Looking for sleepers for fantasy football isn’t about finding players nobody has heard about, because that isn’t happening. When we talk about sleepers, we’re highlighting players who should outplay their average draft position. Instead of the term “sleeper,” we can replace it with “value” and still be on the right track.
Sleeper wide receivers are plentiful, because finding a starting receiver for cheap is easy. The trouble is, unlike at running back, a starter at wide receiver doesn’t always equal targets and production. There are plenty of third wide receivers on more conservative offenses that barely are a blip on the fantasy radar. But there are values out there with good upside.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
Update Aug 29: Head coach Adam Gase discussed the Jets’ injuries at receiver and said it isn’t a problem for quarterback Sam Darnold. More importantly, he talked about Crowder and Chris Herndon as the two crunch-time receivers that have shown up most.
Update Aug 17: Crowder is “very clearly the best wide receiver” on the Jets roster, per reporter Charles McDonald. even if the Jets aren’t good, he’s going to be a busy option in the slot, only boosting his value — particularly in PPR leagues.
The Jets aren’t high on my list for offensive players to target but Crowder is the exception at his ADP. Crowder’s competition for targets is good, with Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims now on the team, but Crowder has the trust of Sam Darnold and knows the offense. Crowder, when Darnold was healthy, averaged over five receptions per game. I’ll take that at his ADP of 48th receiver.
Update Sept 4: Shepard is emerging as the Giants’ best wideout and has looked dominant at camp, according to the Athletic’s Dan Duggan. If he can remain healthy, he has a good chance to lead New York’s receiving corps.
Update Aug 17: TE Evan Engram avoided the PUP list and his position coach is excited about the rehab work he did to get ready, per reporter Kim Jones. Shepard remains a strong option, but if Engram can stay healthy, that would eat into his targets to some degree.
Shepard dealt with injuries last season which kept him out for six games, but he averaged 5.7 receptions per game with a rookie quarterback at the helm. He should remain the lead target on a team that should be at least slightly better this season with an upgrade at offensive line.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Update Sept 4: Samuel has been outplayed by Anderson and Moore in padded practices, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Alexander. It could take some time for him to recover from his injury, but he’s looked a step slower so far.
Update August 27: Samuel has been limited in practice because of a hamstring injury, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious.
Update Aug 17: There is a belief the Panthers will work to use Samuel out wide this season. His ability to work in space could give him an edge over Robby Anderson in competing for looks after D.J. Moore.
Samuel was a sleeper last season and he kept sleeping for the entire season. The biggest reason for his trouble was getting only 67 percent of his targets were actually on target while he was mainly asked to run deep routes. Kyle Allen was awful as well as the play calling. This season he’ll get a more accurate Teddy Bridgewater and a better offensive coordinator in Joe Brady. I expect a better season from Samuel at a much better ADP than last year.
Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams
Update Sept 4: Jefferson appears to have moved past Reynolds on the depth chart, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. There’s a good chance wide receivers not named Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods culd be flipped moving forward, but a rookie could find himself as the third option in Week 1.
Update August 27: Reynolds has established himself as the frontrunner for the WR3 spot and has outperformed Van Jefferson so far. If he keeps it up.
The Rams traded away Brandin Cooks, leaving a spot available for Reynolds to start in 2020. They did also grab Van Jefferson in the draft, so Reynolds will have competition. The good news is that he should have the inside scoop on the job and is in an offense that can support three fantasy receivers when running well.
Jalen Hurd, San Francisco 49ers
Update August 27: Hurt is out for the season with a torn ACL. Brandon Aiyuk could rise up the ranks in the receiving corps with this development.
Update Aug 17: Hurd has suffered what is believed to be a major knee injury that is feared to be a torn ACL, according to NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo. If this is the case, he will be done for the year.
Hurd showed well in training camp and preseason before going down with a season-ending injury. The 49ers wide receiver depth chart is wide open and Hurd is a player who fits well in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. He’s practically free in drafts at the moment and if he can stay healthy, he should see touches as a running back as well as big slot receiver in a powerful offense.