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TRUTH SERUM: Sleeper WR Edition


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When trying to nab a mid- or late-round sleeper, I look for two things: upside and consistency. All four of these guys have the potential to rack up fantasy points on any given week. All four have the potential to become their team’s No. 1 or No. 2 receiver. Double-digit days are never out of the question for any of them — yet I worry that some of them are a dice-roll when it comes to consistency.

Josh Gordon, Cleveland:

“There’s no way I’m seventh-round material (average draft position of 77). Look at my numbers from last season before you go near me on draft day: other than a three-game spurt at midseason, I did almost nothing. Oh, and last I checked, Brandon Weeden is still my quarterback … I almost wish my suspension was longer.”

I originally had Gordon high on my sleeper board. There’s a lot to love: he’s the only true receiving threat in Cleveland, his new head coach Rob Chudzinski loves to throw, he’s got straight line speed that his offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves. The list goes on. I think Gordon will have a few monster games this season, but I do not trust him week-to-week.

Check his numbers from last year:

- Four games of double-digit fantasy points.

- Ten games of five or less fantasy points.

- One 100-plus yard receiving game.

- Two games with more than five catches.

- 26 points combined in six divisional games (4.3 points per game average, and he’ll play those same teams again this year).

That’s not a recipe for consistency. I understand Gordon should improve in his second season, but do you really want a guy who relies on touchdowns to crack double figure scoring? And if you’re in a points per reception league, do you want a guy who typically catches three or four balls a game? Meanwhile, guys like Steve Smith, Cecil Shorts and DeSean Jackson have similar average draft positions.

Aaron Dobson, New England:

“I’ve been working with the first team since the start of training camp, and now that (offensive coordinator Josh) McDaniels is implementing more three wide receiver sets, I’m set to rip through my rookie season. You need a late sleeper? I’m your man.”

Thanks to all the chaos with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots are shying away from the two tight end sets they’ve thrived on in the past. With the offense implementing more three wide receivers sets, expect Danny Amendola to gobble receptions while two younger guys fill the X and Z roles. As I write this, Dobson is leading the pack and already working with the first team. Though he could face competition from Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce, Dobson should be considered the front runner for the X receiver position.

Dobson had 44-plus catches and more than 660 yards in each of his final three seasons at Marshall. He’s a tall receiver tailor-made to run fade routes and fight for position in the end zone. Five or six touchdowns shouldn’t be out of the question, especially with Gronkowski taking a few games off. And with the two tight end system becoming a thing of the past, you can bank on Tom Brady finally feeding his outside wide receivers for the first time since Randy Moss’ departure.

Golden Tate, Seattle:

Percy Harvin might be out for the season, Sidney Rice is in Switzerland for knee treatments, and all of a sudden I’m fantasy relevant. Regardless, I'll still have to fight for a share of Russell Wilson’s 15 or so completions.”

Depending on how Rice’s treatments go, Golden Tate could end up as top dog in the Seattle wide receivers corps. That alone makes him a sleeper candidate, but I still have concerns.

Last year Golden Tate had 11 games with single-digit fantasy points. In four of those weeks he went scoreless. And if that wasn’t a big enough knock on his reliability, Tate topped 100 yards just once — meaning that if you start him, you’re praying he catches a touchdown.

My biggest issue with Tate is the volume of Russell Wilson’s completions. Wilson had only three games of 20-plus completions last season, with an average of 14.8 completions per game. That means 15 balls to be split among Tate, Rice (if healthy), Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, and any other pass catcher who might get involved. For that reason, I’m avoiding Tate in points per reception leagues as well as standard ones.

Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville:

“The only things stopping me from being a solid flex guy are Blaine Gabbert and my own decisions. Give me Chad Henne, and you can start me with confidence once my suspension is up.”

Justin Blackmon is suspended for four games — bad news for the Jaguars, great news for anyone seeking an undervalued wide receiver. Blackmon became fantasy relevant toward the end of last season, hitting double-digit fantasy points in four of the seven games that Chad Henne started (in the other three, he had zero, five and nine —still decent flex numbers aside from the donut in Buffalo).

Blackmon’s current average draft position is 92, but with his four-game suspension looming, you can expect to see him fall into the 100s on many draft boards. If he tumbles, take him. This offseason the team’s new coaching staff challenged him to improve his sloppy route-running, and with Cecil Shorts drawing the eyes of the secondary, Blackmon should face plenty of single-coverage. Oh, and the Jaguars will start at least two rookies in their secondary — they will be down, and they will be throwing.