I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a fantasy football “sleeper” is, but I want to look at five wide receivers whose Average Draft Position (ADP) are anywhere from round 8 to 13, according to Fantasy Football Calculator (FFC), who used data from over 600 fantasy mock drafts between July 16 and 19. This article will focus on wide receivers using the data for a 10-team, standard scoring formula. I will write similar articles pertaining to different position groups later on.
1. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
FFC has John Brown going in the 8th round, and I think that’s an absolute steal. These later rounds are crucial to your team’s success – I stole WR Allen Robinson in the 8th round last year, and he ended up being a top 3 producer on my team behind Antonio Brown Julio Jones.
John Brown is going into his third season, and he’s only 26 years old. It’s often that receivers take their biggest leap in their third year in the league (more on that here), when they are 26 or 27 years old. That’s not the only reason Brown is primed for a productive fantasy year.
If you watch the Cardinals offense, you know they love to pass the ball. Carson Palmer has arguably the best three wide receivers in the league – Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown all have potential to put up monster numbers any given Sunday, and they all had their shine in 2015, either individually or together. Brown exploded for 10 catches and 196 yards in week 6, and Fitzgerald and Floyd combined for 20 catches for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns in week 10 against Seattle.
Brown was targeted 101 times last season, finishing the year with over 1,000 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. The same Cardinals’ offense is returning in 2016, and second-year stud RB David Johnson should help open even more passing lanes by drawing a ton of attention. Brown’s numbers should grow in his third season, and I love him in rounds 6 or later, nonetheless round 8.
2. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
The rookie caught 73.9% of passes thrown his way in an offense that’s starting to throw the football more and more. Lockett caught 51 of his 69 targets for 664 yards and 6 receiving touchdowns in his first year in the league. He also returned a kick and punt for a touchdown in 2015. The kid can straight up make noise.
Using NFL Fantasy Football Writer Matt Harmon’s “Reception Perception,” which evaluates receivers over an eight-game sample, you can see how much potential Lockett has as a receiver. He was “open routinely at every level of the field.” In an offense that’s starting to throw more and more efficiently, Lockett is going to have nice upside in the later rounds of fantasy football.
QB Russell Wilson has thrown more and more as his career has progressed. In his 2012 rookie season, he threw 393 passes; 407 in 2013; 452 in 2014; and 483 in 2015. If that trend stays true, or even close to it, Lockett has a potential to catch up to 75 balls in 2016, maybe more. For an explosive playmaker, he’s a very interesting fantasy football case. FFC has him projected in the eighth round, and I definitely see him making a big enough leap in his sophomore season to consider him there.
3. Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings
Treadwell is the first of two rookies to crack my list. The Vikings’ first round draft pick from Mississippi has a ton of potential, and so do the Vikings’ offense under coordinator Norv Turner. Treadwell railed in over 1,100 receiving yards and came down with 11 touchdowns in his last year at Mississippi. He’s projected to go in round 12 according to FFC, but I bet he’ll be drafted randomly after round 8 in leagues. If he falls anywhere after round 10, I think he’s worth a serious look.
Treadwell is a physical receiver who is great at coming down with 50-50 balls, which helps his fantasy football case considering how often receivers like him are targeted in the red zone. If QB Teddy Bridgewater improves, the Vikings’ offense could be explosive. Treadwell will be a big reason why.
4. Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
I am buying in on the early Shepard hype. Shepard had 1,288 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in his senior season at Oklahoma. He’s another rookie who landed in a nice spot, even more so than Treadwell. The Giants love to pass the football and have a dangerous passing attack with Odell Beckham entering his third season, and Victor Cruz finally set to return back from numerous injuries that have sidelined him for the better half of the last two seasons.
Shepard is projected to go in the later half of the 10th round by FFC. He’s worth a look in the Giants pass-first offense.
5. Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
This could be a reach, but I like the value here. Sanu was traded from the Bengals to the Falcons this offseason, and he’s going from a 5th receiving option to arguably #2 or #3 on the Falcons. FFC has him going in round 13, and that’s why he cracked my list. I don’t love it, but I just think he’s worth a flyer this late in drafts.
Sanu showed flashes of what he can do in Cincinnati, especially in 2014, when he caught 56 passes (98 targets) for 740 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sanu had a down year in 2015, but like I said, he had to share targets with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, both running backs, and Marvin Jones. In 2014, Green and Jones were both sidelined with injuries in the early-to-middle half of the season. Sanu averaged 100 yards on 10 targets per game in weeks 5-9 that year, which shows he can produce when given the opportunity.
And for the record, Sanu is just 26 years old (27 in August). I’m not ready to declare him as a stay away until I see his production as a valuable option in a new offense.
Featured image credit: Sportsworldreport.com