Stay Woke: 2017 Wide Receiver Sleepers

Part I: Pre-NFL Draft Edition

  Corey Coleman of the Cleveland Browns breaks a tackle on an 11-yard touchdown reception against the Baltimore Ravens.

Corey Coleman of the Cleveland Browns breaks a tackle on an 11-yard touchdown reception against the Baltimore Ravens.

 

Identifying sleepers can be a key to a successful fantasy campaign. Sometimes fantasy owners hit pay dirt in the draft, winning the proverbial lottery with a flier pick — owners that drafted Michael Thomas in the later rounds last year (ADP of 140+) found themselves a weekly starter from Week 1. Other times, players will emerge just in time to save your season — Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams come to mind. And sometimes yet, on the rarest of occasions, high-end players can be considered sleepers:

Now let’s try and identify a few WR sleepers as we look forward to 2017 (in no particular order).

Corey Coleman | Browns

Corey Coleman wrapped up by defender in a 23–10 loss to the Bengals.

Last year wasn’t great. After starting out looking like the Top Rookie WR he was drafted as, Coleman caught a case of the Browns after a great (100 yard/2 TD) Week 2 performance. A broken hand coming into Week 3 forced Corey to miss the next 6 weeks. A wide receiver breaking his hand is never good, but mix in the Browns lack of anything resembling a quarterback and Coleman never had a chance to regain the momentum he had coming out of Week 2.

This made it easy to write off Coleman as a bust. But not so fast, my friend. As mentioned above, CC was at the top of a very, very good WR class — Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Sterling Shephard (all drafted behind Coleman in the NFL Draft, all finished higher in fantasy leagues). With last season being a complete wash for not only the Browns, but Coleman, it’s almost as if he’ll be a rookie all over again. While we have no clue who the QB will be, whatever hype there was about Coleman last year should very much be there this season.

With the replacement of Terrelle Pryor (a nice little sleeper in his own right last year) with Kenny Britt, I expect Coleman to be the focus of the passing offense. Britt had a career year last season, I’m not a fan of his chances to repeat that in Brown and Orange. Coleman is by far the superior athlete of the two and has a much higher upside.

While I like Coleman in the late-late rounds (maybe as a team’s 4th or 5th receiver), I would not hate to reach a round or two early — it is never a bad idea to have a team’s WR1 on your squad, even if that team is the Browns. Do not wait for his first 20 point game (only took 2 weeks last year) to get on board. Keep him on your bench and hope he has the chance to let the skills that got him drafted as the #1 Receiver last year shine, you very well could be getting a solid flex/WR2 for peanuts.


Just because I like him so much, I will be kinda liberal with the term “sleeper” on this next one. Let me consider a mid-round pick a sleeper based on the upside... just once. Let’s call him a “napper.”

Willie Snead | Saints

Does anyone else get a weird vibe from Willie-boy? Maybe its the blonde locks, maybe the name Snead — I just don’t know. Anywho, Willie had a good year last year, and I expect he has a better one this year. Last season, he was overshadowed by Brandin Cooks and Thomas — this year, he should receive a promotion. It’s no surprise Drew Brees likes to throw the ball around, making it hard to predict any of his WRs’ stats on a game-by-game basis. However, by the end of the season you can be assured they will all have (i) had a monster game and (ii) had a shitty game. Average that all out, and Willie should be in for a good season — teams don’t just give up their top WR without having a contingency plan in place. As we mentioned in an earlier piece — we at FFCircus looooove Michael Thomas. But we also really like Willie.

Unlike Corey Coleman, Snead should be a mid-round pick drafted as a third WR option in PPR leagues. His 72 catches, 895 yards and 4 TDs were good for #32 overall in PPR leagues last year and eerily similar to the 69/985/3 he posted in 2015. I think it’s safe to say we found a floor. With the departure of Cooks, we can assume an improvement to those back-to-back flex-worthy seasons. Sure, Ginn will replace a bit of what Cooks brought to the table, but he will in no way replicate his numbers. It’s a cliche at this point, but “those stats need to go somewhere.” I like Snead (and Thomas, of course) to shine next season. If it means you have the chance to be elite at other positions, don’t be scared to draft Snead as your WR2.


Geronimo Allison | Packers

Full Disclosure — I’ve included Geronimo Allison in the list 50% based on his sleeper-status and 50% based on how fun it is to say Geronimo in my head every time I type it.

Geronimo started the season on the practice squad last year after going undrafted. Now, he definitely qualifies as a sleeper so lay off me about Snead.

Allison only scored two TDs last season, one in his first appearance and the other in Week 17. He also only cracked double digit scoring in 3 of the 7 regular season games he appeared in — finishing the season with a meager 12 receptions for 202 yards and 2 TDs.

I hope you’re still awake.

Now the good stuff —

  • Aaron Rodgers throws him the ball
  • Last season, albeit a small sample size, he averaged a nice 16.8 yards per reception
  • Jordy Nelson, in all his greatness, is another year older
  • Randall Cobb, in all his really-good-that-one-yearness, will continue to be average — 2014 is shrinking in the rearview
  • Oh, and Aaron Rodgers throws him the ball

All that said, do I expect Geronimo to be a weekly starter for any fantasy owner worth his salt — hell no. But, using one of your final picks here (or perhaps a waiver wire pickup) can get you a solid bye-week/injury replacement fill-in.

Much remains to be seen as free agency winds down and the NFL Draft takes place. Check back next week as we take a look at Running Back Sleepers, and our Post-Draft Analysis of the latest batch of rookies once we see where they land.

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