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2010 Sleeper Wide Receivers
David Dorey
August 26, 2010
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Drafting wide receivers is usually a dicey proposition. No other position has as much inconsistency and yet wide outs can turn in monster games. There is an amazing amount of transition each year as players rise and fall in production and as always, there is a fresh new batch of rookies aiming to start their career at the expense of aging veterans. In most leagues there will be three wide receivers as starters. Those first 36 wide receivers drafted in a league of 12 are all intended to be starter quality. They have whatever magic combination of variables that means they are taken to become weekly starters. But - almost no wideout performs the same each season and some vary wildly. The question is what sort of wideouts should you be looking for once you have your starters? Just continue on scratching off names from the cheat sheet in order?

Using the average draft results as of 8/24/10 at MyFantasyLeague.com, below are the wideouts that are being drafted from #37 to #80. This is not my ranking or yours, it is the combined results of hundreds of drafts so it is about as close to what you can expect in your league as you can reasonably find.

Here is my brief take on those 43 wide receivers with the players I am "hot" on in yellow and the ones I am "cool" on in blue. The yellow can be considered sleepers of sorts though the farther down you go, the less likely they are to become a starter for your team. Fantasy football drafting is not just about statistics and projections. It is an art and I, like each of you, simply have gut feelings and risk assessments outside the numbers that matter a great deal when I draft.

Rank Player Team Comments
37 Owens, Terrell CIN This is probably about an appropriate place for him. He'll likely become a pass magnet at least partially and drop too many of them. His skills have eroded by now but you know he'll try hard to score so he can out dance Ochocinco. This will be the worst situation of his career since he's not necessarily the #1 target anymore.
38 Edwards, Braylon NYJ When a player is on the team that was #32 in pass yards last year, I tend to avoid them. Now I know Sanchez will improve and throw more but there's also Santonio Holmes and Tomlinson added to the mix. No thanks.
39 Britt, Kenny TEN Saying that the situation is ripe for a wideout to emerge in Tennessee is like saying the moon has room for vegetation. In both conditions, the environments are just not conducive to that ever happening. Britt is but the most recent player that spawned and then drained optimism. He is... I think he is... He's gonna... nope. Not going to happen. Who's next?
40 Aromashodu, Devin CHI Aromashodu started the year as everyone's sleeper which I never really got. Sure, he had four touchdowns at the end of 2009 and even had 150 yards on MIN. But that was when Hester and Johnny Knox were not playing. I think he still exists this high because people learned how to spell his name and don't want to let that go to waste. The Martz attack will spread around the ball and Aromashodu isn't calling my name.
41 Hester, Devin CHI Speaking of Chicago players, I'd probably take a flyer on Hester at this point because he will be a starter and has talent. While everyone falls in love with Johnny Knox - and for some justifiable reason - Hester will be a factor in a pass-heavy attack. As my WR4 or WR5? Yeah, I'd probably want to see what will happen.
42 Royal, Eddie DEN After his exciting rookie season and then his excruciating sophomore campaign, who is the real Eddie Royal? I'm thinking he right about here, playing the slot for the Broncos with some upside but not enough to likely crack a fantasy starting lineup. I want to like him and I even drafted him recently but expectations are closer to 2009 than 2008.
43 Mason, Derrick BAL When I draft, I love to take swings at the fence. I am the Dez Bryant guy. I am the one searching for anyone in his third year. And I am like that because in addition to being smart and handsome, I know I can always fall back on guys like Derrick Mason who hang out there too long in drafts because people apparently think that Anquan Boldin is going to catch every single pass. Mason is not going to win me my league, but he'll still produce some consistent and decent numbers. He's like the nice girl you end up with back home after a two week bender on a Mexican beach. Mason baby - they meant nothing to me.
44 Evans, Lee BUF Here's a guy that I like, particularly at the spot you can get him. Yeah, he had a horrible 2009 while Terrell Owens was there and the Bills literally imploded. But he did score seven times last season and he averaged about 70 catches for 1000 yards or so for the three seasons previous to that one. Granted, Trent Edwards is not sparking that much optimism but Evans could figure in as a fantasy starter again.
45 Collie, Austin IND Why do I like a guy who only had 60 catches for 676 yards last year? Because he also scored seven times, plays for the Colts and is the starting slot receiver who had a slow start to the year. I'd use him in a pinch or when the Colts had some delectable match up. Garcon and Gonzalez can flip coins for the flanker role but Collie already has his job sewn up.
46 Thomas, Demaryius DEN First wideout drafted in April and has tons of talent but has been slow in picking up offense in Denver and is just a rookie. He's getting too much love because of his NCAA talent. I'll wait until it converts to NFL talent.
47 Massaquoi, Mohamed CLE Massaquoi is the best the Browns have and they will need to throw the ball in every game. But the passing situation could be much better and it doesn't matter how well you run the route if your QB either overthrows you or is lying on his back. This is probably the right spot for him and I could see me owning him if he fell any further. But his ceiling is not that high and it is not his fault.
48 Edelman, Julian NEP Edelman was the offseason darling in fantasy circles since he would take over for Wes Welker. And then Welker opted to not be mortal and apparently has rewritten medical books regarding ACL recovery times. Since Welker still has at least some risk, Edelman might not be a bad pick to hold and see if Welker really is healthy or if it was just some joke by Bill Belichick.
49 Williams, Mike TBB I have to admit each year there are a couple of players that I just like more than I can reasonably point to why. Williams is one of them and I have been on the no-rookie wideout wagon for a couple of years. But the ex-Syracuse wideout puts out a great vibe. At 6'2" and 204 he has plenty size and has been consistently impressive. He is the only named starting wideout in TB so far. I worry about Josh Freeman's thumb some but Williams has my early vote.
50 Tate, Golden SEA Tate's stock has dropped since the preseason and while he will make the team, he's not going to be more than a #3 this year. And a #3 in Seattle is not fantasy relevant. He may well become a good one in future years but his 2010 stock just continues to fall.
51 McCluster, Dexter KCC I do not understand why anyone grabs McCluster in a draft. It all smacks of Josh Cribbs. McCluster is only 5'8" and 165' as was I in ninth grade. He's so dangerous that he may be a RB or a WR or a special teams maven or all three. Bottom line - he will never have 15 touches in any game and produce anything remotely close to fantasy relevant numbers. At least not with any iota of reliability. Maybe if you get special teams yardage. But otherwise what are you thinking?
52 Bryant, Antonio CIN By this point Bryant is just a legend and not a real person. May not play this year.
53 Cotchery, Jerricho NYJ Cotchery is like Mason. Not going to be a stud and may never have a really big game but will almost always get you something and guys like that are valuable. Especially when all your long-shots whiff. He may lose a little work to Santonio Holmes though.
54 Avery, Donnie STL Avery is going to be the #1 there but that only resulted in 589 yards and five scores last year. This time there could be a rookie QB and the team may be no better. I don't blame anyone for taking Avery but he's not my cup of whiskey-spiked tea.
55 Gaffney, Jabar DEN Really liking Gaffney and he is ending up on all my teams because he comes pretty cheaply in most drafts and I think he is being undervalued. He already had 54 catches for 732 yards and two scores last year with Brandon Marshall sucking up all the passes. Orton loves to throw to him which was already apparent in the recent preseason games. I think he'll be the #1 wideout there and offer WR3 if not WR2 value. Pretty sweet as deeply as you can get him.
56 Benn, Arrelious TBB Another case of the hot rookie - the first one the team drafted - being just another rookie who isn't going to make the transition immediately to the NFL (unlike teammate and fellow rookie Mike Williams appears to be). Benn is okay in a dynasty league to see what happens in 2011 and beyond but for just this year he's looking more like a nonfactor and probably a nonstarter.
57 Thomas, Devin WAS Thomas was the first wideout drafted in 2008 but he has struggled to meet any expectations. Campbell is gone and McNabb is there now which should be a plus but Thomas has not grabbed the starting job in Shanahan's new offense. By this point, we're left wondering if he is always going to be coming up short. He still gets a little leeway from entering his third year but he needs to show up and do something ASAP.
58 Schilens, Chaz OAK Out indefinitely with a knee scope. Cannot get and stay healthy.;
59 Gonzalez, Anthony IND I suppose any IND receiver this deep deserves to be drafted but I am not one who would. Gonzalez got Pipped by Pierre Garcon last year and still has not scratched his way back into being a starter. About the best he can hope for is four receiver sets or convincing the coaches to let him have some slot time over Collie. I just don't see it. Colts merely went to the Superbowl without him in 2009. That's not going to help.
60 Manningham, Mario NYG He was supposed to be the #3 behind Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks but has been battling a groin injury and may lose his job to Ramses Barden at some point. No need to baby sit him on your roster to see if that happens.
61 Burleson, Nate DET Burleson is warming on me but even as the starter in Detroit, there hasn't been enough happening to make me thing that anyone beyond Calvin Johnson is going to matter for Lion wideouts. Burleson is probably worth it at this point though and I could see me drafting him in a deep league but kinda "meh" regardless. If Stafford takes a step up in development, this could be a decent bye week filler guy.
62 Jones, Jacoby HOU Jones was slated to take over the flanker this year but no one wanted the free agent Kevin Walter who re-upped for $11 million. There is still a chance at some point Jones could win the starter role but he'll open the season as the punt returner and slot guy. He's worth owning and even more so in a dynasty league because the best is yet to come. He just needs to win that flanker role and then he'll have the consistent play worthy of a fantasy start.
63 Williams, Roy DAL Apparently when Dez Bryant was drafted, Roy Williams was covered in radioactive paint because no one wants to touch him anymore. But Bryant has been set back by a high ankle sprain and won't enter the season with any actual playing time from the preseason. Williams has fantasy value to start with but yeah, he's more likely to lose his job and fall back to even hold on to his mediocre showing of 2009. Be sort of a good move to draft both Williams and Bryant just to be sure.
64 Cribbs, Josh CLE If you get special teams yardage points, then by all means. If not, forget it. Why do people draft him? What are they expecting him to do with two runs and one catch per game?
65 Chambers, Chris KCC Chambers had 608 yards and four scores in just nine games with the Chiefs last year. That's like 1080 yards and seven scores over a full season. Like Mason and Cotchery, I love Chambers as a fall back guy who will consistently get you some points every week. Not going to explode or be a stud but offers a great fall back role for your fantasy team.
66 Berrian, Bernard MIN Berrian was going to be the same as Chambers but now he becomes the #1 in MIN because of Sidney Rice and the overnight surgery. He's going at least half this early by now.
67 Jones, James GBP Has won the #3 spot from Jordy Nelson but that is becoming an annual fight each summer. But he only had 440 yards and five scores last year and probably looking at about the same. Jones would matter if Driver ever retired but that's never going to happen. Driver went to the Favre school of retirement. #3 in Green Bay lies outside of fantasy relevance.
68 Thomas, Mike JAC I like Thomas a lot. I must, I keep ending up with him on my teams. He is a second-year player who only had 453 yards and one score as a rookie but every one connected with the team has just glowed about him. Even Jones-Drew said he expected Thomas to break out this year. He comes very cheaply and yet is a #2 wideout. With his upside in this offense he could end up with some fantasy value. Definite roster stash to see what happens.
69 Robinson, Laurent STL I liked Robinson last year but after three games he broke his leg and was gone for the season. He's back but the Rams offense is still a work in progress and may have a rookie QB. This deep he has some upside and in a dynasty league even more but the excitement is just not there anymore.
70 Doucet, Early ARI People are picking Early Doucet as if the #3 in Arizona matters anymore. It was 712 yards and three scores last year with Breaston playing in a pass-happy offense. That is gone and now it is Leinart (probably) handing off to Wells in a balanced offense (read - do not throw if you do not have to throw). I'm not even crazy about Breaston in this offense, I sure don't want the #3 guy.
71 Walter, Kevin HOU Walter is a decent play, particularly at this spot since he has been as good as almost 900 yards and eight scores in 2008. He was injured last year and tried the free agent market before signing back with the Texans for 5 years worth $21 million. That all said, Jacoby Jones keeps challenging for his job and the Texans would give it to Jones if they finally think he merits it. That makes Walter a possible risk. But also a player who should have some decent games at least in the first part of the season.
72 Bess, Davone MIA Camarillo was traded to the Vikings but Brian Hartline is still there and Bess should remain in the slot where he belongs. The slot hasn't meant much in Miami and will mean even less now with Brandon Marshall there to siphon off passes. Bess has consistently remained with a low 10 YPC average and has only scored three times in his two seasons.
73 Heyward-Bey, Darrius OAK The latest first round bust on the Raiders has evoked some optimism. And then he sucks in practice. And then he looks fast and catches some deep balls.And then he literally got tired and took four days off practice to rest. This deep why not take him but to me he's just the final leg of the great Trifecta of Shame - Russell, McFadden and Heyward-Bey. Not sure who "Bey" is but I bet they have asked him to drop them and the hyphen from his name.
74 Henderson, Devery NOS The problem with receivers from the Saints is not that they have no fantasy value - they do. It is that Drew Brees spreads the ball around so much that forecasting which receiver will do well is pretty hard on a game by game basis. If one or two gets injured it helps to limit Brees but Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and even Adrian Arrington all contribute at times. Henderson had 804 yards last year but only two scores. Meachem recorded just 45 catches but gained 722 yards and scored nine times. Moore was often injured but could figure in again this year. And of course Arrington looks good in the preseason. This deep - sure. Take him or Lance Moore and you have a decent bye week filler but hard to imagine either becoming reliable each week.
75 Moore, Lance NOS See above
76 LaFell, Brandon CAR Lafell is in the running for the #2 job in Carolina and could win it and then grow along with QB Matt Moore. But Dwayne Jarrett is still in the running as well and it could end up to be a rotation across from Steve Smith. LaFell has much more attraction to a dynasty league this this year. But he might end up worthy of filling your bye weeks. Maybe. But probably not.
77 Morgan, Josh SFO Josh Morgan was a starter last year and only had 52 catches for 527 yards and three scores. This year the 49ers get a full season of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis together and the crumbs they leave behind ain' t gonna feed your fantasy hunger. Morgan has already reached his peak.
78 Naanee, Legedu SDC Naanee deserves a late flyer I suppose because he is in line to be the #2 in San Diego this year thanks to Vincent Jackson suffering from agent-inspired insanity. But even then, Naanee won't be better than the fourth option for Philip Rivers. The only plus side to Naanee getting drafted this high is that now his name is in everyone's spell checker. You could do worse than this late in your draft. But you could probably do better.
79 Murphy, Louis OAK Murphy may become my new final pick of the draft (assuming I took my kicker too early). If nothing else, he is like the last man standing already. And with a real quarterback this year Murphy may actually surprise as a starter in Oakland. Murphy went 34-521 and four scores last year. On a team without Jamarcus Russell that would have translated into 145-2610 and 97 scores.
80 Shipley, Jordan CIN I like Shipley a lot at least in a dynasty sense because he seems like a Welker-in-the-raw. He's been very impressive in camp and is a perfect fit for the slot. But this year the Bengals already have Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. And they drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham as well. Someone is not going to get enough passes to merit fantasy attention this year and it is probably Shipley. But Owens is older and Shipley could grow on this team.

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