• Ben Greb

Top Four WR Sleepers For The 2021 Season

Every year, there are players that do not have as much hype, support or interest in the fantasy football community. These players slide down draft boards and may not even be drafted due to lack of interest. Here are my top-four wide receiver sleepers for the upcoming fantasy season

Brandin Cooks

Every year, there seems to be less and less support for Brandon Cooks as a WR. This may mirror the lack of respect he receives within the NFL. Coming into his eighth season, he’s been on four different teams.

At 5’10” and 185 pounds, the speedy receiver has always been a deep threat. During the last six seasons, he has eclipsed over 1,000 receiving yards and 100 receptions in all but one season. He also finished as a top-16 receiver in five of the last six seasons.

With Deshaun Watson in 2020, Cooks had 81 receptions, over 1,100 yards, and six receiving touchdowns. That’s not bad for being the understudy to Will Fuller V for the majority of the season. The deep ball connection with Deshaun Watson was certainly present.

Cooks will be the top wide receiver on the depth chart as Will Fuller V will test free agency. Also, the Texans only have six draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, none of which are featured in the first three rounds. Even if they draft another wide receiver, a late-round rookie is unlikely to take many targets away from Cooks.

No matter who is under center in 2021, I expect for Cooks to have another under-the-radar fantasy performance. Be sure to target him in later rounds.

Michael Pittman, Jr.

Michael Pittman, Jr. was a rookie for the Indianapolis Colts last year. He managed 40 receptions, 506 yards and a lone touchdown, all of which were thrown from the newly-retired future Hall-of-Famer Philip Rivers.

With Carson Wentz turning a new leaf in Indianapolis, I expect Pittman, Jr.’s value to skyrocket. T.Y. Hilton is a pending free agent, and Pittman, Jr. showed the most upside of the remaining WRs on the roster. Wentz also has a bigger arm than the aging Rivers did in his final season which will expand the offense

The big-bodied WR is 6’ 4” and 223 pounds — his large frame could serve as a deep target, or a third-down converter in the middle of the field, both of which could be well utilized by Carson Wentz.

The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in football. Pairing that with one of the most talented young running backs in Jonathan Taylor allows for one of the most dynamic offenses in the AFC. You’ll certainly want a piece of this offense in 2021, and this includes the second-year receiver Pittman, Jr.

Deonte Harris

“Who’s this guy?,” you may ask. Deonte Harris is the kick return specialist and WR4 on the New Orleans Saints depth chart. The 23-year-old will be entering his third season in 2021.

Through the first 11 weeks of the season, Harris only managed 20 receptions for 180 yards. He was also used out of the backfield as a rusher because of his shiftiness. He was put on Injured Reserve for the rest of the regular season due to a neck injury.

The telling part about Deonte Harris was his performance during the playoffs. In the Wild Card round against the Bears, he had seven catches for 80 yards and led the team in targets even with Michael Thomas on the field. It appears that Harris returned just in time to make a noticeable impact.

In 2021, the Saints will have some very difficult decisions to make due to their salary cap situation. The Saints could cut players including Emmanuel Sanders just to get under the cap. Harris will still be on his rookie contract and likely will not be a casualty.

I expect Taysom Hill to be the starting QB over Jameis Winston — they will not be able to afford both. As Michael Thomas will look to bounce back from a disappointing season in 2020, the No.2 wide receiver position will be open. Sean Payton could use Deonte Harris in unique ways and situations allowing him to be fantasy-viable.

Henry Ruggs III

Henry Ruggs III was a player who had a very disappointing rookie season under Jon Gruden in Las Vegas. He managed just 26 catches for 452 yards and two scores, all of which were discouraging numbers given that Ruggs was one of the first wide receivers taken in dynasty rookie drafts.

In 2021, the Raiders offense needs to function better. Nelson Agholor will be leaving the Raiders after an up and down season. Gruden will need to think differently to get the most out of guys like Henry Ruggs, Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs.

Over the last few seasons, the Raiders have underperformed under Gruden. He will

certainly be on the hot seat coming into the 2021 season. The Raiders will definitely not give up on Ruggs given they spent a first-round pick on him.

Ruggs was a speedy guy that could extend the field at Alabama. His speed and other strengths were not utilized correctly in his rookie season, but I expect Gruden will make more of an effort to get the ball in his hands in 2021. His job depends on it.

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