon likely drawing most of the coverage, at least early on – and whatever you want to say out Cutler, he has made that work before.
4. John Brown – Arizona Cardinals
It’s hard to remember after watching weeks 10-17, but the Cardinals actually had a very successful passing offense while Carson Palmer was healthy last season. I know it’s a lot to expect him to remain healthy all year, unfortunately, which is going to bring down the value of everyone on the Cardinals offense in the analysis done for yearly leagues. You’re going to spend the entire offseason reading season-long projections that are predicting a drop-down to Drew Stanton at some point – but Palmer is going to be healthy to start the season. And when he was healthy last year, John Brown was on a pace for slightly more than 100 targets working out of the slot. The two outside guys sometimes have difficulty finding separation, and there is no real tight end threat to take away targets over the middle, leaving Brown with plenty of opportunities to excel.
3. Percy Harvin – Buffalo Bills
I get it. This is the most out-there prediction of all my sleepers at any position. I don’t have to explain why people might be down on him heading into next season – you just laughed at me when you read his name. And no, I am not 100% sure why he has switched teams so many times, and maybe his visit here will be short-lived too. And yes, I understand there are quarterback problems – but that, to me, is actually part of the appeal. Rex Ryan had no problem running the wildcat in New York when he felt the need, and one way around QB issues is to go with a collection of wide-receiver screens, and short slants, and drag routes, and end arounds – all of which plays right into Harvin’s wheelhouse. In his last fully healthy season, he had over 1,300 total yards and eight touchdowns. The following season, before he got hurt, he played nine games and was on pace for over 1,300 again. He’s played a total of 14 games in the two seasons since then, but ended last season fully healthy and should enter training camp the same way. And if he does hit, we’re talking about serious minimum-salary type value.
2. Eric Decker – New York Jets
Well, the concern is Geno Smith, right? And the addition of Brandon Marshall, too. But mainly Geno Smith. Well, Geno Smith had a completion percentage just a hair under 60% last year working with basically zero talent around him other than Decker, and no matter what you think of Brandon Marshall, he’s a hell of a lot better than Jeremy Kerley. And Decker was a main reason why Smith had any success at all, as he had 115 targets and almost 1,000 yards. Marshall might eat into that some, but Decker is the known commodity for a young QB, and there is no real reason for Smith to shy away from him. Add to that the fact that he is a great red zone target, and Decker could still significantly outplay his (likely very low) price tag when the matchup is right – and the Jets open up with Cleveland, Indianapolis and Philly.
1. Charles Johnson – Minnesota Vikings
If you took a look at my QB sleepers, you’ll know Teddy Bridgewater was one of them, and I know I am not alone in that. I even cop to wondering if he is even able to qualify as a sleeper as a result of all the people calling him a sleeper. But Bridgewater looked like the real deal last year, and yet, no love for Charles Johnson. Everything I have seen or heard is people wondering if last year was a fluke, if Mike Wallace is going to cut into his production, if AP being there means they will throw a lot less. The answers: no, no, and, well, maybe. I’d certainly hand it off to Adrian Peterson more than I would to Matt Asiata, but I’d also expect to be rewarded with more first downs, more trips to the red zone, just more of everything, as a result. Call it a wash. And Mike Wallace is not the same player as Charles Johnson. Johnson can fight for a ball in the air in a way Mike Wallace cannot, and with his height and athleticism, he will be the primary target when they throw it in close. I have very high hopes for Johnson, personally, both in DFS and yearly leagues alike.