2011 NFL Fantasy Football Sleepers: 10 Wide Receivers to Take a Late Flier On
Anyone can draft Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson or Roddy White as long as the draft position is willing. Loading up on wide receivers and running backs with upside rounds eight and later is how you win your league. The more you have, the better your chances to have that breakout guy we see year in, year out.
Here are 10 wide receivers to keep your eye on and snag at the right value. These guys are poised to breakout and make bigger contributions to their teams and your fantasy championship.
Didn't you love having Stevie Johnson or Mike Wallace last year, or even Miles Austin in 2009? Better yet, didn't you hate the guy who beat you with him? He's going to cost you a high pick this year. How about trying to pick this year's breakout wide receivers at bargain prices?
Yes, I think Mario Manningham will have a breakout year with Steve Smith gone, and yes, Mike Sims-Walker has an opportunity for big numbers with Sam Bradford, considering he did well with David Garrard. You won't find them on this list. We are going to focus on the eighth round and later, let's say after the first 100 guys are off the board, bargain bin style.
Roy Williams, Chicago Bears
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 112
Roy Williams will go higher than most of the guys on this list, but for good reason. His name is already established in the league and should be less risky. The Chicago Bears seem to have a new sleeper at the receiver position on the radar each year, because of the Jay Cutler's throwing ability and Mike Martz's system. Remember Devin Aromashodu, Johnny Knox or Earl Bennett? Well, this year it's Roy Williams.
The promise here is that Williams has already had success with Mike Martz's system when they were together in Detroit. Roy Williams is a bigger target at 6'3" and should get an ample amount of looks in the red zone, with Greg Olsen gone and a less than great supporting cast to compete with at wide receiver.
Although it would be an understatement to say Roy Williams was a disappointment in Dallas, the Bears got him for a much cheaper price and the pressure should be immensely less. With less weight on his shoulders to succeed and fewer studs around him to compete for targets, Roy Williams should put up useful numbers this year for your fantasy team as a WR3, or flex with upside if he and Cutler really click.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 111
Lance Moore is one of those guys that gets somewhat overlooked in the high-octane New Orleans Saints offense. He is not the flashy name like Marques Colston and his upside is always ranked behind guys in years past, like Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, whose production values have plateaued as one-dimensional deep threats.
Moore has 20 touchdowns over the past three years, including a shortened seven game season in 2009. He is one of Drew Brees' most reliable targets each year and this year could be his best, with Colston's knee always in question.
Even with Ingram and Sproles joining a stable of running backs, this is a top five passing offense. I say take a slice, just don't pay for the questionable Colston early on if you can get Lance Moore much later.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 116
There is a lot of hype surrounding the Super Bowl XLV standout, and deservedly so. On football's biggest stage he shined, with nine catches for 140 yards and a score. That performance put him on everybody's radar for the upcoming season.
With Donald Driver aging before our eyes, now is the time for Jordy Nelson to jump into that No. 2 spot that James Jones' inconsistency keeps him out of. Nelson averaged only 2.8 catches and 4.0 targets per game last season, but in the playoffs caught seven balls per game, en route to the Packers bringing home the Lombardi trophy. Expect closer to seven catches per game this season, versus that pedestrian 2.8.
The stage is set for Nelson to become somewhat of a safety blanket when deep threats Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are covered. If Nelson can become Aaron Rodgers' guy, like Austin Collie was last season for Peyton Manning, you want him on your roster.
Pick One, St. Louis Rams
Mike Sims-Walker, as mentioned earlier, will get the most looks come draft day, but there is value in this Rams passing attack. Sam Bradford, who already ranked third in passing attempts his rookie season, welcomes in passing game specialist and enthusiast Josh McDaniels.
We saw Brandon Lloyd go from NFL journeyman to fantasy gold last season under Josh McDaniels. Keep an eye on who is standing out in St. Louis, as there is sure to be a lot of balls to go around.
Take your pick:
Danny Amendola, ADP on ESPN: 141
*Best bet: 123 targets last season, led team with 24 red-zone targets
Denario Alexander, ADP on ESPN: 170
Brandon Gibson, ADP on ESPN: 170
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati Bengals
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 144
The Cincinnati Bengals passing attack may not be much to speak of this season if they plan to rely on rookie Andy Dalton...and for that matter, veteran Bruce Gradkowski.
They should, however, be playing from behind the majority of the season, which will force them to air it out. A.J Green has the most obvious upside here but will come at a mid-round price. I think you are better off taking a guy like Jerome Simpson if you want a Bengal wideout.
Simpson came on late last season, with 18 catches for 247 yards and three scores in the teams last two outings. He has shown the Bengals brass that he is capable of big games when they were likely looking for replacements for Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in weeks 16 and 17. Marvin Lewis has given his vote of confidence in Simpson, acknowledging he is a future No. 1 wideout talent.
If Green gets all the attention from the defense and struggles in his rookie campaign, look for Jerome Simpson to put up some respectable numbers on a consistent basis.
Steve Breaston, Kansas City Chiefs
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 150
Steve Breaston found it more promising to rejoin Todd Haley in Kansas City rather than try out the new Kevin Kolb regime in Arizona. This could prove to be a great career move.
Steve Breaston had his best season under Todd Haley in 2008, enjoying 77 catches on 113 targets for 1,006 yards as the number three receiver. In the subsequent years after Haley took the lead job in Kansas City, Breaston never had more than 87 targets, even in a year he moved to the No. 2 spot after Anquan Boldin was in Baltimore.
Expect the new Chief to use his speed and shifty route running to take a lot of pressure off of Dwanye Bowe and to be a reliable target for Matt Cassel on a young, talented offense in Kansas City. And expect a few of Bowe's 15 touchdowns in 2010 to get shared with Steve Breaston as well.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 170
This is another guy with great upside who is currently sitting behind an aging wide receiver on the depth chart. Emmanuel Sanders is a smaller, quick receiver who will run the tough routes across the middle. Hines Ward showed his age last season with one of his worst seasons statistically. Ward is still one of the toughest wide receivers in the game which is irreplaceable in Pittsburgh's gritty, run-first approach, so Sanders will not be able to supplant him completely.
In Sanders' second season look for him to cut into Ward's time some on passing situations, though. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 3,200 yards in 12 games last season, a pace that would have given him two straight 4,200 plus yard seasons.
There will be yards to be picked up in the air this season in Pittsburgh. Expect Emmanuel Sanders to get his fair share. He's worth a look the round before last, where hopefully you take your kicker.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 170
Greg Little is a rookie wide receiver on an up and coming Cleveland Browns team. He is a big, physical option at 6'2", 220 lbs and is already seeing first team reps with Colt McCoy.
He is currently in competition with Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi for a first team spot. There are certainly tougher gigs to achieve throughout the NFL.
Even being the number one receiver in Cleveland may not merit much fantasy value, but Colt McCoy has looked pretty good this preseason. Again, the Browns are moving in the right direction under Mike Holmgren's tutelage, which makes Greg Little worth keeping your eye on.
Kevin Ogletree, Dallas Cowboys
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 170
Kevin Ogletree has not done much to warrant a breakout this year other than being in a great position.
The Dallas Cowboys welcome back Tony Romo from that collarbone injury and are ready for the fireworks to begin. Yes, Jason Witten and Miles Austin will gobble up most of the passes and Dez Bryant is a fantasy stud in waiting. The truth of the matter is Ogletree has the number three wide receiver spot locked up. In fact, there is no pressure coming from behind him, as the fourth spot on the depth chart is still very much up in the air.
The Dallas Cowboys third receiver spot has been valuable in fantasy over the years. Roy Williams still warranted a roster spot and I can even remember guys starting Patrick Crayton against me on occasion. Those two guys are removed and Kevin Ogletree is in line to achieve some success on the field.
Dez Bryant plays the exciting, hard-nosed and reckless football that we all love to watch. That style of play will always have an inherent injury risk. If Bryant indeed does go down again this year, Ogletree can expect a high spike in interest around the fantasy world. Go ahead and take him late in a deep league. At least keep your eye on his production while he's available via free agency.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions
Average Draft Position on ESPN: 170
Titus Young was brought in primarily to be a deep threat to spread the field and give Calvin Johnson, aka "Megatron," some breathing room. He is 5'11", 173 lbs and runs a 40 in 4.4. His style of play is already garnering comparisons to what DeSean Jackson brings to Philadelphia's passing attack.
The Lions need him to stretch the field like a lot of us saw him do against Nevada, in a rare, nationally televised Boise State game. It's hard to forget him hauling in the deep ball that set up the heartbreaking missed field goal for Boise State in the waning seconds of regulation.
Long story short, he has game-breaking potential and is a member of a passing attack that found success with Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton at the helm last season. There are big expectations for the Lion's offense and for Titus young, especially if we see the first full season out of Matthew Stafford.