Leonard Hankerson: Fantasy Football’s Cheapest Upside Play

by Hilal Chami ·

If you’re like most fantasy football managers, Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Leonard Hankerson is barely a blip on your radar.  Hankerson has been labeled a college has-been and an NFL never-was.  However, in 2015, Hankerson reunites with former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the stars may be aligning for a belated ascent.  If Hankerson can win this job and stay healthy, by this time next year we’ll all be setting our watches to HankTime.

Production + Versatility + Athleticism

Christopher Gerrish has suggested that Justin Hardy is a better fit for the slot position, but I respectfully disagree. Roddy White is actually best-equipped to be the Falcons’ slot receiver in 3-receiver sets at this point in his career.  The 3-WR role configuration that would maximize Atlanta’s scoring output is Julio Jones as flanker-target hog, Leonard Hankerson as split end-deep threat, and Roddy White as slot-chain mover.

If Martavis Bryant and his 4.42-speed should be on the field as much as possible in Pittsburgh, then the same is true for Leonard Hankerson and his 4.43-speed. Hardy may look like a prototypical NFL slot receiver, but Hankerson is better all-around receiver regardless of role. By deploying Hankerson outside and moving White inside at this point in their respective careers, the Falcons would ensure that their most athletic and historically productive wide receivers are on the field.

leonard hankerson WR Atlanta Falcons

Leonard Hankerson Advanced Metrics Profile

justin hardy WR Atlanta Falcons

Justin Hardy Advanced Metrics Profile

Leonard Hankerson outshines Justin Hardy in every category except agility score.  A closer look will also show that Hankerson was superhumanly dominant in college.  His 49.6% College Dominator Rating tells us that HankTime was responsible for nearly HALF of his school’s WR production in regards to yards and touchdowns.  It’s simply an incredible number that only 6% of NFL receivers have been able to match.  The fact that he accomplished this at a D1 school like the University of Miami makes these statistics even more impressive; these super-high dominator ratings are rarely seen outside of small schools.

Health + Catch Radius + Ceiling

Leonard Hankerson was selected by Washington in the 3rd-round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was quickly buried on the depth chart despite leading the team in yards-per-reception in 2013 (players over 50 targets) and nearly tying the team’s No. 1 WR Pierre Garcon in YPR in 2012.  His efficiency came to a screeching halt when he was injured in November of 2013, and he was not able to regain full health in 2014. A healthy Hankerson in his prime represents an upgrade over the departed Harry Douglas.

Fantasy owners talk “handcuffs” all the time, and it almost always refers to the running back position. However, drafters should look back to 2013 when Harry Douglas did a surprisingly effective job filling in for the injured Julio Jones and the injured-but-selfishly-starting Roddy White. Hankerson is a fantastic value at 217.6 ADP in recent MyFantasyLeague.com money leagues, because he is a player who 1) could very well start as the Falcons WR3, and 2) if needed, take over for an injured Jones as the team’s No. 1 WR. Hankerson has standalone value when all Falcons receivers are healthy and is also one of the highest upside handcuffs in fantasy football.

So far, the offseason praise surrounding Hankerson has been glowing:

Leonard Hankerson has been “the best wide receiver at Flowery Branch so far.”AtlantaFalcons.com

“I think it’s the length, he’s got such a big catching radius, you’ve probably seen some of the sideline plays, he’s got such a knack for keeping it in bounds and going to stretch for the ball, so that’s probably one of the biggest things that stand out for me with Hankerson.” – Coach Dan Quinn

“Leonard Hankerson could see more time on the field when it’s all said and done.”- Vaughn McClure

Justin Hardy could someday develop into a fantastic slot receiver, but his 211.1 ADP in recent MyFantasyLeague.com money leagues is more expensive than Leonard Hankerson‘s despite a lower ceiling. For this reason, if you can only own one Falcons WR other than Julio Jones and Roddy White, make time to take a late-round flier on HankTime.

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