Fantasy Football Sleepers: Wide Receivers to Reach for and Avoid in Your Draft
Wide receiver is a very deep position in fantasy football this year, but there are still sleepers and busts who can make or break your fantasy season.
There are some players ready to break out and exceed expectations, while others are on the decline or might be in a questionable offense.
So which wideouts should you target, and which ones should you avoid?
Reach for T.Y. Hilton
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is currently ranked 34th among receivers, according to ESPN.com's fantasy projections. However, that projection is based on the speedy Florida International product catching only 56 passes last season.
But with the speed and talent he has shown to this point in his career, it wouldn't be surprising to see him much more involved in the Indianapolis offense. Cris Carter of ESPN, a pretty good wide receiver in his day, predicts a much bigger workload for Hilton in 2013.
That would likely add another 400 yards and 3 scores to Hilton's projected output, and give him a stat line similar to the one projected for Victor Cruz, who is ranked 13th on the same ESPN rankings.
Hilton has demonstrated his big play ability multiple times this preseason, and his growth and chemistry with quarterback prodigy Andrew Luck should lead to big things in 2013.
Avoid James Jones
There are so many options at wide receiver who have seemingly unlimited potential.
So why would you gamble on James Jones doing something he's never done before?
ESPN projects the Green Bay Packers wideout to catch 80 passes for 1,045 yards, which would blow away his previous career highs in those statistics.
And before you think it's because he's an emerging talent, you should remember that Jones is already 29 years old.
Jones will certainly find that he has a role in the Green Bay offense since Aaron Rodgers trusts him in the red zone. That means he'll continue to get looks in the passing game that could turn into touchdowns.
But even with Greg Jennings largely absent, and Jordy Nelson injured over the course of the season, Jones only saw 98 targets in 2012. He's not a high-volume receiver, so if you're counting on yards and catches, it's best to avoid Jones and look elsewhere in the middle rounds.
Reach for Torrey Smith
Unlike James Jones, who is further on his career, Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens is a young player who is in line to see more work in 2013, and that could mean massive fantasy value.
But even if Smith only sees the same amount of targets in 2013 as he did in 2012, he'll still be a good value as a high end WR3 in fantasy drafts.
The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel wrote about some statistics he has observed during the preseason to this point, and two of them are very encouraging for potential owners of Torrey Smith. The first is the general lack of deep passes thrown by Joe Flacco, and the other is the lack of pressure put on Flacco during the first two preseason games.
These factors combine to create a more conducive passing game for turning targets into catches. Last season, Smith was targeted 110 times but only caught 49 of them. With shorter throws and a less pressured Joe Flacco, Smith will have a better chance of turning targets into catches.
And with no Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta, there will certainly be more targets for Smith. So ESPN projecting the Baltimore receiver for 64 catches seems very reasonable, and perhaps a little on the low end.
Avoid Denarius Moore
Matt Flynn was seen as a potential starter at quarterback a few years ago when he was stuck behind Aaron Rodgers, waiting for a shot at a full-time job.
But now that the Oakland Raiders have invested in Flynn and named him as their starter, he might become fantasy poison for other Oakland skill players.
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted this a week ago, and it doesn't bode well for the Oakland offense.
Flynn just not going to have success throwing longer than 25 yards, been clear all camp. Coaches have accepted that— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 14, 2013
That means that the chances of Denarius Moore meeting his expectations are much lower.
Moore saw limited success with Carson Palmer and is unlikely to see much better production with Flynn under center.
There are better options later in your draft to stash away on your bench.
Reach for DeAndre Hopkins
There has been a constant black hole on the Houston Texans' offense at wide receiver across from All-Pro Andre Johnson.
But with the addition of Clemson rookie DeAndre Hopkins that all changes.
Check out this highlight video from Fox Sports, and notice the catching radius and sideline and end zone awareness that Hopkins possessed in college, which will certainly carry over to the NFL.
Hopkins has all of the tools needed to be a primary target in an NFL offense. And with the reliable arm of Matt Schaub slinging the ball in Houston, there will be lots of great passes headed his way this season.
Kevin Walter and James Casey combined for over 70 catches last year, and even if Hopkins doesn't get every single one of those receptions, he figures to top the ESPN projection of 42 catches.
Avoid Wes Welker
Over the past few years, I have been a big proponent of Wes Welker, especially in PPR leagues. He was the most consistent performer at the position and could be counted on every week.
That changes this year.
Welker is going to join a Denver offense with two other star receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Last season, Peyton Manning did his best to divide targets across these two great players, as Thomas received 141 looks and Decker got 123.
Welker saw over 170 in his last two seasons in New England.
There's just not enough to go around in Denver, which means Welker will be hard-pressed to live up to ESPN's projection of 92 catches for 1,170 yards.
Welker is going to be the classic case of a NFL player who is more valuable to his real team than he is to your fantasy team. He'll be a constant threat in the slot for Denver, but that won't always translate to fantasy points.
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