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Sleeper Wideouts
David Dorey
August 22, 2008
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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 8/21/2008 at MyFantasyLeague.com, below are the wideouts that are being drafted from #37 to #106. 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 (excluding hiring Hooters girls to get all your teammates to divulge their plans but that ends up expensive. Don't ask).

Here is my brief take on those 70 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.

37 CLE Stallworth,Donte' The position seems rather aggressive. He'll be the #3 option for Derek Anderson which last year meant almost nothing. In case you have forgotten this is his fourth team in the last four years. That did not happen because the team was not good enough for Stallworth.
38 OAK Walker,Javon Look, the guy had to be talked out of retiring even after he was paid overpaid showered with cash by the Raiders. That should be major red flags. Walker has gone through some tough times in the last two seasons but all I want is statistics.
39 BAL Mason,Derrick Probably safe enough. Aging and had his final flare up last year with McNair but you could do worse than Mason since he will always get you something. Maybe not a lot, but something.
40 PHI Brown,Reggie Hey, Kevin Curtis is out of the picture at least for a while if not the whole season. Brown had decent chemistry with McNabb in the past. Upside here.
41 SDC Jackson,Vincent Okay - I do NOT get this one. Come on. The Chargers have Tomlinson, Gates, Chambers and then Jackson. No one ever wrote a book called "I am Fourth".
42 MIN Rice,Sidney The rushing game and Bernard Berrian should keep Rice from turning in starter worthy numbers this year but he is very talented and could surprise. Almost a sleeper in my book and I would not argue if others think he is.
43 MIA Ginn Jr., Ted Ginn wants to be the #1 wideout in Miami, appropriate for someone who was the #1 draft pick by the Fins last year. He has minor upside and will get some throws. But for now, he has not yet proven to be more than a punt returner and slot receiver sort of player.
44 JAC Porter,Jerry Porter has missed preseason with a hamstring issue but should be good to go for the season. That is buying risk if you want to use him week one but in JAX, he has a lot of promise for a team that could use a new "Jimmy Smith". They paid him to be one.
45 SFO Johnson,Bryant This is a stretch but he will be in a Martz offense and J.T. O'Sullivan looks like he may be able to fill the QB spot. The rookie Josh Morgan has apparently passed him on the depth charts while Johnson nurses a hamstring but that is not written in stone. I'd pass on him now.
46 BUF Hardy,James This may be a stretch in the other direction but Hardy should be the starter in Buffalo and Trent Edwards may - MAY - take the next step in developing. The towering Hardy should end up as a valuable possession receiver, it only depends on how long it takes him. He could be an endzone target as well so I'll consider him a yellow fellow.
47 CAR Hackett,D.J. Hackett has a shot at making noise from the slot position since the Panthers have Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad is back. My problem here is that he'll probably have more games with minimal numbers than decent fantasy points you want in a starter. Welker may be the only slot receiver to become a viable fantasy starter. Okay, Stokley had his one year in Indy too. Hackett is interesting but likely too inconsistent.
48 CHI Hester,Devin Yeah, he is fast. Great punt returner. But until he can figure out how to catch a pass ten yards away from any defender, I wouldn't rely on him. Maybe he'll catch a few bombs but not nearly the consistency you want. Having Orton as the starter is NOT a help for Hester going deep.
49 SFO Bruce,Isaac Like Mason, Bruce is a nice pick here since you can be fairly sure that he will produce a few points when he is your bye week filler. Not much upside at this point though.
50 JAC Williams,Reggie He just returned to practice and like Porter he has upside in JAX. David Garrard turned to Reggie in a big way last year when he had ten receiving touchdowns. His upside makes him a great pick here but no guarantees.
51 NOS Meachem,Robert I just love Meachem in a way that is scary since he has yet to play a down in the regular season. He lost out on playing in 2007 thanks to ankle and knee injuries but has been stellar in camp and in preseason games. He'll be no less than the #3 in New Orleans and could overtake David Patten at some point. The first-rounder has the talent to make some noise on one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL.
52 PIT Sweed,Limas Have to like Sweed more in a dynasty league since he could become the next Plaxico Burress but for now Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes will ensure that Sweed doesn't make it into a starting fantasy lineup this year.
53 OAK Curry,Ronald Curry is an interesting pick and if he had a quarterback who had been a starter before, he would be a sleeper type. Russell has looked both sharp and confused in the same offensive series and Oakland has a gang of running backs to use. Could surprise only if Russell surprises.
54 SEA Branch,Deion Yeah, he will come back eventually. But I cannot think of any wide receiver who missed a big chunk of the season returns and catches fire. Just seems like an overly optimistic pick to me. Why not draft someone that can actually play?
55 BAL Clayton,Mark There is some upside here but Kyle Boller or Troy Smith may not be the guys to bring out Clayton's potential. This is probably an appropriate place to pick Clayton, I just would not.
56 WAS Thomas,Devin Nah - both he and Malcolm Kelly will end up being good players but it is starting very slowly and both have been injured.
57 TEN Gage,Justin Meh. The Titans passing game has never been much since Vince Young arrived but Gage does have some promise this year. Just not a lot. I shy away from bad QB situations.
58 NEP Gaffney,Jabar Look, Gaffney is becoming more and more common as a drafted wideout as the summer progresses. Yes, he had some success at the end of last year. But the notion that the Patriots are going to have three wide receivers with consistent fantasy value is just pretty hard to swallow.
59 PHI Jackson,DeSean It is almost unheard of to have much faith in a rookie punt returner who weighs 168 pounds. But the loss of Curtis for at least a while will open the door for the diminutive Jackson. It seems so wildly unlikely to mean anything in the regular season that I cannot call him a sleeper. But then again, I cannot keep myself from making him yellow.
60 DEN Jackson,Darrell Taking into account all seasons prior to 2007, Jackson would be a great pick. But he is now on his third team in three years and hasn't secured a starting gig. He may be beaten out by a rookie no less. A name and little else.
61 STL Bennett,Drew Al Saunders is the new OC in St. Louis and is noted for having great RBs and TEs. He had a little success with Eddie Kennison for one year. He has never done anything with the #2 wideout on his offense. No thanks.
62 NYG Smith,Steve Some upside here as Smith showed much promise last year but until Toomer gets hurt or retires, it's optimistic to expect fantasy worthy numbers from him.
63 HOU Walter,Kevin Walter will not replace Andre Johnson ever. But he adds a decent complement to him that offers a few fantasy points. Last year his only decent games came when Johnson was out - if that happens again, grab Walter. Until then, just yawn.
64 CAR Muhammad,Muhsin Okay, not a lot of upside here but Muhammad should offer at least a few fantasy points each week. Like a bye week filler you can count on (but not for a lot).
65 ATL Robinson,Laurent Was a sleeper last year when he replaced Joe Horn but has been injured in the preseason and allowed Michael Jenkins to gain a little more favor from the coaching staff. Robinson still a decent pick but may wait for a traditional third year to break out when Matt Ryan hits his second season.
66 GBP Jones,James Minor upside but needs Driver to retire before Jones will offer any consistent fantasy value.
67 DEN Royal,Eddie Royal wasn't supposed to be more than a special teamer with some minor role in the passing game this year but he has impressed since he arrived which is more than any other wideout not named Brandon can say in Denver. Royal should be the starter in Denver with a good QB in Cutler. Still a risk for a rookie but at this draft slot? Take it.
68 WAS Randle El, Antwaan He'll be back to the slot this year where he should have never left. About the only unique thing about Randle El is that he has a space in his last name. Don't bother.
69 NYG Toomer,Amani Aging possession guy good for a few points while filling in for a bye week. He should never accept anything to drink from teammate Steve Smith.
70 STL Avery,Donnie Yeah, Bennett looks unattractive as the #2 in an offense that only uses the #1 wideout. So being the #3 guy at best means you should leave him alone. Sure, he was the first wideout drafted and we are still wondering why.
71 WAS Kelly,Malcolm Missing all the preseason games with a bum knee. That's valuable development time he is not getting. Only in a dynasty draft does he make sense this year.
72 NOS Patten,David Patten is not a horrible choice but has almost no upside despite playing for the Saints. With Shockey there and Meachem playing, Patten cannot even be relied on for the few points each week.
73 CHI Booker,Marty Should end up the #1 in Chicago which doesn't mean much. The Bears have a great passing schedule but are opting for Orton to dink and dunk and mainly handoff to Matt Forte. Bye week filler at best.
74 NYG Manningham,Mario Come on. This year? Not going to happen. Steve Smith has the lead already and Manningham won't show up until next year at the earliest. He had a quad injury already and was rumored to be considered for IR.
75 GBP Nelson,Jordy This is James Jones last year. Jones last year had two touchdowns and 676 yards. And he is still with the team unlike Brett Favre. Only in a dynasty league and even then it better be a very deep roster.
76 DET McDonald,Shaun Until he makes it to SF, forget about McDonald when Mike Martz is not around.
77 CHI Bennett,Earl Bennett should get playing time this year but on one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL. Not exactly where I would push my chips.
78 NEP Jackson,Chad The oft-injured and rarely seen Jackson has fallen back to second team. No reason to expect much this year.
79 DEN Stokley,Brandon The Broncos have moved Stokley to the slot this year and want to give him less work than 2007. Help yourself, I will not steal him from you.
80 MIA Wilford,Ernest This should be a decent possession receiver in Miami where they will need to throw but he is being beaten out by Derek Hagen. Don't bother.
81 CIN Simpson,Jerome Chris Henry is back (eventually anyway) and Simpson has not impressed so far.
82 SFO Battle,Arnaz The good news is that a Martz scheme uses four wide receivers. The bad news is that Battle is not going to be one of the ones that matter.
83 ARI Doucet,Early Was looking to be the replacement for Bryant Johnson but Steve Breaston is taking the job for now at least. Nope.
84 BAL Williams,Demetrius The slot guy in Baltimore is no friend to your roster.
85 TBB Bryant,Antonio Okay, Jon Gruden has been glowing about Bryant. The team doesn't throw much nor particularly well and Galloway will always be the main man until he breaks a hip when he reaches 65 years of age. But as a final draft pick? I mean, you are going to have to throw someone away anyway when you start free agency so when you pick Bryant and everyone laughs, you just say "I need someone to drop week one".
86 CLE Cribbs,Josh High ankle sprain currently - don't bother.
87 SFO Morgan,Josh A preseason darling, Morgan is a great final pick in your draft (assuming 18 rounds or more) that unfortunately is being hyped enough that you probably cannot reach him. He is just a rookie on a bad team. But has upside and has impressed if only by not being as nondescript as the rest of the 49er wideouts.
88 HOU Davis,Andre' Davis has no consistency as a slot guy but actually makes a nice backup for Andre Johnson as was proven last year. Ah - just go grab him as a free agent if Johnson is hurt.
89 FA Glenn,Terry Fork, meet Terry. Terry, meet fork.
90 CIN Caldwell,Andre Currently has a sprained foot and hasn't distinguished himself much. Pass.
91 TEN Williams,Roydell Had surgery on his ankle and still is not healthy. May not even make the team.
92 CIN Henry,Chris Final pick of the draft? I still wouldn't. Has to miss the first four games thanks to a suspension. His presence smacks of desperation by the Bengals to me.
93 SEA Taylor,Courtney Second year player will be the starting flanker while Engram and Branch are out. Maybe doesn't bear drafting but does merit watching. Could have a few good weeks to start the season for those Steve Smith and Brandon Marshall owners though a huge risk as a fantasy starter until you can see him in the regular season.
94 HOU Jones,Jacoby The slot guy lost out to Andre Davis last year. No reason to draft.
95 MIA Hagan,Derek Has passed Ernest Wilford as the #2 guy in Miami. That may not mean a lot this year, but Hagan is a starting wideout. At least currently. And the presence of Pennington does help matters.
96 NOS Henderson,Devery Had your chance, couldn't hack it.
97 KCC Franklin,Will Impressed as a rookie but will be only the #3 on a team with a questionable quarterback.
98 JAC Williamson,Troy Hope springs eternal but until Williamson can hold into passes, make an exception.
99 OAK Carter,Drew Couldn't matter much in Carolina with Delhomme and now gets first year starter Russell. No thanks.
100 TBB Clayton,Michael Wow, that rookie season was impressive and was FIVE seasons ago. Had one score in the last three years.
101 SFO Hill,Jason Like Meachem, Hill was lost to injury for his rookie season. Unlike Meachem, Hill has not been that impressive in training camp and certainly does not play for a great passing team. No reason to draft.
102 ARI Breaston,Steve #3 in Arizona is worth knowing since both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald have been injured in recent seasons.
103 ATL Jenkins,Michael Not worth drafting but has been better this summer while Laurent Robinson has been injured. Still likely no better than #3.
104 TEN McCareins,Justin As the final pick in a very deep draft, you could do worse than McCareins who is paired with OC Mike Heimerdinger again. But McNair is not there.
105 SEA Obomanu,Ben Could be slot in Seattle. But no fantasy value.
106 CAR Jarrett,Dwayne On the plus side, he has plenty of room to improve. On the negative, the Panthers brought Muhammad back and added Hackett.


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