Reports out of L.A. today point towards a possible season-ending surgery for highly touted rookie WR Mike Williams. While this is certainly a wrench in the gears for a player many expected to make an immediate impact, what it does is open the door for last years suprising success Tyrell Williams to return as the #2 WR on the outside.
I expect Benjamin to remain penciled in as the slot receiver, and if he’s healthy, he’ll take a chunk of the looks Williams was expected to have. But the real winner, assuming Williams misses significant time, is Tyrell Williams.
Last year with Allen and Benjamin missing time, Williams stepped up big time to the tune of 1059 yards on 69 catches, and 7 TDs. Williams has the size (6’4″) to be a big redzone target, but add to that a rise in the depth chart, and you have a recipe for success for the 51st WR being selected.
While he likely won’t repeat last years numbers, it’s still not a sure thing that the wideouts ahead of him on the chart last a full 16 games. Obviously keep an eye on Williams progress, but Williams should still be good for 800 yards and 7-9 TDs.
So maybe I’ve beaten a dead horse a bit on the bounce back and sleeper picks for QB’s… after all how many are really going to get drafted? Still, there has to be a line in the sand for elite QB1 options and the rest of the group. Who (aside from Joe Flacco… who I will refrain from including in this article) has the potential for a breakout, top 10 season?
Least Risk: Philip Rivers – Los Angelas Chargers – Rivers slots in on my ranks around the 14th spot, meaning he only has to leap four of the QB’s ahead of him. While age is certainly a concern amongst gunslinger type QB’s like Rivers, there’s little evidence that he’s slowing down. It’s clear that, despite the return of Keenan Allen and excpected return of Travis Benjami, LA is committed to giving Rivers more weapons as they drafted one of the best wide outs in the 2017 draft in Mike Williams. Coupled with a capable run game, Rivers is locked and loaded for a massive year.
A Little Risk: Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans – If you’re convinced that the Titans are going to ease Mariota back into the playbook following his season ending injury, then by all means, pass on the talented QB. Adding Corey Davis doesn’t seem like they’re committed fully to a run-first scheme, although they certainly want to remain balanced. The upside through the air is modest at best as Mariota still conforms to the NFL game, but his ability to make yards on the ground keep defenses honest and give him space to work. Don’t be alarmed if he starts slow, he’ll be well worth the pick by the end of the season.
Most Risk: Andy Dalton – Cincinnatti Bengals – We’ve heard this one before; Andy Dalton is poised to break out. It certainly doesn’t help having to play fantastic defenses in the ACF North but with John Ross and AJ Green, Dalton has two exceptional burners, and newly aquired RB (via the draft) Joe Mixon rounds out an already formidable backfield capable of catching passes. It may be a bit of a stretch as we can expect a boring, balanced offense in Cincy, but I won’t be surprised if he catches lightning in a bottle to push that top 10 group.
As futile as the exercise may seem this early, identifying sleeper candidates is one of the most important pieces of research you can embark upon. Below we’ll identify three leading candidates for you to keep an eye on before the preaseaon starts.
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings | ADP 106 – WR41 | Despite the efforts of the Vikings to bulk up the backfield after AP left for New Orleans, Sam Bradford was still bought and paid for in order to create some kind of passing game. Diggs is the obvious #1 but Thielen posted borderline WR2 numbers last year despite the turmoil on the field. Expect similar, if not better, for the third year receiver. Prediction: 1000 Receiving Yards, 4 TDs
Travis Benjamin – Los Angeles Chargers |ADP 170+ – WR96 | While Benjamin is likely only being drafted in the deepest formats, his WR96 ranking is criminal considering how likely it is that Keenan Allen misses time. Benjamin is progressing ahead of schedule on his own recovery and by all accounts Mike Williams is well behind the rest of the offense and may take time to mature in the NFL. Prediction: 800 Receiving Yards, 3 TDs
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys | ADP 131 – WR57 | I’ve been on the Cole Beasley train as early as 2014, arguing his value and suggesting he was a better option than Terrence Williams. Still, even after his success, Beasely is being drafted as late as the 14th round as a 5th or 6th WR. In PPR formats he’s rises as his 75-80 receptions is in the top 25 of all WRs, but he’s incredibly underrated so late in drafts. Prediction: 80 Receptions, 925 Receiving Yards, 5 TDs
Honorable Mentions: Robert Woods, LAR (ADP 155), Josh Doctson, Was (ADP 140), Kamar Aiken, Ind (ADP 260)