Anyone who has drafted yet can tell you that the middle- to late-round wide receivers are as appealing as being a high school janitor during the peak of flu season.
No one in their right mind can and should feel good about staring Laveranues Coles or Deion Branch as their WR2 — or even to rely on them for spot starts off the bench.
Yet, there are some pass catchers that always seem to fall between the cracks at many drafts. These are guys you can nab late who could produce some big numbers at a critical point for you this season. The two I’m targeting the most this summer:
Receiver sleeper, my name is Earl. As in Earl Bennett. Perhaps not a sleeper to some thanks to some growing hype around this Chicago receiver, Bennett is primed to be a fantasy force this season at a fraction of the cost of similar talents. He was a non-factor last year in his rookie campaign for the Bears, but is paired with long-time Vanderbilt teammate Jay Cutler. This summer, Cutler has targeted Bennett a number of times, and Earl has responded by catching everything that comes his direction.
News today on rotoworld.com is that Bennett has officially landed a starter gig across from Devin Hester — and Bennett is much more the prototypical receiver than Hester.
Yes the Bears have a talented tight end in Greg Olson who will benefit from Cutler under center. Yes, Hester is lightning-quick. However, I bet you dollars to doughnuts that Earl Bennett leads the Bears in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this year (I was going to save this fearless projection for my response to ep’s bold predictions column, but I couldn’t resist.) I’d also place a nice-sized wager that Bennett will be a starting WR2 at some point this season in every league you participate in.
Make sure that team who starts him is yours by grabbing Bennett late in each of your drafts.
Miss out on Bennett? Why not take the player whose stock has arguably fallen the most between the NFL rookie draft and now?
That would be Michael Crabtree. In one of the biggest bonehead moves in recent sports memory, Crabree continues to hold out for a contract he doesn’t deserve. His intellectually challenged cousin even spread rumors that Crabtree is willing to sit out all season and re-enter the draft in 2010. Don’t believe that line of poo for one minute.
It’s amazing how short-sighted some fantasy owners can be this time of year. The season is long. Crabtree will sign at some point. He may not be playing in Week 1. In fact, there’s a good chance he won’t start a game by the 49ers’ week six bye. However, here’s betting that Crabtree plays no later than San Fran’s Oct. 25 game against Houston. The 49ers play against a bunch of questionable secondaries down the stretch this season, including Seattle, Arizona, Detroit and St. Louis all within the last five weeks of the season.
Crabtree has too much talent not to produce some impressive statistical totals this year. In fact, I expect Crabtree to be a major factor for many in this year’s fantasy playoffs.
Player to watch: Rumor has it that New York Jets receiver David Clowney has leap-frogged Chansi Stuckey for the opportunity to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery. Clowney has really impressed this summer and only four other receivers in the league have more preseason yards to their name. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez will have his growing pains at times this season, but he will prove adept enough for you to take a flyer on Clowney at the end of your draft if you have the extra roster space.
Who are your sleeper wide receivers for 2009? We’d love to hear your comments.