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Fantasy Football WR Sleepers: Several young wide receivers poised for breakouts

Fantasy Football WR Sleepers: Several young wide receivers poised for breakouts

How many times has your fantasy football matchup come down to picking that last wide receiver or flex? Those decisions can make the difference, so finding the right sleeper WR lower in the pre-draft rankings — be it a boom-or-bust big-play guy or a low-ceiling, PPR possession type — can go a long way. 

The talent at the wide receiver position is spread out more than ever. A total of 24 receivers had more than 1,000 yards in 2019, but only two, Detroit’s Kenny Golladay and the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, scored 10 TDs or more. Production comes in a variety of ways and from a variety of players, including rookies, second-year standouts, and potential third-year breakouts.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 cheat sheet

The potential for a breakout season is there for these 14 receivers, all of whom have the potential to greatly outperform their average draft positions:  

2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200

Fantasy Football WR Sleepers

Justin Jefferson, Vikings  

Jefferson put up absurd numbers at slot receiver for LSU last season with 111 catches, 1,540 yards, and 18 TDs. He fills a void in Minnesota left by Stefon Diggs, and even though it’s unlikely he performs at Diggs’ level right away, he has the potential to emerge as a reliable target for Kirk Cousins later in the season.  

Diontae Johnson, Steelers  

Johnson was inconsistent early last season, but he turned it on in Pittsburgh’s final four games with 23 catches on 31 targets for 257 yards and a pair of TDs. He will be featured more in the offense, and the return of Ben Roethlisberger should translate into far more production.  

2020 PPR RANKINGS:
Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Superflex | Top 200

Darius Slayton, Giants 

Slayton emerged as a waiver-wire gem last season after averaging 15.4 yards per reception, and he finished in a six-way tie among receivers for eighth in the league with eight TDs. Slayton did all that despite hauling in 48 catches on 84 targets. Daniel Jones does a good job of spreading the wealth in New York, and even full seasons from Golden Tate (five games missed last year), Sterling Shepard (6), and Evan Engram (8) shouldn’t kill Slayton’s value. He’s a value pick in standard leagues.  

Mecole Hardman, Chiefs 

Hardman needed just 26 catches to total 538 yards – a 20.7 yards per catch clip that makes him one of the more-exciting fantasy plays on any given week. Hardman’s six TD catches covered 287 yards, an amazing average of 47.8 yards on scoring plays. That blend of home-run speed fits perfectly in Kansas City’s offense and should lead to more production in 2020.  

2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team

Jalen Reagor, Eagles  

The Eagles grabbed Reagor in the first round, and there’s some appeal based on his ability in the return game. Reagor averaged 15.2 yards per catch at TCU with an inconsistent quarterback situation. Philadelphia will make use of his talent. Given the Eagles’ lack of healthy, reliable WR options, Reagor could have value right away and should have extra value in PPR leagues.  

Update: Reagor injured his shoulder on Aug. 30 and is set to miss four weeks, killing his early-season value and hurting his overall season-long potential.

N’Keal Harry, Patriots 

Injuries limited Harry to just seven games as a rookie, and he was a bit player in the New England’s offense as a result. The 6-4 former first-round pick can make New England’s new starting quarterback comfortable with his size, especially if it’s Cam Newton under center. He will need to improve his catch percentage to be more consistent, but the buy-low appeal is there on a team that lacks playmakers. 

DRAFT STRATEGY AND RANKINGS TIERS: 
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | D/ST

Preston Williams, Dolphins 

Williams totaled 32 catches for 428 yards and three TDs as a rookie before a torn ACL ended his season. He was a consistent PPR receiver up to that point, and that role will be important when Tua Tagovailoa takes over at quarterback for the Dolphins. The 6-5 Williams(knee)  is on track to be ready by Week 1, and he’ll will start the season as a WR4 or WR5 on fantasy rosters. The upside is there to move up the ladder.   

Allen Lazard, Packers 

Another 6-5 big-play threat, injuries pressed Lazard into service last season, and he took advantage of the opportunity with Aaron Rodgers. Devin Funchess, Green Bay’s biggest offseason signing at receiver, opted out in August, so Lazard is in position for major playing time again this season. Lazard had seven games with at least 40 yards receiving last season, but he’ll need to score more TDs opposite Davante Adams to have real value. 

FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGIES: 
Snake draft | Auction | Best ball | Dynasty | IDP

Josh Reynolds, Rams.

The departure of Brandin Cooks means 72 WR targets from last season are up for grabs in L.A., and if you throw in Todd Gurley’s 49 targets, there’s plenty to go around for a viable WR3 in fantasy. We can’t say for certain that Reynolds will get the bulk of those, as second-round WR Van Jefferson could just as easily be the prime beneficiary, but Reynolds is established in the Rams system and has had some good games in the past as a fill-in for various starters. With Tyler Higbee establishing himself a legit option for the Rams, it’s possible this offense can no longer support three viable fantasy WRs, but Reynolds and Jefferson are still worth watching. — Matt Lutovsky

Anthony Miller, Bears

This might be the third year in a row Miller has been on this list, and fantasy owners are probably sick of hearing preseason hype about him. We sympathize, but this really could be the year. Not only might he be playing with a potential upgrade at QB in Nick Foles, but he also should get more targets after the departure of Taylor Gabriel, who received 141 targets the past two seasons. He showed flashes of upside last year, particularly a five-game stretch from Weeks 11-15 when he averaged 6.6 catches and 86.2 yards on 10.4 targets per game. Perhaps coincidentally, Gabriel missed three-and-a-half of those games. — Lutovsky

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL:
Auction values | IDP Rankings | Projections | Mock draft simulator | Team names

Michael Pittman Jr., Colts 

Pittman Jr enjoyed an outstanding senior season at USC, totaling 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 TDs. That suggests he could make an impact in PPR leagues a rookie. He will take some pressure off T.Y. Hilton, and a chance to work with a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers doesn’t hurt. Pittman Jr. will be cheaper than the other rookie receivers on this list, too.  

Breshad Perriman, Jets 

Perriman is the classic hit-or-miss deep threat receiver who can make (or break) your week. He has 95 catches on 195 targets through a four-year career with three different teams. The allure remains a career average of 16.4 yards per catch, as well as a monster showing over the final three weeks last year while in Tampa (17 catches, 349 yards, four TDs). He won’t have gunslinger Jameis Winston forcing it to him this year, but perhaps he finds a rhythm with Sam Darnold in the Jets’ offense.  

Devin Duvernay, Ravens

The Ravens have a pretty set hierarchy of producers, so it’s not easy to identify a legit sleeper. Third-round pick Duvernay is a boom-or-bust pick for this list, as he’ll be no higher than the No. 3 target for a team that doesn’t pass often, but the 5-11 speedster could get still break enough big plays to have value. No. 1 WR Marquise Brown wasn’t consistent or healthy all of last season, and it’s possible Lamar Jackson is unleashed as more of a passer this year in order to save some wear and tear on his body. All that makes Duvernay someone to watch early in the season. — Lutovsky

Hunter Renfrow, Raiders 

Renfrow was a cult hero during his college days at Clemson for his knack for the big catch, and he started to find his role with the Raiders late last season. He had back-to-back 100-yard games with a pair of TDs in Weeks 15 and 16, and owners tend to remember those players who come through in the fantasy playoffs. Renfrow will earn an increased role in the offense in 2020 and has a chance to be a real PPR stalwart.  

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

About the author

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Christine Watkins

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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