Thursday, June 19, 2014

Five Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers In 2014

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1. Robert Woods

When the Bills traded Stevie Johnson after drafting Sammy Watkins it put the spotlight on Watkins, but it also opened up a big opportunity for second-year receiver Robert Woods. In his rookie year, with rookie QB EJ Manuel, Woods put up 40 catches, 587 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. It is safe to assume those numbers would have been better had the Bills not had a revolving door at quarterback.

Regardless, it became clear last year that EJ Manuel had an eye for Woods, and the two seemed to develop quite a rapport. While defenses key in on Sammy Watkins, defenses could overlook Woods leading to a lot of opportunities. Not to mention, it is assumed that Woods is locked in for slot duties this year, and he could turn into Manuel's safety valve and go to guy.

At the moment, Woods is a decent WR5, but it shouldn't be a surprise if at the end of 2014 he is the Bills leading receiver.

2. Rueben Randle

Reuben Randle, like Robert Woods, gets a big bump because the Giants let a receiver go, that being Hakeem Nicks.  Being that I live in NJ, I get to watch every Giants games, I was able to bear witness to some of Randle's boneheaded moments, but it's clear he has big time potential. In 80 targets over 16 games Randle caught 41 passes for 611 yards and six touchdowns.

The Giants offense has struggled the past few years, and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo will try to bring his Green Bay influence to the Giants offense. Because of that, Randle has a good shot of being the Jordy Nelson of this offense. Victor Cruz will still be a staple of the offense, and Odell Beckham Jr. will get playing time, but Randle will be the biggest beneficiary of the new offense and loss of Nicks.

3. Markus Wheaton

Emmanuel Sanders is now a Denver Bronco giving Markus Wheaton the inside shot at starting next to Antonio Brown. Wheaton isn't the biggest of targets at 5'11, 189 pounds, but he does have 4.4 wheels.

Wheaton barely played in 2013, so there really isn't any sample size to suggest he will be a breakout star. However, he is essentially guaranteed to be starting, and the Steelers throw the ball a lot. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 584 times in 2013, ninth most, so opportunity will be there to catch a of balls. Emmanuel Sanders' 67 catches, 740 yards and six touchdowns should be a solid prediction for Wheaton in 2014.

4. Tavon Austin

Sure Austin had a few big plays, and did lead the Rams with 40 receptions, but he didn't bust out like many had hoped. Austin was also hurt by the fact that Sam Bradford only played seven games, forcing Kellen Clemens to start, which isn't good for anyone.

While the Rams did sign Kenny Britt, it shouldn't have any affect on Austin's role in the slot. A lot has to happen for Austin to be better in 2014, but a healthy Bradford is a good start, and Austin has the talent to make a lot happen after the catch. 

5. James Jones

James Jones is by far the least sexy name on this list, but Matt Schaub needs somebody to throw. It has become apparent that Denarius Moore's chances are beginning to dry up, and the Raiders have a lot of guys that look good in shorts, but haven't proven to be quality NFL starters.

Jones has spent the past few years being overshadowed by Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, but he was able to carve out a meaningful third receiver role. Remember the 14 touchdowns he caught in 2012.

The Raiders offense is still a mess, and Matt Schaub spent most of 2013 throwing to other team, but Jones' fantasy value could hinge on a lot of garbage time points. Similar to Cecil Shorts.

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