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When the NFL’s regular season begins, there will be approximately 175 wide receivers on active rosters.
That’s a lot of choices when it comes to drafting your fantasy team. We know who the great ones are, but what about the names we aren’t too familiar with?
There are a bunch, whether they are rookies, former practice squad players or young pros on the verge of a breakout.
But how do you identify these sleepers? There are certainly indicators to help find a player who is ready to step up his game. Does he have a top-notch quarterback? Did he end the 2014 season on a high note? Does he play in a pass-happy offense? Is he a rookie or free agent now on a team lacking quality receivers? If you can answer “yes” to those questions, you’ve probably found yourself a sleeper.
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Let’s take a look at some receivers with breakout potential:
1. Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos
Latimer is Peyton Manning’s No. 3 receiver. ‘Nuff said. Let’s keep moving, shall we? Oh, OK, here’s a bit more. With tight end Julius Thomas and receiver Wes Welker gone, there’s a void behind Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. And we’ve seen what Manning does with third and fourth options; he puts them on the fantasy map.
2. Josh Huff, Philadelphia Eagles
Huff might actually end up starting opposite Jordan Matthews in Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense. Either way, he’s getting on the field and can be Jeremy Maclin Light. And that ain’t bad. Not at all. Huff has the advantage in that he played at Oregon in Kelly’s offense. I’m not looking too much into his low total of 8 receptions as a rookie. While Matthews is a stud, Miles Austin is aging and Riley Cooper is … well, Riley Cooper. The Iggles also have Oregon WR Jeff Maehl and he, too, could surprise.
3. Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
More and more we see rookie wide receivers making major impacts when that was never the case. A year ago, Funchess’ teammate Kelvin Benjamin made beautiful music with Cam Newton. But now that Benjamin is out with torn ACL, the 6-foot-4 Funchess will get his chance to cause matchup nightmares for opposing defensive backs. He might not be an 80-catch receiver just yet, but that height makes him a tantalizing red zone option. And that’s all good for me.
4. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
Jones missed 2014 with foot and ankle injuries, but seems to be healthy in camp now. But let’s go back to 2013 for a moment. That season, Jones had 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jones outplayed Mohamed Sanu in ’13, but Sanu got the call as starter in 2014. It’s a training camp battle worth paying attention to. With that being said, Jones had built a rapport with Andy Dalton. Jones could be quite a late-round steal, or even waiver pickup. Also, Dalton should improve with Jones, Sanu and stud AJ Green all healthy.
5. Nick Toon, New Orleans Saints
The recipients of a whopping 209 Drew Brees pass targets from 2014 are no longer in New Orleans (Jimmy Graham’s 124 to Seattle and Kenny Stills’ 85 to Miami). Still there are Brandin Cooks and the aging Marques Colston. And if you didn’t get the memo, Brees throws the ball. Pretty much more than anyone. Toon hasn’t exactly been the model of health; he’s entering his 4th season and has played in just 16 career games. But that’s why Toon is a sleeper. If he can stay on the field, he has a chance to get 80+ targets from an extremely accurate QB.
6. Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens no longer have Torrey Smith, who left for San Francisco. So the receiving corp consists of Steve Smith, the rookie Perriman and a whole bunch of other guys who may or may not be on an NFL roster come Week 1. Perriman has missed time early in camp, but has the size and the blazing speed needed to excel. If he can stay on the field, he can have an instant impact opposite the ageless Smith.
7. Phillip Dorsett, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck does a wonderful impression of his predecessor in Indy, as he has an uncanny ability to make a third and fourth receiving option a star. Shades of Peyton Manning, indeed. With T.Y. Hilton and the newly-acquired Andre Johnson drawing the double-teams and defensive attention, Dorsett and his ridiculous 4.3 speed has a shot to be the deep-play threat of the offense. Even more so than Hilton, who averaged 16.3 yards per reception in 2014. Like most rookies, Dorsett will need to work on his route running and blocking, but he’s there for one reason: to catch really long passes for touchdowns.
8. Jaelen Strong, Houston Texans
Strong is another rookie who can make impact, though the quarterback situation in Houston isn’t exactly ideal — Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett. But Strong has a chance to start opposite DeAndre Hopkins as he battles Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington. It’s situation Shorts could very well win, but Strong is going to get playing time and targets. Especially now the running game is in disarray with Arian Foster down with the groin injury.
9. Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams
Bailey came on strong late at the end of 2014, garnering over 5 targets per game over the last 6 games. He only scored once, but Bailey has the take-it-to-the-house ability. With Nick Foles in town as the starting QB and the Rams improving the running game, thing should open up for them through the air. The Rams have Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt in the fold, but none of them really separated themselves as the No. 1 go-to receiving option. Bailey has a chance to step up into a Percy Harvin-type role.
10. Chris Conley, Kansas City Chiefs
Conley is freakishly athletic, though he didn’t put up monster numbers in college. But at Georgia, it was a run-heavy offense with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. The Chiefs lost Dwayne Bowe, but gained Jeremy Maclin. After that? Well, let’s just say targets are up for grabs at the receiver position. Alex Smith won’t exactly make the Chiefs look like the Broncos’ aerial attack, but he’s accurate. If Conley can pick up the nuances of the pro game, he’s got the athletic ability needed to rise up.
The Next 5
Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans
Steve Johnson, San Diego Chargers
Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
Justin Hardy, Atlanta Falcons
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