2020 Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Sleepers
At long last, it’s draft night. After an excruciating offseason filled with anticipation, it’s showtime. The first 10 rounds showcased surprising picks, the agony of missing out on your guys, and lopsided trades that might destroy close bonds in your inner circle. Now, rounds 11 and beyond are at your front door, and things are starting to look fuzzy. Less than familiar faces are popping up, and you might be unsure where to turn. That’s where I come in. Now, I’ve already gone over names like Brandin Cooks and Marvin Jones Jr. in my Undervalued Fantasy Players article earlier this offseason. For the sake of both variety and maximizing your late-round potential, I’m going to be taking a look at a few other guys that deserve a spot on your roster. Let’s get into my wide receiver sleepers.
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2020 Fantasy Football: Wide Receiver Sleepers
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: WR55)
Stop. Before you go any further, I’d like to preface the case that follows. My endorsement of DeSean Jackson is not a call to disown Jalen Reagor. There’s room in this offense for both guys to succeed under the right circumstances. Now, let’s proceed.
Oh, what could have been? Jackson scorched the earth after taking the field in his debut performance of his welcome back tour. The veteran receiver went off to the tune of eight receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns before losing the rest of the season to an abdomen injury he sustained in Week 2. While consistency hasn’t been a staple of Jackson’s game in fantasy, his knack for finding big plays has. In 12 seasons, Jackson has only managed to average less than 15 yards-per-reception twice. In fact, just a year before reuniting with Philly, Jackson was averaging 18.9 yards-per-reception in Tampa Bay, where he was on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards before injuries hampered him. He did so, by the way, as the WR2 behind Mike Evans, and in the midst of the Jameis Winston/Ryan Fitzpatrick flip-flopping act.
Though it now appears that Alshon Jeffery might be staying in Philly, Jackson would only be playing second fiddle to a less formidable threat. Jeffery’s talent is undeniable, but unfortunately, he hasn’t hit the 1,000-yard mark since 2014. Factoring health in as well, Jeffery is still on the mend for a Lisfranc injury he sustained last December. That particular injury is one that typically requires a good deal of time to recover from.
In the event that he does rise from the ashes, his role is not that of a burner’s. Last season, he averaged 11.4 yards-per-reception and his yards-per-target was only marginally higher at 11.8. His quarterback Carson Wentz, however, threw 69 passes that were 20+ yards, which put him 10th in that category. That’s an eye-opening stat when you consider the scrap heap of receiving options Wentz had to work with. Practice squad extraordinaire Greg Ward did what he could, but he’s no substitute for Jackson or Jeffery. The bulk of the load was shouldered by tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
Then there’s the rookie…
Reagor’s arrival in Philadelphia has been a major source of excitement in the fantasy community. Many believe he’s going to be the top rookie wide receiver in fantasy for the 2020 season. However, a statement from Doug Pederson in a Zoom conference call last month might be a cause for concern. In speaking about Reagor’s role, Pederson said: “Right now, he’s going to come in and he’s going to learn one position and he is going to learn from DeSean Jackson and learn everything he can.” If Pederson is to be believed, Reagor is likely going to need Jeffery to go down to injury (which is a definite possibility) before he sees enough reps to make a splash in fantasy. Ultimately, Reagor seeing limited to moderate action is one more reason to look favorably on Jackson.
Football is a young man’s game, but don’t write off the 33-year old wideout just yet. He’s not going to hit every week, but if Week 1 last season is any indication of what the man can still do, he’s going to be responsible for winning you a couple of weeks.
N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots (ADP: WR51)
Well, it’s been an interesting week in New England…
In case you hadn’t heard, superstar Cam Newton is Foxboro’s latest resident. Not only did Bill Belichick scoop up the 2015 MVP, but he also did it on the cheap.
Since 2014, Cam Newton has only produced two 1,000-yard pass-catchers in Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. Devin Funchess also had some success with Newton in 2017, but he failed to hit that milestone. The point being is that all three of these names share a common denominator. They’re all big-bodied receivers who pose matchup nightmares for smaller defenders. Similar to Josh Allen’s current reputation, Newton has never been known as an accurate passer. Although, the last time we saw him play through most of a season in 2018, he had made serious strides. Regardless, Newton relies on bigger targets to save him from himself on deeper throws, which historically are the types of throws Cam likes to make. While his yards-per-completion numbers have come down a bit in recent years, it’s fair to wonder how much of that was attributed to his nagging shoulder injuries.
With all of that said, this is not an article about Cam. This is about the player who fits the pass-catching archetype of a Cam Newton receiver.
N’Keal Harry had the misfortune of missing most of his rookie year due to injury. More than ever, the Patriots could have used the talents of a gifted receiver like Harry last season. By the time he was activated off the injured reserve, the playoff race had already begun to form. It’s a hell of a lot to ask of a rookie who’s rehabbing an injury to be ready to go as a steady offensive contributor in Week 11.
Part of what makes Harry one of the more intriguing wide receiver sleepers is the fact that Bill Belichick broke draft convention and took him in the first round, which is something he had never done before in his time as New England’s head coach. Not only did Belichick break the bank to acquire him, but he was also just the second receiver taken off the board. Based on his draft capital alone, Harry is going to be given ample opportunity to thrive. His fellow receiver Julian Edelman isn’t going to be around much longer, and the Pats have to look toward the future.
In regards to Edelman, Newton’s arrival feels like a changing of the guard. Now, I’m not blind. I know that Edelman isn’t about to disappear. He’s been a dominant force in the slot, and he’s been integral to this team’s identity. On the other hand, if Newton is given the starting job, which I’m wholeheartedly expecting, it doesn’t bode well for Edelman. Not only is health a concern, but he and Newton aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. At this point in Newton’s career, he is who he is. Belichick didn’t bring Newton in so that he could mold him into a pocket passing dink and dunk quarterback. He may not be the imposing physical force that we once saw, but you can expect some version of that, whether watered down or not, moving forward.
With Harry likely to be given control of the outside, his meager cost is nothing compared to his upside. Realistically, a top-12 finish isn’t a viable ceiling. I do trust Belichick enough, however, to make Cam into a competent enough passer to make Harry fantasy relevant. One of the greatest attributes possessed by Belichick is his knowledge of his personnel. He knows who his players are, and he’s able to get the best out of them. If Cam’s natural inclination is to look Harry’s way, Belichick is going to make it work.
Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears (ADP: WR55)
If you follow me on Twitter, or if you’ve kept up with my writing, you’ll know that my love of Allen Robinson is well documented. Given that obsession, seeing Anthony Miller’s name here might confuse you. Hopefully, you read my article about Robinson already, but if not, I’ve got some good info to grab from the vault.
From Weeks 11-15 last season, Miller kicked off the training wheels and made himself into a weapon not to be trifled with, all the while finishing that stretch as the WR8. Chicago’s running game was pitiful, and Matt Nagy had no other choice than to air it out if he wanted to remain competitive. Four of Trubisky’s five-highest passing attempt games last season came in that window of time. Full disclosure, I don’t expect Nagy to let either Trubsiky or Foles throw with that kind of reckless abandon this season. At all costs, the team is going to try and utilize their running game to its fullest extent. At the same time, I’m not projecting those numbers to come crashing down either. Chicago’s offensive line ranked 25th according to Pro Football Focus, and though they’ve made small changes to it this offseason, a drastic improvement isn’t likely.
More importantly, Chicago’s coaching changes on offense this offseason have been very pass-friendly. Both Bill Lazor and John DeFilippo have joined the fold in the Windy City. Lazor, their offensive coordinator, has coached both Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill to some of their best seasons to date. Meanwhile, the offenses DeFilippo has been a part of all share the burning desire to launch an aerial attack on opposing defenses. Since 2016, here is where his teams have finished in overall passing attempts: 6th, 13th, 6th, and 12th. Just a quick aside, both of these coaches have familiarity with Foles. Lazor worked under Chip Kelly during Foles’ magical 2013 run. Additionally, DeFilippo was Foles’ quarterback coach during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl campaign. Consider that tidbit of information added insurance in the event that Foles takes over.
Back to Miller. The biggest boost to his fantasy value last season came when Taylor Gabriel suffered his second concussion in Week 12. Gabriel’s absence paved the way for Miller to emerge as Chicago’s clear-cut WR2. Adding to that, as of this past February, Gabriel is no longer a member of the Bears. In an effort to replace his speed, the Bears signed free agent Ted Ginn and drafted rookie Darnell Mooney. There’s been some talk out of Chicago about involving Mooney, but in a shortened offseason, I’m not taking any bets on a fifth-round receiver taking away from a breakout stud. Second-round draft pick Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham were added this offseason as well, but again, I’m not worried about their respective impacts on this offense.
Miller’s biggest concern is health. He’s dealt with three separate shoulder injuries dating back to college. Two of those ended up requiring surgery. If he can stay on the field, the chances of him retaining significant fantasy value are high. His WR8 stretch is a bit misleading, but it helps that we’ve seen him produce. As the second option in an offense who’s going to be forced to throw, I’ll take my chances at his ADP.
That’s all for my wide receiver sleepers, but I’ll be back later this week with my wide receiver bust selections. Check back every day for more draft kit content!
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