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Fantasy Football 2014: Wide Receiver Sleepers Worth a Late-Round Gamble

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Fantasy Football 2014: Wide Receiver Sleepers Worth a Late-Round Gamble
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As each NFL franchise gears up for the start of training camp, fantasy football enthusiasts are making preparations to dominate their impending drafts.

Getting the best out of a fantasy draft haul requires more than simply grabbing as many studs as possible in the early rounds. Many leagues are won and lost due to owners who make intelligent decisions in the later rounds.

After all, when one of your best players misses time due to injury halfway through the season—it's happened to us all—you'll need someone to step into the starting lineup.

Taking that into consideration, why not fill your bench with players who have tremendous upsides late in the draft?

It's important to know who these players are before draft day, so let's kick things off by listing a few sleeper wide receivers worth gambling on in those late rounds.

 

Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

No. 2 wide receivers aren't generally considered sleepers, but that's exactly what Marvin Jones of the Bengals is heading into the 2014-15 season.

Currently, Jones has an average draft position of 11.08 in 12-team leagues. That's good enough for the 50th wide receiver off the board.

Talk about value.

Jones' upside is simply incredible this season due to his breakthrough performance last year.

Heading into the 2013 training camp, Jones wasn't secured as Cincinnati's No. 2 receiver—he was still competing with Mohamed Sanu for those honors. Well, after 51 receptions for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns on limited snaps last season, that's changed.

Adam Levitan of Rotoworld indicated what Jones could have produced with an increased snap count:

That's not saying he'll suddenly put up those kind of numbers this season, but the potential is certainly there. Isn't that worth a gamble in the 11th round?

 

Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers

USA TODAY Sports

Let's go ahead and keep things in the AFC North for now.

Markus Wheaton didn't see the field much during his rookie season last year, and that's apparently translated to many fantasy owners forgetting about him during drafts—his average draft position is currently 13.04 in 12-team leagues.

The Steelers are without possession receiver Jerricho Cotchery and the speedy Emmanuel Sanders heading into the new season. In their places, the team brought in Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey—two wildly inconsistent pass-catchers.

The NFL's official Twitter account posed the big question of the offseason for the Steelers: 

Pittsburgh needs a reliable target opposite Antonio Brown, and Wheaton has a good chance to be that guy.

According to the Steelers' depth chart, Wheaton is already slated in the spot; however, it's still early. But during an interview with Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this offseason, head coach Mike Tomlin noted that he expects his young receiver to make a big push for the job.

Said the coach, "It's tough to play wide receiver with broken fingers. I look forward to him taking a significant step for us. I know that we need him to."

Given his current average draft position, passing on a receiver with the potential to become a legitimate No. 2 target this season is just plain silly.

 

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

Elsa/Getty Images

Each year, rookies are widely considered to be big sleepers due to the extremely varied results first-year players have produced over the years.

For example, in 2004, first-rounder Michael Clayton caught 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Conversely, fellow first-rounder Michael Jenkins caught seven receptions for 119 yards that same season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Sure, there's plenty to consider with that comparison, but you get the idea.

This year, Odell Beckham Jr. finds himself in a great position to produce immediately.

He's on an offense that's not afraid to pass—regardless of Eli Manning's week-to-week performances—and isn't surrounded by an abundance of talent that will keep him from seeing the field.

Despite those reasons to love him this year, Beckham's average draft position is 13.10 in a 12-team league.

Victor Cruz will continue to be New York's go-to guy, but Rueben Randle is currently projected to start as well. However, with much of Cruz's production coming from the slot, another wide receiver will need to produce.

Here's a reminder of what Beckham's capable of doing on a football field:

Sure, the one-year wonder Mario Manningham is back in the fold this season, but his inconsistent play may lead head coach Tom Coughlin to give the rookie a shot.

After all, according to a press conference via Giants.com, general manager Jerry Reese had some big praise for the receiver after the first day of the 2014 draft:

Odell Beckham, wide receiver and return specialist from LSU. It was a really good pick for us. We obviously wanted to address the wide receiver position, as well as other positions. He was the highest guy on our board, number one, and he brings a lot to the table for us. He’s a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner. You are getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There’s no way we would pass him up.

Expect Beckham to be given the chance to make plays for the Giants offense at some point this season. That's more than enough reason to snatch him up in the draft's 13th round.

 

Notables

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Here are some notable wide receivers also capable of becoming nice late-round steals in this year's fantasy draft.

2014 Notable Wide Receiver Sleepers
Player Team ADP
DeAndre Hopkins Houston Texans 10.06
Kenny Stills New Orleans Saints 10.11
Jarrett Boykin Green Bay Packers 11.08
Jordan Matthews Philadelphia Eagles 11.10
James Jones Oakland Raiders 12.09

ADP via FantasyFootballCalculator.com

 

All average draft positions courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com.

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