In our final part of the series, we move on to lesser known wide receivers who will likely get a chance to shine in the coming years.
In many cases, their chance will come through attrition above them on the depth chart. In others, it may be due to an expiring contract and the team being unable to guarantee greater snaps or money. For some, it may be a combination of the two. Franchise tags are not usually used on receivers and the position is not one that sees many players rise to fantasy prominence after being traded or released.
The “3rd Year Rule” as it relates to WRs is one that is often followed by not just fantasy coaches, but the NFL as well. This rule simply states that a WR is likely to realize their current and future NFL potential during their third year. This is due largely in part to the learning process involved with the receiving positions.
The strength and speed of the NFL game, defensive formations, complexity and QB chemistry are all variables in the equation that must be mastered before true potential will be known. There are certainly exceptions to this rule but, for the most part, it is hard rule to dismiss when looking at the history of the position.
On to our listing of those WRs who should be immediately considered:
#1 James Jones, GBP
6’1″ 208 lbs.
While there is little doubt that Jones is on an existing roster currently in your league, this selection is more about a player vastly outplaying his ADP (Average Draft Position). Jones is being drafted far too late given his NFL skill-set, body and situation. The No. 3 wide receiver in Green Bay is again up for grabs as it was in 2009.
Once again, I have every expectation that Jones will emerge on top. Moreover, with starting WR Donald Driver nearing retirement and his knees having reached retirement two years ago, this is more of a battle about Driver’s near term replacement than it is a simple No. 3 wide receiver role.
Jones is simply a playmaker at the position and should be lining up opposite Greg Jennings by year end. Jordy Nelson is better suited in a slot role and unless Jones struggles mightily with drops (which has been his history), this is where Nelson will end up.
If Jones is somehow on your free agent wire, stop reading this article and pick him up now! If you have an upcoming draft, including redraft, move Jones up significantly and draft him with confidence.
#2 Jason Hill, SF
6’0″ 202 lbs.
With good size and a good NFL skill-set, Hill has been the odd man out of the Niner offense the last two years as he’s dealt with inconsistent QB play and a constant battle against the depth chart. That battle continues.
In 2009, the emergence of Vernon Davis and the eventual signing of Michael Crabtree dealt Hill’s playing time and production a major blow.
After Seemingly having locked up the slot role in the budding offense for 2010, the Niner’s brought in Miami castoff Tedd Ginn, Jr. to immediately compete forthe position.
Hill should finally break through these challenges and eventually win the No. 3 wide receiver role this season.
Regardless, Hill is a free agent in 2011 and should have more than a few bidders for his services when the time comes. Hill is entering his 4th year so he is arguably behind when considering the three year rule but in some cases, this rule can be skewed because of situation.
Either way, I like Jason Hill’s potential for 2010, but like it even more for 2011 and beyond.
#3 Brandon Tate, NE
6’1″ 195 lbs.
He’s has been lighting up off-season activities after winding up on the IR in 2009. Now fully recovered from his 2009 knee surgery and considering Wes Welker’s own recovery from a late-season 2009 ACL injury, significant snap opportunities should be available for either Tate or Julian Edelman.
Early reports have Tate commanding a great degree of praise as well. The coaching staff seems to have a desire for him to win the No. 3 wide receiver role. Should this occur, Tate can be an effective producer in the Patriot offense as Brady is one to spread the ball around to all of his receivers.
While most slot WRs are not viable every week fantasy starters, Tate’s abilities are such that he could have future flanker ability as well as current slot productivity.
Being only 22, Tate will certainly add weight and experience going forward, making his 2nd year in the NFL one that could put him a bit ahead of the 3 year rule for WRs.
Tate should be added immediately if you need a solid development prospect at the position
#4 Kevin Ogletree, DAL
6’1″ 198 lbs.
Ogletree was a frequent mention in 2009 reports and has stood out time and time again in camp as someone who should be getting more playing time.
Unfortunately, every light at the end of the proverbial tunnel has been a train, first in the emergence of Miles Austin, then in the addition of Roy Williams and finally in the drafting of Dez Bryant.
Despite these roster movements that have held Ogletree back, he has generated enough buzz to eventually get his chance in Big D or explore free agency in 2012 when his current contract expires.
It’s not completely out of the question that Roy Williams is moved this season after eventually losing his starting role to rookie Dez Bryant. If this occurs, it is likely due to the confidence that Jerry’s staff has in Ogletree’s ability to play in the slot. For me, this is a “when” scenario far more than it is, an “if”.
Ogletree can be rostered immediately in deeper leagues if you have a development slot open or for any patient coach looking for a potential WR gem two years out.
#5 Sammie Stroughter, TB
5’10” 189 lbs.
In Stroughter’s case, a youth movement in Tampa Bay has turned the depth chart upside down, providing opportunities for whichever receiver is willing to work hard enough to capitalize.
Antonio Bryant is already gone and Michael Clayton probably isn’t far behind. Other veteran names such as Reggie Brown, Micheal Spurlock and Maurice Stovall have failed to impress thus far in their careers.
Now the Bucs added collegiate stars Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn via the draft. It is not out of the question that both of these young rookies could find themselves starting sooner rather than later.
For Stroughter, it seems far more likely that his best opportunity will again be from the slot role. In his first year, Stroughter was able to amass 31 receptions, 304 yards, and one touchdown, not bad production for a rookie.
More importantly, he’s been praised by the young coaching staff for a good work ethic, speed and quickness and likely is very secure in his position. Stroughter doesn’t project as much more than a slot receiver, but in the right system the slot receiver can be productive. Whether or not this applies in Tampa is currently unknown but it’s something to keep track of.
Continue to monitor Stroughter throughout the preseason and add him once he has achieved the WR3 role.
This concludes our three part series on players “Waiting in the Wings.” There are always yet undiscovered gems on every NFL roster for the patient and detail-oriented fantasy coach who is willing to put in the work necessary to find them.
It takes a keen eye and effective roster management to know how and when to add these players, but those who find that balance will reap the rewards. Take a look at the previous winners of your league and I bet you’ll find that those consistently at or near the top of the standings are those who do a lot of work in this area.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff