Now that we’ve finished our 2022 Player Profiles, it’s time to take a look at the top sleepers at each position. Today, we cover sleeper wide receivers. This is my favorite series to do every year, since hope springs eternal. In order to stave off people who say “hey that’s not a sleeper!” I have set criteria: the players have to go as “backend backups.” To determine this, I multiplied the number of players taken in a standard 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE draft and multiplied that number by 1.5. This means this series will cover players I believe have a chance to finish as weekly starters for you, who are currently ranked outside the top-18 at quarterback, top-36 at running back, top-54 at wide receiver, and top-18 at tight end. This way I am only looking at players going as backups. To find these numbers, I used 4for4.com’s consensus average draft position tool.
Sleeper Wide Receiver #1: Wan’Dale Robinson, N.Y. Giants (WR85, 256 overall)
Akash, this one’s for you. While I feel a lot better about Kadarius Toney as a player and a talent, it’s clear that the Giants have a bunch of bums and wide receiver. Kenny Golladay is completely washed as a football player at this point, I’m not entirely sure Sterling Shepard is a person that exists on this plane any longer, and internet content mongers are floating Darius Slayton as a roster cut. Who would that leave? Well, basically Toney and baby Toney, AKA Wan’Dale Robinson.
Robinson is the same type of diverse jack of all trades that we saw out of Kadarius Toney last year, but he comes in at just 5’8” and 178 pounds. New York’s second-round pick has been running with the ones all offseason, and given the decimation of New York’s wide receiver room, the abject poverty of their running back room, and the high likelihood that Brian Daboll somewhat overrides the Daniel Jones of it all, it’s pretty likely that the Giants offense will improve, and they will do it with Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, and Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson has been getting a lot of run in the slot this year, and Brian Daboll came from Buffalo, who gave Cole Beasley at least 100 targets in each of the last three years. And if Kadarius Toney, who can’t go six weeks without an injury, or the Giants talking about trading him, or some other nonsense, misses time? Then, buddy, you have New York’s WR1.
Sleeper Wide Receiver #2: Michael Gallup, Dallas (WR56, 137 overall)
Gallup’s ADP mostly comes from the fact that he is coming off of a torn ACL without a definite timetable for return. But, given how we are treating other players coming off of injury (Chris Godwin, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers, and Travis Etienne), then Gallup is getting an even bigger dip you can buy. Granted, Gallup isn’t on their level, but the 2018 third-rounder already has a 1,100-yard season under his belt (2019), so it isn’t like he’s a slouch. Gallup missed a large chunk of time in the middle of 2021, then returned and tore his ACL, so his season was a little herky-jerky. Still, he averaged 7 targets, four catches, and 49 yards per game. Touchdowns and a dismal catch rate were an issue, but those weren’t Gallup’s issues.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, he was outside the top sixty in catchable target rate, and he ranked 98th in target separation, meaning Dak was rifling a lot of dirty and bad balls into Gallup. He made the best of it, ranking 25th in contested catch rate. In his big 2019, the separation on targets was still an issue (he’s a contested catch guy, think Anquan Boldin), but his catchable target rate was 10% higher, and ranked 23rd in the NFL. If Dak can get back on the same page with Gallup, things should go well for him this season once he returns from his injury.
Wide Receiver Sleeper #3: Alec Pierce, Indianapolis (WR83, 253 overall)
Alec Pierce is a lot of fun. He’s big, fast, and has a ridiculous catch radius. That’s why he helped Desmond Ridder dominate Cincinnati in college. He also, as of week two of the preseason, seems to have cemented himself as the WR2 on the roster, getting the start on the outside, with Parris Campbell bumping into the slot in the second week of the preseason. This would give Matt Ryan two dominant mid-range to downfield threats to work with, and with the defense giving all their attention to established star Michael Pittman, that leaves Alec Pierce to feast downfield. Pierce is not getting drafted in any rationally-sized league, as he would be a round sixteen pick even in a sixteen-team league. That means that you can get away with just monitoring him early in the season, and seeing if you can snatch him up after week one if one of your guys falls apart.