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Five Very Deep Wide Receiver Sleepers


Sleepers sleepers sleepers sleepers. With fantasy football season in full swing, I know you're already tired of the word "sleeper," especially when people will basically use the word for any player. "Yes, dude in my fantasy league, please tell me more about your big sleeper pick for this year, Saquon Barkley."

Clearly, there's a need to talk about sleepers, but so often everyone in fantasy football land will talk about the same sleepers for such a long time that they wind up skyrocketing up draft boards and becoming not-sleepers. Not-sleepers don't help anyone. They can end up being a negative value. Have you seen how high Daesean Hamilton's gone in some drafts???

Well, I'm here to dig really, really deep into the bottom of NFL depth charts to give you my very deep sleepers for this year. Today, I'll be digging into the wide receiver position. Let's talk about five guys who might not be on your radar at all yet, but who should be. All of these players fall outside the top-300 in FantasyPros' ADP average. As such, you shouldn't necessarily be targeting them in drafts, but you should keep an eye on them.

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Chris Conley - Jacksonville Jaguars

Marqise Lee is still not practicing at Jaguars' training camp. That leaves the team with a top-three receiving group of Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, and Chris Conley. Keelan Cole seems to be a pretty distant fourth of the healthy guys. Terrelle Pryor's going to be cut unless Lee starts the year on the PUP list.

If Westbrook -- who'll play primarily out of the slot -- is going to be the team's most targeted receiver, the battle to be the second-most targeted receiver is wide open. Lee's got the edge on talent, but his recovery from a preseason ACL tear last season has been extremely slow and there's a good chance that he doesn't end playing much of a role this year.

Meanwhile, Conley and Chark have both had strong training camps and the fight for which one ends up playing more snaps looks to be going down to the wire. But last year we saw Chark struggle to adapt to the NFL and in particular struggle in the red zone, where he failed to bring in all three of his targets. Conley brought in seven of his 10 red-zone targets last year, totaling 48 yards and five touchdowns. So, there's reason one why I see Conley getting that spot.

Another is that both Conley and Chark have similar athletic profiles. Both have 98th percentile 40-yard dash times and can be used as deep-ball threats for new quarterback Nick Foles. To me, that suggests that if athleticism is virtually equal, you go with the receiver that you can trust more. Conley's that guy. He's a more reliable target for Foles, someone who you can trust to make tougher catches than Chark can.

Conley was 54th among wide receivers last year in fantasy points per target with 1.76. Chark wasn't targeted enough to qualify for a percentile rank, but he had just 0.92 fantasy points per target. Chark's catch rate of 43.8 percent is just incredibly discouraging. Maybe his training camp showing is indicative of a leap in his game, but I'm more willing to believe that Conley establishes himself as the team's second outside receiver once Lee is back.

 

Justin Watson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It was actually a toss-up for me here with Watson and teammate Scott Miller, but I ultimately settled on Watson as my Buccaneers' deep sleeper, as he's farther ahead right now and more likely to see meaningful snaps this season.

Watson seems to be the leader for the slot receiver job that was vacated when Adam Humphries went to Tennessee. Humphries had 600 or more receiving yards in each of his final three seasons with the Bucs, and last season he broke out as a viable PPR flex option, catching 76 passes for 816 yards and five scores.

I admittedly don't know a ton about Watson. In 12 games last year, he was targeted three times, catching one pass for five yards. He never played more than 15 percent of Tampa Bay's offensive snaps in a game.

But playing time in an offense that should rely heavily on the passing game is a fantasy-relevant skill, and Watson also has some encouraging workout metrics to go along with that playing time. He has an 87th percentile speed score and 88th percentile burst score. Oh, and he has a 92nd percentile catch radius.

Watson had three consecutive 1000-yard seasons at Penn, and in his final year, he hauled in 14 touchdowns. It's difficult to know how that translates to the NFL since he was playing against FCS competition, but there's a lot of encouraging signs that he should perform well if pressed into a larger role.

 

Emmanuel Butler - New Orleans Saints

It seems like every other report I hear about Saints camp includes the phrase "Emmanuel Butler impressing coaches."

The undrafted rookie out of Northern Arizona has spent camp staking a claim for snaps on a Saints offense that should remain one of the NFL's strongest.

Butler can provide Drew Brees with a big target and while there have been concerns about Butler's speed, the Saints don't need him to be a burner, as they have Ted Ginn Jr. for that.

With Cameron Meredith just released, the path for Butler to make this team gets easier. New Orleans has a need for someone with a similar build to Michael Thomas for red-zone plays, a guy who can go up and get jump-balls from Brees. And as Brees ages, the Saints have less need for someone who can outrun coverage and more need for a sure-handed, big target.

Butler has a chance to start the year as New Orleans' fourth receiver. Once he's there, anything can happen. Remember Keith Kirkwood and Tommylee Lewis having some strong games last year?

 

Vyncint Smith - Houston Texans

Death. Taxes. At least one Houston Texans wide receiver going down with a season-long injury. These are the guarantees in life. Already we are seeing concerns surrounding Keke Coutee

Houston's got an impressive top-three at wideout, with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Coutee making up what's arguably one of the strongest top-threes in the NFL. And then there's...well, not much. Houston has a bunch of guys who are literally just guys. Vyncint Smith's the most likely of those to make an impact this year.

Smith has had a good training camp and has solidified his spot as the team's fourth receiver. When you consider that both Fuller and Coutee were injured for parts of last season and that Fuller's got a pretty significant injury history, you can assume there's a decent chance we see Smith on the field for significant action at some point this year.

Smith played in five games for the Texans last year, seeing a 50 percent or better snap rate in just of them. He played 41 snaps against the Giants and caught one pass, and in the regular seaosn finale against the Jaguars appeared on 84.4 percent of Houston's offensive plays. Smith caught three passes for 28 yards in that one.

But the biggest reason that I think Smith has what it takes to be a key cog in this offense if someone goes down? This touchdown against the Eagles:

Smith did a good job getting deep on this one and made an incredibly acrobatic catch for the score. If Fuller misses time, Smith's shown flashes of being able to step into an outside, deep-ball role. He's spent training camp running sharp routes and looking like someone who needs to be on the field more. If Smith gets a shot, he'll be productive for owners in deeper leagues.

 

Cameron Meredith - New England Patriots

I was ready to give up on Cameron Meredith. I had, in fact, as I'd dropped him in a dynasty league after the Saints cut him. He was a banged up, sorta-veteran wideout who was team-less during training camps. Where was he going to find a home?

Well, I forgot that the New England Patriots have the NFL equivalent of a YouTube comment section at receiver right now: just a bunch of anonymous guys who you'd be best off ignoring. When New England signed Meredith, I instantly regretted dropping him.

Unlike the rest of the players in this article, Meredith has shown actual, sustained NFL-level production before. In 2016 with the Bears, Meredith caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four scores. I was READY for the 2017 full break out that was definitely coming. And then Meredith got hurt and missed all of 2017. Then he ended up leaving Chicago for New Orleans.

I then got ready for him to burst out of the gate last year, but injuries slowed him again. He caught just nine passes in six games with New Orleans.

So, what's different in New England? Opportunity.

The Patriots currently have the following wide receivers on their roster: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Damoun Patterson, Dontrelle Inman, Braxton Berrios, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater, Danny Etling, and Demaryius Thomas.

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are your locks to make the team. Thomas might have hit a point where he's too hobbled by injury to make the team. Meyers has been exciting in training camp and to open preseason. Inman's a not exciting veteran. I liked Berrios a few years ago. Danny Etling literally converted to wide receiver from quarterback at the start of camp because of how wide open this competition is. I can't think of anything to say about anyone else.

The point is, if Meredith can be ready to go by Week 1, he stands a good chance of making this team. Once he's there, there's not really a set pecking order behind Edelman. Harry has struggled in camp, so the Patriots could view Meredith as a reliable option on the outside who can help them win games.

More ADP Values and Sleepers


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!