David Dorey's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh
The second-year wideout for the Steelers was the first wideout drafted in 2007 and turned in an impressive 49 catch season for 824 yards and two scores – as a rookie in Pittsburgh that wasn’t a starter until later in the season. That’s a 16.8 yards per catch on a team not noted for throwing to anyone outside of Hines Ward (74-975, 6 TD). Holmes is a speedy, talented player starting to come into his own on an offense that vows to throw more this year – at least more effectively. Holmes can be drafted as a back-up player but could end up as your WR3 and maybe even WR2 if he can continue to develop as his talent and rookie season suggest he can. He’s fast, has great hands and Roethlisberger is healthy and ready to implement the new offense.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
After three years in the NFL, Henderson comes off a 32 catch year with 745 yards and five scores last year when he usually played only as the #3 but filled in for both Marques Colston and Joe Horn when they were missing. In a three game stretch then, Henderson had games of 111, 169 and 158 yards with two of them coming in road trips against divisional rivals of Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Now Joe Horn is gone and Henderson becomes the starter across from Marques Colston who will be attracting the most attention. The Saints also drafted Robert Meacham but the rookie spent most of the offseason healing a torn meniscus and still hasn’t been very impressive. Henderson is in the #1 passing offense from last year and gets his first chance to be a starter. Meacham is just enough to let Henderson come at a fairly cheap price in your draft and yet Meacham doesn’t have the look of someone who will challenge this year.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit
It’s really easy to be swayed by the hype and we all know that rookie wideouts almost never do that much. This is one time that the hype is worth buying and the past history of rookies can be forgotten. Johnson signed and is in camp and already is working out with the first team. He brings legendary work ethic and talent to a team that will throw the ball beyond all reason thanks to Mike Martz. Roy Williams ensures that in no case can the defense load up against Johnson ever. If you only ever pick one rookie wideout – make it this one. It is the marriage of great talent, huge opportunity and optimal offensive scheme.
Scott Boyter's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Calvin Johnson, Detroit
A lot of players will be hesitant to pick Johnson high because he's a rookie. Don't make that mistake. With opposing defenses keying on Roy Williams, Johnson should have huge numbers, especially early in the season. He hasn't played a down in the NFL and he's already a Top 15 receiver, at least as far as I'm concerned.
Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh
This isn't a knee-jerk reaction to a great first drive in a meaningless preseason game. Opposing defenses are going to expect the same ol', same ol', smash-mouth Steeler attack. Under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, that won't be the case. Pittsburgh will air it out much more than normal and Holmes will benefit. He's worth a serious look at your No. 4 or No. 5 wide-out slot.
Donte Stallworth, New England
Stallworth is under a lot of people's radar because he's being overshadowed by Randy Moss. But with Tom Brady's penchant for spreading the ball around, Stallworth should get plenty of looks. Look for numbers around the 850-yard, five TD mark, making him worth putting on your roster.
Brent Clement's Wide Receiver Sleepers
DJ Hackett, Seattle
Hackett ended last year on a tear, and with the departure of Darrell Jackson looks to start from day one in 2007. Hackett is the Hawks possession receiver, has great hands, and the trust of QB Matt Hasselbeck. Hackett will be a perfect target for the Hawks near the goal line, and could be the teams leading receiver in 2007. Expect Hackett to pick up right where he left off a season ago, and break into the top 30 for the position this year.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay
Jennings has a chance to be the Donald Driver of the Packers passing attack, when Javon Walker was the #1 WR in Green Bay. In the Packers first scrimmage, Favre looked to Jennings as much as Driver, and Jennings was very impressive. The Packers running game may take a big step backwards in 2007, with no elite feature back on the roster, putting the ball in Brett Favre’s hands more than ever. Expect huge numbers for both the Packers starting WR’s, making Jennings a great value pick, much later.
Kevin Curtis, Philadelphia
Curtis moves from a back up, on Rams, to a starter for the pass happy Eagles. Many think Philly made a huge mistake letting Donte Stallworth leave, but Curtis is a more consistent, sure handed, and less injury prone version of Stallworth. He will be a perfect fit for this offense, and give McNabb the deep threat Reggie Brown lacks. Curtis is a luxury for fantasy teams as a #3 WR, who is capable of the big week, but just as important, should be consistent for most weeks.
Michael Courter's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Lee Evans, Buffalo
Evans is a sleeper this year in the sense that I see him breaking into the elite, tier one group of pass-catchers in 2007. The immense talent has always been there, just patiently waiting for the Bills to get the quarterback position to catch up with him. J.P. Losman isn’t all the way there yet, but he’s headed in that direction, and Evans, as evidenced by his 82 receptions for 1,292 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006, is ready to raise the bar further this season. The Buffalo offense is trending upward in every category, but tight end right now. Losman, the steadily-improving offensive line, and now a threatening ground game led by rookie Marshawn Lynch, will create a strong opportunity for Evans to reach the 90 plus catches, 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns plateau this year.
Deion Branch, Seattle
Branch, with his inaugural season in Seattle now in the books, will start 2007 much more settled into a Seattle offense that said goodbye to Matt Hasselbeck fave, Darrell Jackson, this past off-season, opening an ample window of opportunity for the six-year veteran to try to establish himself as the true No. 1 receiver in the Seahawks offense. After DJ Hackett, the Seahawks receiving corps leaves a lot to be desired, and Branch, as the established veteran go-to guy, should be in line to easily improve upon his 53 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns from a year ago.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego
The 6-5, 241 pound speedster enters his third year in the league with a mini-head of steam from ending the 2006 season on an upward arc. Jackson started to get comfortable with his role in the offense last year and established a chemistry with Philip Rivers, making him the de facto No.1 receiver in the San Diego offense for the 2007 season. Jackson recorded two games of over 90 yards receiving in December of last year, including a five receptions for 97 yards (19.4 avg) and two touchdowns in Seattle on Christmas Eve. The Chargers, with there bountiful supply of skill position talent, will continue to force defenses to single cover the large-body downfield threat, creating a west coast version of Plaxico Burress for the Chargers offense.
Bob Cunningham's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Darrell Jackson, San Francisco
If he emerges as Smith’s favorite target, which I am predicting, and if he can stay on the field for 12 or more games, he will be good for a steady 80 yards and close to a touchdown per contest. Ideal as a No. 2 guy on a fantasy squad, because the potential for No. 1-type numbers is there.
Bernard Berrian, Chicago
This is a risky pick for me, because I don’t think a whole lot of Rex Grossman (nothing personal, we’re only talking football here). But make no mistake. Berrian, not Muhsin Muhammad, is the top target in the Windy City. A lot of upside based on his own, varied skills.
Santana Moss, Washington
One publication I looked over had him ranked 53rd among WRs. Let’s put it this way, if you can get him 53rd overall in your draft, it wouldn’t be all that premature. He’s a poor man’s Steve Smith – not even close to as consistent but every bit as explosive in the open field. I believe QB Jason Campbell will get the ball to him often.
Joe Levit's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Ronald Curry, Oakland
Curry had a big close to the 2006 season, and he has the desire to excel, something I’ve never noticed from Jerry Porter, who most experts have ranked ahead of Curry. The Raiders quarterbacks have to pass to someone this season, and though they might not have a good year as a group, Curry can. Expect 900 yards and 7 scores. Pretty good as your third or fourth fantasy wideout.
Reggie Brown, Philadelphia
Brandon Jones, Tennessee
Donovan McNabb needs a top target that will work hard if he is to re-establish himself in the pro and fantasy football worlds. Brown will be that man. He played well last season, scoring a lot very quietly. If his number of receptions jumps, so will his receiving yards because he averaged a lot better per catch last year than the year before.
The Titans signed Eric Moulds, but I think all that will do is help draw some coverage away from Jones, who will be the chosen third-year receiver to excel this season. Though Vince Young will still take off running, he will be looking for receivers more often as he gets more familiar with the playbook.
Kevin Ratterree's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Jerricho Cotchery, NY Jets
Really shined once he finally got his shot last season. Good hands, and strong with the ball after the catch. Lots of big play ability, and I only expect him to improve this season. I think he is top 20 material and he is being drafted outside of the top 30. Bargain.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay
He showed what he is capable of last season before an injury derailed a 'rookie of the year' type start to the season. This season you can still snag him in the 9th round or later in 12 team leagues, and I think he will be a real nice WR3 that is capable of WR2 numbers.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
I don't know how much of a sleeper he really is. Seems to be on lots of peoples sleeper lists. He hasn't even cemented a starting job as of yet, but assuming he does, could be a huge value in this years fantasy drafts. He is being drafted in the back third of many drafts, but that could change drastically if he is named the starter. I don't have to sell you on the Saints offensive abilities. And after a limited role last season, I don't have to sell you on Hendersons big play ability. Consistency and a full grasp of his position? That may be a hard sell. But even if Henderson is once again relegated to 3 WR sets, he will still have some value, especially in total points leagues. I want him on my team. Because if I have a starter out, and I need someone capable of filling a huge hole, Henderson (on the right week) can put the hurt on my opponent any time he touches the ball. In leagues where long touchdowns give a bonus, bump him up even higher. Follow his progress though training camp and draft accordingly.
Patrick Crayton, Dallas
Velcro hands. Runs good routes. Has some speed. And is playing behind two thirty-somethings that are already struggling physically to start training camp. Seems to have all the ability he needs, now he just needs an opportunity. I'm betting he gets that opportunity sooner rather than later.
Paul Sandy's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Kevin Curtis, Philadelphia
Curtis is Donte Stallworth without the brittle, rubber-band hamstrings and sourpuss attitude. Look for him to excel in much the same way Stallworth did last season. QB Donovan McNabb throws one of the better deep balls in the NFL. If he can gain enough confidence in his knee to step into his throws, he should connect with this blazing-fast Curtis regularly on bombs. While Curtis is bound to turn in a few dismal games, he should more than make up for it with some monster efforts. Move him even higher up your list in leagues that award points for longer TDs.
D.J. Hackett, Seattle
Hackett was one of the lynchpins in Seattle’s offense during the last month of the 2006 regular season. He averaged 73 yards per game over the last four weeks and put up two scores. Seattle’s decision to jettison Darrell Jackson during the offseason means Hackett should get plenty of looks this year. While most consider Deion Branch to be the top pass-catching target, my hunch is Hackett will match or exceed Branch’s production. Hackett has above average hands and runs good routes. He’s a solid WR3 with the potential to be something special.
James Jones, Green Bay
When the Packers drafted Jones in the third round of the NFL draft, it raised plenty of eyebrows. He was a virtual unknown and the Packers were supposed to get Randy Moss. Based on the early returns from Green Bay’s training camp, Jones has been displayed amazing hands and a boy-scout attitude. He seems to have already locked up the #3 WR position and the word is he might even compete with Greg Jennings for the #2 spot opposite Donald Driver. Jennings was something of a rookie phenom himself, so look for both players to be a big part of the offense. With the state of Green Bay’s running game, Favre will be chucking it up more than ever this year so there should be plenty of opportunities for all the receivers.
Darin Tietgen's Wide Receiver Sleepers
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward has been regarded as one of the toughest and most well-rounded players in the NFL for many seasons. He showed his grit, playing through a sore hamstring for most of the ‘06 season. He still amassed 975 yards and six TDs. His 2005 campaign was also a little disappointing yardage wise, but before ‘05-’06, he strung together four consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons. New Steeler HC Mike Tomlin and OC Bruce Arians will open up the Steeler offense a bit more this year, creating more opportunities for Ward and TE Heath Miller (Miller will probably be the subject of one of these blog entries sooner or later). Ward is being grabbed in the 5th/6th round of most 12-team leagues, after guys like Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress and Randy Moss. Now, the upside on a guy like Moss is quite apparent, so perhaps you grab Moss ahead of Ward (unless you want to keep the risks low), but Edwards? Burress? Edwards is a talent, don’t get me wrong. But who’s gonna be throwing him the ball? How many opportunities will Edwards really have? And Burress? The Giants are a mess, and Burress has proven to be a headcase. Why not take Ward ahead of these guys? Or just wait for owners to grab these guys as their #2 wideouts and grab Ward a round or so later and reap the benefits. Call me crazy but I think Ward can put up numbers closer to the tier-1/tier-2 WRs (in the Andre Johnson/Anquan Boldin/Donald Driver range) with a healthy Roethlisberger and Arians (who catapulted Ward into stardom as the WR coach) running the show.
Mike Williams, Oakland
Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis
OK, hear me out. I’m about to go against all forms of sensibility here. I’m going to recommend watching a player that the lowly Detroit Lions had enough of. A player now on one of the worst teams in the NFL. A player who - in some NFL pundits’ point of view - is already a complete bust. Yup, I’m recommending Mike Williams (long pause) as a very deep sleeper. Williams was one of the most dominant college football players a few years ago and was drafted by the Lions despite his sitting out for a year due to disciplinary reasons. He obviously did not pan out there, but Detroit has been nothing short of a WR graveyard (just ask Charles Rogers) in recent years and Williams’ work ethic was questioned. So why is he being pegged as a sleeper? Well he’ll be reuniting with Lane Kiffin, who molded Williams into the uber-stud WR he came to be as a Trojan. And look, the Raiders are going to be BAD on offense. I’m not saying Williams is going to be a stud to start the year and keep up a torrid pace, but as a deeper option later in the season (when Oakland is well out of the playoff hunt and JaMarcus Russell is starting at QB), you may find Williams being the #1 option in Oakland. Yeah, Jerry Porter will still be an underachiever and Ronald Curry will find himself injured again. So why not give Williams a shot? What else do the Raiders (and you) have to lose?
I’m sure everyone has their eye on Gonzalez as a sleeper due to who drafted him, but what a great spot for the ex-Buckeye to land in. He’s a true slot receiver with terrific work ethic, something Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning will absolutely glow over. He replaces an oft-injured Brandon Stokley and could easily grab 6-8 TDs in his rookie season.
The Huddle's Wide Receiver Busts >