The All Post-Hype Sleeper Team – WRs and TE
In this series, I attempted to put together the ideal post-hype sleeper starting lineup. If you want to find part one of this piece, which includes my QB1, RB1, and RB2 selections, you can find that here. You will also find my explanation for what makes up a post-hype sleeper and what doesn’t. There is a specific set of qualifications that often get confused.
And remember, do your best to consider all the factors when evaluating a player. Sometimes, it’s too easy to fall into the hype trap. I’m not proud of it, but three of the players on my 2014 post-hype list were also on one of my 2013 rosters.
Without further ado, let’s move on to the final players that make up my ideal post-hype sleeper squad.
*All ADP data comes from fantasyfootballcalcuatlor.com and is pulled from just fewer than 1,000 mock drafts during each time frame.
Wide Receiver 1 – Larry Fitzgerald
Truth be told, Michael Floyd is my favorite Arizona Cardinal wide receiver and Pat Thorman explains why making the best case that I’ve seen for any player this offseason. But we don’t get to talk about Floyd here because he is not a post-hype sleeper. It’s ok though, because there will be plenty of fantasy football production to go around in Arizona this season, and Fitzgerald fits the bill of a post-hype sleeper perfectly. Fitzgerald wasn’t a hyped young talent heading into last season, but many expected him to regain form as a high-end WR1.
After Reggie Wayne posted a 106/1,355/5 campaign in 2012 under Bruce Arians, the Fitzgerald bandwagon filled up fast when Arians used him at the X, Z, and Y in training camp and predicted that he would surpass 100 catches and 10 touchdowns in 2013. By the final week before the 2013 season began, Fitzgerald’s ADP had risen to 29th overall and he was the seventh wide receiver coming off the board. Fitzgerald finished as just the 15th-highest scoring wide receiver—according to data that was pulled from Fantasy Pros because they eliminate the meaningless Week 17 games from their totals.
Fitzgerald is currently being drafted as the WR17. There is plenty of reason to believe that Fitzgerald will surpass his current ADP and his finish from 2013.
After finishing 2013 as PFF’s worst offensive line, the additions of Jared Vedlheer, Jonathan Cooper, and potentially Bobbie Massie will help the Cardinals sustain their offense. Everyone should be better in year two of Arians’ offense, but providing Carson Palmer with protection is key to the success of his intermediate and vertically-oriented scheme. After combining for just 18 and never eclipsing 8 touchdowns in his previous three seasons, Fitzgerald caught 10 touchdowns in 2013. He should remain Palmer’s go-to target inside the red zone and the Cardinals will likely have more opportunities if the line can sustain health.
Speaking of health, a hamstring injury sapped Fitzgerald of his explosiveness for a fourth of his season, at least by my untrained eye, though he never claimed to feel fully recovered. As many players like Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and more recently Demarco Murray have proven, there is no real evidence to support the theory that players are injury prone—in reality it is simply just recency bias. Fitzgerald is known as one of the hardest-training athletes in the offseason, and so far in OTAs there have been no signs that he has lost a step.
Fitzgerald is not going to be the WR7 he was drafted as last August, but the emergence of Floyd can actually help him sneak into the top 12 as coverage shifts away. Improvements in his health, knowledge of the system, and the offense overall should make him a value as his ADP seems likely to fall even further with every fluff piece on Floyd.
Wide Receiver 2 – Golden Tate
Last offseason, Tate was a trendy sleeper pick as many saw him breaking out due to his untapped potential, Wilson’s continued progress, and his projected role as the number one option in the passing game. While his ADP rose just into the WR3 range, he was a middle-round pick with a ton of buzz which meant that you would likely have to reach a round earlier or pay a few extra dollars in an auction.
Tate didn’t live up to the hype and instead finished the season as the WR35 Weeks 1-16, in large part due to the fact that Russell Wilson only attempted 14 more passes than in 2012, increasing his total to 407—good for just 22nd-most in the league and over 100 passes less than 15 other quarterbacks and over 200 passes less than 6 others quarterbacks.
Tate can now put the run-based offense that plagued his fantasy numbers behind him. He joins a Lions offense that attempted 227 more passes than the Seahawks in 2013. Digging deeper, since he joined the NFL in 2011, the Seahawks have attempted the second-fewest pass plays with just 1,460. Although offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been replaced by former New Orleans Saints’ quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi, not much should change on that front. Lombardi is starting his playbook from the one he learned with the Saints, and Drew Brees has averaged just fewer than 660 pass attempts over the last three seasons.
With an increase in pass attempts, Tate should also see an increase in his snaps in route. Last season, Tate only was charted with just 447 snaps-in-route—54 wide receivers had more snaps-in-route and 24 of them had at least 100 more.
Tate’s opportunity will come as more than just an increase in snaps in route. Playing alongside Calvin Johnson will provide Tate with open space across the middle of the field. This will allow Tate to showcase his best attribute—his ability to create yardage after the catch. In 2013, Tate led the NFL with 7.9 YAC/rec. or yards after the catch per reception, out of all wide receivers who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. He also forced 21-missed tackle, which again led the NFL at his position.
With more opportunities and a better situation, Tate makes for an ideal post-hype sleeper candidate. He is currently the 32nd wide receiver coming off the board.
Wide Receiver 3 – Danny Amendola
When Amendola signed with the Patriots last offseason, he had many takers and the hype built up fast. People expected him to become the number one target in the passing game, and they called him “Brady’s kind-of-receiver”—which I am still not convinced wasn’t racially charged. Using the same logic I outlined above, people dismissed his past injury history as bad luck—which I still stand by today—and his ADP skyrocketed as the season neared. He was, on average, the 13th wide receiver coming off the board.
Amendola sustained a torn adductors (groin) in his first game as a Patriot, and his performance and playing time never fully recovered. He ended up missing four games entirely, while playing limited snaps in several others. He finished as the WR59, and you can guarantee that there are several owners out there who will completely remove him from their 2014 draft boards.
This offseason, the Patriots didn’t go out and sign any impact wide receivers or move tight ends—unless you want to call Brandon Lafell that—so not much as changed about Amendola’s situation. As my colleague Kyle Soppe pointed out, no team in the NFL has scored more points over the last five regular seasons than the Patriots who have tallied 2,459 points over the last five seasons, ranking among the Top 3 scoring offenses in the league in back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons.
With another offseason to master the Patriots’ oft-described complicated offensive scheme, Amendola’s skill-set should lead to more snaps—specifically in the slot. Pat Thorman found that Amendola ran 77.4 percent of his pass routes in the slot last season. Digging a little deeper, Amendola ran 288 of his 372 total routes in the slot, compiling 501 of his 633 total receiving yards and racking up a 1.76 YPPR (yards per route run)—good for 18th-best among all wide receivers in the slot.
Amendola’s success in the slot is nothing new, however. In 2012, with the Rams, he posted a 1.91 YPPR in the slot, which was good for 12th-best among wide receivers. With no real option at “move tight end”—again, I don’t buy into the Lafell talk—Amendola should see plenty of action in the slot as the Patriots use more 11 personnel. Once again, Amendola has stood out during spring practices and is developing a nice chemistry with Tom Brady.
Listen, I’m not saying that Amendola will justify his lofty ADP and expectations from last season. But he doesn’t have to. He’s coming off the board as the WR49. He won’t cost you much this season, and his talent, situation, and opportunity are all still there.
Tight End – Kyle Rudolph
After posting nine touchdowns but just 493 yards on 53 receptions in 2012, Rudolph made my players to avoid list last season as a prime regression candidate. In a run-first offense, with terrible quarterback play, poor play-calling, and no other tight end to free up Rudolph from blocking duties, he did regress. Although Rudolph’s season was cut short, through eight games he only posted a 30/313/3 line.
One of the issues for Rudolph was opportunity. After finishing 2012 with just 431 snaps in route—the 12th-most among tight ends—he followed it up in 2013 with just 233 snaps in route through eight games. His 44 targets, even when extrapolated over the course of a full season, would barely squeeze him into the top 10 among tight ends and there were 53 other wide receiver and tight ends combined who would have received more targets.
With Norv Turner hired to be the offensive coordinator, Rudolph’s targets and role within the offense should increase. Turner has a history for maximizing production from his tight ends in the passing game. More than most coordinators, he designs several plays where the tight end is the quarterback’s first or second read. Turner called the second-most plays with 12 personnel—or two tight ends—in 2013, and there’s a strong chance that he envisions Rudolph as his move tight end.
Last season, Turner used Jordan Cameron in the slot on 60.3 percent of his plays, compared to Rudolph who was only used in the slot on 40.2 percent of his plays. In the slot, Rudolph scored two of his three total touchdowns, and boasted an impressive 1.98 YPPR.
Rudolph has scored 15 touchdowns in 39 career games, and he projects as the Vikings’ ideal red zone threat once again. With Teddy Bridgewater already standing out in spring practices, now is the perfect time to buy in on Rudolph’s breakout season.
If you want to know any of my other evaluations on skill position players, continue the conversation, or yell at me for something I missed, you can find me on Twitter @DanSchneier_NFL. You can also add me to your network on Google+ to find all of my past material.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our new Mock and Companion Draft Tool! Utilizing our updated player projections, run a quick mock draft and see where this year’s crop of free agents are coming off the board in early fantasy football drafts.