It cannot get said enough anymore, but the term “sleeper” has evolved into “under-valued” in Fantasy Football. With more outlets for information every day there are no true “sleepers” anymore. So for my wide receiver sleepers, keep in mind that I am finding the guys that are undervalued relative to their Average Draft Position (ADP).
I still want my sleepers to be guys that can be had by basically anyone, regardless of draft positioning. For that reason, I am focusing on players currently outside of the Top 40 at the position. Seeing as most leagues start three wide receivers or two with a flex spot, this really means any player drafted to your bench.
With wide receivers, there are starters and elite players to be found this late on draft day. There may not be as many as running backs or the other positions, but just last year there were wide receiver sleepers with this criterion that helped win championships.
Michael Thomas was the 49th receiver off the board on average. He finished as the seventh-highest scoring wide-out by Points Per Reception (PPR) scoring. Davante Adams was drafted, on average, as the 57th player at the position. He finished as the ninth highest scorer by PPR points for all wide receivers.
Then there were guys that went even later like Pierre Garcon, Cole Beasley, Rishard Matthews and Terrelle Pryor. All of them turned into viable Fantasy starters and finished as at least WR3s.
The biggest factor with all of the guys I mentioned: they were not the product of injury. What I mean is they did not fill in for another injured receiver, more or less (I know that Dez Bryant and Corey Coleman’s injuries affected Beasley and Pryor, but the latter two were already performing before the starter’s injuries).
None of us can predict injuries and who will profit from them. So how can we effectively predict which sleeper-level receivers can perform at these levels?
How to Find Wide Receiver Sleepers
The easiest route is to find guys who will hoard all of the targets. The hot and trendy statistic for showing this is the target share percentage.
The more targets a player gets, the more opportunities he has to gain points. It sounds simple, but it really is a massive factor that gets overlooked.
The other factor that coincides with a player’s target numbers is the type of offense he is playing in. If you look at the six wide receivers mentioned, they were part of one of two types of offense. Either they were in one of the more prolific offenses, or one of the units at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to throwing the football.
The Packers, Saints, Redskins, and Cowboys all had Top 8 overall offenses in the NFL last year. Tennessee and Cleveland were both in the bottom eight in passing the football.
If an offense is prolific, then there is more opportunity for a receiver to get yards and scores. I know, I’m breaking news here like Adam Schefter. But, it really is that simple.
If the offense is not productive at throwing the ball, they usually do not have elite receiving options. This tends to then let a lower-ranked receiver thrive.
So as we find our wide receiver sleepers for 2017, let’s keep these kinds of offenses and stats in mind. Remember, these are all players being drafted after the 40th player at their position. The ADP data is per FantasyPros as of 7/27.
2017 Wide Receiver Sleepers
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (Positional ADP: 45; Overall ADP: 116)
Thielen is one of the more interesting Fantasy Football players this season. In the Fantasy Playoffs last year (Weeks 14-16), he put up 14.1, 0, and 44.2 PPR points. The goose egg was also against the Colts, who are not exactly world beaters in the defensive secondary. So is he a flash in the pan or something worth staying?
Let’s just throw out that weird Colts game. Besides that game, Thielen had at least three catches or 52 yards in each of his last 10 games during the Fantasy Season. He averaged 5.5 catches for 81.5 yards a game over that time frame. He had at least 10 PPR points in each of the last seven games in that time.
— Jonathan Margulis (@jon_margulis) July 16, 2017
Thielen really ramped it up toward the end of the year as he basically increased his point total in each of his last five games (the Colts game excluded). It really sounds like the goose-egg game was the outlier.
In Minnesota, you have an offense that is not a gun-slinging unit, yet they still threw for over 4,100 yards last year. Stefon Diggs is seen as the WR1 on the offense, but Thielen had more yards and more touchdowns on 19 fewer targets, due to his 75% catch rate.
Give me Thielen in Round 10 over Diggs in Round 5 all day long. I mean there are two kickers and two defenses going before Thielen: talk about value!
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (Positional ADP: 47; Overall ADP: 124)
John Brown is the epitome of a post-hype sleeper. He broke out in 2015 for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns and was seen as a sleeper to jump into the elite category last season. He disappointed greatly with half of the yardage and just a couple of scores.
The culprit for the disappointment? A cyst on his spine that was removed post-season. That issue caused him to miss one game, and had one or zero catches in eight other contests. He said he is feeling back to 100% healthy now entering the season. He’s the number two option on one of the best passing offenses in the league now that the ever-disappointing Michael Floyd is elsewhere.
Larry Fitzgerald has to slow down at some point, and I think Brown passes him this season in production. Just as with the previous wide receiver sleeper, give me Brown in Round 11 over Fitzgerald in Round 5.
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets (Positional ADP: 54; Overall ADP: 146)
— Jets Report (@jets_fanly) July 27, 2017
Look, I am not here to say that the Jets have a good offense or that Enunwa is an especially good player. What I am saying is that New York will be behind in every, single, game and that Enunwa is basically all they have to throw the ball to.
Last year, with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall on the roster (at least for some of it together), Enunwa was the recipient of 105 targets. He turned those targets into almost 11 PPR points per game.
His advanced metrics are not good, his quarterbacks look like Matt Saracen in Season 1 of Friday Night Lights, and there is a distinct possibility that his team is tanking the season. However, I would argue that Terrelle Pryor had worse scenarios in all of the mentioned categories last season. What it comes down to is you are getting a No. 1 receiving option on a team at the end of Round 12.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears (Positional ADP: 56; Overall ADP: 155)
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) July 27, 2017
The Bears are another team that figures to vie for the league-lead in the worst offense. They will either have the overpaid Mike Glennon or the over-drafted Mitch Trubisky under center. While some may trumpet other possible wide receiver sleepers on the team like Cameron Meredith or Markus Wheaton, I am taking the talent.
I know, White cannot stay on the field after missing 28 of the first 32 games of his career. What was shown last season is that when he is on the field they are going to force feed him like a hog for slaughter. Only twelve receivers had a higher per-game target amount, and all of those guys will be taken in the first few rounds of your draft.
With Alshon Jeffery gone, the targets are up for grabs and I think White gets the lion-share of them. Will he get hurt? Maybe. But with a pick in Round 15, you can do much worse.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins (Positional ADP: 59; Overall ADP: 162)
Washington lost their top two receivers from last year and their output totaled 216 targets, 135 catches, and 2,046 yards. They only added Terrelle Pryor, who you know has played receiver for the length of an engagement from The Bachelor.
I do like Pryor too this year, but the Redskins had the second-most prolific passing offense in the league. There are Fantasy Points to be gained there. Doctson has too much talent to be kept off the field. Trust me, as a former Red Raider, I have seen what this guy can do by the goal line. As a late-round flier, you are not giving up much for a guy with an extremely high ceiling.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (Positional ADP: 80; Overall ADP: 247)
The Rams had one of the worst offenses in NFL history last season, yet they still threw for over 3,300 yards. Of that production, 190 targets, 109 receptions and 1,566 yards went out the door with Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.
Tavon Austin is still just a gimmick, slotback for screens and quick hitters. Robert Woods was signed, but he has yet to prove he is a practical option. Enter Cooper Kupp, the 6’2’’wide-out from FCS Eastern Washington.
— Jim Allen (@srjimallen) July 25, 2017
If you went to a smaller school you better have dominated. Kupp treated his competition like he was Ricky Bobby in a wheelchair basketball game. In his four years, he averaged 107 catches, 1,616 yards, and over 18 touchdowns a season. This guy is the real deal. I do believe that Jared Goff will get better. I mean, he can’t get worse. So use your last pick on Kupp and thank me later.
Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks (Positional ADP: 86; Overall ADP: 264)
This is for the ultra-deep league, but Richardson has potential to pay huge dividends. I know, what’s so great about a guy who had less than 300 yards and one touchdown last season. The answer: upside and trajectory.
In the last four games that Seattle played including the playoffs, Richardson put up the equivalent of 14.2, 8.5, 13.8 and 12.3 PPR points each game. He had 29 targets and 15 catches, which are almost as much as his entire regular season.
Something clicked between Richardson and Russell Wilson. If that can build, then you have a solid WR3/Flex option for basically no cost.
That’s it for the Wide Receiver Sleepers! Be sure to check out our Wide Receiver Rankings as well!
|2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit|
|Positional Rankings | Sleepers | Busts | Player Analysis | Strategy | Preseason Analysis | Mock Drafts | Tools|
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