2014 Fantasy FootballAlan Harrison

2014 Fantasy Football: Potential Wide Receiver Sleepers To Target In Your Drafts, Revisited

welker land
Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

Prior to the 2014 fantasy football season, TheFantasyFix.com released a few articles on potential sleepers to target in your drafts or auctions. Now that the 2014 fantasy football season is officially in the books, I figured it would be a fair exercise to look back at the recommended “sleepers” to see if they did indeed pan out for those who invested in them this season.

You can find an excerpt of our “Potential Wide Receiver Sleepers to Target” article here that was featured in our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide written by Jake Ciely.

And while many writers and outlets use the term “sleeper” in a variety of ways, for this exercise, I was simply looking to identify pass catchers who looked like a good bet to outperform their average draft position and earn those who drafted said skill players a profit by season’s end.

Final rankings taken from the Yahoo! game in a half-point per reception league.

Wide Receivers:

Wes Welker | Preseason ADP: 62 | Final Ranking: 254

The veteran presence of Welker on a Broncos’ pass-heavy offense with Peyton Manning under center seemed like a good recipe for the real Broncos and your fake football team. But an off-season that included a four-game suspension — that was eventually overturned — some injuries and the addition of wideout Emmanuel Sanders seemed to contribute to Welker’s down season. Welker hauled in just 49 receptions on 64 targets for 464 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games — the fewest in each of those categories in his entire career. Comparatively speaking, Sanders hauled in 101 passes on 140 targets for 1,409 yards and nine touchdowns while Julius Thomas scored 12 touchdowns on just 43 receptions and 60 targets. It’s hard to say someone whiffed on a sleeper call without knowing about a PED suspension and/or predicting injuries, but this pick just didn’t pan out.

Golden Tate | Preseason ADP: 97 | Final Ranking: 50

When the original article was published, Tate had an overall ADP of 97 and was the 39th wide receiver off the board. After a spectacular season, Tate finished as the 50th overall player and 13th ranked wide receiver. In 16 regular season contests, Tate hauled in 99 passes on 136 targets for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns. Tate failed to find pay dirt all that often, but his 1,331 yards receiving were good enough for seventh best in the NFL. Mind you, a good chunk of Tate’s success came when Calvin Johnson was out due to injury (see splits through week 15 below, thanks to our friends at RotoViz). Although we’re missing data from weeks 16 & 17 on the chart, it’s easy to see the spike in usage and results without Calvin Johnson. But even with Johnson on the field, Tate was on pace for 97 receptions and almost 1,300 yards. Good call on Tate this season and I think he’ll be drafted as a top-20 wide receiver in ‘15.

Tate Splits

Cecil Shorts | Preseason ADP: 114 | Final Ranking: 219

It’s the Jaguars. There’s not much to analyze. Cecil Shorts may have struggled a bit more because he was banged up and had a rookie under center this season. He appeared in just 13 games and reeled in only 53 passes on 102 targets for 557 yards and one score. Shorts is not an awful receiver, but he probably shouldn’t be anything more than depth on your fake football bench for injury insurance or a bye week fill-in.

Dwayne Bowe | Preseason ADP: 123 | Final Ranking: 189

The Chiefs signal callers looked Bowe’s way 90 times this year and connected on 60 occasions for 755 yards (12.6 y/r), but he failed to find the end zone during the regular season for the first time in his career. Additionally, Bowe failed to reach the 100-yard receiving mark during a regular season game for the second consecutive year.

Marvin Jones | Preseason ADP: 128 | Final Ranking: 1989

Jones dealt with foot and ankle issues at the start of the 2014 season, but as mid-October rolled around and Jones suffered an additional setback, the Bengals decided to shut down their wide receiver for the remainder of the year. Jones is expected to rebound and be ready for the ‘15 season.

Doug Baldwin | Preseason ADP: 184 | Final Ranking: 126

Doug Baldwin put forth a fine season for the Seahawks, catching 66 passes on 90 targets for 825 yards and three scores. He eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark in two games and recorded receptions of 30 yards or more in five games this year. The Seahawks trade of Percy Harvin increased Baldwin’s role in the passing game, so hopefully this will give us an idea of the value he will carry next fantasy football draft season. Here’s a look at Baldwin’s performance splits with and without Percy Harvin in the lineup in ‘14:

Baldwin Splits

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