Value & Sleeper WRs

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By John Paulsen (Senior Editor) on August 9, 2012

John was named FantasyPros Most Accurate Expert of 2010, was runner-up in 2011 and finished 4th in 2012 for in-season rankings accuracy. He also won the Fantasy Sports Trade Association award in 2011 for the most accurate preseason rankings. Follow John on Twitter: @4for4_John.

On draft day, it's all about finding value whether it be the early rounds, the middle rounds or the later rounds. Using the Draft Day Bargains Tool, subscribers can easily identify those players that we believe are being overlooked by other owners on draft day.

Below, I'll discuss several value and sleeper wide receivers that should allow you to round out your roster in the middle and later rounds.
 

Value WRs

 
For the purposes of this article, I'm defining value as those players who are going in the middle rounds at a discount given their projected production.
 
Robert Meachem's departure frees up 40+ targets in the Saints' prolific offense, and Moore should benefit. His Fantasy Points / Target (1.54) ranked #8 in 2011 due to his heavy use in the redzone, which should continue. Meachem has always limited Moore's upside and vice versa, so Moore could emerge as a WR2 with little downside now that Meacham is gone. Moore finished in the top 35 in the last two seasons, and was WR13 back in 2008 when he saw 119 targets. Consistently available in the 9th round, Moore is a great guy to grab as your 3rd or 4th wideout.
 
With Kyle Orton under center for the first four games of the season, Decker racked up 20 catches for 270 yards and four TDs. Demaryius Thomas wasn't playing, but Brandon Lloyd was still on the team, so Decker's production with decent QB play (i.e. Orton) is reasonable proof that he has considerable upside now that Peyton Manning is in town. He looks like a great value in the 6th, especially in PPR formats. He could be the next Austin Collie, minus the concussions.
 
To sum up the more in-depth article I wrote about Meachem earlier in the year: He's a highly productive WR who is going to see a big jump in targets as he moves from the Saints' WR3/WR4 to the Chargers' WR1/WR2. He averaged 1.66 FP/T over the last three seasons and finished in the top 10 in that category each year. HC Norv Turner is talking him up like a WR1, so if he gets WR1/WR2 targets, there's a very good chance he'll crack the top 20.
 
DHB had a breakout 2011, racking up 64-975-4 despite missing Week 2 and only seeing one total target in Weeks 9-10. Over the final five games, Heyward-Bey averaged 5.8 catches for 91 yards and 0.6 TDs. Those are WR5–type numbers. While he won't be that productive for full season, he should be able to build on his breakout year now that he has had a full off-season to work with quarterback Carson Palmer.
 
Smith's 130 fantasy points in 2011 were good enough for him to finish WR22 on the season, but his targets per game increased by 20% over the second half of the season. If he gets 6.5 targets per game (his average over the final eight games) and produces at his 22nd-ranked FP/T (1.33), then he'll produce 138 fantasy points. Those are top 20 numbers. He has drawn praise from his head coach for the overall improvement in his game, and quarterback Joe Flacco reportedly wants to be more aggressive with a late game lead. This all bodes well for Smith, who did turn his ankle on Thursday, but the injury doesn't seem to be serious.
 
The Redskins coaching staff has been raving about Garcon all off-season and he came through in the first preseason game with three catches for 58 yards and a TD, showing a nice rapport with rookie QB Robert Griffin IIII. Garcon has been going in the 7th or 8th round, and it looks like he'll be a good value there.
 

Sleepers

 
Here are a few players who are available in the later rounds and may have starter potential by midseason (or earlier):
 
During the first eight games of 2011, LaFell saw 3.0 targets per game and produced an average of 2.1 receptions for 35 yards and 0.25 TDs. Over the final eight games, he averaged 4.0 targets for 2.4-42-0.13, so there wasn't a big jump in production despite a 33% increase in targets. However his Fantasy Points / Target was 1.42, which ranked #16 out of 119 WRs with at least 30 targets in 2011. He has since earned the WR2 job, and should see a big jump in targets. He'll also benefit from the maturation of quarterback Cam Newton. LaFell is definitely a candidate for a breakout season if he gets true WR2 targets.
 
Once thought to be on the roster bubble, Moss showed up to camp in much better shape and will start the season as the team's WR2. Moss is 33 years old but with improved conditioning, he should have another productive season or two left in the tank. We're currently projecting him as a fantasy WR4, but since he's a vet, he lingers in the later rounds of the draft. He should be available in the 11th to 13th rounds.
 
Jerome Simpson, Vikings 
Simpson is going very late in drafts or is going undrafted altogether due to his three-game suspension to start the season. However, he has been drawing rave reviews since joining the Vikings and the team plans to utilize him heavily once he returns. Owners who draft him will have to hold onto him for a month before getting anything out of him.
 
Collie has been lining up as the WR2 opposite Reggie Wayne even in two–WR sets. This means he'll see the field more often than he did in the last two seasons. He definitely has injury concerns, but is getting an upgrade a quarterback and the Colts will likely trail a lot, which means they'll be throwing a lot.
 
Amendola caught 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns in 2010, and he has reportedly picked up where he left off before a season-ending injury (dislocated elbow) cost him the 2011 campaign. He obviously has more value in PPR formats, and is a great guy to grab as your WR5/WR6 in the final rounds.
 
Filed Under: 2012, Preseason