All the sexy people are talking about the NFL combine, and their dynasty rookie picks. Meanwhile I’m scouring depth charts looking for possible – albeit unlikely – sleepers. A few teams have under-the-radar, but potentially viable fantasy wide receivers already on their rosters.
First the caveats. All of these teams could draft a better WR. Or sign one in free agency. Or even if not, none of these guys might capitalize. Or maybe one of the guys I pass over1 is actually the breakout. This isn’t an exercise in finding likely breakouts. It’s an exercise in finding guys that might break out if things go their way. These are deep dynasty league players to monitor, or stash on the deepest of benches. To the depth charts!
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers current wide receiver depth chart looks like this:
- Torrey Smith
- Bruce Ellington
- Quinton Patton
- Jerome Simpson
- DeAndrew White
- DiAndre Campbell
- Dres Anderson
- Eric Rogers
- Deandre Smelter
Here’s a quick rundown: Torrey Smith is probably good, probably not great, and he’s just one guy. Anquan Boldin’s 111 targets are gone, as are Vernon Davis’ 30. Jerome Simpson may or may not be getting arrested as we speak. Chip Kelly is the coach now, and over the past three seasons his teams have averaged 115 more plays/year than San Francisco. So there’s going to be some significant opportunity to catch passes in San Francisco next year. Let’s run through the rest of the existing options.
DeAndrew White and DiAndre Campbell seem to exist mainly to confuse people about who is who. I mean, both are undrafted, and only White has any stats – two career receptions. Our only existing coverage on either player is a single row in Jon Moore’s 2015 Phenom Index table, giving White a -1.55 score.2 I feel comfortable excluding both at this point.
The other three WRs are all interesting and worth monitoring over the offseason.
- Eric Rogers was a CFL star and at one time an intriguing deep3 dynasty stash.
- Deandre Smelter earned some RotoViz love last offseason, and was more productive than teammate Darren Waller.
- Dres Anderson also caught my attention after last year’s draft, when he looked a bit like a discount Phillip Dorsett.
Verdict: Smelter has the draft pedigree, such as it is (fourth round), so I’d lean towards rostering him at the moment.
Some Calvin Johnson guy might retire? Huh. Who knew? Assuming he does, he leaves behind a massive hole in Detroit’s offense. Not only did he account for 149 targets last year, he played over 1000 snaps, something only five other WRs did.4 There will most definitely be opportunity in Detroit’s passing game next year. Here are the contenders:
- Golden Tate
- T.J. Jones
- Austin Willis
- Ryan Spadola
- Corey Fuller
- Corey Washington
Golden Tate is a shoe-in for a heavy workload, but beyond that it’s dicey. Austin Willis has already been cut by the Raiders and Bills, and his best collegiate season featured fewer than 60 catches and 800 yards. Ryan Spadola hasn’t appeared in a game since 2013. Corey Fuller has been around for a few seasons but hasn’t made an impact. Moving on.
- T.J. Jones is someone Shawn Siegele really liked a couple years ago, but who has struggled with a significant injury.
- Corey Washington is someone Matt Freedman really liked a couple years ago, but who couldn’t get on the (regular season) field in New York.
Verdict: Jones was actually a Lions draft pick, but that was by a different general manager. He’s also managed 18 career targets (and been more efficient with them) vs. just eight for Washington, but both totals are so small they’re probably meaningless. I think either makes a decent deep stash, but I’d lean towards Jones.
New York Giants
Should Rueben Randle depart in free agency – and they don’t resign Hakeem Nicks or Preston Parker– the G-Men are currently short 116 targets from last year. The current WR corps:
- Odell Beckham
- Victor Cruz
- Ben Edwards
- G.J. Kinne
- Anthony Dable
- Dwayne Harris
- Myles White
- Geremy Davis
- Tavarres King
Odell Beckham is obviously going to get his. But I think after that it’s wide open. No guarantee Cruz returns effectively. Ben Edwards got bumped up from the practice squad briefly last year, and has a decent small school resume. But he’s smallish and he’s been out of college two years already. G.J. Kinne is a former practice squad quarterback who has already been cut once as a wide receiver and is 27. Myles White has 16 catches since 2013. Tavarres King has likewise been bouncing around the league since 2013 and doesn’t seem particularly likely to be a breakout candidate. Anthony Dable is interesting, but highly unlikely to make an impact: He’s 27, with no college experience. Geremy Davis has lackluster comps and fails the wide receiver decision tree. Pass.
- Dwayne Harris is entering his sixth season and has never been a fantasy factor. Well, except for last year, kinda, when he posted four double-digit PPR games. I know, not very exciting. But even with both Beckham and Randle around, Harris still had the best year of his career.
Verdict: He’s probably free to acquire right now, and is thus easily dropped if/when New York acquires another WR. But if they don’t, the potential for a lot more targets exists. He’s always been a decently efficient receiver, and his involvement in the return game gives him some extra opportunities to score.
- Because they were undrafted, haven’t been able to stick on a team, have already failed to make an NFL impact, or some combination thereof. (back)
- For reference, an average score is 1.0. (back)
- I mean deeeeep. (back)
- James Jones, Randall Cobb, Deandre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, and Antonio Brown. (back)