We conclude our sleeper series with breakdown of wide receivers and tight ends.
The definition of a sleeper varies depending on who you talk to. In our view, sleepers are defined as players who are projected to make contributions to their teams, but could far exceed expectations. The caveat - there are unanswered questions surrounding each of these players.
Here are 20 WR’s and 6 TE’s who could be worth consideration on draft day.
1. Toren Dixon, Rice
Pros: Dixon is the lone holdover from last year’s offensive juggernaut and figures to be the top target in the Owls’ passing game.
Cons: Who’s going to throw him the rock? Rice will be breaking in a new QB, plus a new offensive coordinator this fall. Can Dixon get open when defenses don’t have to worry about Jarett Dillard or James Casey?
2. McKay Jacobson, BYU
Pros: Austin Collie and his record-setting stats are now in the NFL. Somebody needs to fill the role of No. 1 receiver in the BYU passing game! Jacobson had a nice freshman campaign before going on a two year mission.
Cons: He hasn’t played in an actual game in a while. Can he pick up where he left off? There have been rumblings that Max Hall might spread the ball around more this year. This could torment fantasy owners looking for the “next Austin Collie”.
3. Malcolm Williams, Texas
Pros: The dude is a physical specimen who could be a first round NFL draft pick. Colt McCoy is going to spray the ball all over the field once again, and with Quan Cosby graduating, Williams should be the No. 2 receiving option (to Jordan Shipley).
Cons: Some think Brandon Collins will become the No. 2 receiving threat in this offense.
4. Darius Darks, Iowa State
Pros: Upside! The Iowa State offense is getting a face-lift with the arrival of former Rice OC Tom Herman. Will he become the Jarett Dillard of this offense? Highly doubtful. But he did catch 49 balls as a freshman - as a complimentary WR to top target R.J. Sumrall. Sumrall is gone, and Darks figures to be the go-to guy.
Cons: With a new system comes some growing pains. How long will it take ISU to gel?
5. Tim Brown, Rutgers
Pros: Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt leave a gaping hole at receiver. All indications are that the Scarlet Knights will lean on the veteran Brown this season. Great speed.
Cons: Veteran QB Mike Teel also graduated. Can Dom Natale get the job done at QB or will Tom Savage be thrown into the fire? Can Brown translate his game from being the deep threat guy to becoming more of a go-to man?
6. Dwight Jones, North Carolina
Pros: Like Rutgers above, UNC loses its top two receiving threats in Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate. Jones has a chance to be a major target for returning QB T.J. Yates. The sophomore is a big physical receiver who was a top recruit a year ago.
Cons: Incoming 4-star freshmen Jheranie Boyd and Joshua Adams could step right in and try to steal the spotlight.
7. Phillip Payne, UNLV
Pros: Last year as a freshman, Payne caught 7 TD’s only 29 catches. The 6’3 target packed on some muscle this offseason, and figures to be a much bigger part of the offense this fall. It also helps that star QB Omar Clayton is back from injury and should be primed for a big year.
Cons: Ryan Wolfe is the top dog in the receiving game. Are there enough balls to go around to make Payne a viable fantasy option?
8. Jamere Holland, Oregon
Pros: Nobody has claimed the role of Jeremiah Masoli’s top receiver yet. Holland had a good spring and could be that guy. He’s a USC transfer who will be a major threat on the outside
Cons: Oregon’s bread and butter is with the running game. Will they throw the rock enough to warrant adding Holland to your roster either on draft day or as a free agent?
9. Danario Alexander, Missouri
Pros: With Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman off to play on Sundays, the offense needs a playmaker in the passing game. Alexander has the raw tools to be a star.
Cons: can Alexander stay healthy for a season? He’s been bit by the injury bug more often than not. We’ve been waiting for his breakout for a few years now.
10. Jamar Howard, Cincinnati
Pros: Howard was a JUCO star who should fit right into Brian Kelly’s offense. With Dominick Goodman graduating and Marcus Barnett being moved over to defense, the way is paved for Howard to make an instant impact.
Cons: Mardy Gilyard is the clear No. 1 receiver in this offense. Can Howard catch enough balls to warrant serious fantasy consideration?
11. Vincent Brown, San Diego State
Pros: Brown was QB Ryan Lindley’s favorite target a year ago (64-631-5). The Aztecs figure to be playing from behind quite a bit in 2009, and should be throwing the ball a lot. Good news for Brown.
Cons: Demarco Sampson and Roberto Wallace both looked good this spring and, with a new coaching staff, could threaten Brown on the stat department.
12. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh
Pros: At 6’5 and 220 pounds, Baldwin is a physical freak. He averaged a whopping 22.4 yards per reception in 2008, but…
Cons: ...he only caught 18 balls on the season. The Pitt passing game is as stale is it gets. Can Bill Stull cobble together a decent season get Baldwin up to the 50 catch area? Also, Baldwin had some off the field issues and his status is still a bit unclear.
13. Darrell Catchings, Oregon State
Pros: Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales have moved on, leaving behind their combined 124 catches, 1783 yards and 15 touchdowns. Catchings will be playing Stroughter’s split end position, had a great spring, and is expected to be a homerun threat.
Cons: There will be a fight for touches in this offense as the Rodgers Bros. figure to be the stars of the show.
14. Owen Spencer, NC State
Pros: In 2008, Spencer led the team in receptions (31), yards (691) and touchdowns (5). As the Wolfpack’s passing game continues to evolve behind Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon, you’d think that Spencer’s numbers will improve as well.
Cons: Spencer also led the team in dropped passes. He’ll have to improve in this area or he could lose the trust of his QB.
15. Joe Adams, Arkansas
Pros: In its second season under Bobby Petrino, and with the addition of QB Ryan Mallett, many think the Razorbacks’ offense is ready to explode this fall. If they do, Joe Adams could be a breakout player. He had a great spring and should build off his productive freshman campaign.
Cons: He’s only 5’7, so he does have some limitations in the red zone.
16. Desmond Gee, Middle Tennessee
Pros: He’s one of those multi-purpose guys who can hurt you in many ways. Very quick. He’ll line up in the backfield or out wide at receiver. He also returns punts and kickoffs.Think Derrick Williams Lite.
Cons: He’s does many things well, but doesn’t really excel at anything. Weighs in at only 158 pounds.
17. Aldarius Johnson, Miami(FL)
Pros: Aldarius is a big physical receiver much like some of his predecessors at ‘The U’. One of the more gifted players on the team, and he happens to be best friends and roommates with their up-and-coming QB star, Jacory Harris.
Cons: Miami hasn’t produced a true fantasy threat at the WR position in quite some time. Most of the Miami guys blossom (statistically) once they are in The League.
18. Johnathan Wilson, Kansas
Pros: Kansas is going to chuck the ball all over the place. Dezmon Briscoe is one misstep away from being booted from the team. If that happens, Wilson becomes an instant fantasy factor. He’s also be a great insurance policy for Briscoe owners.
Cons: If Briscoe stays on the straight and narrow, Wilson doesn’t hold much value.
19. Andre Debose, Florida
Pros: Highly touted incoming freshman who supposedly has a similar skill set to Percy Harvin.
Cons: He’s only a freshman. Florida spreads the ball around quite a bit. You have to be TRULY special to get the ball as often as Harvin did in years past. Is Debose TRULY special? We don’t know yet. Also, he’s been dealing with bum hamstring this summer which could stunt his development this August. Stay tuned.
20. Josh Jarboe, Troy
Pros: It’s not often that a true 4-star recruit finds his way onto a Sun Belt roster, but that’s what happened here. Jarboe committed to Oklahoma but was sent home before his career even started after some tomfoolery. Jarboe is a very talented player who should be a matchup problem for every defense in the conference. And the Troy offense is loaded to begin with.
Cons: Can this guy keep his head on straight? And if he does… are there enough balls to go around in the vaunted Troy offense? Jerrel Jernigan and DuJuan Harris will see plenty of touches. Will there be enough scraps for Jarboe to piece together a decent fantasy statline?
1. Ladarius Green, ULL
Pros: The dude caught 5 TD’s last year in a complimentary role. With most of the stars on offense moving on, Green should see more balls thrown his way in 2009.
Cons: But those balls will be thrown by an unproven QB as last year’s star, Michael Desormeaux, graduated.
2. Madaris Grant, Ball State
Pros: The Ball State attack has featured the tight end position in the past. Darius Hill had a great career in Muncie. Grant caught 26 balls in a backup role and should expand on those numbers greatly this fall.
Cons: Like Green above, there is a new signal-caller at the helm in Kelly Page.
3. Taylor Wardlow, Rice (***might be listed as a WR in your league)
Pros: James Casey, likely the greatest tight end in the modern college fantasy football era, graduates. Wardlow doesn’t appear to have near the talent as Casey, but even if he can produce one-third of the stats, he’s a good tight end to have on your roster.
Cons: Is Wardlow classified as a TE or WR? This is a big question. You better check with your commissioner before considering Wardlow in your draft.
4. Jimmy Scheidler, Bowling Green
Pros: The Falcons look for Scheidler in the redzone, as evidenced by his 7 TD’s a year ago.
Cons: However, he only caught 17 balls on the season. Therefore, he’s not nearly as valuable in PPR and/or yardage leagues.
5. Collin Franklin, Iowa State
Pros: The same Rice OC who turned James Casey into a star will now be calling the shots at ISU. Can he utilize Franklin, who—like Casey—is essentially a big wide receiver playing the tight end position? The potential is there for good things to happen.
Cons: Derrick Catlett could spoil the party. Some believe he will be the starting TE in Ames, while others think Catlett will line up more as a fullback. We’ll be watching this one as camp starts in August.
6. Jesson Salyards, Wyoming
Pros: Like Franklin above, Salyards could be the beneficiary of a new coach as Mizzou’s former OC, Dave Christensen, is now the head man at Wyoming. Christensen made excellent use of the tight end position at Mizzou.
Cons: Wyoming doesn’t have the pieces in place for a quick offensive turnaround. This one might take a year or two to get the right players into the system.
Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier destination for all things college fantasy football.