Fantasy Football Sleepers 2011: 10 Hidden Gem WRs You Need to Win Your League
Kiss your fantasy football season goodbye if you fail to capitalize on these hidden gems at wide receiver.
Contrary to popular belief, dominating fantasy football isn’t about luck; it’s about being one step ahead of every opponent and obtaining the best value possible in your draft. Wide receivers are increasingly dominating fantasy football as teams look to air it out more and leagues shift to rewarding players for receptions.
This year, the fantasy wide receiver big board is littered with sketchy one-hit wonders and declining studs. You don’t want to let your fantasy hopes and dreams lie in the hands of Brandon Lloyd, do you? Exactly.
He’s not the only one to worry about—Mike Wallace, Stevie Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall all come equipped with a laundry list of concerns. I’ve been burned by Michael Clayton in the past and am not willing to let Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams sandbag me the same. Given the overload of potential one-hit wonders in the first six rounds, you desperately need to back end your draft with these deep sleeper wideouts.
Hit your opponents with a few of these hidden gems late and watch them take you to the fantasy Promised Land. We all know about the Mario Manninghams, A.J. Greens, Julio Jones’ and Percy Harvins. We need to look deeper in the pot for the next great fantasy staples.
Your friends and competitors will be left scratching their heads on draft day and then kicking themselves all season for letting them fall through the cracks. Better yet, they’ll be coming to you with trade offers every single week to land these weekly starting studs.
Honorable Mention: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Sometimes, everyone needs a reminder.
I understand he comes with injury concerns and the brutal Alex Smith at quarterback, but he is still a special player.
Crabtree is entering his third year in the NFL, which should sound an alarm for experienced fantasy players. Wide receivers generally break out in their third year. He already knows Smith and now has a capable veteran deep threat in Braylon Edwards opposite him.
MC Crabtree will make sweet fantasy music for your team this year. He is a very good route runner who creates great separation from his man. He has exceptional foot work and is sure-handed. Crabtree will become one of the league’s premier possession receivers this season.
10. Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons are loaded with a Super Bowl caliber offense highlighted by Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. With Matt Ryan improving by the hour, there will be plenty of balls to go around as the Falcons look to limit the punishment taken by Michael Turner.
The Falcons have never had an offense with this potential, and they will utilize it to the fullest. Harry Douglas will reap the benefits of abusing nickel cornerbacks this season. He will work one-on-one the entire year, as defenses have no clue who to stop.
He has just 45 receptions for 614 yards and two touchdowns because he missed the entire 2009 season with a knee injury. He is finally healthy and had last season to get back in the groove. This will be his true third year in the NFL, which means he is essentially a lock to breakout.
He has already caught five passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason games. You don’t want to miss out on HDTV.
9. Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints
Oh, how I love contract players!
Everyone seems to play above and beyond their abilities when they are fighting for that contract the following offseason.
Meachem disappointed last season, as he failed to capitalize on his breakout third season when he set career highs with 45 receptions for 722 yards and nine touchdowns. Drew Brees is well aware he’s playing for a contract and also knows this kid has the skills to be a quality receiver.
Marques Colston and Lance Moore generally battle injuries, so expect Meachem to be a favorite of Brees’ this season, given he has played 32 games the past two seasons.
Expect this Saint to march to the beat of the 60-reception, 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown drum.
8. Mike Sims-Walker, St. Louis Rams
Josh McDaniels turns wide receivers and quarterbacks into fantasy gems. I could go on for days about how Sam Bradford will become an elite quarterback, but this is all about Mike Sims-Walker.
Sims-Walker is by no means a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but he will be a fantasy threat in McDanies’ system with Bradford’s accuracy. McDaniels turned Brandon Lloyd into one of the best options last season and will do so with Sims-Walker.
He may be battling a knee injury, but this man has scored 14 touchdowns the past two seasons and is looking to break the bank next year. He needs to be healthy to land his contract, which means he will be healthy for you this season.
He's another man who will hover around 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in McDaniels' system.
7. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown has been lighting up Steelers’ training camp. Coaches and players have been raving about his improved conditioning and believe he will be a special player.
Who are you to ignore him, their favorite 2010 rookie?
Brown enters his second year in the NFL and caught a touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 of the preseason.
Teammate Mike Wallace enjoyed a breakout season in 2010, and there is no reason Brown can’t follow in his footsteps as defenses look to stop “60 Minutes” and Hines Ward continues to decline.
Ben Roethlisberger trusts Brown in any and all situations, and the Steelers are going to let Big Ben air it out more this season.
6. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Victor Cruz will win the Giants’ slot receiver job and excel. He will take over for Steve Smith, who was once Eli Manning’s safety net before he blew out his knee. Manning loves to throw to his slot receiver, and Cruz is the perfect specimen with his speed, quickness and strong hands.
Cruz was last preseason’s darling, as he shredded cross-town rival New York Jets for 145 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions.
With Smith in Philadelphia and reliable tight end Kevin Boss in Oakland, Cruz will reap the benefits of Eli consistently feeding him the rock to move the chains. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham justifiably receive all of the credit and attention in New York for their work, but Cruz has the skills to dominate all the same for fantasy owners.
5. Dezmon Briscoe, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Second-year receiver Dezmon Briscoe has impressed in the preseason thus far. He is a big target for Josh Freeman, who continues to transcend the game and become an elite quarterback. Standing at 6’2” and 210 pounds, Briscoe will be a red zone threat for the Bucs as he works opposite Mike Williams.
Williams was a superstar last season, but teams will look to stop him this time around. He could very well be one of the biggest busts this season, but that means Briscoe will see a ton of targets as defensive coordinators look to shut down Williams.
Freeman is gaining Raheem Morris’ trust by the day, and the Bucs do not have a reliable third-down back for him to check down to, which means Briscoe will be an ideal option with his size and strength.
4. Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
Colt McCoy has been phenomenal this preseason, dissecting the Packers and Lions to the tune of 19-for-28 for 231 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
If only he played the NFC North every week in fantasy.
Still, this second-year quarterback clearly learned a thing or two from Brett Favre this offseason and is slinging the rock better than he did at Texas.
The Browns didn’t grab the electrifying North Carolina product Greg Little in the second round to let him watch. He is a terrific wide receiver with great speed, strong hands and incredible strength. He will quickly solidify himself as pound-for-pound the toughest receiver in the NFL.
He is a smaller version of Terrell Owens and plays the same style. He will be McCoy’s premier deep threat and possession receiver this season. He already has a touchdown this preseason. Forget Julio Jones and A.J. Green; Little will be your top rookie wide receiver this season.
3. Davone Bess, Miami Dolphins
Davone Bess is one of the most underrated receivers in the game with his quickness, route-running and sure hands. He will be a monster in point-per-reception leagues with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll calling the shots.
Daboll is looking to open the offense for Chad Henne, which will make Brandon Marshall much happier, but Bess a fantasy threat. Marshall commands immense attention from defensive coordinators, which will leave Bess to abuse No. 2 and nickel cornerbacks.
He broke out last season with 79 receptions for 820 yards and five touchdowns. I wouldn’t expect the touchdowns to jump much, but he will be the primary safety net for Henne or Matt Moore. He will near 1,000 yards and 100 receptions with ease in 2011.
2. Plaxico Burress, New York Jets
There are very few men who can physically dominate the gridiron like Plaxico Burress can. The Jets landed a steal in Plaix as he will be one of the most motivated players in the league this season.
In his first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, he caught three passes for 66 yards and a score. He will be used as Mark Sanchez’s primary deep threat, possession receiver and red zone target. In other words, do not expect him to be on the sidelines much despite a two-year hiatus.
He looked fantastic against the Bengals—as if he never left the game. His wingspan, deceptive speed, leaping ability and sure-hands make him an instant monster in the aerial attack.
Rex Ryan wants to prove the rest of the NFL wrong and will showcase Burress’ talents on a weekly basis. He has is a matchup nightmare for every single cornerback and will benefit from the coaching staff allowing Sanchez to throw more this season.
1. Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams
Danny Amendola will reap the most benefits from Josh McDaniels coming to St. Louis.
He is the perfect fit to fill the Wes Welker role in McDaniels’ offense. He is a very good route-runner with terrific hands and quickness.
Sam Bradford is an emerging elite quarterback who has sniper-like accuracy. He will look to Amendola early and often to move the chains and keep defenses on their heels.
Welker became one of the best receivers in the game when he came to New England with McDaniels as offensive coordinator. McDaniels loves to have these type of quick and sure-handed receivers to dominate nickel cornerbacks and the middle of the field.
Amendola and Bradford already have envious chemistry, as they hooked up last year for 85 receptions, 689 yards and three touchdowns. I wouldn’t expect the touchdowns to jump much, but he will catch nearly 115 balls for more than 1,000 yards in McDaniels’ first year.
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