The wide receiver position has been the deepest pool for fantasy owners to wade over the last five seasons. Part of it is tied to quarterbacks upping their attempts, and spreading the ball around. In 2012, six passers had 600-plus attempts, which were more than the previous three years combined.
The most consistent receivers have been Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, and Brandon Marshall, in terms of volume of yards, catches, touchdowns and yards after the catch. Outside of that core, passers hit a number of receivers depending on the game situation (redzone, deep plays, slants), which has made it tougher on fantasy owners from year-to-year.
Rather than trying to find that one big, elusive sleeper, spread it around like NFL quarterbacks have done. Find two or three to fill out your receivers, then rely on your running backs and quarterback for the bulk of your points. Especially if you are in a standard non-PPR league.
Check out a few of our sleeper receivers below.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants
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When he filled in for Hakeem Nicks in his rookie year, Randle made the most of the extra targets for 19 receptions for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Now with Cruz banged up, and Nicks prone to injury even in a contract year, Randle could be big target for Eli Manning.
Marcus Easley, Buffalo Bills
You could go Robert Woods here as well, but Easley has been the most impressive during the preseason with 10 receptions for 140 yards. Injuries have forced the Bills to keep top receivers Steve Johnson and T.J. Graham out to preserve them for the regular season, and rookie E.J. Manuel’s minor knee procedure have put the brakes on Buffalo’s passing game. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has something to prove, and Easley is hungry for NFL action, having been stuck on injured reserved or the practice squad for nearly three years. Look for him in the 10th round or lower.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
A receiving vacuum was switched on as soon as Michael Crabtree went down in the spring, and right now Kyle Williams is considered San Francisco’s No. 1 receiver on the depth chart. It makes far more sense for someone like Boldin to snag more balls than any other 49er wide out. He’s going in the sixth to eighth round range, with some owners banking on rookies. That’s not a bad play, but Boldin is worthy of your second or third receiver spot. He’s missed three games in the last three years, and has tallied less than 800 yards and 50 receptions once in his 10-year career.
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
Injuries have really set him back, but he’s ranked far too low in most mock drafts. When he’s healthy he’s caught at least 60-plus balls for a minimum of 900 yards and six touchdowns. Dez Bryant will get a ton of attention, which should open things up for Austin. Figure fifth round he’d still be available, but probably no lower if you’re in a standard PPR league.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For three straight years, he hasn't missed a game, and he’s averaged 64 catches, 910 yards, and nearly eight touchdowns a season. Clearly, when Josh Freeman is on so is Williams, and that might make him a huge risk. But most rankings have him going in the eighth or ninth round. That’s a perfect spot for one of the most consistent young receivers in the league.