Each offseason, fantasy managers do their best to identify the “sleepers” of the upcoming season. Sleepers are generally considered to be players taken in the later part of drafts who turn out to perform much better than expected. Finding just one sleeper over the course of a draft can prove to be incredibly valuable over the course of a season. If you end up with a sleeper on your team, this player can be used to replace an underperforming/injured starter or can be used as a trade piece.
While correctly picking out a 2023 fantasy sleeper wide receiver is valuable, it is also challenging to pull off. There are dozens of players who could potentially be sleepers and it is difficult to sift through all of them. While there are dozens of candidates the players that will be covered here are four prime sleeper candidates at the WR position.
For the sake of this article, a player will be considered a sleeper candidate if they are being drafted after the 10th round, or beyond pick 120.
ZAY FLOWERS, BALTIMORE RAVENS (ADP: 131, WR53)
Zay Flowers was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. The Boston College product impressed during his final collegiate season, finishing with 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 catches while playing in one of the nation’s worst offenses.
During his time at Boston College, Flowers showed elite quickness and explosiveness. This allowed him to beat press coverage with ease and create chunk plays with yards after the catch.
There are several reasons to be excited about Flowers this season.
First, the talent is clear. The Ravens clearly believe in Flowers as well, heavily investing in him with a first-round pick.
Another reason is the questions surrounding the Baltimore pass catchers. Tight end Mark Andrews has solidified himself within this offense and will almost certainly be Lamar Jackson’s primary weapon. Outside of Andrews, the Ravens’ group of pass catchers is full of question marks. Rashod Bateman has played just 18 games across two seasons in the NFL. While Bateman has had some flashes during this time, he has not proven himself as a reliable NFL weapon. Odell Beckham Jr. is now 30 years old, has not played football since Super Bowl LVI against the Bengals, and has not been fantasy-relevant since 2018.
On top of questions surrounding the Ravens’ receivers, significant changes are coming to the Baltimore offense. When discussing JK Dobbins, I highlighted the impact of the arrival of Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator in Baltimore. Monken plans to utilize the arm talent of Lamar Jackson, allowing him to throw more than ever before. This higher passing volume, combined with the uncertainty surrounding other Baltimore receivers, creates an opportunity for Flowers to solidify an early role in this offense and contribute to your fantasy team as a Flex option.
SKYY MOORE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (ADP: 149, WR60)
Let me just come out and say it: The Kadarius Toney hype has gone too far. Because of the hype surrounding Toney, Skyy Moore’s price has plummeted. Thus, I believe he can return tremendous value on his 13th-round cost.
Everyone knows that role that Travis Kelce has, as the focal point of this offense. However, there is no clear second option on the Chiefs’ target totem pole. Many have pegged Toney to fill that role. Yet, I don’t believe this is a guarantee and I would much rather draft Moore considering his price. After debuting with the Chiefs in Week 9 (through the Super Bowl), Toney only eclipsed a 30 percent snap share twice, ran just 73 routes, and saw 29 targets. While these numbers will certainly increase next season, this does not scream a “guaranteed No. 2 option.”
In 2022, Moore was just a rookie and had to play behind JuJu Smith-Schuster. Because of his age and the presence of a veteran receiver, Moore did not see much action in 2022. However, Smith-Schuster is out of the picture and I believe Toney and Moore will both be given an opportunity to take on Smith-Schuster’s vacant role.
With Mahomes running the show, the expectation is that the Chiefs’ offense will once again be at the top of the league. Being a part of a potent offense is critical for fantasy success, to the benefit of Moore. If Moore can win over the favor of Andy Reid, his dirt cheap price will certainly pay off.
NICO COLLINS, HOUSTON TEXANS (ADP: 160, WR63)
Unfortunately for Nico Collins, his first two NFL seasons have been spent with the Houston Texans. The Houston offense has been one of the league’s worst in each of the last two years. Despite being a part of an abysmal offense, Collins showed some promise during the 2022 season.
After returning from injury in Week 10, (and once again going down in Week 13) Collins showed flashes of productiveness. During this four-week stretch, Collins averaged just over 12 PPR points per game on five receptions (nine targets). While this is nothing flashy, Collins showed that he is capable of being the WR1 in this offense and can draw a high volume of targets. Like the Chiefs and Ravens, the pecking order in the Texans’ WR room is not clearly established. Collins can certainly establish himself as the primary target ahead of Robert Woods and John Metchie.
As mentioned before, this offense has struggled in recent years in the post-Deshaun Watson Era. But on the bright side, second-overall pick CJ Stroud enters the picture this year.
At Ohio State, Stroud displayed elite accuracy and the ability to make every throw, which should take this offense to another level. While this offense will not be a ‘force’ in 2023, I believe it will take a step forward with Stroud under center. The change from Davis Mills to Stroud will do nothing but help Collins in 2023.
ALEC PIERCE, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (ADP: 171, WR64)
After the Colts selected Alec Pierce in the second round of last year’s draft, the speedy wideout showed promise throughout his rookie season. Last season, Pierce functioned as the Colts’ deep threat after clocking in at 4.33 sec at the NFL Combine. Pierce led the team in average depth of target (11.4) and finished the year with a team-leading three receptions of over 40 yards. On top of this, Pierce ranked 22nd among wide receivers in yards per reception, going for 14.5 yards per catch.
In 2023, the Colts brought in former Florida QB Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick. To the benefit of Pierce, Richardson’s abnormal arm strength plays directly into Pierce’s skill set. Although his intermediate accuracy throughout college was poor, Richardson is more than capable of pushing the ball downfield. All signs point to Pierce being the target of these deep passes.
Pierce’s ceiling is capped by the presence of Michael Pittman Jr. However, Pierce will more than likely take a step forward in 2023 and take on a more prominent role within the offense.
“I think I need to step up this year and be more versatile, make more plays on different routes, be a better route runner and just catch the ball when it’s thrown to me,” Pierce said.
I believe the arrival of Richardson and new head coach Shane Steichen will allow Pierce to catch some deep passes, expand his route tree, and blossom in 2023.
Let me reemphasize this, finding sleepers that consistently work out is tough. Regardless, there are a few things that you can look for when trying to identify these potential breakouts. Look for players who are in the early stages of their careers. Also, try to identify teams that do not have a clear pecking order within the wide receiver room. Young, unproven players who have the chance to make a meaningful impact within their offense are prime candidates to outperform ADP.
The four pass catchers mentioned here find themselves in situations that could lead to some surprises. There is no guarantee that these players will work out. Nonetheless, these four players should certainly be considered when you are trying to identify the breakout player for your fantasy roster.