14 Fantasy WR Sleepers For 2021 Drafts: Rookies, Potential Year 2 Breakouts, More Wide Receivers To Target
Ralph Freso/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills QB Josh Allen celebrates with RB Gabriel Davis.
- Looking for the top sleeper wide receivers to target in your next fantasy football draft ahead of the 2021 NFL season?
- Our trio of fantasy analysts -- including Sean Koerner, the No. 1 draft ranker of 2019 -- identify their favorite fantasy WR sleepers.
We all know how valuable wide receivers are in fantasy — that’s nothing new. But finding WR value outside of the first few rounds is what separates the good teams from the great ones.
Our trio of fantasy football analysts know this better than most, but fear not! They are here to share their favorite sleepers across the board, from your best ball darts to rookies who are more than worth their affordable ADP. Players are listed below with their ADP as of Aug. 26, according to Bestball 10s.
Casual Fan Sleepers
Samantha Previte: Robby Anderson WR33 (Panthers)
D.J. Moore — who is being drafted as WR18 right now — is going to be the WR1 in the Panthers offense, but do not count Anderson out completely. He closed out 2020 with 95 catches for 1,096 yards and three touchdowns, good enough to finish as WR17 for fantasy while Moore ended his campaign as WR22.
There’s pretty much equivalent competition for targets on Carolina’s depth chart now that Curtis Samuel is gone and the team drafted Terrace Marshall Jr., but Anderson already has a rapport and preexisting relationship with new Panthers signal-caller Sam Darnold from their time together under Adam Gase in New York. Their chemistry and Anderson’s upside make him very much worth the risk as the 33rd receiver off the board.
Previte: Michael Gallup WR46 (Cowboys)
Gallup has a lot of competition for targets on the Cowboys depth chart — from big names like CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Blake Jarwin and Ezekiel Elliott — and is frequently the forgotten Dallas receiver.
He’s a guy I’ve been getting a lot of shares of, however, because he’s the cheapest receiver to roster on a high-powered Cowboys offense with Dak Prescott back. He’s only a season removed from a 1,107-receiving yard year in 2019. I don’t expect that kind of production barring an injury to Cooper or Lamb (which I’m not ruling out entirely with Cooper’s ankle injury that kept him on the PUP list for a lot of training camp), but he’s more than worth the risk at his current half PPR ADP on FantasyPros as WR47.
Sean Koerner: Mike Williams WR47 (Chargers)
If you’ve been following me along in my recent podcasting marathon, you’ve heard this one before. I am still big on Williams and see a career year on the horizon as Justin Herbert heads into Year 2 under center in L.A. For someone you can roster for so cheap, I see only upside here.
Koerner: Michael Gallup WR46 (Cowboys)
I’m all about taking CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper at ADP — but they are both pricy and only offer so much value at this point. Meanwhile, Gallup could be a league winner. Even as the odd man out last year, Dallas had Gallup lining up all over — including the slot. He could easily end up being an every-week WR3. Not to mention the potential upside should Lamb or Cooper miss time. I see Gallup as the cheapest way to invest in an exciting Cowboys passing game that you won’t want to miss out on now that Dak Prescott is back.
Rookie WR Sleepers
Previte: Rondale Moore WR64 (Cardinals)
Moore is at least four deep on Arizona’s depth chart behind DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Christian Kirk. That said, the Cardinals run the most four wide receiver sets in the NFL, which could certainly open up some opportunities for the rookie. Green isn’t the most durable either, so I could see Moore moving up on the depth chart as the season progresses and at his current ADP, he’s a guy I’m willing to take a late-round risk on.
Koerner: Terrace Marshall Jr. WR70 (Panthers)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Marshall his my favorite late-round rookie sleeper in my WR tiers — so do not sleep on him! For his ADP especially — and his preexisting relationship with offensive coordinator Joe Brady from their time at LSU — there is only upside here.
It’s just a matter of time until Marshall becomes Carolina’s WR3 , and it could be sooner rather than later based on his NFL preseason debut where he had three catches for 88 yards against the Colts. And let’s not forget that Curtis Samuel left behind 97 targets as the team’s WR3 last season. D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson have never been profiled as red-zone targets, but at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Marshall could be the red-zone weapon the Panthers have been searching for.
Previte: Amon-Ra St. Brown WR79 (Lions)
With Detroit’s wide receiver depth chart in shambles after the departure of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. this offseason, I think St. Brown is the only rookie wideout with a clear path to becoming a team’s WR1 this year. Now, yes, being a WR1 in a Jared Goff-led Lions offense isn’t exactly “sexy,” but with Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman as St. Brown’s only competition from the WR corps, I’m willing to take a risk on him in deep leagues as WR79.
WR Sleepers Ready for Year 2 Breakout
Koerner: Jerry Jeudy WR36 (Broncos)
Jeudy had a disappointing rookie season, but a closer look at his underlying stats give me confidence he will crush his ADP this year:
- He had 13 drops. They were his fault, of course, but drops are not a predictive stat year-to-year. We should expect his drop rate to improve in 2021.
- Dealt with poor QB play: His 65.5% catchable ball rate ranked 37th out of the 38 WRs who saw 100+ targets last season. Improved QB play by Teddy Bridgewater will help a ton.
- Lousy touchdown luck: Jeudy went 0-for-7 on end-zone targets — positive TD regression is coming.
Jeudy also ranked seventh in air yards as a rookie. He’s a skilled route runner who should see a massive Year 2 leap.
Previte: Laviska Shenault WR40 (Jaguars)
Shenault was the guy I was pumping up a lot last year — that obviously didn’t work out. He finished as WR53 through 16 weeks and averaged 8.2 fantasy points in half PPR. That said, it wasn’t exactly in the Jaguars’ best interest to win games last year and Shenault had to catch passes from an underwhelming rotating cast of Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton.
Shenault does have a lot of competition for targets from D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones Jr., but I can definitely see Shenault breaking out above them especially with some of their previous durability issues and the significant upgrade at quarterback to Trevor Lawrence. The loss of rookie pass-catching running back Travis Etienne to injury also opens up a lot more targets for Shenault.
Previte: Darnell Mooney WR51 (Bears)
Mooney is a popular sleeper this year for good reason. He was subjected to what we can generously refer to as subpar QB play in Chicago in his rookie campaign with Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky under center. What we did see of him last season was encouraging, however. He was able to stretch the field and catch 61 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns in an anemic Bears offense. Andy Dalton is an upgrade from both Foles and Trubisky for the passing game, and once the team officially switches to Justin Fields, I could definitely see Mooney breaking out.
Koerner: Gabriel Davis WR58 (Bills)
The Bills ran four WR sets at the second-highest rate last season, which is great news for Davis and anyone whose team he ends up on. During his rookie campaign, Davis stepped up big time when John Brown went down, meaning an injury to Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley or Emmanuel Sanders would spell WR3+ value for Davis in 2021.
Chris Raybon: Gabriel Davis WR58 (Bills)
Davis posted a 17.1 aDOT and finished second on the Bills in red-zone targets as a rookie while logging 73% of snaps. With 34-year-old Emmanuel Sanders nursing a foot injury and 32-year-old Cole Beasley working underneath, Davis is primed for a Year 2 leap and should rack up air yards and high-value targets in one of the league’s pass-happiest offenses.
Raybon: Marquez Callaway WR86 (Saints)
With Michael Thomas out, Callaway becomes the No. 1 wide receiver for the Saints. He punctuated a brilliant camp by catching two long-balls from Jameis Winston.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 24, 2021
Winston has a career aDOT of 10.8 while Taysom Hill’s is 8.4, so Winston should continue to unlock Callaway’s downfield potential. A better route runner and separator than Tre’Quan Smith, Callaway should be a lock to lead the Saints in air yards while Thomas is out and should be able to return value as the Saints’ WR2 even when Thomas returns.
Deep WR Sleepers, Bad Team Sleepers & Best Ball Darts
Previte: Russell Gage WR59 (Falcons)
Gage could see an increased role with Julio Jones off to Tennessee and in an Atlanta offense that I suspect will be throwing a lot. I don’t expect consistent week-to-week production barring a major injury to Calvin Ridley, but I think he’s a good best ball target and guy to target in deeper leagues as a bench stash. He finished as WR41 last year through 16 weeks and is currently being drafted as WR60 in half PPR.
Previte: John Brown WR66 (Raiders)
There’s no clear WR1 in the Las Vegas offense with Nelson Agholor gone and we’ve seen Brown be productive as recently as 2019 when he posted a 72-catch, 1,060 yard season and finished as WR15 in half PPR. He’s not a sexy name and does carry injury risk, but at his half PPR ADP of WR68, I could definitely see him returning on investment — especially in best ball drafts.
Koerner: Nico Collins WR95 (Texans)
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, the third-round pick out of Michigan could put together an impressive 2021 campaign despite some grander team struggles in Houston. Collins has the potential to become a really good NFL receiver, especially after departures from Will Fuller and Randall Cobb — plus Anthony Miller’s dislocated elbow — open up major targets.