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Wide Receiver Sleepers for 2023 Fantasy Football Drafts - Rashee Rice, Van Jefferson, Isaiah Hodgins, Jonathan Mingo, more

Skyy Moore - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Fantasy football managers are often bombarded with buzzwords such as "breakout," "sleeper," and "bust." But do we truly understand the meaning behind these terms? If you were to ask five fantasy football analysts, there's a good chance you would receive five different answers.

We’ll be defining a sleeper as a player who is drafted in the double-digit rounds but possesses the potential to become a starter. To meet this criteria, the player should be ranked in the top 36 for wide receivers. This potential must be inherent to the player's current form and not a result of an injury to a starter.

In this article, we will identify nine wide receiver sleepers who fantasy managers can draft as late as Round 10 or even pick up from the waiver wire. These players have genuine starting potential for the upcoming season. Now, let's delve into the details. Don't forget to use the promo code "BOOM" for a 10% discount on any premium purchase.

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Jonathan Mingo, Carolina Panthers

WR67, Underdog ADP of 152.3

It’s surprising that Jonathan Mingo’s average draft position (ADP) has remained so low, considering the potential he brings to Carolina's offense. Let's address a serious question: Are any of the players the Panthers signed such as Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, and Hayden Hurst actually good?

Although Thielen ranked 28th among receivers last season with 103 targets, he only managed to accumulate 716 yards, which was 45th. Among the 53 receivers with at least 75 targets, Thielen received the ninth-worst receiving grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF). He had the fourth-lowest yards after catch (YAC) and the second-worst average yards per route run (YPRR). To put it bluntly, Thielen's performance has declined.

Chark falls into a similar category. However, there are legitimate doubts about whether he was ever truly good. He had an impressive season in 2019, finishing with 118 targets, 73 receptions, 1,008 yards, and eight touchdowns in 15 games. In his other 39 games, he accumulated 199 targets, 104 receptions, 1,536 yards, and 10 touchdowns. His averages per game, excluding the 2019 season, amount to 5.1 targets, 2.6 receptions, and 39 yards. Over a 17-game season, that would equal 87 targets, 44 receptions, and 663 yards.

Last season, Chark signed a one-year deal with the Lions and appeared in 11 games. He finished with 52 targets, 30 receptions, 502 yards, and three touchdowns. He had an average of 1.55 YPRR, which is consistent with his three-year average of 1.50 YPRR. However, his Reception Perception from last season paints a negative picture.

These two players, Thielen and Chark, are the only ones standing in Mingo's path to becoming the Panthers' top receiver. With the lack of competition for targets, it's difficult to understand why drafters aren't more excited about his potential for the 2023 season.

Mingo ranked 17th in broken and missed tackles per reception in 2022. He also ranked eighth in yards after contact per reception, with an average of 7.5 yards. While Ole Miss had Mingo in the slot for only 39% of his snaps, that seems to be his ideal position in the NFL.

His agility and size could pose significant problems for defenses. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to break tackles and gain YAC. If he's given regular opportunities to utilize these skills, Mingo has the potential to become a legitimate top-30 receiver in the second half of the season.

 

Skyy Moore & Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs

WR44 & WR60, Underdog ADPs of 89.4 & 135.5, respectively

For a long time fantasy managers were treating this receiver group as if was a given that Kadarius Toney was the best among them and locked into the WR1 position. Currently, he's being drafted as WR49 and is now being selected just slightly behind Moore. However, Toney hasn't done much to warrant such confidence.

In Toney's rookie season with the Giants, he played 10 games and finished with 57 targets, 39 receptions, and 420 yards. In his second season, he only played nine games before being traded to the Chiefs mid-season. With Kansas City, he tallied 17 targets, 14 receptions, and 171 yards in seven games.

While Toney certainly has potential, it wouldn't be surprising if, by the end of the 2023 season, either Moore or Rice emerges as the Chiefs' WR1. Considering the level of confidence reflected in their ADPs, one should exercise caution when placing bets on Toney.

Many perceive Moore's rookie season as highly disappointing, but the reality is that it wasn't as bad as it appears on paper. In his 2022 NFL profile, Matt Harmon of Reception Perception shared this perspective on Moore:

“Moore took 40% of his snaps from the slot, was in the backfield (mostly for pre-snap motion) on 7.7% and was outside for 52.3%. He was off the line for 42.3% of his sampled snaps and was on the line for 57.7%. The Chiefs essentially had him learning slot, flanker and even X-receiver while trying a little bit of everything as a rookie. That’s what I mean by putting a lot on his plate during what was essentially a developmental campaign.

When you put in context how much he was learning during that level jump to Reid’s offense, it’s pretty impressive Moore turned in a 68.5% success rate vs. man and near 79% success rate vs. zone. Those scores hover near the 50th percentile. Not nearly as disastrous as you’d think given the lack of production and playing time.”

If fantasy managers are willing to give Toney the benefit of the doubt regarding his first two seasons, the same consideration should be given to Moore. In hindsight, it was always going to be a challenge for Moore to produce in his rookie year with veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman on the roster. Harmon believes it won't be surprising if Moore finishes as the Chiefs' WR2 in his sophomore season.

“I still have plenty of faith in Skyy Moore to be a quality NFL player. He never really had the full profile of a No. 1 receiver and his rookie season RP doesn’t hint at that future. However, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he’s an underneath, slot-heavy volume sponge and could end up as the Chiefs’ second-most productive pass-catcher after Travis Kelce in 2023.”

Rice had an exceptional senior season for SMU, recording 157 targets, 96 receptions, 1,355 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He commanded a 30.6% target share and essentially served as SMU's primary passing option. Additionally, Rice is a larger receiver compared to both Toney and Moore.

Considering the unknown factors of the target distribution, roles, and playing time among these three players, it seems premature to dismiss Moore and Rice. Either player could find themselves in a role similar to what Smith-Schuster played last season, providing fantasy managers with a viable WR3 option.

 

Nico Collins & John Metchie III, Houston Texans

WR55 & WR81, Underdog ADPs of 118.3 & 194.6, respectively 

The Houston Texans' group of pass-catchers is being largely overlooked by fantasy managers this offseason. The group is perceived as lacking significant talent and likely to employ a committee-based approach, which is unfavorable for fantasy football. Nonetheless, fantasy managers should keep an eye on Nico Collins and John Metchie.

Collins played in 10 games last year. In one game, he left early due to injury, resulting in him playing under 50% of the snaps. In the other nine games, he averaged seven targets (33rd among WRs), 3.8 receptions (48th), 49.8 receiving yards (50th), and 80.2 air yards (25th) per game. He recorded a 20.4% target share (36th-highest among WRs) and a 25% target per route run (tied for 20th). Additionally, he had an average of 1.79 YPRR, ranking 37th.

These numbers may not be mind-blowing but consider this: according to PlayerProfiler, only 50% of his targets were deemed catchable, ranking 99th among WRs. Rookie C.J. Stroud could significantly improve that aspect. Just using his per-game averages from last season, Collins was on pace for 119 targets, 65 receptions, 847 yards, and a modest four touchdowns.

This results in an 8.3 half-PPR average. While not exceptional, it would be a solid return on an 11th-round pick. Now, imagine if Collins' efficiency increases with Stroud at quarterback. What if it improves by a decent amount?

In his final four games of the season, Collins accumulated 36 targets, 19 receptions, 176 yards, and two touchdowns, putting him on par with Brandin Cooks. Collins should be considered the frontrunner for the Texans' WR1 role after coming off a sophomore season where he made significant progress. Could that progress continue in his third year with a better quarterback and coaching staff? He's one of my favorite sleeper receivers this season.

However, we must acknowledge that we don't know everything. There is a possibility that Collins may not be the guy, in which case Metchie becomes an excellent pivot option who can be drafted in the 16th round.

Metchie was a second-round pick and an early declare, both positive indicators for receiver success in the NFL. He had impressive numbers over his last two years in college: 212 targets, 151 receptions, 2,058 yards, and 14 touchdowns. In his final season, he commanded a 23.2% target share.

Although Metchie didn't play last season due to a lymphoma diagnosis, he has the highest draft capital among the receivers in Houston who are under 30 years old (sorry Robert Woods). He possesses an excellent prospect profile and checks many boxes.

It's a tall order to expect him to become a fantasy starter in his first year playing in the NFL after overcoming cancer and a college ACL injury. However, the depth chart in Houston provides him with an excellent opportunity. He's worth a late-round dart throw due to the available opportunity and lack of established competition.

 

Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams

WR62, Underdog ADP of 140.3

When the Rams traded Allen Robinson II to the Steelers, it essentially promoted Van Jefferson to a starting role in the Rams' offense. Jefferson faced injury challenges in 2022, playing in only 11 games during the past season. He played on 60% or more of the snaps in just eight of those games.

As a result, we need to approach his final stat line with caution. In those eight games, Jefferson averaged 4.5 targets, 2.6 receptions, 42.8 yards, and 67.2 air yards per game. It's worth noting that Matthew Stafford started at quarterback in just one of those games.

In 2021, when Jefferson was last fully healthy with Stafford at quarterback, he ended the season with 89 targets, 50 receptions, 802 yards, and six touchdowns. He achieved these numbers despite being overshadowed by Cooper Kupp, who had arguably one of the greatest receiver seasons of all time, and playing behind both Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr.

Jefferson may not be a high-volume target receiver, but his average depth of target (aDOT) over the past two years has been 13.3 yards (13th among WRs in 2021) and 15.6 yards (first among WRs in 2022). These targets are often boom or bust in nature. However, if Stafford and Jefferson can connect on their opportunities and Jefferson operates as the Rams' WR2, it's not far-fetched to think that he can build upon his 2021 campaign.

 

Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals

WR66, Underdog ADP of 148.5

Since DeAndre Hopkins was released, Rondale Moore's ADP has been steadily climbing, and it's likely to continue doing so. However, it's unlikely to reach a point where he becomes a receiver fantasy managers shouldn't be targeting.

Moore's 2022 season mostly went unnoticed due to Marquise Brown's hot start, Greg Dortch's impressive performances filling in for Moore, and Hopkins' dominance upon his return. However, Moore was very good in his own right!

During this time, Moore played behind Brown and Zach Ertz, and later behind Hopkins and Ertz. Regardless, fantasy managers can clearly see the fantasy value Moore holds in any PPR scoring league.

Over a seven-game stretch, Moore had weekly finishes of WR83, WR31, WR39, WR70, WR7, WR21, and WR18 in half-PPR scoring. In four out of seven weeks, he provided WR3 or better value. His production would be even better in full PPR.

Fantasy managers may have concerns about Kyler Murray not being available early in the season, but it shouldn't scare you away. The Arizona defense allowed the second-most points last season, ensuring a high passing volume. Not only that, but Murray averaged 6.9 intended air yards per attempt, while Colt McCoy was at just 6.1. McCoy's reluctance to throw down the field will keep Moore involved even with Murray sidelined. The former Boilermaker has clear WR3 potential this season.

 

Isaiah Hodgins & Darius Slayton, New York Giants

WR74 & WR83, Underdog ADPs of 166.7 & 197.6, respectively 

It's hard to believe that both of these players are so cheap considering how well they played last season. Fantasy managers can draft Isaiah Hodgins in the 16th round, while Darius Slayton is available in the 18th round. The Giants traded for Darren Waller, who is expected to become Daniel Jones’ top target, pushing both Slayton and Hodgins down the depth chart.

However, the rest of their offseason additions are just average players. Moreover, none of them are true outside receivers like Slayton and Hodgins, which ensures their roles and playing time will remain secure.

Player TS % TPG RPG RYPG AYPG aDot YPRR TPRR
D, Slayton 19.6% 6.2 3.6 54.3 72.9 12.3 1.60 18%
I, Hodgins 18.2% 5.8 4.4 46.4 50.7 9.0 1.45 18%
17-Game Pace (Slayton) 19.6% 105.4 61.2 923.1 1,239.3 12.3 1.60 18%
17-Game Pace (Hodgins) 18.2% 98.6 74.8 788.8 861.9 9.0 1.45 18%

The table above displays statistics from Weeks 11 to 20. Week 11 was the first week Hodgins played more than 50% of the snaps with the Giants. As you can see from their 17-game pace stats, both players offer excellent value in the 15th and 17th rounds, even with the addition of Waller.

From Weeks 4 to 17 where Slayton played 50% or more of the snaps, he finished as a top-24 WR five times and WR33 once. From Weeks 11 to 17, Hodgins had four games where he finished as a top-24 WR. The best part is both of them are free.

While it's easy to assume that the addition of Waller and others will diminish the value of Slayton and Hodgins, we should also anticipate more passing volume and a more effective passing attack in 2023. This will be the second year under Brian Daboll, and fantasy managers should expect further improvement.

Last season, the Giants attempted just 30.5 passes per game, ranking 25th in the NFL. With the talent upgrade among the team's pass-catchers, we can anticipate an increase in pass attempts in 2023, which will help offset the additional volume Waller will receive.

If the Giants' offense and Daniel Jones take another step forward this season as they did in 2022, and either Slayton or Hodgins separates themselves from the other receivers, either one of them could reach WR3 territory. This possibility makes both players extremely attractive sleeper picks in the late rounds of your fantasy drafts.

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