Fantasy Football: Sleeper wide receivers for 2024

2T705AY Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks (3) fights off a tackle by New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Curtis Samuel is more than a slot receiver: Samuel should have a more expanded role with the Buffalo Bills compared to recent seasons along with the best quarterback play of his career.

Brandin Cooks remains in a great offense: It took some time for Cooks to settle into the Dallas Cowboys offense, but he was back to being a consistent fantasy starter late in the season.

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

These sleepers are five players who have an ADP outside of 120 by consensus boards who I have ranked notably higher than their ADP. Some of these players will have an ADP inside of the top 120 at other sources where a higher percentage of users are experts, but a variety of players were picked so at least some players could be considered a sleeper at any site.

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, July 3

Curtis Samuel, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 11.05, From consensus ADP)

Samuel has played seven seasons in the NFL but will only be 28 years old this season and in the best situation of his career.

Samuel spent his first two seasons as a backup with the Carolina Panthers until becoming a full-time starter in 2019, where he was the second option behind D.J. Moore. In 2020, the Panthers added Chosen Anderson, relegating Samuel to the slot. Samuel signed with the Washington Commanders in 2021, where he was their slot receiver.

Samuel has consistently graded well. None of his stats particularly stand out, but they all range from OK to good. The situations he’s been in have never been great. In Carolina, his quarterbacks were mostly Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Allen. In Washington, it’s been Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell and Carson Wentz. He never had a quarterback with a PFF passing grade above 60 in Washington, and his best quarterback in Carolina was Newton with a 70.0 passing grade in 2018. Josh Allen will be a huge step up compared to everything Samuel has experienced in the NFL.

Samuel has a chance to be the top wide receiver option in Buffalo. His primary competition comes from Khalil Shakir and second-round rookie Keon Coleman. All three have a similar ADP. While Samuel is known as a slot receiver, he’s graded better when lined up outside (74.8 vs. 66.6), with more yards per route run (1.47 versus 1.26) and a higher target rate (20.1% vs. 17.2%). The Bills also tended to move their wide receivers around last season, so Samuel should line up all over the Bills' formation.

One of the three wide receivers is definitely going to be a steal, and given the quality of the Bills offense in the past, possibly two. I’d give Samuel the edge over Shakir based on his production without Allen compared to Shakir’s production with Allen, and Coleman is simply harder to draft as most rookies are. This makes Samuel my top sleeper from the group.

Brandin Cooks, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 13.05)

Cooks was a top-20 fantasy wide receiver six times over a seven-season stretch from 2015 to 2021. He was often helped by his quarterback play from Drew Brees to Tom Brady to Jared Goff to Deshaun Watson. Even in 2021 with Davis Mills, he finished in the top 20, but in 2022, injuries took their toll and he wasn’t scoring touchdowns on the second-lowing scoring offense.

Last season, he joined the Cowboys, but it took time before he really clicked in the offense. He was inactive in Week 2 and helped to 50 receiving yards or less in every game over the first half of the season. He then broke out with a nine-catch, 173-yard performance. From that point on, he was consistently playing at least 70% of Dallas' offensive snaps. He was WR14 from Week 10 until the end of the season while his teammate CeeDee Lamb was WR1 by a wide margin.

Cooks has remained a wide receiver who is pretty good at everything outside of shorter routes, and the Cowboys will likely need Cooks more this season than last. Dallas allowed Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup to leave in free agency and didn’t bring in any notable pass catchers.

He is pretty unlikely to finish as a top-10 fantasy receiver given Lamb’s target share and some of his fantasy production came from touchdown luck, but there is a strong case for him to be a fantasy starter if he builds off what he did at the very end of last season. He caught at least five passes in each of his last three games including the playoffs after accomplishing that just once in the first 16 weeks.

Ja'Lynn Polk, New England Patriots (ADP: 16.01)

Polk was the 10th wide receiver selected during the NFL draft, 11th on our big board heading into the draft, but 13th by consensus ADP, behind receivers like Roman Wilson and Jermaine Burton. Unlike Wilson and Burton along with multiple others ahead, Polk has a chance to be the top wide receiver on his team.

The Patriots had seven different receivers with at least 100 snaps last season and no one above 600. The only departure is DeVante Parker, who led the group in snaps last season, while adding K.J. Osborn in free agency and Javon Baker in the fourth round.

The early indication is Osborn is at the top of the depth chart, and Douglas is likely to keep the slot job, with Polk as the other current favorite to start. Douglas played very well considering he was a sixth-round rookie last season, but at 5-foot-8, it’s unlikely he will see as many snaps in 12 personnel as last season now that the team has better options.

The Patriots offense isn’t expected to be great next season, but when you have a chance to pick up someone who should be their team’s top wide receiver by the middle of the season, it’s worth the pick.

Michael Wilson, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 16.08)

Wilson was a third-round pick by the Cardinals last season and was immediately put in as their Z receiver. He had a slow start in Week 1, leading to a reduction of playing time, but he rebounded in Week 2 leading to his playing time getting restored and was WR40 from Weeks 2-8. He accomplished this despite having Joshua Dobbs as his quarterback.

Wilson suffered a shoulder injury causing him to miss Week 9, and then he re-aggravated the injury in Week 11. He also suffered a neck injury. He returned for the last four weeks of the regular season and was held without a catch in his first two games back. Not only was he returning from injury, but this was also his first opportunity to play with Kyler Murray. Things with Murray clicked over the last two weeks of the season, and he was WR16 over Weeks 17-18.

The Cardinals replaced Hollywood Brown with Marvin Harrison Jr., traded away slot receiver Rondale Moore and added veteran Zay Jones, who can back up Harrison, Wilson and Greg Dortch in the slot. This means Wilson’s role in the Cardinals offense should remain similar to last season.

The exciting part about Wilson this season, outside of his health, is that he was more of a deeper threat. His 14.1-yard average depth of target was among the top-10 wide receivers last season who ran 400 routes. With Brown off the roster, he could see even more deep targets. Murray has the third-highest accuracy percentage among quarterbacks on deep passes over the last four seasons among those with 50 or more deep attempts. He’s also the most consistent on accurate-plus throws or throws where the pass is perfectly accurate or away from coverage.

Every indication is Marvin Harrison Jr. is the safest wide receiver picked in a long time, but there is a chance he doesn’t work out immediately or he suffers an injury. That chance alone makes Wilson an interesting option this late in the draft, but even if that doesn’t happen, Wilson should outperform his ADP.

Devontez Walker, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 23.07)

Twenty-nine of the 32 receivers projected to be the X on their team have an ADP in the top 175 using consensus ADP. One exception is the New England Patriots, where the depth chart is completely in flux, and another is the Los Angeles Rams, where Demarcus Robinson is a very clear third receiver on the team. This leaves the Baltimore Ravens.

In Baltimore, Zay Flowers will hold down the Z receiver role while Nelson Agholor is the slot. Rashod Bateman rotated with Odell Beckham Jr. last season as the X receiver. Todd Monken was among the top-five play callers in keeping wide receivers in their typical role, with either Bateman or Beckham often on the field, and rarely both. If their fantasy production had been combined last season, they would have been WR35.

Bateman was given a contract extension with high expectations for him this season. Given his three years of disappointing fantasy results and PFF grades, it would be understandable that some might not be high on Bateman given his history. In that case, Devontez Walker could be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues. The fourth-round rookie has the measurables that more closely resemble an X receiver. Our draft guide mentioned Walker was not a polished player in 2022 or 2023, but if he develops a lot in the next two months, he could take over as the X receiver and be a great late-round steal.


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