5 Way Too Early WR Sleepers
Welcome back to our “Way Too Early” series of sleepers. Today we’ll be diving into the Wide Receiver position.
5) Bryan Edwards, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
My deepest sleeper for 2021 is Bryan Edwards from Las Vegas. Coming into the draft, Edwards was a player who had great talent, great production when on the field, but injuries were a big concern. The injury bug reared its ugly head in Edwards’ rookie year, missing parts of camp with a knee sprain and missing 4 games with an ankle sprain starting in Week 3. These injuries got Edwards a slow start out of the gate, and compound that with a weird off-season due to COVID, Edwards never got off the ground.
I believe the talent is there with Edwards who played as a true freshman for South Carolina and had a solid career when he was on the field. He has a breakout age of 17.8 which ranks in the 100th percentile and a college dominator rating of 48.4%, which ranks in the 94th percentile. He has a track record of performing, especially at a young age in college, and I think with a more normal off-season, and hopefully a healthy campaign can propel him up to WR2 territory. The Raiders are still searching for WR options – Henry Ruggs had a lackluster rookie year plagued with injury, and Zay Jones and Nelson Agholor are free agents. As of now, Edwards, Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow are the only notable guys under contract.
4) Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
Looking at Mooney’s 2020 season might leave some people unimpressed but a look under the hood tells a much different story. Mooney was a rookie last season, playing alongside alpha WR Allen Robinson, and rotating between two of the NFL’s worst QBs. He quietly almost saw 100 targets last year (98) and impending free agent Allen Robinson might not be back with the team in 2021. Mooney was a 5th round draft pick last year for the Bears and is a burner with 4.38 speed.
The big issue with Mooney last season was the constant misses from his quarterbacks. Whether Foles or Trubisky, there’s several highlight videos on YouTube that show just how much Mooney was overthrown by his QBs. Only 74.5% of Mooney’s targets were deemed catchable, which ranks 71st in the NFL. He ranked 49th with a target quality rating. The talent and speed are there, Allen Robinson is likely gone freeing up triple digit targets, and slight improvement in QB play can propel Mooney into the Top 15.
3) Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills
Davis posted a solid rookie campaign, appearing in all 16 games and recording 35 catches for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns. Davis showed his prowess as a deep threat, averaging 17.1 yards per reception, the 4th highest in the NFL. Expectation is for the Bills to cut John Brown, so Davis should have the deep threat role all to himself next season. The 52 targets he leaves behind I assume will almost all go to Davis. Stefon Diggs already got 166 targets last season so I don’t see an uptick there, and Cole Beasley operates a different part of the field than Gabriel Davis. If Davis can snag most of Brown’s old targets, that would put him around the 100 mark for the upcoming season.
100 targets would be plenty for Davis to do damage next season. In 2020 he put up 9.7 yards per target, and even if we account for some regression, 9 yards per target would put him right around 900 yards on the season. The 7 touchdowns in his rookie season proves his propensity to get in the endzone, so I expect that number to land somewhere between 7-10 next season. Those expected outcomes would have put him right inside the Top 15 WRs in a half-ppr league. I think Davis’ ceiling for next season is somewhere between WR10-WR15.
2) Michael Pittman, WR, Indianapolis Colts
With new sheriff Carson Wentz in town I expect to see a huge jump in Pittman’s production next season. Pittman was a rookie last year, drafted in the 2nd round by Indy, and he showed flashes his rookie season but couldn’t provide much consistency. Several WRs are hitting free agency this year so as of now it leaves Pittman and Parris Campbell as the only notable WRs on the roster. Pittman only played in 13 games last season and only ran 351 routes, so there should be a major jump in opportunity in 2021, even if the Colts sign or draft someone.
Wentz has shown success targeting the big bodied WR on his team, having plenty of success with the corpse of Alshon Jeffery. Pittman profiles incredibly like Alshon, with similar height, weight and combine metrics to when Alshon came out. If Wentz can put up decent numbers with an old and broken-down Alshon, I imagine he’s going to be looking Pittman’s way a lot next year.
1) Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are getting a huge make-over this off-season, bringing in long-time college HC Urban Meyer, and expected to draft prize pick Trevor Lawrence at #1 in April’s draft. The Jaguars have some talented pieces on offense including DJ Chark, James Robinson, and one of my favorite break-out candidates, Laviska Shenault. Coming into the draft, Shenault was a prospect viewed as a top 15 talent, but injury concerns caused him to slip into the second round.
Shenault only ran 385 routes last year and saw 79 targets, both numbers I expect to jump up in a big way in 2021. Shenault seems like the perfect WR for an Urban Meyer offense, focusing on motion and getting the ball to playmakers in space. I expect the Jaguars offense to be better next season, and Shenault should see somewhere around 120 opportunities (targets + carries). I think Meyer will try and manufacture touches for Shenault and his talent should capitalize on those opportunities.
Stay tuned for the Running Back edition from David Dzienis and as always, stay true.
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