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By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
Last week, we broke down running back sleepers and busts as part of our preseason Fantasy Football coverage. This week, we’re going to take a look at some sleepers and busts for the elusive wide receiver position in order to give you the best chances at success on draft day.
Sleeper: Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens)
Any talk of the 2011 rookie wide receivers was rightfully centered around A.J. Green and Julio Jones, but the truth is Torrey Smith could be just as good as either of them this season. In 16 games last year, Smith managed 50 catches for 841 yards and 7 TD’s, which are phenomenal rookie numbers. Smith’s stats are also deceivingly good because he didn’t record a reception (or garner very much playing time) in the first 2 games of the year. When his points are extrapolated over a 14 game season rather than 16, his 9 points per game would actually rank him better than solid players last year like Dwayne Bowe, Antonio Brown, and Brandon Lloyd. Look for Smith to get more targets, more yardage, and more touchdowns in 2012.
Bust: Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)
Talent-wise, Fitzgerald is a top 3 receiver in the league. For fantasy though, I don’t think Fitzgerald would be inside my top 8. The Cardinals’ number 2 is rookie Michael Floyd, and unless he proves to be fantastic, he won’t take away any double teams from Fitz. The team’s starting quarterback will either be Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, so even when Fitzgerald does find some open space, the ball is unlikely to be anywhere near him. Sometimes, fantasy football value doesn’t correlate to real-life talent, and Larry Fitzgerald is one case where a player’s real-life value is significantly greater than their fantasy value.
Sleeper: Austin Collie (Indianapolis Colts)
Although Collie has a history of concussions, he’s been a surprisingly productive receiver when on the field. Excluding last season because he had no one throwing him the football, Collie averaged 72 yards per game in 2010 with the Colts and scored 8 times in 9 games. In fact, before struggling with concussion symptoms, Collie had 503 yards in the first two months of the season. Fast forward to 2012 and while Collie no longer has Peyton Manning throwing to him, he does have Andrew Luck and a new coaching system. The new coaching staff seems to like Collie as more then just a slot receiver too. Rookie quarterbacks are very comfortable throwing to great, proven route-runners and Collie should definitely be coming off the board earlier then the 50th WR.
Bust: Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons)
As the Falcons commit to a more pass-oriented offense, one would assume Roddy White’s value would go up. However, I’m hesitant to buy into that assumption. First, the Falcons have a stacked WR core, a reliable TE in Tony Gonzalez, and a 3rd down back in Jacquizz-Rodgers who is an excellent pass-catcher. With that many options this season, the Falcons will have more mouths to feed, and I think Roddy White’s production will suffer. Last year, White led the NFL in targets, just like he did in 2010. In fact, Roddy White has been in the top 2 in the NFL in targets every season for the last 3 seasons, and top 20 for the last 5. With so many different options, I believe White will have much fewer targets than last season, and in turn he will lose a lot of fantasy value. Roddy White is still a solid fantasy option, just not the elite one he is thought to be.
Sleeper: Percy Harvin (Minnesota Vikings)
I don’t get it. When a guy with absurd talent for his whole career explodes to be the #8 receiver last season, why does he slide right back to where he was ranked the previous year? Harvin may have legitimate injury risk, but his value when he does play is extremely high due to the fact that he is clearly the focus of the Viking passing game. While not wanting to wear down AP’s ACL even more, Harvin’s 52 rushes for 345 yards could improve. The Vikings kept Harvin on the field for only 58% of their offensive snaps last year in order to keep him healthy. While it worked, they will need him more this year and his fantasy value could continue to rise as a result.
Bust: Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons)
We’re big fans of Julio, think he has all the talent in the world, and a great opportunity to take advantage of that. But he’s simply not a top-5 option, and isn’t even in our top 10. Even though the Falcons are going to be passing even more this year, Jones remains Matt Ryan’s number two option. In the red zone, he could even be behind Tony Gonzalez in the pecking order. He had only 8 red zone targets in 2011, and while he did convert each of them into a touchdown, Roddy had that many red zone targets in just the first 6 weeks of 2011. Throw in that Jones is a minor injury risk, and it’s pretty ridiculous to throw a top-5 expectation on him.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.