Fantasy Football draft prep: FFT’s favorite sleeper wide receivers you should target in every league

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We’ve finally reached August, and that means Fantasy Football draft preparation is kicking into full gear. We won’t go another Thursday without football from this point on until the end of Thursday Night Football,  so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. This weekend also marks the start of weekend preseason football! We’ll be tackling different position groups in the coming weeks, and this week we are focusing on the wide receiver position — arguably the one group Fantasy managers spend the most time debating.

Today, we’re tapping the Fantasy Football Today team to gauge their favorite wide receiver sleepers for the 2021 season. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Wide receiver sleepers

Jamey Eisenberg’s picks

Mecole Hardman, Chiefs

Hardman has been working as the No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs in training camp opposite of Tyreek Hill, and that’s a great spot to be in as a primary target for Patrick Mahomes. With Sammy Watkins gone, Hardman will hopefully prove the Chiefs made the right decision to select him in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2019 — ahead of D.K. Metcalf, Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin. Watkins averaged 6.0 targets per game in 24 games in the regular season with the Chiefs over the past two seasons, and hopefully Hardman absorbs those targets. He has six games in his career with at least six targets in a game, and he averaged 14.2 PPR points per game in those outings. That’s a good place to start when looking at Hardman’s upside. And, Hardman is like a lottery-ticket wide receiver because if something happens to Hill, Hardman’s value would skyrocket. He’s someone to draft with a late-round pick in all leagues.

Elijah Moore, Jets

I love that Elijah Moore has written the names of the five receivers selected ahead of him in the NFL Draft — Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Kadarius Toney and Rashod Bateman — on his bathroom mirror, and he looks at that every day and night, according to The Athletic. “A chip? You could say that,” Moore told The Athletic. “I think I’m the best. … I’m going to show them why I should have gone first.” Moore has made plenty of plays in training camp, and he has already appeared to develop a solid rapport with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. It won’t be hard for Moore, who had 86 catches, 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns at Ole Miss last year to be the No. 1 receiver for the Jets in 2021, ahead of Corey Davis. Moore is someone to draft with a late-round pick in all leagues, but he could quickly become a weekly starter.

Darnell Mooney, Bears

Mooney is someone I plan to draft with a late-round pick in all leagues, and he continues to draw rave reviews in training camp. Earlier this offseason, Bears coach Matt Nagy was comparing Mooney to guys like Tyreek Hill and DeSean Jackson. “I’ve been around Tyreek Hill,” Nagy said. “I’ve been around a young DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia. I’m just going to tell you right now that this guy is the complete package. You know? And compares right there with … he’s going to have the ability in time to be comparable to those (guys). It would be unfair to say that he is those guys now. But he has a very high ceiling, and that’s exciting as a coach.” Mooney will start opposite Allen Robinson, and Mooney closed last season with at least 15 PPR points in two of his final three games. Hopefully, Justin Fields or Andy Dalton will lean on Mooney a lot, and he could emerge as a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver this year.

Dave Richard’s picks

Elijah Moore, Jets

As if there wasn’t enough to love about Moore when he was a prospect, the reports out of Jets camp make it sound like he’s rapidly becoming their best wideout. Moore is the same kind of receiver as A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel: not the biggest guy, but a crafty route-runner with deceptive speed and snazzy after-catch ability. It’s a terrific fit for a Jets offense short on playmakers and in need of sneaky young pass-grabbers who can be there for their young quarterback to lean on when a play breaks down. The Jets’ West Coast offense is the right kind of system for Moore to fit into, be it as a slot receiver or as a mix-and-match weapon outside the numbers. The bet is his versatility and playmaking skills will keep him on the field ahead of dudes like Denzel Mims and Keelan Cole, and his numbers could grow to the point where he becomes useful for Fantasy managers who take him with a late-rounder.

Antonio Brown, Buccaneers

Brown played in 11 games with Tom Brady last year. In those 11 games, including the playoffs, Brown found at least 12 PPR points seven times. His target volume (6.7 per game) was deceptively close to Mike Evans (7.0) and Chris Godwin (7.1) thanks to a 15-target session in Week 17 following an Evans injury. But that’s part of the intrigue with Brown: He’s still a good No. 3 Fantasy receiver when everyone on the Bucs is healthy, but if one of Evans or Godwin miss time, Brown’s numbers are certain to pop. It makes Brown an easy pick when you get to Round 8-plus.

Jakobi Meyers, Patriots

It might be against your personal beliefs to draft a Patriots receiver, but you could do worse in the late rounds than Meyers. Once he was given an opportunity to play more in the final 11 games of last season, Meyers stepped up to the tune of 7.3 targets per game with a 72.5% catch rate and 12.5 yards per reception. At the very least, Meyers proved he can be a safe Fantasy receiver with a modest floor of 10 PPR points, which he amassed in seven of those 11 games. Here’s where the fun starts: Meyers was Newton’s most-targeted option in the passing game in 2020 and should continue to work as a fixture in the Patriots passing game in 2021. And when Mac Jones gets under center, Meyers has a shot to really revel in the Julian Edelman-like slot role with a quarterback who’s strong on accuracy but weak on arm strength. He’s the perfect PPR pick after Round 10.

Heath Cummings’ picks

Antonio Brown, Buccaneers

Last year Brown actually led Tampa Bay in both targets and receptions per game. And his 14.6 PPR Fantasy points per game made him WR23 on a per-game basis. There’s a sneaky possibility Brown could be the WR1 for Tampa Bay, or at least be close enough to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to make things uncomfortable. And if Evans or Godwin miss time, Brown might just be a Fantasy WR1. In his final three games of 2020, Brown caught 20 of 28 targets for 266 yards and four touchdowns, so who knows what he’ll do after a full offseason with Tom Brady.

Mecole Hardman, Chiefs

I know you’ve heard this one before, but you don’t get to write receivers off until at least Year 3. Especially when they’re as fast as Hardman and play with Patrick Mahomes. Seemingly every day we get a new report about Hardman as the “clear No. 2 receiver” in Kansas City, and if that comes to fruition, Hardman could be both a sleeper and a breakout. Sammy Watkins has averaged about six targets per game in that role the past three seasons. That would be 102 targets over a 17-game season. Hardman has seen 103 targets in his first two years in the league and he’s turned them into 67 catches for 1,098 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s not a fair expectation, but it’s a pretty fun upside for a player available in Round 11.

Mike Williams, Chargers

Like Hardman, Williams has gotten a lot of love from his coaches this summer, and the expectation is a pretty significant uptick in targets. That’s really all Williams needs, because he’s been pretty awesome whenever they’ve thrown him the ball. Williams’ career 9.5 yards per target is elite and his 16.7 yards per reception is the second best mark in the NFL since he entered the league.

Chris Towers’ picks

Will Fuller, Dolphins

We can quibble about whether a guy who is as high profile as Fuller can be a sleeper, but I’ll just say this: He was WR8 in points per game last season, just behind A.J. Brown — while having a game where he had zero targets while playing through a hamstring injury — and now he’s WR45 since the start of August in NFC drafts.  That might be the most screamingly obvious value in drafts right now. Sure, he switched teams, and you can’t necessarily expect a repeat going from Deshaun Watson to Tua Tagovailoa. But Fuller has always had gigantic weekly upside and proved he can be a reliable WR1 last season, so if you can get him as your WR4 or even 5, you’re way ahead of the rest of the league. 

Emmanuel Sanders, Bills

If you’re looking for gigantic upside from a sleeper, Sanders ain’t it. However, he absolutely has a path to top-24 production at WR — heck, Cole Beasley was 27th last season. Sanders has remained remarkably efficient despite being squarely in his mid-30s now, and in the seven games he played without Michael Thomas last season, he was on pace for 91 catches, 1,168 yards, and five touchdowns. He’s still got a lot left in the tank, amazingly. And that was in a less productive passing game than Buffalo’s. It sure sounds like Sanders is going to be the No. 2 option for the Bills, and if he can get to 110 targets, there’s a pretty good chance he’s a starting-caliber option all season. You can get him for next to nothing in drafts right now. 

Rondale Moore, Cardinals

Moore struggled to stay healthy in college, playing just 20 games over three seasons, but he was wildly productive when he was on the field, averaging 8.9 catches, 95.8 yards, and 0.95 touchdowns per game. Moore is small, at 5-foot-7, but very stoutly built, and was an after-the-catch monster in college picking up 71% of his yards after the catch in 2018, his lone full season, an incredible number. It’s a skill set that fits in very well in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, which relies heavily on quick-hitting passes designed to put the ball in receivers’ hands with room and blockers to make plays. If he’s starting for the Cardinals, he could be the skeleton key that unlocks the upside of Kyler Murray and this passing game, allowing DeAndre Hopkins to operate more down the field while still giving them an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands. Moore is one of the top rookie wide receivers I’m targeting in the late rounds. 

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and find out.



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