9 PPR WR Sleepers
Russell Gage, Buccaneers
Gage profiles as a relatively safe early-season bet — and perhaps beyond.
While the Bucs are “hopeful” that WR Chris Godwin suits up for Week 1, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the more likely outcome has him missing regular season games. Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 and is expected to be brought along slowly.
Tampa Bay lost 151 targets with the departures of TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Antonio Brown. Now, it’s essentially Mike Evans and Gage — then a gaping hole — at WR.
Only 26 and coming off back to back 65+ catch seasons, Gage meshes well with Tom Brady’s strength as an over-the-middle passer. Per Pro Football Focus, 39% of Brady’s 2021 passes were thrown “short center” or “intermediate center.” 55% of Gage’s ‘21 targets came in those areas.
With inside/outside versatility, Gage could easily retain WR3 value upon Godwin’s return. Our current projections have Brady for 659 attempts — most league-wide.
Christian Kirk, Jaguars
Poke fun at the Jags for “overpaying” Kirk if you want. (He signed for $37 million guaranteed, tied with Tyler Lockett for 16th most among WRs, per Spotrac.) But the former Cardinal is coming off his best season as a pro with career highs in catches, yards, yards per catch, yards per route run and PFF receiving grade.
Interestingly, Kirk played nearly 78% of his passing snaps in the slot. Prior to 2021, he never played inside more than 42% of the time.
The 25-year-old should move around the formation a good bit this fall. But the real draw here is Trevor Lawrence, who enters year 2 with a significant coaching upgrade in Doug Pederson. We’re pretty much throwing out Lawrence’s ugly rookie year alongside Urban Meyer. With an upgraded O-line and some valuable experience behind him, we fully expect a year 2 leap.
Jacksonville’s WR depth doesn’t figure to be a major hinderance for Kirk, either. Marvin Jones, now 32, just posted his lowest PFF receiving grade and yards per route run since 2012. And while Zay Jones joined the squad on a pricey contract, he’s yet to top 652 yards as a pro (2018 in Buffalo).
Current projections have Kirk for 112 targets — enough to slide into WR3 range.
Kadarius Toney, Giants
As a rookie, Toney popped with early-season lines of 6-78 (at New Orleans) and 10-189 (at Dallas). Among 89 WRs with 50+ targets, he ranked 11th in yards per route run.
Remember, Toney exited Florida following only 1 season as a full-time WR.
So the early returns were promising — especially when you factor in the stale, Jason Garrett-led offense he played in.
With a new staff in (led by HC Brian Daboll and OC Mike Kafka) and little target competition beyond Kenny Golladay, 2022 sets up nicely for Toney. The biggest question here is simply consistency — mentally and physically — as he missed time last year with ankle, quad and abdomen injuries. He also sat out most of training camp with a hamstring strain.
While the downside here is clear, it becomes much more tolerable with an ADP in WR4 range.
Tyler Boyd, Bengals
Boyd took a backseat last year, as Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins saw the bulk of the targets. Boyd’s 17.4% target share marked his lowest since 2017.
It’s a small sample, but in 2 missed games from Higgins (Week 3 and Week 4), Boyd actually led Cincinnati with a 34% target share. (Chase played all 17 games.)
Only 28 (in November), it's not like Boyd’s play fell off last season. His PFF receiving grade, yards per catch, yards per route run and catch rate each fell in line with career averages.
No, you’re not getting a potential league-winner, barring a Higgins or Chase injury. But Boyd can dish out WR3/FLEX value with the potential for more — if target volume opens up.
Rondale Moore, Cardinals
Moore checked a lot of boxes as a prospect: his early breakout age, his athletic profile and his Round 2 draft capital.
He was worked in slowly as a rookie, essentially used as an extension of the run game. His average depth of target (aDOT) of 1.2 proved historically low.
Marquise Brown joined the Cardinals in April, but losing Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds keeps this pass-catching corps relatively light. That’s especially true with DeAndre Hopkins set to miss the first 6 games of the season on his PED suspension.
As a bonus: HC Kliff Kingsbury talked up a new role for Moore back in June.
“We utilized him [last year] in different ways than we will this year,” Kingsbury said. “We kind of got it to him in space and did some things and used him on some check downs, but he’s a dynamic route runner. I think that’s what people are going to see. He’s really good getting out of his cuts, good at the top of routes, so I think people are going to see a different side of him.”
Jarvis Landry, Saints
Landry’s production declined in 2021, but a look back at his circumstances provides clarity as to why.
He suffered an MCL sprain in Week 2, one that bothered him going forward. The same week, Baker Mayfield sustained a torn left labrum that he struggled to play through (and eventually needed end-of-season surgery).
So forgive Landry for posting career lows across the board: 87 targets, 52 catches, 570 yards and 2 TDs. Prior to 2021, Landry missed just 1 game as a pro.
Now in New Orleans, his setup carries some sneaky PPR upside. Michael Thomas (ankle) enters training camp having not practiced in OTAs/minicamp. He last suited up on January 17, 2021, and his health and durability largely remains a mystery.
WR Chris Olave joined the team early in Round 1. His college tape showed a pro-ready prospect, but we’re still talking about a rookie. Only 16 Round 1 WRs have averaged 50+ yards per game over the past 10 seasons. That’s only 40% in a 40-player sample. That number drops to 9 (22.5%) if the threshold is raised to 60 yards per game.
That list, of course, includes elite talents like Odell Beckham, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Nobody’s argued that Olave is of their caliber.
Now, we'll see how Jameis Winston looks coming off a late-October ACL tear. Clearly, though, there's a path for Landry to get back to his high-volume ways.
Jamison Crowder, Bills
Offseason departure Cole Beasley leaves behind 106 targets and the 2nd most slot snaps league-wide (465). While the Bills will work under new OC Ken Dorsey, this Josh Allen offense has fed Beasley over 100 targets in 3 straight seasons.
Buffalo also lost 72 targets with the departure of Emmanuel Sanders.
Without question, 2022 marks the best QB situation of Crowder’s career. Here’s a list of passers that the 29-year-old has played with:
Now, Crowder still needs to beat out Isaiah McKenzie for consistent slot snaps. But team insider Vic Carucci believes McKenzie — who’s yet to top 38 targets in a season — will retain “more of a specialty role” in 2022.
Robbie Anderson, Panthers
Carolina extended Anderson’s contract last August at 2 years, $30 million.
The ROI, at least after year 1, was not good.
Among 90 WRs with 50+ targets, the former Jet ranked 80th in yards per catch, 74th in yards after catch per reception, 88th in yards per route run and 84th in PFF receiving grade.
So, sure -- 2021 easily marked the most disappointing season of Anderson’s career. Let's just remember that he watched Sam Darnold, Cam Newton and P.J. Walker combine to make 17 starts. Anderson at least played all 17 games. He’s now missed only 2 games for his career.
Plus, this offseason supplied some hope, as the Panthers upgraded the QB room with Baker Mayfield. As ace beat reporter Joseph Person pointed out, Mayfield can throw an effective deep ball, which would “play into Anderson’s strengths.”
Note that Anderson averaged at least 14 yards per catch in 4 of his first 5 pro seasons.
The front office also passed on adding meaningful target competition and will instead enter training camp with DJ Moore, Anderson and year 1 dud Terrace Marshall as the likely top-3.
Only 29, it’s certainly not too late for Anderson to post a bounce-back season.
Parris Campbell, Colts
To date, injuries have crippled Campbell’s career. He’s played only 15 games across 3 seasons.
The injuries have largely been of the bad luck variety, including one last year where he seriously hurt his foot after scoring a long TD.
“I think that just everything that I’ve been through has kind of built my mental state,” Campbell shared this offseason. “Just being able to bounce back from (the injuries) and be back where I am today like healthy, that did a lot for me mentally because shoot, that was definitely one of the darkest times in my life. So, like mentally now, whatever is thrown my way, I know I’m going to be able to bounce from it.”
Well, there’s no better time than now to start producing. Campbell, only 25, projects as at least the #3 WR behind Michael Pittman (and perhaps Round 2 rookie Alec Pierce). It’s worth remembering that Campbell arrived in the league as a dynamic athlete fresh off a breakout 2018 at Ohio State (90-1,063-12, 14 games). Compare that to what Terry McLaurin -- also a ’18 senior at OSU -- did in the same offense (35-701-11 in 12 games).
Mix in a QB upgrade with Matt Ryan, and it’s quite possible we see Campbell deliver in a contract season.