FANTASY FOOTBALL ARTICLES

Finding Fantasy Value at Wide Receivers
Thomas Casale
July 30, 2013
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Receiver is always the deepest position in fantasy football, which means there’s a lot of value throughout the draft. Due to the number of players at the position a bevy of productive pass catchers can be found in the double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts. Here are five receivers that are being selected in Round 10 or later but have a good chance to outperform their Average Draft Position (ADP) this season.

Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams (ADP: Round 17)

With all the hype surrounding fellow rookie Tavon Austin (ADP: Round 7), Bailey is getting no love from fantasy owners entering the season. However, the former West Virginia star has a shot to make a big fantasy splash himself.

Bailey is similar to former Giants’ receiver Steve Smith before he suffered his knee injury, only he’s blessed with more speed. Like Smith did with the Giants, Bailey always finds a way to get open at the most crucial times during games. In college it was Bailey – not Austin – who was Geno Smith’s most trusted receiver.

According to a statistic put out by STATS ICE just before the draft, Bailey made more “clutch receptions” in 2012 than any top draft-eligible receiver that saw a minimum of 100 targets. Clutch receptions are defined as a catch that went for a first down or score. Bailey had 72 clutch receptions out of 148 targets (48.6%), so Smith trusted him when West Virginia needed a big play or a completion to keep a drive alive.

Bailey was an exceptional route-runner at the college level and he has glue for hands. The Rams have some talented young receivers but with Danny Amendola now in New England, Sam Bradford lost that one guy he trusts. Bailey is the receiver out of that group who could step up and fill Amendola’s void.

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Bailey not only has the talent and skill set to step right in and contribute he has the opportunity. Regardless of who is running with the first and second teams right now, the Rams are basically holding open auditions at receiver. If Bailey has a strong training camp and preseason, he’ll be right in the mix for playing time once the regular season kicks off.

There’s no question Austin is a dynamic player with a unique skill set but Bailey is a very talented receiver in his own right. He’s being overlooked and it may sound crazy now but don’t be shocked if in December Bailey is the top rookie fantasy receiver from West Virginia. He’s the more refined receiver out of the two at this point in their careers.

Davone Bess, Cleveland Browns (ADP: Round 20)

Sometimes a player goes to the absolute perfect situation to help his fantasy value. Bess may be in one of those situations.

If you watched Brandon Weeden last season the one thing he sorely lacked was a go-to receiver. Josh Gordon flashed future stud potential but he’s dealing with more off-the-field issues and will miss the first two games of the season while serving a suspension. What Weeden really needs is a guy who can get open underneath that he can depend on. He needs his Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Bobby Engram, etc. He now has that guy in Bess.

Bess isn’t a gamebreaker and he won’t score a bunch of touchdowns for you but he’s just what the doctor ordered in Cleveland. With Gordon, Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron, the Browns have players to stretch the field in their new vertical passing attack. What they needed was a possession receiver to work the shorter routes. Cleveland solved that problem when it traded for Bess.

One thing all young quarterbacks need while they’re developing is a receiver they trust to constantly look to when blitzes are coming and they get into trouble. Bess will be that receiver for Weeden. We know it’s not going to be Little. It’s hard to trust a guy who drops every other ball thrown his way.

You won’t win a fantasy title with Bess but he’s going to be a valuable receiver to have as a bench player this season in PPR leagues. As a bye-week filler or injury replacement, Bess will be able to come in and catch five balls for your fantasy team in a pinch.

If Weeden takes the next step under Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner, the Browns will be one of the surprise fantasy offenses in 2013. Bess has averaged 64 receptions a season in his 5-year career. That’s not bad for a guy getting drafted four rounds later than the currently unemployed Brandon Lloyd.

Ryan Broyles, Detroit Lions (ADP: Round 12)

Broyles has a shot to smash his current ADP of Round 12. He was one of the top route-runners coming out of college two years ago but a knee injury late in his senior season delayed him getting on the field as a rookie.

Once Broyles was completely recovered from his knee surgery it just happened to coincide with Nate Burleson going down for the season. Broyles showed a glimpse of what he could do in the Lions’ offense last year by catching 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns in seven games before suffering another ACL injury in Week 13.

All reports suggest that Broyles’ recovery is ahead of schedule and he should be ready for the start of the season. Health is the only thing stopping Broyles from being a Welker-like reception monster in the slot for the Lions. Broyles is quick, has great hands and knows how to get open against either man or zone defenses.

The Lions are badly in need of another receiver to step up besides Calvin Johnson. Other than Megatron and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Matthew Stafford had nowhere to go with the ball last year. That’s why the running backs in Detroit have so many receptions. Stafford is forced to dump the ball off so often because the Lions lack NFL caliber receivers that can get open on a consistent basis.

Broyles has the ability to give Stafford another talented option in the passing game and we saw last year the two have already built chemistry together. If Broyles can just stay on the field he’s a 70+ reception receiver waiting to happen. Broyles should be one of the biggest steals in fantasy drafts this year.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (ADP: Round 10)

Jeffery is going to be a fantasy stud. He’s not going to be a fantasy stud in 2014 or 2015, he’s going to be one this season, so get on him now.

Jeffery dominated in the SEC with some of the worst quarterback play you ever want to see. How Stephen Garcia got Steve Spurrier to look the other way on all of his off-the-field problems and keep him as South Carolina’s quarterback for so long is one of the world’s great mysteries. Jeffery had to make Randy Moss-like catches virtually every week as a sophomore.

Then came Jeffery’s junior season and things started to go south. The Gamecocks’ passing attack suffered even more because Garcia finally got kicked off the team, Spurrier focused the offense around Marcus Lattimore and Jeffery was used primarily as a decoy. He lost focus, gained weight and his draft stock dropped.

Last season was big for Jeffery because he could have gone in one of two directions. He could have remained immature or grow up and move forward. Luckily for him and the Bears he chose the latter.

Jeffery didn’t put up great numbers as a rookie (24 receptions, 367 yards, 3 touchdowns) but he was in excellent shape and by all reports practiced hard and didn’t have any problems staying motivated. It’s hard to blame Jeffery for his lack of production because he battled injuries and the imaginative Mike Tice basically told him to just “Go deep” on every play.

Things will change this season under new coach Marc Trestman. Not only will Jeffery be used as a vertical threat but one thing Trestman likes to do is get his bigger receivers the ball on slant routes against smaller corners. This way they can break a tackle and turn short passes into long gains a la the San Francisco 49ers’ offense of the 80s and 90s. When defenses are double-teaming Brandon Marshall (which should be often) look for Trestman to exploit the single coverage on Jeffery.

Jeffery has all the tools to not only become a good NFL receiver but a dominant one. If Trestman’s offense takes off, Marshall and Jeffery will form one of the most feared receiving tandems in the NFL. Then we’ll all look back with a chuckle and say, “Remember in August when Jeffery was getting drafted in Round 10?” Don’t make the mistake and wait until 2014 to target Jeffery.

Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: Round 16)

Tate’s fantasy value will obviously receive a bump with Percy Harvin’s latest injury but he was being undervalued even before Harvin’s hip problems. In reality, there’s a lot to like about Tate heading into 2013.

First, Russell Wilson is only going to keep getting better in his second season. Everyone associated with Wilson says he’s one of the smartest kids they’ve ever been around. He doesn’t sound like the kind of quarterback who’s going to suffer a sophomore slump. He sounds like a guy who’s just going to improve with another offseason under his belt.

The other thing to like about Tate is his production has gone up every season and now he’s in a contract year. There’s a good chance Tate is in line to put up career best numbers across the board, which could look something like 60 receptions for 900 yards and 8-9 scores. It may not be Megatron numbers but most fantasy owners would be more than happy getting that production out of a receiver drafted in Round 16.

Tate ran hot and cold in 2012. In PPR leagues he had four weeks where he scored at least 20 points and nine weeks where he failed to reach 10 points. Those kinds of players can drive fantasy owners mad because you never know when they’ll produce. If Tate can become more consistent this season and put up a couple more of those double-digit scoring weeks, he’ll easily outperform his ADP.

When we get down in the Round 16 area it’s time to look for players who either have upside or could break out. Tate is a receiver in a contract year playing on what most people believe is one of the NFL’s best teams. Toss in Harvin’s hip surgery, Sidney Rice’s durability concerns and Tate fits the mold of a potential breakout candidate at receiver in 2013.


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