Michael Pittman Jr. Tops Fantasy Sleeper Wide Receiver List

Wide receivers are all the rage and their point totals back it up. While running backs come and go every year due to injury and upheaval in the depth chart, elite wide receivers form the backbone of any quality fantasy roster.

The WR1 in PPR last year, Cooper Kupp, scored 439.5 points and the WR12, Mike Williams, scored 246.6 points. The WR24, Tee Higgins, scored 219.1 points (14 games played). Where am I going with this? Well, the scoring totals for the RB1, RB12, and RB24 were 373.1, 226, and 173.9. Positional point differentials between wide receiver and running back reveal a steeper point drop at RB. As you go further down the rabbit hole, you will see that it stays on this trend. The RB50, Mark Ingram, scored 108.6 points and the WR50, Elijah Moore, scored 138.2 points.

This is important to keep in mind. You want elite receivers. Managing the running position is more like a game of chess than a game of checkers. It’s a cerebral chess match on the waiver wire as you jockey to secure the RB flavor of the week.

Wideouts, on the other hand, are your fantasy muscle. You want the best right off the bat and hitting on a sleeper receiver can be a game-changer – a league winner. Just ask the fantastic managers who a year ago drafted Kupp in the fourth round (4.05), and often after teammate Robert Woods. Hooking up the eventual WR1 this late is huge, so let’s see if we can find a dormant receiver that makes the jump.

Before I dive in, I’d like to clarify what a sleeper is in the first place. Sleeper, to me, doesn’t mean a player no one has heard of who comes out of nowhere to succeed. I believe it’s more of a whimsical “escape” than a sleeper. Instead, a sleeper is a player who will significantly outperform their current draft position average value.

Sleepers:QB | RB | WR | AND

December 13, 2020;  Paradise, Nevada, USA;  Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (11) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY <a class=Sports” decoding=”async” data-src=”https://www.si.com/.image/c_limit%2Ccs_srgb%2Cfl_progressive%2Cq_auto:good%2Cw_700/MTg0NDMxMjc3Mjg1MTIzMTky/image-placeholder-title.jpg” height=”853″ width=”1200″ data-srcset=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″ itemprop=”contentUrl url”/>

December 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (11) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Sleeper Wide Receivers

Michael Pitman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Speaking of Kupp, what propelled his monumental 2021 season? Well, he deserves all the credit in the world, but it certainly helped add Matthew Stafford. It might not be such a dramatic improvement, but Matt Ryan is a big advantage for the Colts.

Indy has done little to add competition to that WR depth chart this offseason. Pittman remains the clear WR1 with unproven Parris Campbell in the slot and second round Alec Pierce out of Cincinnati. Not much happens between Mo Alie-Cox and third-rounder Jelani Woods. The Offense always begins and ends with Jonathan Taylor, but I’m expecting plenty of huge action game bombs directed at Pittman.

Last year, Pittman saw an insane 25.7% target share and that could go up if there’s chemistry with Ryan. As stated in my article on sleeper quarters: “He never missed more than two games in a season. He was in the top 12 QB eight times in his 14 seasons. Yes, he was QB19 a year ago on a miserably bad Falcons team, but in the previous three years he was QB2, QB11 and QB12 from 2018-20.”

Pittman is the consensus ranked No. 16 WR. His overall ADP (45) and WR ADP (17) could increase as the offseason progresses. I understand most wouldn’t consider Pittman a sleeper given his promising 2021 season (88-1,082-6), but I think there’s still room for even more growth in his numbers.

Ju Ju Smith Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs

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Been there, done this – that’s what Smith-Schuster should tell all skeptics. Just look at his consensus draft ranking (WR25) and he’s even lower in ADP (overall 95.4, WR 38.5). It’s crazy! So on the one hand, Patrick Mahomes is the consensus QB2 or QB3, right? He threw for 4,839 yards and 37 touchdowns last season, in what most would consider a down year or, at best, an average season. Let’s give Travis Kelce 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, which leaves us with 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns to split. Are you telling me that it mostly goes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore and Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Go now.

Tyreek Hill’s Miami trade cleared 111 receptions on 159 targets for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns. With Smith-Schuster four years away from their 2018 season, we can’t just ignore Mahomes, the Chiefs’ WR depth chart and productivity versus the Steelers.

Considering the cost of his capital draft as an option late in the eighth round, Smith-Schuster might be the WR5 on your list. If he flopped, your second-best WR bench didn’t work. If he hits, well, we’ve already seen what he can do when he posted 111-1,426-7 in 2018. And remember, that was when he played second fiddle by Antonio Brown. Let defenses double Kelce and JJSS will eat out of the slot.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Bread and butter – that’s what you need in a QB-WR couple. Sutton struggled in an offense that lacked substance at quarterback his entire career. Tack on a season-ending ACL tear in 2020, and the 26-year-old has had too many missed pitches. We’re heading back to the launch pad and there’s a big reason for that: Russell Wilson, Sutton’s bread and butter.

Wilson is one of the best passers in the game with the sixth-best passer rating on throws over 20 aerial yards last season, Sutton should see more opportunities to break up big plays. Last season was only the second time Wilson did not finish in the top 10 fantasy QB. He’s been a top-three QB four times, most recently in 2019. Do I believe there’s less mustard on his hot dog? No. He will be 34 in November. Like Peyton Manning before him, Wilson will find a second wind in the Mile High City.

The key for Sutton though is volume and that’s no guarantee. The truth is, there is a dormant case to be made for Sutton and his teammates, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick. We have to take our shot, however, and I believe that given his skills and experience, Sutton is the most ready for a breakout. We have to remember that his 2019 season was excellent (72-1, 112-6) and he is now able to build on those numbers with Wilson under center.

The fourth-year wide receiver out of SMU is currently consensus WR24, one spot behind Jeudy. His first ADP is actually significantly lower, overall 72.0 and WR 29.5, so there’s still plenty of value to be found here.

Final Thought: A year ago many were calling Brandon Aiyuk a sleeper and that quickly leveled off when Deebo Samuel left. I think Sutton is to Samuel what Aiyuk is to Jeudy in this equation.

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