“Here we lay bare the souls of those who play the game for our entertainment. We praise the saints, condemn the sinners, and root out the sleepers who can help your fantasy football team stay on the righteous path.”
The third installment of Saints, Sinners and Sleepers will explore the wide receiver position heading into the 2015 NFL season. These are the best of the best, the worst of the worst and some of the most underestimated in their field. The following players can help you gain entry into the pearly gates of a fantasy football championship, or send you to the seventh circle of a losing season. Heed the words you are about to read, and know that it is truth.
Antonio Brown- For the last two seasons, Antonio Brown has ranked in the top two in league for receiving yards (1,698 and 1,499) and was third in touchdown receptions last season (13). Coming into his 6th season in the league, he looks to build on his already strong relationship with quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger and improve on his stellar numbers from last season. He completes the Holy Trinity of Saints in Pittsburgh and like the other two, is going to have a huge season in 2015. Despite his rather small frame (5′ 10″, 186 lbs), he is able to win battles against larger defenders and is a threat all over the field, whether it be in space on a short bubble screen or catching the deep ball after blazing past opposing defenses. Saint Antonio is going to continue to prove this season that he is one of the best pass catchers in the league.
Dez Bryant- On a personal level, I find it very hard to call Dez Bryant a saint; his attitude and tendency to cause drama on the field and in the locker room are big turnoffs for me. That said, this guys is a unique talent, and after ranking in the top three in receiving touchdown for the last three seasons, including leading the league last year (16), his status as one of the best is secure. He caught 51 more passes than the next closest receiver on his team last season, and considering they didn’t add any special talents at the position this offseason, it’s hard to see that changing. Saint Dez’ physical ability are on a level that hasn’t been seen since Calvin Johnson was healthy, and he brings the hammer of God down upon any DB who is unfortunate enough to try to break down and tackle him in space. Add that to his ability to win contested catches in the air, and it’s easy to see why he is one of the best young talents in football.
Calvin Johnson- Saint Megatron has been getting slept-on hard this year in fantasy football and I just don’t understand it. This is a guy who missed three games last season, and was used exclusively as decoy in another two, yet he still managed to 1,077 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Now he has to have a chip on his shoulder after hearing all the talk of him being washed up at the ripe old age of thirty. This is the first time in a few seasons that the future hall of fame receiver will come into the season healthy, and from reports out of Lions’ training camp, it sounds like this saint still has plenty of miracles up his sleeve. Look for Saint Megatron to get back to his dominating ways and make jaw-dropping plays all year long. If there are doubters now, there will be plenty of true believers by the time January rolls around.
Devin Funchess- I still can’t believe how much the Carolina Panthers paid to move up and draft Devin Funchess. I had high hopes for the tight end turned wide out when he was at Michigan, and although he did provide the occasional big play, he routinely dropped balls and hurt his team. Sure, he has some size (6′ 4″, 236 lbs), but he is not very fast and has hands of stone. He and the team would probably benefit from a move back to tight end, but that may not be feasible due to his lackluster run blocking. This sinner is bound to enrage the fanbase in Carolina more often than not, just as he did in Ann Arbor. While the loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the entire 2015 season makes it tempting to consider allowing this heathen to join the ranks of your team, but he is beyond salvation and should be cast out.
Sammy Watkins- I expected Sammy Watkins to be very good last year… if he got drafted into the right situation. It turned out that he wound up in Buffalo. True, the Bills are in a much better place than last season but Rex Ryan is now running the team and he is known for a few things; good defense, strong running game and poor quarterback play. I’m still not sold on the Bills’ newly named starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, who will likely be benched at some point before November. The addition of other offensive weapons in Charles Clay, Percy Harvin and LeSean McCoy, make sure there’s no chance Watkins sees anything near the 128 targets he saw last year (no receiver has ever gotten that many targets in a Rex Ryan offense). Lastly, he has become somewhat injury prone and has been in and out of practice this summer while recovering from hip surgery. Sammy Watkins is a sinner of circumstance, but a sinner nonetheless, and you should beware.
Dwayne Bowe- I don’t understand how this sinner keeps getting starting wide receiver jobs in the NFL. He hasn’t gained 1,000 receiving yards since 2011, and hasn’t had more than 5 receiving touchdowns since 2010. Last year he had ZERO receiving touchdowns (no wide receiver on the Chiefs had one) and as a reward he got $9 million in guaranteed money from the Browns. I know it seems like I’ve used this recurring segment to rag on the Browns players (except for Duke Johnson), but I feel a responsibility to warn fantasy football owners about just how bad this team is. Regardless of which sinner is throwing the ball to Bowe, you can expect him to continue his sinning ways and drag down your entire team.
Kamar Aiken- Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of the former UDFA out of UCF; a couple weeks ago I hadn’t either. Breshad Perriman’s injury could be the best thing that ever happened to the speedy 4th year receiver, who is currently listed as a starter for the Ravens. With guru, Marc Trestman, running the offense in Baltimore, look for Aiken to get a good amount of balls thrown his way. He is a sleeper in the truest sense, and is barely being drafted in most leagues. If you can get him in the last few rounds or even better, as a free agent, you could be getting the biggest steal in your entire league.
Jeff Janis- The second year receiver out of Saginaw Valley didn’t see the field much in 2014, but with Jordy Nelson out for the season with a torn ACL, that’s going to change. You can believe that fans in Green Bay and around the league will be hearing this guy’s name much more often now. There’s nothing that an under-the-radar wide receiver should wish for more than the chance to have a future hall of fame QB throwing them the ball (just ask every no name who’s ever been lucky enough to land in New England). Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best in the game and he has the ability to make everyone around him better. Janis has already impressed in the preseason, and with Randall Cobb’s week 1 status in doubt, he could be a very busy man when the Packers head to play the lowly Bears in the Windy City. Look for big things out of Mr. Janis this year.
Markus Wheaton- The 3rd year receiver out of Oregon State was a bit of a disappointment last season after he only accumulated 644 yards and 2 touchdowns, but don’t give up on him just yet. The Steelers and their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, still believe in him, and you should too. The offense in the Steel City is going to be very good and with Martavis Bryant missing the first 4 games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, this could be the perfect time for Wheaton to fill the void and have his breakout. He will be going pretty late in most drafts, if at all, and with the way that the Steelers are going to be scoring points this season, there’s a very good chance the Wheaton puts up the numbers that I thought he would last year. Take him late and reap the rewards.