In any fantasy draft, you have to hit the majority of your first couple picks. That's just life as a fantasy football manager. If you don't score a couple top tier talents, you're likely not going to win your league. Fantasy seasons can be lost in the first couple of rounds.
However, fantasy seasons are also often won in the middle rounds. Finding sleepers or players that vastly outperform their fantasy positions is critical to outperforming your peers and competing in your league. In this blog, we will touch on a couple of wide receivers that I think can do just that for your fantasy team. I'm going to try and keep it to rounds 5 and later to meet the criteria.
Tee Higgins (Current ADP: Round 6)
Just a lot to love here with Higgins. Putting up 67 catches and 908 yards as a rookie is already impressive enough, but consider that he had 603 yards in his first 9 games. The 10th game of the Bengal's season? That would be the Joe Burrow injury. He played 81% of the offensive snaps in 2020 and handled a robust 21% target share. There will certainly be competition for targets with Tyler Boyd and the newly drafted Ja'Marr Chase, but this is an offense on the rise and those players will free up Higgins from any potential double coverage. I understand the current ADP, but with Joe Burro back, the upside here is huge.
Michael Pittman Jr (Current ADP: Round 9)
Being taken in the 9th and 10th rounds, Michael Pittman Jr. has all the makings of a breakout player. His ADP is based on a solid but unspectacular rookie season that saw him turn an 80% snap count into 40 catches and only 503 yards and a touchdown. But hidden in those numbers is a solid 14% target share and his run after the catch prowess (he was third among all wide receivers.) And if his 5 catch, 91-yard performance in the Wild Card round is any indication, he's trending toward becoming a more consistent player. With a huge frame that lends itself to red zone touches and even more targets coming his way, Pittman Jr. has sleeper written all over him.
Henry Ruggs (Current ADP: Round 12)
At this point of the draft you've got a starting lineup built and you're looking for bench depth and upside. And may I present to you some upside in the form of Henry Ruggs. Ruggs' first season in the league was pretty dismal. There's no denying that and his ADP certainly shows it. He played a ton of snaps but only managed 26 catches, posting only two weekly fantasy finishes better than 45. So yeah. Bad. But you have to remember that he is still only 22 and he didn't exactly run the full route tree at Alabama. With Nelson Agholor in New England, the Raiders depth chart reads John Brown and that's it. The snaps and targets will be there, and if Ruggs shows development, the production will be too.
Russel Gage (Current ADP: Round 14)
Did you know Russel Gage had 110 targets last season? Because that is a thing that happened. That's more targets than Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, and AJ Brown. Obviously, he didn't quite produce the same output as those guys, but it makes the point that Matt Ryan loved throwing to this guy. Now it's not all rainbows, he's been pretty inefficient with his targets and is looking at a run-first offensive moving forward. But still, as a PPR flex option that is a #2 WR in his offense and will likely see 6-7 targets a game with basically your last pick in the draft? Sign me up.
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