Fantasy Friday: Sleepers at Wide Receiver
Fantasy leagues are won in the late rounds of drafts. The picks you make after the Adrian Petersons and Calvin Johnsons are picked matter immensely. Putting some thought into which specific players you want to target in the later rounds is a good strategy in order to have a strong draft. The wide receiver position is very deep entering 2013--so which guys are you going to take as the draft drags on, and you've already filled your two starting spots with, let's say, Andre Johnson and Hakeem Nicks?
Aaron Dobson (rookie) - New England Patriots
2012 stats (at Marshall): 57 receptions, 679 yards, 11.9 yards/catch, three touchdowns
Dobson, the Patriots' coveted second-round pick, has been one of the top performers in Pats camp. The rookie shows flashes of Randy Moss because of his deceiving speed for his size, and he has excellent catching ability. As part of the youth movement in the Patriots offense, Dobson should have many opportunities to put up big fantasy points. Don't go out of your way to draft fellow Patriot Danny Amendola if you think Dobson will be available in the later rounds.
2013 projections: 71 receptions, 937 yards, 13.2 yards/catch, six touchdowns
Kenbrell Thompkins (rookie) - New England Patriots
2012 stats (at Cincinnati): 34 receptions, 541 yards, 15.9 yards/catch, two touchdowns
As another member of the youth movement in the Patriots offense, Thompkins will have his opportunities to breakout this season. According to NESN.com, Thompkins has had only one poor practice this preseason, and at this point he looks like a lock to make the team. The undrafted free agent runs routes with precision, and has developed a rapport with Tom Brady. The Patriots are hoping he can produce at a level that can help fill the void left by Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez (read more about the Pats' new-look offense here).
2013 projections: 64 receptions, 888 yards, 13.9 yards/catch, seven touchdowns
Davone Bess - Cleveland Browns
2012 stats: 61 receptions, 778 yards, 12.8 yards/catch, one touchdown
The Browns revamped their offensive personnel this offseason, and part of that transition included signing Bess, the former Dolphin. In five seasons with Miami, Bess never had less than 50 catches. As the most accomplished veteran in a young Browns receiving corps, Bess will be a trusted pair of hands for Brandon Weeden throughout the season.
2013 projections: 69 receptions, 832 yards, 12.0 yards/catch, seven touchdowns
Emmanuel Sanders - Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 stats: 44 receptions, 626 yards, 14.2 yards/catch, one touchdown
With the departure of Mike Wallace in free agency, the Steelers have a big hole to fill in the passing offense. Look for Sanders to take advantage of that opportunity and breakout in 2013. He has excellent speed on the deep ball, so expect him to reel in several long touchdowns, which would do wonders for your fantasy team. But don't wait too long to draft him because he will most likely be the second Pittsburgh receiver off the board after Antonio Brown.
2013 stats: 59 receptions, 854 yards, 14.5 yards/catch, six touchdowns
DeAndre Hopkins (rookie) - Houston Texans
2012 stats (at Clemson): 82 receptions, 1,405 yards, 17.1 yards/catch, 18 touchdowns
With Andre Johnson drawing the most attention from opposing secondaries, the rookie Hopkins has a great chance to have an impressive rookie season. In the Texans' first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, Hopkins displayed his athleticism and play-making ability by out-jumping Vikings' corner Bobbly Felder for a 34-yard touchdown catch. Hopkins looks like he will be the receiving threat opposite Andre Johnson that the Texans have been needing.
2013 projections: 79 receptions, 1,112 yards, 14.1 yards/catch, 11 touchdowns
Reuben Randle - New York Giants
2012 stats: 19 receptions, 298 yards, 15.7 yards/catch, three touchdowns
Randle has been one of the top performers in Giants' camp, and according to USAToday.com, he has stood out with his outstanding catches and acrobatics. Look for Randle to be an excellent fantasy producer on a weekly basis because he will be the beneficiary of defenses giving attention to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Furthermore, Randle would be a smart pick because of how injury-prone Nicks is--expect Nicks to be out for at least two or three games, all of which Randle would become the #2 option for quarterback Eli Manning.
2013 projections: 54 receptions, 712 yards, 13.2 yards/catch, eight touchdowns
Cordarrelle Patterson (rookie) - Minnesota Vikings
2012 stats (at Tennessee): 46 receptions, 778 yards, 16.9 yards/catch, five touchdowns
NFL.com has deemed Patterson to be one of the most naturally gifted receivers to enter the NFL in the past few seasons, and with good reason--Patterson is a smooth route runner, has a high football IQ, and catches just about everything thrown his way. He would be a great pick for your fantasy team because he will fill the void left by Percy Harvin in the Minnesota offense. Additionally, he will encounter mainly one-on-one coverages because defenses will often be committing a safety to the box to defend against Adrian Peterson.
2013 projections: 61 receptions, 865 yards, 14.2 yards/catch, six touchdowns
Alshon Jeffery - Chicago Bears
2012 stats: 24 receptions, 367 yards, 15.3 yards/catch, three touchdowns
Jeffery had a slightly disappointing rookie season--teammate Brandon Marshall said he was "softer" in 2012 than he has been in camp this month--but that should change in 2013. With an entire offseason of practice under his belt, Jeffery is primed to be a productive compliment to Brandon Marshall in the Bears passing offense this season. His height of 6'3'' allows him to snag the ball at its highest point, so expect him to score your fantasy team some points in the red zone.
2013 projections: 47 receptions, 566 yards, 12.0 yards/catch, 11 touchdowns
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