What makes a fantasy football team come out on top? Well, having the best roster helps. Sure, there is some luck that goes into that — as well as good timing — but only one owner in your league would have been fortunate enough to have added a Riley Cooper or a Marvin Jones before their breakout years last season. Those types of players don’t just fall from the waiver wire tree. The best way to map out a favorable outcome for your team by season’s end is to do your scouting now. This way, when draft day comes, you’re not caught off guard.
This year’s NFL Draft featured a plethora of talent from the wide receiver position. While guys like Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, and Brandin Cooks should be snatched up pretty quickly in redraft leagues, there are other guys worth targeting in later rounds and in dynasty formats.
I’ve already covered the top sleepers at the quarterback and running back positions, and today I’ll highlight a few of the rookie receivers I feel are ready to make an impact in the fantasy football world. Who knows, you may have the next Cooper or Jones on your hands.
(Players aren’t listed in any specific order; college attended in parentheses)
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers (Florida State): With just 28 college games under his belt, Kelvin Benjamin will surely be a project, but he’s found himself in a spot where he can learn on the job.
The Panthers made a splash last season, going 12-4, but ultimately falling to the Niners in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. In 2014, they’ll return a solid, if not spectacular, defense, but things are gonna get real sticky on the offensive side of the ball. Gone are WRs Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Tedd Ginn, and replacing them are Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood and Jerricho Cotchery (as well as some other no-name types). Underwood and Cotchery had decent seasons last year, but with those three averaging 29.6 years of age, QB Cam Newton will need some fresh legs — and that’s where Benjamin steps in.
Last year at FSU, Benjamin caught 54 balls for 1,011 yards and 15 TD. Newton had offseason ankle surgery and will need a large, athletic target to make things easier in the early going. With an 83-inch wingspan, Benjamin should provide that. Experience and focus could be an issue with Benjamin during his rookie season, but either way, he should still be afforded plenty of targets. After all, the Panthers can’t run the ball with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert every down. Target him early on in dynasty leagues and in the later rounds of redraft leagues.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers (Clemson): Playing on the same side of the ball as DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins led to rather pedestrian numbers for the former Clemson wideout, but Pittsburgh may have the “steal” of the draft in Martavis Bryant.
Blessed with incredible size, the 6-foot-4, 211 pound burner (4.42 40-yard dash) has found himself a nice home with the Steelers. Antonio Brown is the stud in Steel City, and Lance Moore was brought in to replace Emmanuel Sanders’ production, but the No. 3 wideout spot is up for grabs, and Bryant could find himself in the starting lineup come Opening Day. He’ll compete with second-year pro Markus Wheaton, who failed to develop any sort of role with the team last year. Ben Roethlisberger’s 584 passing attempts were ninth-most in the NFL in 2013 and it’s very likely Bryant could be on the receiving end of many of those this year. He’s got huge potential in dynasty leagues and is also worth a late-round upside pick in redraft leagues.
Other WR sleepers to keep an eye on: Donte Moncrief - Colts (Ole Miss), Jarvis Landry - Dolphins (LSU), Shaq Evans - Jets (UCLA), Jordan Matthews - Eagles (Vanderbilt), John Brown - Cardinals (Pittsburg St.), Robert Herron - Buccaneers (Wyoming), Allen Robinson - Jaguars (Penn St.), Davante Adams - Packers (Fresno St.), Cody Latimer - Broncos (Indiana)
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