Fantasy Football 2013: 5 Deep Sleepers at WR
As we approach the Fantasy Football 2013 season, the general consensus is that you can wait on taking a receiver early because the position is much deeper than the other positions, especially running back.
Quality running backs are few and far between, so you might be tempted to wait a really long time before grabbing your receivers, especially if you want to play a running back at the flex. Getting three solid running backs is going to mean sacrificing depth at receiver.
Unless, of course, you hit it big on one of the several receivers who emerge from the lists of potential sleepers as fantasy contributors every year.
These next five guys probably aren't going to be consistent starters as top fantasy receivers, but they all have the potential to be a quality No. 2 or an awesome bye week fill-in.
All statistics from ESPN.com and assume ESPN standard fantasy football scoring.
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Dexter McCluster had career highs in receptions (52) and receiving yards (452) last season on a terrible Kansas City Chiefs offense. Those numbers aren't great, but his improvement and growing role in the offense is encouraging.
Another encouraging sign is that Kansas City has a new head coach in Andy Reid and a new quarterback in Alex Smith. Reid loves the West Coast offense and Smith seems like a good quarterback to run it, which is perfect for a player like McCluster, who can do lots of damage after the catch.
McCluster is a small, agile guy who is pretty good at making people miss but hasn't really found a role he excels at in the NFL. In theory, that role should be getting him the ball through the screen passes the West Coast offense is famous for.
That should let McCluster create offense on low-risk throws and increase how many touches he gets a game. If he can get the targets, he should be a good complement to Dwayne Bowe.
It's also worth noting that McCluster will get a few rushes every year and has the aforementioned potential to take every touch for big yards, which is just another boost to his fantasy value.
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Vincent Brown was a popular sleeper last year before he ended up missing the whole season with an injury.
He's not getting as much hype this year, which is understandable given that he just sat out his sophomore season and has 19 career receptions.
He also has a quarterback in Philip Rivers who hasn't looked like himself the past two seasons and hasn't been able to elevate the play of those around him as much as one would like.
But the San Diego Chargers have a new head coach in Mike McCoy who brings a reputation of being an offensive genius from his days in Denver. This is the coach who threw out his playbook to create one to work around Tim Tebow and then proceeded to throw that one out to tailor one to Peyton Manning.
If the Chargers and Philip Rivers can bounce back on offense, Brown should be one of the main benefactors. He's a good route-runner and was looking good in last year's training camp before fracturing his ankle.
If Brown can live up to the hype a year later and emerge as one of the starting receivers for the Chargers, he should be a good fantasy receiver.
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Rueben Randle didn't really contribute his rookie year as part of a deep New York Giants receiving group. His 19 receptions for 298 yards won't have fantasy owners lining up to draft him, but his three touchdowns on such a limited amount of touches is interesting.
Randle has no chance to be a starting receiver for a healthy Giants team, as he'll be behind stars Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, but he should emerge as a solid No. 3 receiver and has the potential to be a dangerous red-zone threat.
With an unproven running game and an elite quarterback in Eli Manning, the Giants might be a pass-heavy offense this year.
That being said, Nicks has a history of injuries, and if he goes down, Randle should be able to step right into his role and grab his targets.
If that happens, Randle could emerge as a must-start receiver because he has the size and skills to be a strong possession receiver.
At the worst Randle should be good for several games where he grabs a touchdown or two, but he has the potential to become a stud for fantasy football.
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Andrew Hawkins of the Cincinnati Bengals is another small guy who thrives on making people miss after the catch.
He's already a solid guy for PPR leagues, but this year, he has a chance to be a factor even in standard scoring.
His continued development from his 51 receptions for 533 yards (over 14 games) last year will mostly hinge on the continued growth of the Bengals offense. A.J. Green is a stud, but after that, the rest of the offense is a little underwhelming.
If quarterback Andy Dalton can show an improvement on deep throws, which he's struggled with thus far in his career, Hawkins should have more room to operate underneath.
If not, Hawkins is still the starting slot receiver for a team with a quarterback who relies on short throws to run the offense.
It's unlikely Hawkins develops into an elite slot receiver on a game-to-game basis, but he's a nice complement to A.J. Green and should see an increase in targets this year, which would boost both receptions and yards.
If Hawkins can turn a higher rate of those receptions into big plays and touchdowns, then he could turn into a fantasy football must-start receiver.
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Rod Streater had 39 receptions for 584 yards last year as an undrafted rookie for the Oakland Raiders. Standing at 6'3" and possessing enough speed to be a deep threat, Streater fits the mold of a potential top receiver.
This will be only his second year in the NFL, and he'll still likely need time to develop before he even has a chance of reaching that potential, but right now, he looks like the No. 2 receiver for an Oakland offense that likes to pass.
Oakland ranked eighth in passing yards last year, and it's hard to argue that new quarterback Matt Flynn won't at least be a minor upgrade over the departed Carson Palmer.
Someone has to catch those passes, and Streater looks like he could be that guy.
Flynn doesn't have the reputation of being a guy with a strong arm, but Streater's size and speed should give Flynn confidence in him as his go-to guy.
Streater won't need to be a deep threat—that will be Denarius Moore's job—but if he can win the starting receiver job and develop some chemistry with Matt Flynn, he could end up a low No. 1 or high No. 2 fantasy receiver.