By now fantasy owners have read tons of articles, created spreadsheets loaded with stats, and some of the more devoted and mathematically inclined have developed complicated algorithms in anticipation of their drafts. Here’s a paper published in 2010 at renowned university MIT that involves complex formulas well above the average fantasy player’s head. And earlier this month, software and an app supposedly capable of predicting player injuries made their debut.
These are just a few examples of the lengths owners will go to in order to win and even dominate their leagues. Each of these formulas, tricks, and strategies has made finding that elusive sleeper pick ahead of every other owner extremely difficult year-after-year.
Some strategies work, some don’t, and many times leagues come down to absurd luck. We’ve all been cornered by a friend who absolutely has to tell you their “bad beat” story. But one of the main reasons we join fantasy leagues has to do with that unknown factor, and the chance of perhaps discovering it well ahead of your rivals.
Below are four receivers, the toughest and deepest position in most leagues, who could put you at ease this season.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Assuming he comes back from his concussion in shape, Hopkins will serve as more than relief for Andre Johnson when the veteran needs a breather. He upped his catches, yards, and touchdowns in all three years at Clemson, including his junior season of 82 balls for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 17.1 yards per catch. You will have to get him earlier, but if you’re in a relatively inexperienced league, Hopkins could be chose in the 10th to 14th round. That is a wide range, but if you already have a top-ranked receiver, Hopkins might be a solid No. 2 option.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
Very few rookie wide outs could have put together the year Floyd did with four different quarterbacks in Arizona last year. He hauled in 45 receptions for 562 yards and two scores, and all three stats should jump with the more experienced Carson Palmer running plays. We already touched on a breakout year from tight end Rod Housler, and Floyd should be just as successful.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Colts
The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Colts this offseason after four very long years in Oakland. Injuries and the Raiders quarterback woes limited him in the first two years, but he had 105 catches for 1,581 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two with the aforementioned Palmer. Now he has Andrew Luck, and is already slotted as the No. 2 receiver on Indy’s depth chart. Heyward-Bey would be a nice pick-up somewhere in the later rounds, likely 10th to 13th depending on your league, and could be the second or third receiver in your starting lineup.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Putting aside his and fellow receiver Greg Little's poor driving, Gordon is being overlooked due to his two-game suspension. But you can take advantage of short-sighted owners in your league for a second-year receiver who totaled 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Cleveland allowed quarterback Brandon Weeden to make 517 passes last year, and three of his receivers had 50-plus catches, with another hauling in 49. He spreads the ball around and Gordon could supplant Little as the club’s No. 1 receiver this year. You may be able to pick him up on waivers, but my guess is Gordon will be available in the teens.