Don't Sleep on These Three Late-Round Wideouts
Do sleepers still exist in fantasy football? With social media outlets, thousands of fake football sites and countless voices, it’s tough to not share an opinion with at least a few hundred others on a particular player.
That’s both good and bad. The good is obvious: There’s more knowledge out there, and you’re able to spot draftable players you wouldn’t have in 1993. And, of course, because so many people share your opinion now, when you’re inevitably wrong, there are plenty of shoulders to cry on.
On the flip side, we’ve become stuffed with information. Our brains can’t handle it. We’re all trying to find edges in our fantasy leagues, but when you read hundreds of articles, you start to see both the plusses and minuses of every single prospective fantasy player. It becomes more of a psychology game, weeding out the unnecessary and replacing it with facts.
I’m not certain sleepers exist in fantasy football anymore. The industry is just too large, and the information on players is too vast.
But until someone finds a replacement word, I’m sticking with it. I’m sure you’ve talked or thought about the three players below countless times this offseason, but what do you want me to call them? “Neat guys”? “Cool dudes”? I guess “value picks” works, but I’m not pressing you to draft any of them. Rather, I’m spreading knowledge - knowledge that will surely crowd your brain even more than it already is.
Here are three wide receiver “bros” to strongly consider in your drafts this season.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions
After tearing his ACL a season ago, Ryan Broyles is already looking the part of the Lions number two receiver in camp. That only can mean good things from a fantasy perspective, as the Lions are the pass-happiest team in the NFL, and Broyles could benefit from playing across the field from the best wideout in the game.
But aside from the obvious upside, Broyles’ performance during his brief sample a season ago should also give us even more hope. Though he had just 22 catches on 32 targets last year, his efficiency scores were outstanding. He finished with a .88 receiving net expected points value per target, adding .88 points to the Lions score each time he was targeted through the air. For some perspective, that placed him 9th among the 117 30-plus targeted receivers last season. Not bad for a guy being drafted in Round 11.
Reports have already stated that he's way ahead of schedule rehabilitation-wise, so his health is becoming less and less of an issue. Considering the volume of passes in Detroit and the offense he's in, the upside is there for Broyles. If he can ultimately stay healthy, he could approach WR2 territory.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
He won’t exactly fill the void that Mike Wallace left, but that’s just fine. Emmanuel Sanders isn’t the same type of receiver as Wallace; he’s speedy, sure, but he doesn’t stretch the field quite like Number 17 did in Pittsburgh.
In Todd Haley’s offense, however, Wallace didn’t handle his high expectations. In fact, from a quality of play standpoint, Wallace finished behind both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown last season in Receiving NEP per target. I suppose that’s just another reason to get excited about Manny in his new role.
Sanders should be fantasy relevant due to process of elimination. Heath Miller isn’t 100 percent since tearing up his knee at the end of the 2012 season, and without Wallace, Sanders is the clear number two target in the Pittsburgh offense. If you see him catch 70 balls in Haley’s less vertical offense, you shouldn’t be surprised. Sanders will be a PPR asset, and considering his 10th-round ADP, he’s a great value in your fantasy drafts.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
There may be no wide receiver getting hyped more out of camp than Rueben Randle, which should probably raise his late 11th-round ADP by the end of August. However, there’s reason to believe that Randle could breakout this season, or at least play a significant enough role in the Giants offense to be rostered on a fantasy team.
During his rookie season a year ago, Randle finished with the exact same receiving net expected points per target total as star teammate Victor Cruz, snagging a .75 score. Moreover, this number was significantly better than the oft-injured Hakeem Nicks, who scored a .57 under the same metric.
One of the biggest knocks against drafting Randle is the “too many mouths to feed” argument. Though this certainly has legs, we have to remember a few things. First, Hakeem Nicks has yet to play an entire season in the NFL, as his brittle body often keeps him sidelined. It’s also Nicks’ contract year. While that may seem like more of a knock on Randle’s potential, the Giants could be ready to dump Nicks and his contract after having drafted Randle in the second round of the NFL Draft just a season ago.
Eli isn’t necessarily a stranger to spreading the ball around. In 2009, Nicks was the third-best receiver (statistically) on the Giants, and still finished as the 28th-best fantasy receiver. Considering Rueben Randle’s potential and talent, there’s a chance a similar situation could occur in New York this season.