Daily Fantasy Football 2015: Rookie and Sleeper WR's to Target Early

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2015

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) runs against the St. Louis Rams during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

In the realm of daily fantasy football, no better odds at a low-cost jackpot exist than at wideout. 

Each time an owner drafts a DFS lineup, it's a tightrope act at wide receiver, balancing three to four slots and weighing the pros and cons of going cheap or expensive. There's a nice allure to splurging on a Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones, but with such high upside at the position, a better strategy might be to spend the big bucks elsewhere. 

Last year is proof enough that even rookies are the right idea under the right circumstances. Look at Odell Beckham Jr., who exploded for a minimum of 33.9 fantasy points in each of his final four games. He costs $9,200 now. 

It's fair to call Beckham an outlier, or course. But even Mike Evans posted nine double-digit performances at an affordable cost despite a shoddy quarterback situation.

With those lessons in mind, it's time for DFS owners to take a serious look at rookies and sleepers with similar upside potential while spending the big money on more difficult positions.


Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders ($6,700)

Obvious, right?

Cooper was the No. 4 pick in this year's draft. In college, he changed Nick Saban's mind about his run-first ways, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores in the process before he became one of three Heisman Trophy finalists.

It's not a surefire sign that Cooper will produce at the next level, but it's as close as owners will get.

Noah Berger/Associated Press

Cooper lands in the perfect situation. He's the No. 1 right out of the gates (don't mention Michael Crabtree, not after he could hardly find a job this offseason) and pairs with one of the league's promising young quarterbacks, Derek Carr. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes last year with 21 scores despite a rough supporting cast, so imagine what he can do with things improved.

Even better, the new additions suggest the Raiders want to pass more and more this year. Carr has more experience and sits behind a line that quietly ranked 12th in the league in pass-blocking last year at Pro Football Focus.

One can feel comfortable with the early schedule, too. Over at RotoGrinders, Oakland's first four opponents (Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland and Chicago) all surrendered at least 31.79 points to wideouts per game in their defense vs. wideouts rankings.

In other words, Cooper is a No. 1 with little competition for his targets while playing with a quarterback on the upswing behind a strong line against an opening four-game stretch that looks favorable.

Don't expect Cooper's price to remain this attractive.

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,700)

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Any weapon in Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly's arsenal deserves a look.

This especially goes for a rookie such as Nelson Agholor in comparison to most others. His situation wins out by default, and he replaces someone such as Chicago's Kevin White, who will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.

Agholor impressed in college at USC with breakneck speed and sticky hands helping him to 104 grabs for 1,313 yards and 12 scores, although many criticized his pro potential based on the system inflating his numbers.

Good thing he landed in the perfect system.

The USC product hasn't wasted any time impressing at the pro level, either, as Matt Lombardo of NJ.com captured:

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia EnquirerAgholor hasn't had any problems securing first-team reps this summer, which means he will fight with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews for targets this season. This shouldn't be a problem for the rookie considering both Cooper and Matthews broke into the top 10 in terms of snap count at the position last year at PFF.

Which is the rub, as they say. Agholor will see a ton of work in this system. He's primed to go off over the first four weeks of the season, too, with two of the team's first four opponents ranking among the eight teams that surrendered the most points to wideouts last year at Rotogrinders.

Like Cooper, this price won't last long.


Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins ($4,700)

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

It won't take long for the globe to look at the New Orleans Saints and scratch its collective head—Kenny Stills is set to become one of fantasy football's hottest commodities.

Stills was productive with the Saints, last year catching 63 passes for 931 yards and three scores in 15 games. But here's the, well, catch—per PFF, he ranked fourth in the league with a 78.8 catch rate.

Now apply this to his situation in Miami. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill loves to spread the ball around and last year completed 66.4 percent of his passes with 27 scores. While Jarvis Landry is still on board and saw 111 targets last year, Mike Wallace is not—and he led the team with 115 targets.

Most of those 115 targets could go Stills' way, who now occupies the Wallace deep-threat role but certainly isn't limited to it. Now, folks will point out the arrival of rookie DeVante Parker, but he's hurt and missing the entire preseason. They will also point out veteran Greg Jennings, but he's 31 and Landry does what he does better. They'll also point to tight ends, but Jordan Cameron has never played in a full 16-game season.

Keep in mind the schedule. The Dolphins' first four opponents all rank in the green in the aforementioned DvP rankings, meaning they surrendered at least 33.33 points to wideouts on average.

Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals ($4,200)

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Savvy fantasy owners will remember Marvin Jones and capitalize on this cost. 

Jones missed all of last season with an injury, but owners with solid memories know all about his 2013 breakout sophomore campaign in which he caught 51 passes for 712 yards and 10 scores—on the same offense as A.J. Green. In fact, Green had exactly 100 more targets than Jones that year, but just one more touchdown.

Friday, Jones played deep into the team's first preseason game, a red flag to some as he ran with the second-team offense. Really, it sounded more like the coaching staff giving him time to shake off the rust after so much time on the sidelines. "It felt good to get out there and get extended playing time and get back into things," Jones said, per ESPN.com's Coley Harvey.

It's not like the Bengals went out and drafted Jones' replacement while he was out. He's still the No. 2 once he shakes off the rust and the team lost tight end Jermaine Gresham in free agency, so there will be more targets available.

Now, the DvP rankings vary. Cincinnati first encounters Oakland, which only came in at 32.14 last year. But the Bengals also play the Ravens, which tallied a third-worst mark at 40.73 last year.

Regardless of matchup, so long as Jones is healthy he's going to produce. When all else fails, understand he's a reliable threat while defenses throw everything they have at stopping Green.

Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos ($3,700)

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Denver Broncos second-year wideout Cody Latimer didn't do anything of significance last year while buried on the depth chart, but he's about to explode in a new role.

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still sit first and second on the depth chart, but the former's contract holdout this summer meant more time for Latimer to run with the first-team offense and Peyton Manning.

This, of course, will translate when he takes the field as a sophomore. He sounds more confident than ever, too.

“I feel like I'm on a great pace right now,” Latimer said, per Allie Raymond of DenverBroncos.com. “There is always stuff that I can work on and there are still a lot of things that I do need to work on, but as of right now, in my position this year compared to last year, I'm way ahead.”

The Broncos expect big things from Latimer with both tight end Julius Thomas and wideout Wes Welker gone, otherwise known as 124 combined targets last year. Owners should, too.

Remember those third-worst Ravens? Denver opens against them and then encounters three teams ranked in the green. There's no better way for Latimer to announce his arrival.

Owners might want to get on board for the ride.

DraftKings is giving away over $10 million Week 1 of the NFL season. Use this knowledge to help you win some of that cash. The biggest first-place prize ever at $2 million will be awarded. Play now for FREE at DraftKings.com.

Pricing information and scoring data obtained from DraftKings.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus unless otherwise specified.

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