Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the Experts

Fantasy Football Picks: 2006 'Sleeper' Wide Receivers -- By Russ Bliss

Because there are so many more players at the WR position than any other, no position offers up as many sleepers (guys who outperform what is expected from them) as the WR position. This is why a common fantasy football draft strategy to wait on WR’s until after securing quality RB’s. There are always guys who slip at this position much further than you’d expect every year, and knowing which of these guys to look for in the middle-to-late rounds is critical to a successful draft. Sometimes the sleepers are guys who had too high an expectation placed on them the prior year and then didn’t produce those lofty stats. Sometimes they are guys primed to break out because of their situation, or development (as is the case with many 3rd year WR’s). It doesn’t really matter why they slip. What does matter is that you target them at the right time so you’re the one who can look like a genius for drafting them after many others are gone.

Here are 5 candidates for sleeper status at WR for 2006:

Laverneus Coles: The Jets were simply AWFUL as a passing team last year. As a team they ranked 29th in total passing yards, and were tied for last in the NFL in total passing touchdowns. Despite this, Coles still managed to rack up 73 receptions for 845 yards and 5 TD’s. The Jets passing attack simply has to be better in 2006 and that should mean their WR’s, especially their #1 guy, produce better fantasy football stats. Coles averaged nearly 1,140 yds per season from 2002-2004 and he should get right around that in 2006. 1,140 receiving yards would have ranked 11th for WR’s in receiving yards in 2005. Currently being around the 30th WR taken in most fantasy leagues, Coles should rebound and be a solid fantasy #2.

Reggie Brown: In his second year in the NFL, Brown has a chance to claim the 1 WR spot for the Philadelphia Eagles. After Terrell Owens got suspended for the last 9 games of the season and Brown was inserted into the starting lineup, he produced 27 receptions for 463 yards and 4 TD’s. Even more impressive is that all but two of those 9 games were with the combination of Mike McMahon and Koy Detmer as the starting QB’s. The combination of a healthy Donovan McNabb, the fact that Brown is almost assured of being a full time starter from day one of training camp, and a full season of experience under his belt, Brown could really shine in 2006. Like Coles, Brown is right around the 30th WR being taken in most fantasy football drafts, and that is below where he’ll likely finish in the final fantasy standings.

Joe Jurevicius: All JJ does wherever he goes is produce when given the chance. In the 9 games Darrell Jackson missed during the middle of last season, JJ had 41 receptions for 518 yards and 6 TD’s. JJ will never be a stud WR, but he’s a huge target with reliable hands and a knack for finding the end zone. With Braylon Edwards not expected to return until late October at the earliest, Jurevicius will have a lot of passes thrown his way early in the season by the Cleveland Browns and if he establishes a trust with Charlie Frye, he’ll continue to be a large part of the offense even when Edwards returns. While it’s very questionable if he’ll catch 10 TD’s like he did in 2005. He should easily eclipse his career high of 706 receiving yards in one season as this will be the first time he’s ever been a team’s #1.

Michael Jenkins: I see a lot of pundits projecting teammate Roddy White as a sleeper in 2006, but they all seem to be forgetting about the taller, bigger, Jenkins. I like White, but see his breakout campaign coming in 2007, not in 2006. Jenkins, to me, is a better candidate for a solid fantasy season in 2006 as his size and leaping ability make it more likely he’ll catch the often errant passes of Michael Vick. Jenkins is also entering his 3rd season in the league, and that is the year when the game seems to get easier for a lot of WR’s. Jenkins is usually being drafted after Roddy White toward the end of most fantasy drafts. If Jenkins is still sitting there in rounds 14 or 15, you could get a real steal.

Corey Bradford: It almost makes me ill to list Bradford (a guy I’ve never been high on, and since he’s classically underachieved every season, I’ve never been wrong about), but facts are facts. Let’s go over them. Fact: the Lions only have one true talent at WR (Roy Williams). Fact: the Lions are supremely disappointed in both Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. Fact: Bradford, a speedy guy, fits the new Lions offense very well as either their #2 opposite Roy Williams, or as their slot WR. Fact: Mike Martz’s offenses tend to have more than one WR produce good fantasy points. It could be Rogers, or Mike Williams, or even Scottie Vines, but all reports out of Detroit say that Bradford is the guy who keeps impressing the coaches. Bradford’s currently not being drafted except in the deepest of drafts, and whether that changes will depend on how things start to shake out in training camp and pre-season. If your fantasy football draft isn’t till just before the season starts, keep your eye on Detroit and whoever emerges as the #2 and #3 WR’s. These guys will start creeping up fantasy football cheat sheets and rankings. If you’re drafting before then, I’d say you could do a lot worse than taking a flyer on Bradford in the final round for your 6th WR. Worst thing that happens is that you get a dud. Best thing that happens? Well, just look at the St. Louis Rams #2 and #3 WR’s from the past several years. You’ll get the idea.