Is Aaron Dobson This Year's Week 1 Sleeper Wide Receiver?
What do the names Allen Hurns, Leonard Hankerson, Kevin Ogletree, Early Doucet, and Legedu Naanee have in common? Cheers' Cliff Clavin would famously respond on Jeopardy!, "who are people who haven't been in my kitchen?" That answer of course would not be correct.
However, if your answer in the form of a question was "Who are journeymen receivers who scored in the top 10 among wide receivers in fantasy points in Week 1 during each respective year from 2010 through 2014?" then you'd be 100% correct. In fact, Hurns finished second only behind Calvin Johnson in 2014 in Week 1 fantasy points.
While that completes the nerdy fact part of the article, inquiring minds who play DFS tournaments are all looking for the inside edge to see if another unknown wide receiver comes out of nowhere to finish as a top-10 wide receiver in Wee 1 this year. Getting this right could mean a fistful of dollars or winning your Week 1 matchup in your fantasy league. It also could set you up for a sell high trade scenario, too.
So the question at hand is which 2015 wide receiver has the potential for a Week 1 breakout based on matchup, price, talent, opportunity, teammates, and luck? For me, that wideout is none other than the New England Patriots third-year receiver Aaron Dobson.
Dobson Limbo: How Low Can He Go?
If Dobson isn't on your 2015 radar, it is because he barely played in 2014 (3 catches for 38 yards in 4 games) before getting shut down for the season with a hamstring injury following an uneven rookie season in which he sustained a foot injury.
In terms of our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Dobson's rookie season showed some flashes -- including a game against this week's opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, with 5 receptions (on 9 targets) for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns -- but finished fairly flat.
Among wide receivers with 70 or more targets, Dobson finished 54th out of 67 receivers with a 47.76 Reception NEP while amassing 37 receptions for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns. He didn't fare much better in Target NEP (45th) and 35th in Reception NEP per target.
4 Reasons Why Dobson Is a Strong Play in Week 1
In spite of an injury riddled and inconsistent first two years in the NFL, Dobson shows signs that he can be the upstart wide receiver who will shock the fantasy football world in week one like some of the players I mentioned above. Here are the main reasons I like Dobson to the breakout sleeper wide receiver this week:
1. His Injured Teammates - According to most in NFL circles, Dobson's preseason was not good. He had an injured hamstring and missed most of the preseason and then was responsible for two turnovers in the Carolina game, including being stripped of a ball on an interception. Making the team was no certainty going into the final preseason game. However, this weekend, Dobson's roster spot became secure when the team cut veteran Reggie Wayne and put number-two wide receiver Brandon LaFell on the IR/Designated for Return list. The team also continues to be secretive with Julian Edelman's ongoing injury. So essentially in front of Dobson, you have an injured Edelman and Danny Amendola.
2. A Very Favorable Matchup - On the Week 1 docket, which has an over/under of 52 points, Dobson and the Super Bowl Champions take on the porous Steelers defense -- the same one that Dobson has his best career game against in 2013. The Steelers were very close to finishing bottom five in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, ranking 26th.
3. His Cheap Daily Fantasy Price - To do well in large tournaments, you sometimes have to pull some rabbits out of your hat. While Davante Adams is certainly one player who is cheap he is a fairly obvious choice to most, while Dobson is under-the-radar and at near-minimum pricing. That screams opportunity, and it will take very little for Dobson to hit value.
4. The Talented Deep Threat - While he's essentially playing with house money -- he hasn't performed particularly well, teammates are injured, LeGarrette Blount is suspended, and Pittsburgh is committed to jamming Rob Gronkowski -- Dobson is only 24 years old. He's 6'3", and 205 pounds with 4.42-second 40-yard-dash speed. He's the one player on the Patriots who can take the lid off the Steelers defense in what figures to be a high-scoring affair and should see a more than typical volume for a number-three wide receiver.
So while Dobson may never fulfill the fantasy potential that drew fantasy owners to him in their leagues, Week 1 feels like the perfect storm for him potentially to join the not-so-elite company that finished as a top-10 fantasy receiver in the opening week of the season.