There is now no doubt that the NFL is a pass-first league. Need proof?
How many fantasy owners predicted Pierre Garcon, Tyrell Williams, Mike Wallace and Kenny Britt would all break the 1,000-yard barrier this past year? It is possible that none of the foursome were drafted in many, if not most fantasy leagues in 2016. So, do not sleep on sleepers at wide receiver heading into the 2017 campaign. Chances are with all the passes being thrown that there will be more pass-catchers who gain 1,000 yards that you never would imagined could do it.
Here are the early 2017 sleepers at wide receiver.
Early Fantasy Football Sleepers: WR
Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns
Coleman started the 2016 season hotter than the sun. He had 173 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns over his first two games and was easily Cleveland’s No. 1 option in its passing attack. Fantasy owners thought they had struck fantasy gold by taking Coleman as a mid-to-late round pick in their drafts.
Coleman was riding high like a world-champion surfer when he broke his hand during a practice and was sidelined for six games (somewhere, Allen Iverson is shaking his head). When Coleman returned the whole landscape of the Browns offense had changed. Terrelle Pryor was suddenly the top target of Cleveland’s rotating group of mediocre quarterbacks, and Coleman could never regain the momentum he had during the first month of the season. He only scored one more touchdown the rest of the way and never had as much as a 50-yard-game in any of his final eight contests.
Fantasy owners and Coleman himself can only hope that Cleveland’s quarterback problem gets solved this offseason, and by solved I don’t mean making Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan the starting signal caller. Coleman may be forgotten during some drafts because his 33 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns did not do fantasy owners any favors, but if a solid QB comes to Cleveland who can get him the ball then Coleman could surprise people with a 1,000-yard year.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins
Don’t remember Doctson doing much in 2016? That’s because he all he did was catch two passes and then ice his injured Achilles the rest of the season. He helped fantasy football owners as much as Ben Simmons has helped fantasy basketball owners this season.
Doctson appears to have no choice but to make an impact in 2017. Veteran wideouts DeSean Jackson and the aforementioned Garcon are free agents and will probably not re-sign with Washington, so all that leaves quarterback Kirk Cousins with is injury-prone Jordan Reed and slot receiver Jamison Crowder in the pass-catching department. Unless the Redskins acquire other receivers via free agency, trades or the draft, Doctson is lining up to be a starting wideout for them.
Doctson will likely be available in the late rounds of fantasy drafts due to his dubious history with Achilles injuries. But if Doctson can stay healthy and be a starting WR in Washington’s pass-friendly offense, he can quickly remind people why the Redskins drafted him in the first round last year. Keep an eye on him during the offseason and training camp to see where he is at health-wise and where he is listed on the depth chart and pencil him in your “secret sleeper” section of your cheat sheet.
Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Wallace, Britt and Garcon were all in the category of “veterans on the downhill” when they shocked fantasy owners with their 1,000-yard seasons this past year. I can see Smith being the next veteran with a fantasy value on a sliding scale bouncing back big time in 2017.
What is Smith, or any receiver for that matter, supposed to do when Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick are the quarterbacks? It is like asking a contractor to build a house with just 40 dollars and a hammer. Give Jerry Rice in his prime Gabbert and Kaepernick instead of Joe Montana and Steve Young and Rice might have gone from Hall of Famer to a decent receiver who averaged 900 yards per year.
Smith was a durable deep threat who posted an 11-TD year in 2014 and averaged 900 yards per season over his four-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens. He is only 28 years old and has not suffered many injuries during his career, so there should be plenty of spring left in his legs. If Smith becomes a salary cap casualty or is traded in the offseason and hooks up with a better passing attack, he can surely be a fantasy sleeper. He could also be a sleeper if new coach Kyle Shanahan ditches the run-first offense, along with the two sub-par QBs, and gives Smith the opportunity to do what he does best --- make big plays downfield.
Check out RotoBaller's famous 2017 fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!