When the 2016 season ended, we saw that a large number of wide receivers, specifically the WR24 through the WR48, all finished within 1.5 NFL fantasy points per game of each other. But every week, there were one or two who really surprised us. Here’s a few we expect great things from this week.
Best Bet: Eric Decker, Tennessee (at Jacksonville)
By now you have read about Tennessee’s first-round draft pick, Corey Davis, and how he surprisingly led the team in targets against Oakland last week. Davis had ten targets. Rishard Matthews had nine and made more yards out them. Eric Decker had eight. It is not exactly the Corey Davis Show in Tennessee just yet.
This week, the Titans face the “Sacksonville” Jaguars. At least that is what their fans are calling the Jacksonville squad after they opened the season with ten sacks against Houston. They even have t-shirts already. Fortunately, Tennessee has a much better offensive line and a mobile-enough quarterback to offset that rush. The bigger problem for the Titans makes Decker my favorite sleeper in Week 2.
Jacksonville has two very good cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. Last week, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins gathered up seven catches for 55 yards. But it took him an amazing 16 targets to do it. No other wide receiver had a single catch. Against Tennessee, Ramsey and Bouye will draw the outside receivers, Matthews and Davis. Eric Decker will line up in the slot and go to work on Jacksonville’s third corner, Aaron Colvin. He should have a much easier time of things than his teammates.
Decker got off to a slow start with his new team, making only three catches. This week, quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is becoming adept at finding the open receiver, will find him more often than the others. Decker not only sees more targets, he converts them to 90 yards and his first Titans touchdown.
As a bonus gift to you, let me mention that tight end Delanie Walker will match Decker’s output. He is a top tight end play for the same reasons as Decker is my best bet sleeper.
Good Bet: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (at Los Angeles Chargers)
By the time Week 17 rolls around, my preseason prediction that DeVante Parker will be Miami’s leading receiver will be true. But Jarvis Landry should get a jump on him in the Dolphins’ season opener. The situation is the same as Decker’s opportunity in Jacksonville. Charger cornerbacks, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward, are shut-down defenders. They will do their best to take out Parker and Kenny Stills.
Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry will operate from the slot against lesser pass defenders. The only reason Landry is not the best bet is Jay Cutler. I do not trust him to look away from his covered receivers as quickly or as often as Mariota will for Tennessee. But eventually, someone will tell Cutler to look for Landry, who can take any short pass and turn it into an NFL fantasy points maker.
Not a Bad Bet: Breshad Perriman, Baltimore (vs Cleveland)
This goes against all rational thought. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw only 17 passes last week in the Ravens’ shutout of Cincinnati. This was partly to run down the clock with a lead, but also because of the Ravens’ concern about Flacco’s back.
Flacco claimed that he had no pain or other physical setbacks after the game and joked about how careful the team was about not making him pass more. Indications of a more active passing game are afoot. Many prognosticators are pointing to Jeremy Maclin as the likely benefactor of more passes. But Perriman received the same number of targets, and deeper targets, than Maclin in the first game.
Look for Flacco to pass much more as I believe Cleveland gives them a run for their money. He will go to his familiar receiver as much as the newest member of the passing game, especially in the red zone.
Every Friday, we share our best sleeper predictions. So, come back every week. Plus, if you have suggestions or questions, send them to us at email@example.com. Then look for answers in our Mailbag post every Wednesday!
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