Ninja Prediction: Pick Up These Sleeper Wide Receivers in 2009

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2009

CHICAGO - 2008:  Earl Bennett of the Chicago Bears poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Getty Images)

Anyone who has drafted already can tell you that the middle-to-late-round wide receivers are as appealing as being a high school janitor during the peak of flu season.

No one in their right mind can, and should, feel good about starting Laveranues Coles or Deion Branch as their No. 2 wide receiver—or even to rely on them for spot starts off the bench.

Yet there are some pass-catchers who always seem to fall between the cracks at many drafts. These are guys you can nab late who could produce some big numbers at a critical point for you this season.

Here are the two I’m targeting the most this summer.


Receiver sleepers

My name is Earl. As in Earl Bennett.

Perhaps not a sleeper to some, thanks to some growing hype around this Chicago receiver, but Bennett is primed to be a fantasy force this season at a fraction of the cost of similar talents.

He was a non-factor last year in his rookie campaign for the Bears, but this season he is paired with longtime Vanderbilt teammate Jay Cutler. This summer, Cutler has targeted Bennett a number of times, and Earl has responded by catching everything that comes his direction.

News today on is that Bennett has officially landed a starting gig across from Devin Hester—and Bennett is much more of a prototypical receiver than Hester.

Yes, the Bears have a talented tight end in Greg Olsen who will benefit from Cutler under center. Yes, Hester is lightning-quick.

However, I bet you dollars to doughnuts that Bennett leads the Bears in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns this year. I’d also place a nice-sized wager that Bennett will be starting at No. 2 wide receiver at some point this season in every league you participate in.

Make sure that the team that starts him is yours by grabbing Bennett late in each of your drafts.

Miss out on Bennett? Why not take the player whose stock has arguably fallen the most between the NFL rookie draft and now?

That would be Michael Crabtree. In one of the biggest bonehead moves in recent sports memory, Crabtree continues to hold out for a contract he doesn’t deserve. His intellectually challenged cousin even spread rumors that Crabtree is willing to sit out all season and re-enter the draft in 2010.

Don’t believe that line of poo for one minute.

It’s amazing how short-sighted some fantasy owners can be this time of year. The season is long. Crabtree will sign at some point.

He may not be playing in Week One. In fact, there’s a good chance he won’t start a game by the 49ers’ Week Six bye. However, here’s betting that Crabtree plays no later than San Fran’s Oct. 25 game against Houston.

The 49ers then play against a bunch of questionable secondaries down the stretch this season—including Seattle, Arizona, Detroit, and St. Louis within the last five weeks of the season.

Crabtree has too much talent not to produce some impressive statistical totals this year. In fact, I expect Crabtree to be a major factor for many in this year’s fantasy playoffs.


Player to Watch

Rumor has it that New York Jets receiver David Clowney has leapfrogged Chansi Stuckey for the opportunity to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery.

Clowney has really impressed this summer, and only four other receivers in the league have more preseason yards to their name.

Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will have his growing pains at times this season, but he will prove adept enough for you to take a flyer on Clowney at the end of your draft if you have the extra roster space.


Check out more ninja-rific predictions at