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Rishard Matthews Fantasy

Deep Sleeper Wide Receivers to Target in 2017

Deep Sleeper Wide Receivers

If you’ve read the first installment of my “Deep Sleepers to Target in 2017” series, which focused on the running back position, you’ll know what to expect below. However, if you’ve missed it, click the link above and check it out. If you don’t have the time right now, here’s a quick review of what you’re going to see in this article, which will feature wide receivers.

In the later rounds of fantasy drafts, you’re likely targeting players who could break out, bounce back, or who have rising upside. We call those players deep sleepers. They could make your fantasy season, especially if one of your studs are duds, or are bitten by the injury bug.

Last season, Chargers WR Tyrell Williams blew up after the team lost Keenan Allen in Week 1 with a torn ACL. He finished 13th in fantasy scoring at his position with 147.90 points and did not hold an ADP. Directly behind him, Titans WR Rishard Matthews finished the year 14th in fantasy scoring amongst wideouts with 146.50 points. At his 13.10 ADP, he was one of the steals of the 2016 fantasy football campaign.

Now, while a player like Williams was not likely selected in 12 team drafts, he could have been taken in deeper league formats. However, for a player like Matthews, who was signed last offseason to be Tennessee’s top wideout, his rapport quickly developed with Marcus Mariota and his production paid off for his fantasy owners in a big way.

With that said, let’s take a look at my wide receivers to target in Rounds 12 and beyond in upcoming fantasy drafts. It could save your life, or at least, your fantasy football season.

Rishard Matthews

Tennessee Titans

Does Matthews deserve more respect than he is receiving this offseason? Absolutely! Last season, Matthews was fantasy gold. Let me reiterate what I mentioned above. In 2016, Matthews held a 13.10 ADP and finished the year 14th in fantasy scoring at his position with 146.50 points. Experts and fantasy owners alike expect to see a drop-off in production. Why? The likely reason is that the Titans made significant changes to their receiving corps this offseason. They selected Corey Davis fifth overall in April’s draft and signed Eric Decker following his June release from the Jets.

Now, I get it, both Davis and Decker could have significant roles on most NFL teams, so it makes sense that Matthews is in line to regress, right? I’m not too sure about that. First, let’s take a look at Davis. Yes, he was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, he is still a rookie who has never taken a professional snap. In fact, since 2014, there were 15 WRs chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, but only five of them finished in the top 30 in fantasy scoring at their position in their rookie campaign.

Wide Receivers Drafted in the First Round Since 2014

2014
Player Draft Slot Fantasy Finish
Sammy Watkins 4th overall WR25
Mike Evans 7th overall WR10
Odell Beckham Jr. 12th overall WR5
Brandin Cooks 20th overall Outside Top 50
Kelvin Benjamin 28th overall WR17
Phillip Dorsett 29th overall Outside Top 50
2015
Player Draft Slot Fantasy Finish
Amari Cooper 4th overall WR24
Kevin White 7th overall Outside Top 50
DeVante Parker 14th overall Outside Top 50
Nelson Agholor 20th overall Outside Top 50
Breshad Perriman 26th overall Outside Top 50
2016
Player Draft Slot Fantasy Finish
Corey Coleman 15th overall Outside Top 50
Will Fuller 21st overall Outside Top 50
Josh Doctson 22nd overall Outside Top 50
Laquon Treadwell 23rd overall Outside Top 50

For Decker, he is a 30-year-old, eight-year veteran in the league, who is coming off offseason hip and shoulder surgeries. Although reports suggest he is fully recovered, a hip injury could become a nuisance moving forward — see Dennis Pitta.

Lost in the fold is Matthews. Not only is he coming off a breakout year of his own, but he also showcased his budding rapport with Marcus Mariota. At his current 12.01 ADP, he is certainly worth a flier, particularly as it’s already shown his upside in head coach Mike Mularkey’s system. I’m targeting Matthews ahead of Sterling Shepard (13.01 ADP) and Kenny Britt (11.01 ADP).

J.J. Nelson

Arizona Cardinals

Of the three players on this list, I believe Nelson has the biggest boom or bust potential. He is coming off of a career year in 2016 in which he caught 34-of-74 targets for 568 yards receiving and six touchdowns while averaging 16.7 YPC. He finished as the WR46 with 105.10 fantasy points through 15 games. However, the bulk of his production occurred in the second half of the year. From Week 8 on, he caught 27 of his 34 receptions, 433 of his 568 yards and all six of his touchdowns. He finished as the WR15 with 88.9 fantasy points and averaged 9.9 FPPG in that nine-game time span.

Entering 2017, Nelson is on track to open the year as the Cardinals’ WR3. He is behind Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on the depth chart. However, just as Fitzgerald is one of the most durable and dependable wideouts in the league, Brown is trending in the opposite direction. Although he’s only missed two career games in three seasons, Brown dealt with a rare sickle cell trait in 2016, which is a blood disorder that affected the circulation in his lower body. It clearly hampered his on-field performance. Presently, Brown is already dealing with a quad injury, and it’s only the start of training camp. Although the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, it is worth noting. If Brown misses any time this year, Nelson would likely be his immediate replacement as the team’s WR2.

Currently sitting without an ADP, a receiver with Nelson’s upside is difficult to turn away. I’m targeting him ahead of Kevin White (13.09 ADP) and Mohamed Sanu (14.07).

Zay Jones

Buffalo Bills

Originally, Robert Woods was included on this list of deep sleepers. However, when this article was being edited and prepped for publishing, the NFL and fantasy football world was shaken up with a pair of blockbuster trades, both of which, included the Buffalo Bills. Simultaneously, both deals were announced. First, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Bills shipped Sammy Watkins and a sixth round pick in 2018 to the Los Angels Rams for CB E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second. Then suddenly, nearly seconds later, Rapoport announced that Buffalo acquired Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round selection from the Philadelphia Eagles for CB Ronald Darby. As a result, Woods will return to the WR2 role with Watkins slated as the clear-cut WR1. As for Woods’ fantasy value, it most certainly took a tremendous hit.

Now, let’s turn our focus to the Bills’ wide receiver corps. Without Watkins, they are left with Zay Jones, Anquan Boldin and the newly acquired Matthews. With Matthews all but a lock to open the year starting in the slot, Jones and Boldin are the favorites to emerge as the starters on the outside. I know I mentioned that first round rookie receivers don’t always pan out, but Jones was Buffalo’s second round pick this year and is entering the best scenario of all rookie wideouts now that Watkins is not longer on the team.

Side Note

  • Since 2014, 10 receivers selected after the first round finished in the top 50 in fantasy scoring at their position, including second rounders, Jordan Matthews (WR24 in ’14) Jarvis Landry (WR49 in ’14), Michael Thomas (WR9 in ’16), Sterling Shepard (WR37 in ’16).

Jones could ultimately end up as the Buffalo’s WR1 by midseason as Boldin, the projected No. 1, is 36-years-old and his age could begin to slow him down as the year progresses. Landing a potential WR1 around the 12th round is too much value to pass up, especially on a team clearly building for the future and is attempting to revamp their passing attack. Currently sitting with a 12.11 ADP, Jones is a prime low-risk/ high-reward option in upcoming fantasy drafts. I’m targeting Jones ahead of Mike Wallace (11.12 ADP) and fellow rookie John Ross (12.01 ADP).

I hope you enjoyed the second installation of my deep sleeper series. Stay tuned for part three, which will cover tight ends.

Anthony Cervino

Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don't hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.

1 comment

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  • In this matter, I can say that Demarcus Robinson out of KC, there is an opportunity for him to come out and succeed this year. With the loss of Maclin we are about to find out what the score is all about. I I think he’ll have sufficient talent to be a starter but I don’t think he can carry the offense on his shoulders. Robinson could step in and have an impact this year. I know they have conely, but I believe in Robinsons skill set enough to see him get time on the field, although probably not as a wr1

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