Early Wide Receiver Sleepers (2019 Fantasy Football)
Geoff Lambert has some early sleepers for your 2019 fantasy football drafts.
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Quincy Enunwa (NYJ)
Through the first four games of the 2018 season, Enunwa was averaging 13.7 fantasy points per game (PPR) and was a solid WR3 in fantasy despite only scoring one TD during that span. He was by far the favorite target for rookie QB Sam Darnold as he led the team with 37 targets. To put that into perspective, had he maintained that pace over a 16-game season, he would have tied Stefon Diggs for seventh in targets with 148. Unfortunately, injuries slowed him down, and he fell off the proverbial map in fantasy.
After the way he ended the season, I didn’t think he would be in the plans for the Jets in 2019, but then the Jets signed him to a contract extension worth up to $36 million with $20 million guaranteed. You don’t pay a receiver that much if he isn’t going to be a big part of your team. Some of Enunwa’s struggles can be blamed on the inconsistency of Darnold as the season progressed, but if Darnold takes that second-year leap that we have seen QBs do in recent years (Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Pat Mahomes) then Enunwa could be a huge benefactor.
His current ECR (expert consensus ranking) has him at WR59 with an ADP of 61. In other words, he is likely going undrafted or very late in drafts. He doesn’t offer much in the way of upside, but if you need a solid flex option or bye week fill-in WR, Enunwa is basically free and should have a solid fantasy season in 2019.
Dede Westbrook (JAX)
Westbrook was a sleeper going into 2018, but some terrible quarterbacking kept him from producing a big fantasy season. He ended last season with 66 receptions on 101 targets, 717 yards, and five TDs, which was good enough for WR28 in PPR leagues, but he was much worse than what his final numbers say. He had 10 games under 50 yards receiving and outside of Week 4 when he had nine receptions for 130 yards, he had no games over 100 yards.
It is widely speculated that Nick Foles may be coming to Jacksonville, and if that happens, Westbrook’s value would go up. Foles has a huge arm and loves to throw the deep ball, something Westbrook is very good at as a burner on the outside. Even if Foles isn’t the next Jaguars QB, any of the free agent QBs on the market would be an upgrade over Bortles, and I think Westbrook will fly under the radar in fantasy drafts.
John Brown (FA)
Brown’s 2018 season was a tale of two halves. You could draw a line in between Week 9 and Week 10, otherwise known as the start of the Lamar Jackson era, and you will see two totally different receivers. The receiver above the line, Week 1 through Week 9, was firmly in the WR2 category as the 22nd best fantasy receiver at that time. However, from Week 10 through Week 16, that receiver was outside the top 100 among WRs, averaging only four fantasy points per game.
The positives for Brown in 2018 included his health, as he played in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season, and he started in a career-high 15 of those games. Brown is now a free agent, and with a shallow class of WRs for 2019, Brown will be a highly sought after commodity as a player that can stretch the field.
It is my belief that he follows Joe Flacco to Denver and becomes their deep threat, something the Broncos don’t have right now despite having some good young talent at WR. I don’t know if Brown would see enough volume in that offense to make him a WR2 like he was for the first half of 2018, but he would be a solid WR3 or flex, and, with his game-breaking speed, could win you a week or two.
Zay Jones (BUF)
Jones’ season was the complete opposite of John Brown’s in that he began to produce from Week 10 through Week 16. Officially, he was the WR35 during that span, but, if you take out the game in which he got hurt and only drew a single target, he would have been WR17 on a points per game basis.
Jones was starting to draw the “bust” label after a bad rookie season and a slow start to his 2018, but, towards the end of the season, he became rookie QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. If the Bills don’t draft another WR or get one in free agency, Jones will fly under the radar in fantasy drafts because people don’t trust that he can continue that level of production. You could draft him in the double-digit rounds and have a solid WR2/WR3 with WR1 potential, basically for free.