Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy football is all about gaining an unspoken advantage. The thrill of identifying a gem player rising up out of nowhere, and and then snatching him up late in your fantasy draft or plucking him off the waiver wire.
Die hard fantasy football enthusiasts long for these moments on a year-round basis, so naturally we all are stuck conducting mock drafts come early June (if not earlier), and also tracking down as many articles on rankings, sleepers and breakout players as we can find.
This time we’re looking at ten wide receivers not everyone will see coming. A few are fairly obvious in terms of being on the rise, but most of these guys are going to be floating under the radar.
Let’s use talent, past production, role and Average Draft Position to assess just how much value these slowly creeping sleeping giants have. Everyone knows Cordarrelle Patterson is bound to blow up in Norv Turner’s new vertical system in Minnesota. But are they looking at Markus Wheaton and these other nine ascending wide receivers?
We call them deep fantasy football sleepers, but you can just call them young wide receivers that could be amazing in 2014:
Justin Hunter (Tennessee Titans)
Hunter might be one of my favorite young receivers on the rise. He does have some shakiness under center with the erratic Jake Locker throwing him passes, but in terms of talent there is little preventing him from taking off in 2014. Blessed with a great size/speed combo and great ball skills, Hunter is a solid WR3 in the making. If Locker can develop, finally, the upside for this Tennessee Titans fantasy stud is even greater.
Markus Wheaton (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Wheaton isn’t being hyped up to the level of a Patterson or Williams, but he probably should be. At least for now, Wheaton is listed as Pittsburgh’s #2 wide receiver. He could be in line for some major production, thanks to his elite speed and ability to make plays down the field. He may have some competition from rookie Martavis Bryant, but if he wins he’ll be a legit threat for stable WR3 production.
Andrew Hawkins (Cleveland Browns)
Hawkins had his 2013 season mostly wasted away thanks to a bum foot, but he’s 100% now and in Cleveland with Johnny Manziel. No Josh Gordon puts a damper on the fantasy scene, but not for Hawkins. Instead, the electrifying slot man will put his elusiveness and speed on full display, and he just might be a WR3 to get 2014 rolling.
Jerrel Jernigan (New York Giants)
A lot of fantasy owners will be fawning over rookie Odell Beckham Jr., but Jernigan was the guy who impressed the most down the stretch for the Giants in 2013. It remains to be determined if Jernigan will cut out a big role for 2014, but considering he was fantasy’s #2 producer over the final three weeks last year, he probably should.
Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo Bills)
A pure burner, Goodwin is currently behind Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams. That will thwart almost everyone away from using him, but that speed is just too good to ignore all year long. That’s both for fantasy owners to chew on, as well as the Bills of course. He’s a little too one-dimensional to trust right now, but Goodwin showed a ton of upside with his big play-making ability as a rookie last year. He’s an injury away from being amazing.
DeVier Posey (Houston Texans)
Andre Johnson wants out of Houston apparently, and if he gets his wish, Posey could suddenly be Houston’s number two wide receiver. Even if that doesn’t happen, he should operate as the team’s third option. Posey has been a disappointment due to injuries through two seasons, but should be as healthy as ever in 2014 and still has some upside due to nice athleticism.
Da’Rick Rogers (Indianapolis Colts)
Indy brought in Hakeem Nicks to make sure their receiving corps was bolstered with Reggie Wayne nursing an ACL tear, but Rogers flashed some major upside a year ago and shouldn’t be forgotten. After all, Nicks is beyond untrustworthy and Wayne is an aging vet with sapped speed and a bum knee. Rogers might not tear it up right away, but he has blowout type talent with Andrew Luck throwing him passes.
Ace Sanders (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Justin Blackmon is probably going to miss all of 2014 and Cecil Shorts III is the only other Jags receiver that is talented and not a rookie. Sanders is built perfectly for the slot and has the athleticism and versatility to turn into a dangerous weapon. Needless to say, there’s a good chance he’s going to see a traffic uptick in 2014.
Marquess Wilson (Chicago Bears)
Chicago moved on from slot man Earl Bennett, which means second-year receiver Marquess Wilson can step into a full-time role as the Bears third wide receiver. Marc Trestman has looked like a genius so far and Jay Cutler has shined when healthy, so the surroundings are absolutely there for Wilson to take off. Sure, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are higher up on the totem pole, but Wilson has a nice size and speed combination. If he locks down the third receiver gig, he’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
Brian Quick (St. Louis Rams)
Not every deep sleeper pans out, and Quick is the perfect example of a talented guy who, while capable, is definitely more of a long shot than some of the others on this list. Quick has the size and play-making ability to turn into a special target for the Rams, but he is buried on their depth chart and has struggled mightily so far in his career with inconsistency. The Rams still could use a big go-to target, and it’s very likely going to come down to Quick or the often injured Kenny Britt. Here’s to hoping the former Appalachian State star finally realizes his potential in 2014.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.