Top-5 Wide Receiver Sleepers (ADP 120+) | 2017 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano August 23, 2017

Top-5 Wide Receiver Sleepers (ADP 120+) | 2017 Fantasy Football

Rishard Matthews (TEN) - OVR124 WR51

  • When given the opportunity, Rishard Matthews (6-0, 210) has more than made the most of it. Dating back to 2015 with the Miami Dolphins, in games where Matthews has seen five targets or more, he had at least 85 receiving yards and/or a touchdown in 12-of-16 games, averaging over five receptions, 73 receiving yards and 0.56 touchdowns per game. Prorate that to a full 16 games and you have an 82-1,173-9 line, which would have him at WR7 in STD and WR8 in PPR. It's not outlandish considering he finished as WR11 in standard leagues in 2016 while the Titans were one of the least pass-heavy teams in the NFL.
  • They did go out and grab Corey Davis with the 6th overall pick and Eric Decker through free agency, but Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright and their 126 targets are gone as well. Decker, new to the team, is working primarily in the slot as he gets acclimated to the offense, while Corey Davis, who was recovering from offseason ankle surgery, has been sidelined for the team's first two preseason games with a strained hamstring and remains week-to-week, a huge developmental blow to a rookie. As it stands, Matthews is the most concrete thing the Titans have as an outside receiver. It's still unclear how they will lineup when the regular season comes around, as Davis was working as the starting X receiver on the outside. Decker should line up in the slot on 3WR sets, while Decker and Matthews splits snaps opposite Davis in 2WR sets. Losing a great blocking TE in Anthony Fasano will undoubtedly force the Titans to utilize more 3WR sets this year which makes sense given the plethora of talent on the outside. Matthews only needs a small number of looks to turn them into WR3 numbers. It makes no sense that an injured rookie in Davis is being taken 25 picks before Matthews.

Zay Jones (BUF) - OVR148 WR58

  • In the aftermath of Buffalo's roster madness this offseason, the Bills 2nd-round draft pick finds himself in an extremely favorable situation for opportunity. Trading Sammy Watkins to the Rams suggests the offense will be more tailored for short throws, a style of play that pushed Zay Jones to set the mark for most receptions in a single FBS season in 2016 with 158, on 164 targets. Now who else does Buffalo have? Watkins is gone. Anquan Boldin retired after realizing he doesn't want to spend his final year in Buffalo. And newcomer Jordan Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum about 14 seconds into his first practice. Matthews isn't near ready to return and is questionable for their Week 1 game despite him guaranteeing to be ready. He literally said he's in a ton of pain when he "moves his arms"... good thing you don't have to move your arms too much as a wide receiver. Simply put, the rookie Zay should get all the opportunity he can handle right now. With good size (6-2, 200) and great measurables (as seen below), the rookie could be a major PPR play in 2017. It's hard to project Jones for more than handful of touchdowns, but it's very possible he leads the team in targets and receptions. 
Zay Jones 40 yard dash
 

Robby Anderson (NYJ) - OVR163 WR62

  • Thrust into the WR1 role for the Gang Green after Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker's departure and Quincy Enunwa's, Robby "Spaghetti" Anderson as I like to call him is likely a third or fourth string wideout on most teams, but the Jets aren't most teams. Reports about Anderson have been all over the place this summer, from not being a roster lock to balling out in the Jets first preseason game with 3-71 line including a nice catch on a deep ball delivered by Josh McCown. It's a good sign as McCown is likely to be the starting QB in New York. If not, Anderson and Bryce Petty had a solid back-up connection late in 2016. In the four games Petty was New York's QB last season, Pasta boy averaged 4.25 catches on nearly 9 targets, 77 receiving yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game.
  • I call him spaghetti because he's 6-foot-3, and weighs about 185 pounds, thus last night's special at the Bada Bing. Randerson's got great speed (4.41) and excels down the field, posting an 85.71% success rate on contested catches in 2016. Among 86 qualified WRs in 2016, Anderson had the highest average depth of target (17.0) and had an impressive 14.0 yard per reception mark. As the unquestioned number one in the offense, Anderson is a lock to see 100+ targets with a high percentage of them being down the field. A 60/900/4-5 statline wouldn't surprise me after he posted an impressive 42/587/2 line in 2016 despite being the Jets 5th option in the passing game. Tied for the lowest win total (4.5) over/under in the NFL, pass attempts will be plentiful for Gang Green in 2017.

Paul Richardson (SEA) - OVR211 WR77

  • Ridiculously talented, Paul Richardson will finally get his chance to prove it. He's finally playing over the extra medium Jermaine Kearse. In the Hawks first preseason game, Richardson made an incredible diving catch, something we've become accustom to, but suffered a very minor AC joint sprain in his shoulder. He's already back at Seahawks practice. He's been running as WR2 but will probably be pushed back to WR3 duties once Tyler Lockett is in full-go mode.
  • Richardson, (6-0, 183), has elite 4.40 speed and is incredible and soaring up and making contested catches, regularly finding himself on the Sportscenter top-10 rundown, especially at the end of 2016. Over the last four games of 2016, including playoffs, Richardson caught 15 passes for 213 yards and scored twice. This will be Richardson's 4th year with the Seahawks but he's just 25 years old, so he's still yet to hit his prime and should know the playbook better than White Goodman knows the dictionary. With a fully healthy Russell Wilson, in an offense in which we've seen passing attempt volume rise in five consecutive seasons. It's likely Richardson only starts in 3WR sets, but I'd argue he's the most equipped of the Seahawks wideouts to play outside. I like Richard to finish as a WR3 by year's end.
 

Allen Hurns (JAX) - OVR204 WR76

  • The emergence of Marqise Lee as the second option in this passing game had scared me away from Hurns a bit, even as the 200th pick, but Lee suffered a high ankle sprain last week. He's slated to be out for 4-6 weeks, but high ankle sprains can linger long past that timetable. Check out the splits for Hurns with and without Lee on the field from 2014-2016:
Allen Hurns splits
  • Hurns, already a proven producer in the NFL is just a year removed from a 64/1,031/10 line. With Bortles at quarterback, his production is as much of a dice role on anyone on this list, but you could do much worse than a 25-year old WR2 who gathered 1,706 yards and 16 touchdowns over his rookie and sophomore seasons. 

Chris Conley - OVR215 WR78

  • Chris Conley was on my radar prior to the Chiefs first preseason game, but now I might even be targeting him. Conley has all the raw tools to be a legit playmaker on the outside, but Alex Smith's pathetic arm has held him back. He caught both of his targets in their first contest for 46 yards and nearly opened their second drive with an 83-yard touchdown that was called back on a shitty offensive PI call. 
Chris Conley 40 yard dash
  • Conley (6-3, 210) has a great combination of size and elite speed (4.35). He has a 97th percentile weight-adjusted speed score as well as SPARQ score, and ranks in the 99th and 100th percentile for catch radius and burst score, respectively as you can see in the chart above. With Maclin gone, Conley will compete with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce for targets, who admittedly won't leave much for him, but there's definitely opportunity to be had. Conley would greatly benefit from 1st-round rookie Patrick Mahomes taking the reigns under center, but Alex Smith seems to have a stranglehold over the starting job, but it's been reported and evidenced by his play in the opener that Smith will look to take more deep shots down the field. If you're in the group of people that doesn't think TyFreak can handle the load as a #1, that's even more reason to go after Conley, who's free in drafts. I love him as a keeper/dynasty pick because we'll be seeing the cannon arm of Mahomes on the field sooner rather than later.


Nick Ercolano
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