Each offseason, there are endless discussions about finding the next breakout star. Drafting a late-round player who eventually becomes a stud is one of the best ways to win leagues. Unfortunately, when the entire fantasy football community is predicting a breakout, the “sleeper” loses his ADP value. This year, the Hot Hot Hot! player is Martavis Bryant. His ADP is attached to a rocket ship: He is now a 4th-round selection, drafted ahead of established vets like DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, and Roddy White. This soaring ADP is likely the result of some of Bryant’s memorable late-season plays; his 80-yard TD in Week 10 and the 94-yard TD in Week 13 come to mind. His ADP continues to rise despite having fewer than 50 targets and hauling in only 26 catches; the 79th-best catch rate in the league.
Some of Bryant’s allure is tied to his elite athletic profile. Outside of agility score, his numbers are all 80th percentile or better, giving him an amazing SPARQX score. He’s big and fast with amazing burst and a huge catch radius. But, don’t miss the glaring red flag amidst his flashy metrics: He had an extremely low college dominator rating and never broke out (he never owned a 20% market share of Clemson’s receiving production). This is problematic.
Let’s examine last year’s version of Martavis Bryant.
Cordarrelle Patterson resembles Bryant: Both receivers are large and fast, and neither receiver managed to break out in college.
Unlike Bryant and Patterson, Justin Hunter managed to break out in college. Unfortunately, his 27.2% DR was an indicator that he would fail to find success at the next level. Bryant and Hunter are actually so similar that they are each other’s best comparable player.
Learn From Last Year
All three of these players were super-hyped in their respective offseasons. In hindsight, trading Patterson and Hunter prior to the season would have been selling them at their high points. We have every reason to believe that Bryant’s career could take a similar trajectory. Bryant’s hype is based on a relatively small sample size (48 targets), and his collegiate production was disturbingly low. It is likely that Bryant’s value will never be higher than it is today. An intelligent fantasy owner should be looking to pick up inexpensive assets who could be next year’s Bryant. These targets may usable as a bye-week fill-in, but more likely, they will become an attractive trade chip in keeper/dynasty leagues. In looking for cheap, athletic, low-college-dominator rookies, there are three receivers who stand out as players to target before the fantasy community at large discovers them:
Jaelen Strong checks all of the boxes: 6’2”; 90+ percentile HaSS and burst scores, and a large catch radius.
Like Bryant, he’s capable of ridiculously memorable highlight plays:
He also has the requisite less-than-stellar collegiate production, with a below-average dominator rating. With DeAndre Hopkins anchoring the target hog role, and a pu pu platter of veterans littering the depth chart (Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington), Strong should carve out a role as the “big play” receiver that will throw just enough red meat at fantasy analysts next offseason. In the 15th round, he’s cheap to snap up.
Chris Conley is a freak. That word is used too much, but look at this profile:
100th percentile burst score? 96th percentile HaSS? Outrageous. Unfortunately, he didn’t flash this athleticism enough in college, with a dominator rating below the 50th percentile. This year, he’s grouped with a reliable producer in Jeremy Maclin, the secretly-athletic and productive Albert Wilson, and the living embodiment of a Greek God, Travis Kelce. Kansas City’s best WR setup is likely Maclin as the flanker/target hog, Wilson as the slot, and Conley as the split end. In this role, Conley would make a number of splash plays over the course of the year. In the 18th round, you won’t be able to find other players that even sniff Conley’s athletic upside.
Why not look at Bryant’s teammate? If Bryant busts, they spent good draft capital on his replacement. Sammie Coates checks all the same boxes that Strong and Conley do, except that he also has an above average agility score.
As Martavis showed last year, splash plays are available to rookie Steeler WRs. You should not be surprised if Coates shows up in three receiver sets since Antonio Brown can shift into the slot. Coates is the cheapest of the three, going in the 18th round. That’s basically free. James Jones is being drafted ahead of Sammie and he’s not even on a roster!
Think a few moves ahead of your league mates and grab one of these receivers at the end of your draft, then sit back and enjoy the trade offers as they roll in later in the season and into 2016.