6 WR Sleepers to Target for Your Bench – Fantasy Football 2014 Draft Strategy

It’s always tricky to do a sleepers column because the definition of a “sleeper” varies wildly based on who you talk to. I’ve never been a fan of “Deep Sleepers” articles. I don’t see how knowing about some obscure 4th string WR or RB that could rise to mediocrity if a bunch of injuries happen is all that helpful to most people that are trying to craft a draft strategy. In this column I’m going to focus on players you should target to fill out your bench positions in a 12 team standard or PPR draft.

Criterion:

My theory is that season long fantasy leagues are often won or lost in the later rounds of the draft. When drafting for your team the best players to target for the bench are high ceiling players that will have the opportunity to ascend to everyday fantasy starter status. This is the one part of the draft where out researching your league mates really pays off. Lets face it, it’s not that difficult to pick studs in the first 5-6 rounds of the draft. It’s the later rounds that separates the men (or women) from the boys. 


**Note** For the purposes of determining ADP in this analysis we used data for 12 team standard scoring leagues provided by http://fantasyfootballcalculator.com/adp.php


WR Sleepers (in no particular order)



Marvin Jones WR Cin – Jones split snaps with Mohammed Sanu last season and finished with 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. That was good for the 16th best fantasy points scorer among standard league Fantasy Wide Receivers in 2013. Jones is projected to take over the #2 WR spot for the Bengals and should see his snap count and production spike. Jones has WR2 potential and has been incredibly under-drafted. With an ADP of 129 he has been going in the 11th round in many 12 team leagues. 





Hakeem Nicks WR IND – Last season Nicks was being drafted as a WR2 in most leagues with an ADP in the 50’s. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nicks signed with the Colts in the offseason and his role there is currently a bit of a mystery. Reggie Wayne is back and healthy there. Most pundits believe that T.Y. Hilton will see an uptick in production and based on his ADP (61) the fantasy community believes T.Y. is the WR to own in Indy. As of this writing Nicks has an ADP of 107. He is going in the late 9th or early 10th in 12 team leagues. The Colts WR corps are crowded at the moment but theres a chance that Nicks emerges as the top target there. Reggie Wayne is old and coming off a major injury. Hilton has been used as more of a deep threat/big play option. If Nicks emerges as a primary target for Luck he could easily deliver WR2 numbers. 





DeAndre Hopkins WR Houston – Wide Receivers often take a year or two to develop in to quality fantasy performers. Hopkins has the potential to break out in season two. He was drafted at the top of the 1st round in 2013 by Houston and has secured his role as their starting WR2. Hopkins has the athletecism, size, opportunity and talent to replicate the season Alshon Jeffrey has in 2013. Houston’s offense is in limbo at the moment however so expectations should be tempered. Still this is the type of high upside bench play that has a chance to pay real dividends. Defenses will continue to focus their attention on Andre Johnson further opening the door for Hopkins to put together a nice WR2 type season. 

Tavon Austin WR St Louis – Tavon is one of my favorite sleepers this season particularly in PPR formats. Reports out of St. Louis from 2013 were that Austin was “overwhelmed” by the play book. He had a disappointing season even from a rookie WR perspective. Still he comes with a high first round draft pick pedigree. There is no real competition in St Louis as far as another #1 WR and the according to the latest reports, Austin claims the game has “slowed down” significantly for him. The return of Sam Bradford combined with an ADP of 108 make Austin a fantastic sleeper to target for your bench that has the potential to rise to high end WR2 status. 





Jordan Matthews WR PHI – It’s always hard to predict what rookies will do. By all measures Matthews looked like a solid player coming in to the draft. The Eagles offense is explosive and I’m happy to get any exposure to it that I can for my fantasy team. Matthews is competing with Maclin and Cooper for targets in Philly. Cooper is an OK player, nothing special. Maclin is a talented player that has had trouble staying on the field. I could see a scenario somewhere in the middle of the season where Matthews becomes a valuable contributor in the Eagles Offense. An injury to Maclin could propel Matthews to WR2 status as well. At an ADP of 138, Matthews is just the type of high upside player to target late in the draft. 

Brandin Cooks WR NO – Cooks is another Rookie that is poised to make an impact this season. Lets face it. Colston is old and slowing significantly. Sproles is gone from New Orleans as well. There’s a good chance Cooks picks up some of those targets particularly later in the season when he get’s comfortable with the Offense. 


Honorable Mention:


Mike Evans WR Bucs (ADP 112), Cecil Shorts WR Jags (ADP 116), Reuben Randle WR Giants (ADP 105)


Conclusion:


The later rounds of the draft are where seasons are won and lost. Look for players that have the highest ceilings in those rounds. If they don’t work out you can drop them and work the waiver wire anyway. Stay away from safe middling picks (think Dwayne Bowe types) as those players are not all that different from ones that will be available on waivers throughout the season regardless.